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Sunday August 31, 2008 8:41 am

NFL Preview: Chicago Bears




Posted by Charles Mitri Categories: NFL,

Brian Urlacher of the Chicago Bears

CHICAGO BEARS
2007 RECORD: 7-9
Overview: No one will confuse this Chicago Bears team with the Monsters of the Midway or the ‘85 championship squad that ran roughshod over the rest of the NFL en route to a 46-10 Super Bowl victory over the New England Patriots. This team is still in the process of plugging numerous offensive and defensive holes. The ‘07 Bears ranked in the bottom quarter of all but one category - ranked 27th in total offense, a respectable ranking of 15th in passing, a deplorable showing of 30th in rushing, 28th in total defense, 27th in pass defense and 24th against the run. Help is on the way. Newly named signal caller Kyle Orton looked impressive in a preseason win over the Cincinnati Bengals. Still being ranked in the bottom quarter of offensive and defensive categories means lots of room for improvement. The mere fact that they came within one win of .500 ball despite all these shortcomings is a kind of minor miracle.

Offense: Despite the fact that they were ranked 30th in rushing offense, the Bears did manage to chalk up 1330 ground yards last year. But the real story is in yards per carry where the Chicagoans were dead last with a paltry 3.1 average. A running back is only as good as the blockers in front of him. If the Bears hope to go anywhere this year, they’ll need better execution by the front line. That translates into making crucial blocks on third down conversions and giving QB Orton enough time to find receivers. The aerial attack is a different story. Rasheed Davis and Devin Hester will split time at one wide out position while Marty Booker and Brandon Lloyd will share the other receiver spot. If they can manage to mount any kind of a rushing game, that will make Orton’s passing game much more potent.
Defense: MLB Brian Urlacher and DE Adewale Ogunleye can’t do it all on their own. The Bears swiss cheese secondary and porous front four will have to up it a few notches if they expect to keep points off the scoreboard. Ogunleye can stop pretty much anyone on his side of the line, but the job of stopping runs up the middle will fall to tackles Anthony Adams and Tommie Harris. The secondary? Don’t be too surprised if they look like fish being shot in a barrel. Pass-happy quarterbacks and receivers will be licking their chops waiting to riddle the Bears secondary with aerial attacks that will resemble the Battle of Britain. This is the telling season for the quartet of Mike Brown, Brandon McGowan, Charles Tillman, and Nathan Vasher who will need to show that they understand pass coverage.
Rookies: The Bears have a grand total of 20 rookies on their ‘08 roster. Cornerback Zachary Bowman from Nebraska could see some playing time if Tillman or Vasher can’t do the job. Matt Forte has already nailed down a running back spot while Hawaii’s Ryan Grice-Mullen could add some punch to the receiving corps.Colorado State QB Caleb Harrie will probably see limited playing time - that’s just the way it is. Rookie QBs spend most of their first season learning plays and how to read defenses.
Prediction: Chicago will probably finish second by default. The Detroit Lions are getting a little better every year, but they still have a few more seasons before they become playoff contenders. On the other side of the coin, the Minnesota Vikings finished 8-8 last year - one win ahead of the Lions and these same Bears. Chicago has a fairly soft schedule, though they do have to play the Green Bay Packers and Vikings twice. That should give Coach Lovie Smith plenty of time to do some patchwork to the secondary and beef up his offensive line.

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