Friday, August 7, 2009

Where Are the WRs?: Chicago Bears Season Preview

2008 Record: 9-7

We were about as shocked as everyone else that the Bears contended for a playoff spot last year. Matt Forte had an outstanding rookie campaign, allowing the Bears seemingly toothless offense to play a clock-control game, not forcing Kyle Orton to win games single-handedly.

That being said, throw 2008 out the window. Jay Cutler is the story now. The question is: who does he throw to? We are of the opinion that Cutler is one of the most overrated quarterbacks in the league. Sure he threw for over 4500 yards last season. He is also 17-20 as a starter. His best season was the 8-8 campaign last year (which was one Ed Hoculi decision away from his second consecutive 7-9 year). Cutler is the definition of a hot-and-cold quarterback. Last season, the Broncos were 8-0 in games where he had a passer rating over 90. Guess what they were when he didn't reach 90? Yep, the Detroit Lions.

And that was when Cutler had Brandon Marshall, Eddie Royal, Brandon Stokley, and Tony Scheffler to throw to. Now he has...who? Devin Hester, who has blazing speed but (at best) questionable hands? Hester led the team with 665 receiving yards last season. Greg Olsen was second with 574. Running back Matt Forte led the team in catches (63) and was third in yards (477). The team did draft Juaquin Iglesias out of Oklahoma, who may very well step into the #1 role during this season. The Bears also have Earl Bennett, whose sole bragging point is that he played in college with Cutler. Rashied Davis might make some noise as well on a team with, well, no real receivers.

Greg Olsen is a threat at tight end, and we've already touched on how awesome Forte is. But a passing game where your only reliable receivers are a running back and a tight end will make you look like Penn State of the pre-Derrick Williams/Deon Butler/Jordan Norwood era. Don't remember them? You probably shouldn't.

Chicago gave up way too much to get Cutler, including sending Orton off to Denver, which means that behind Cry Baby Jay, their QB depth is Caleb Hanie and Brett Basanez. Chicago only allowed 29 sacks last year, good for 13th best in the league. They also added oft-injured LT Orlando Pace, who they may be able to squeeze one good year out of. Worst case scenario here is that Pace gets hurt in week 1, then his backup doesn't block James Harrison in week 2 and Cutler gets knocked out for the year. Luckily with Forte, the Bears offense has enough to control some clock and maybe squeeze out a few victories (if they wind up without Cutler).

On the other side of the ball, the Bears need help. Their normally sound defense finished 21st in total defense, 30th in passing defense, 16th in scoring defense, and 5th in run defense. However, the team got gutted by Adrian Peterson (121 and 131 yards) and Ryan Grant (145 yards). The Bears spent 5 draft picks on defensive players, including Jarron Gilbert (DE-San Diego State) and DJ Moore (CB-Vanderbilt). The Bears defense was 3rd in the league with 22 interceptions last season, but seeing as they had the 30th ranked passing defense, it can be expected that teams took to the skies against them. Is it any coincidence that their 3-game winning streak in December was comprised of all home games in the nasty Chicago winter where passing is relatively impossible?

Ian's Prediction: 7-9

An aging defense. A quarterback that puts up big numbers but doesn't win. No NFL-caliber wide recievers. This isn't exactly the recipe for success. However, the Bears were 6-2 at home last year, and they have 3 home games after December 1 this year, which should play to their strengths. As long as they don't abandon the run game in the hopes that Jay Cutler's arm will win every game for them, the Bears should be decent. All of their hardest opponents are spaced out on the schedule or at home. November should be the telltale month with this team. With CLE, ARI, @SF, PHI, @MIN, this will either make or break the Bears season. Lucky for them they get three of these games at home. The 49ers game could be a trap game if they are reeling off of a blowout by Arizona and/or a bad loss to the Browns. All in all, I predict mediocrity again for Jay Cutler, with more troubles in the future unless they can go out and get a wide receiver.

John's Prediction:

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