Thursday, September 2, 2010
2010 Chicago Bears Preview
After trading starting QB Kyle Orton for hot shot Jay Cutler in the 2009 off season The Bears were supposed to challenge The Vikings for the NFC North title. But as the saying goes, hindsight is 20/20. The erratic Cutler ended up leading the league with 26 INTs and too many times put a tired defense in tough situations. Head coach Lovie Smith is hoping for better results this time around, but without any major changes to the offense that will be tough to accomplish...
This off season, Chicago brought in coordinator extraordinaire Mike Martz to add more punch to the offense. Martz was the mastermind that engineered the high scoring Rams offenses from 1999-2001 (the famed "Greatest Show On Turf"). The Bears traded for Cutler hoping his strong arm would open up more downfield opportunities in the passing game but the move produced mixed results. Yes, Cutler is capable of some gaudy yardage numbers, but also a ton of turnovers as he attempted to force the football into heavy coverage to get picked off. In his defense, Cutler didn't have the best weapons to work with. Converted WR/KR Devin Hester was his main target but missed a few games due to injuries. Hester has great speed and is an excellent open field runner but his lack of size hurts his value as a true #1 receiving option. His skill set is better suited for the slot position. Second year receiver Johnny Knox is poised to have a solid season as he is penciled in as the starter opposite Hester, and Earl Bennett actually has history with Cutler from his days as the quarterback's favorite target while at Vanderbilt. Greg Olsen is a reliable option at TE as a receiver and a blocker, although tight ends do not have a history of heavy usage in Martz's offensive sets.
After a solid rookie campaign that saw him gain over 1,200 yards, RB Matt Forte slumped a bit and didn't manage to reach the 1,000 yard mark. The Bears are hoping the addition of veteran Chester Taylor can take some carries and keep Forte fresh for late game situations. It remains to be seen if the offensive line can give Cutler enough time to allow the receivers to get open and deliver the pass successfully.
Lovie Smith's Bears have always been known to field a good defensive unit and this trend will continue in 2010. The run an effective 4-3 base defense and the addition of DE Julius Peppers is a big plus, as Peppers has amassed double-digit sack numbers in six of his 8 NFL seasons. Chicago is also hoping LB Brian Urlacher can return to form after missing virtually all of 2009 with a wrist injury. Lance Briggs and Pisa Tinoisamoa help man the linebacker corps. CB's Charles Tillman & Zack Bowman are the main playmakers in the secondary and are both solid in zone coverage and Tillman is above average in man coverage.
Despite the new offensive coordinator and new toy on defense, Chicago Bears fans should prepare for a rough 2010 season. Until Jay Cutler can learn to throw to his check down receivers and backs instead of forcing tough throws, the defense will be put in too many lose/lose situations and give up a lot of points. The 'Mike Martz' coaching era may soon be on the horizon in Chicago. Best of luck to you, Lovie.