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2013 NFL Team Previews, NFC North: Chicago Bears – 1st

by Shasky Clarke on Aug. 31, 2013

2013 NFL Team Previews, NFC North: Chicago Bears – 1st

 

OFFENSE

 

Quarterback:

Jay Cutler is a very talented, if a bit inefficient, quarterback who has had the misfortune of playing behind spotty protection for most of his career and 2012 was no different. But last year also saw Cutler reunited with elite receiver Brandon Marshall and the team has done a good job adding pieces all over the offense. Cutler has an amazing arm, good athleticism and flashes great ball placement. He is just too inconsistent and throws too many interceptions, staring down Marshall and forcing passes into coverage. With a good supporting cast, Cutler would threaten to be one of the best quarterbacks in the league. But he is flawed.

 

Running Back:

The Bears, simply put, have one of the elite backs in the game. Matt Forte is a tremendous athlete with top size, speed and smoothness. He has great hands and is one of the most dangerous pass catching running backs. He has only missed five games in five years and yet has a lot of tread left on his tires, having carried the ball more than 260 times only once in his career. With an improved offensive line, Forte has the potential to break out as a super star in 2013. Michael Bush is a more than capable backup with good short yardage production as well as the versatility to contribute to the passing game. There will be packages where both Forte and Bush will line up in the backfield at the same time.

 

Wide Receiver:

Once a perennially sparsely talented position group, the Bears now have a deeply skilled set of receivers led by All-Pro talent Brandon Marshall. Marshall is super physical with terrific size, body control and explosiveness. Marshall was the unquestionable number one weapon, grabbing 118 catches and receiving more than ten targets per game. Second-year Alshon Jeffery should take some of that production this year. Sharing many characteristics with Marshall, Jeffery has all the size, speed and playmaking ability to be a star receiver. Earl Bennett returns as a productive slot receiving option with very good route running and hands underneath. Super speedy Devin Hester is still much more of a kick and punt return threat but he caught 23 balls. Rookie Marquess Wilson fell a little in the draft due to character concerns. But Wilson has a first round skill set and eventually could be another draft steal.

 

Tight End:

The Bears really wanted to provide Cutler a legitimate weapon at the tight end spot. There is basically no depth here but Martellus Bennett enters to replace Kellen Davis and Matt Spaeth. Bennett was fairly productive in New York, proving to be a big reliable midrange target. He is a significant upgrade over the nonsense the team rolled out last year but he still needs to battle his issues with drops.

 

Offensive Line:

The Bears must be more effective upfront, especially in pass protection. This offseason they got better and deeper and might have four new starters. Leading the group is athletic new left tackle Jermon Bushrod, who should be a substantial upgrade over J’Marcus Webb. Matt Slauson enters as a free agent from the Jets at left guard. Roberto Garza returns as an experienced, if physically underwhelming center. Chicago drafted the physical and athletic Kyle Long, who will start from day one at right guard. And the team may look to rookie Jordan Mills to fill in at right tackle. Mills may be their best option there, but will probably be somewhat of a liability versus speed rushers. Overall, the group is better but may have a much larger positive impact on the ground game.

 

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Best Offensive Rookie – OG Kyle Long

Best Offensive Second-Year Player – WR Alshon Jeffery

2014 Draft Offensive Position of Need – Tight End

2014 Draft Offensive Suggestion – TE C.J. Fiedorowicz

 

 

DEFENSE

 

Defensive End:

The Bears had one of the most dynamic defensive end situations in 2012 with three different players racking up more than seven sacks. Julius Peppers is still going strong as a powerful and incredible physical specimen. They do lose starter Israel Idonije and his 7.5 sacks, but they believe second-year end Shea McClellin has the speed and motor to build on his 2.5 sack year. Corey Wootton should step in and start opposite Peppers and has been fairly productive on the strong side, notching seven sacks of his own in 2012.

 

Defensive Tackle:

Inside, the Bears own one of the underrated tackle tandems in the league in Stephen Paea and Henry Melton. Paea is super strong and explosive as an interior run stopper with raw rushing ability. Melton is a budding star and a complete athletic mismatch for interior pass blockers, getting six sacks last year. A guy who may play a bigger role in 2013 is Nate Collins, a fourth year, compact athlete who will rotate in. 

 

Linebacker:

Stud outside linebacker Lance Briggs is now the face of the linebackers and he brings tremendous open field tackling as well as playmaking ability, nabbing two picks and forcing two fumbles. The biggest source of uncertainty on what was an elite defense will be the replacement of longtime captain Brian Urlacher and Nick Roach as starters. Talented veteran D.J. Williams’s time was up in Denver and he brings underrated ability to the Bears defense. He just needs to be healthy. Rookie Jon Bostic has impressed with the opportunity he’s gotten to fill in for Williams at middle linebacker. Veteran James Anderson will start at the other outside linebacker spot. Overall, the Bears upgraded the depth here and the linebacker group is filled with big, fast and skilled players.

 

Cornerback:

Chicago was home to two NFC Pro Bowlers at cornerback in veterans Charles Tillman and Tim Jennings. The two were unbelievably productive. Tillman is long and physical and has become known for his penchant for forcing fumbles, forcing a whopping ten in 2012. Tim Jennings may be small at 5’8” but he’s proven to be a dangerous ball hawk, picking off nine passes last year. Both excelled in the Bears’ cover two scheme and it will be interesting to see how much of it the Bears use under the new coaching regime. The high upside guy here is second-year Isaiah Frey, a fast and smooth nickel guy with tight cover skills.

 

Safety:

The Bears safety duo is great. Major Wright and Chris Conte are large reasons why the defense has consistently prevented big plays over the past couple years. Combining for six interceptions last year, both have sideline to sideline range and ball skills making them dangerous for passers to make mistakes with downfield. Behind them, Anthony Walters is an excellent looking former college cornerback with physical open-field tackling ability.

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Best Defensive Rookie – LB Jonathan Bostic

Best Defensive Second-Year Player – CB Isaiah Frey

2014 Draft Defensive Position of Need – Defensive End 

2014 Draft Defensive Suggestion – DE Kareem Martin