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  • Contributors


    Cris Collinsworth

    Former Pro Bowl wide receiver for the Cincinnati Bengals and Emmy-winning analyst from Sunday Night Football and Inside the NFL.
    Dave Lapham
    Has called game for the Bengals radio network for 25 years. Analyst for Big 12 games on Fox Sports Net. Played 10 years in the NFL for the Cincinnati Bengals.
    Turk Schonert
    NFL quarterback for 10 years with the Bengals and Falcons. Has served as quarterback coach for the Buccaneers, Bills, Panthers, Giants and Saints and Offensive Coordinator for the Bills.
    Phil McConkey
    Played 6 years in the NFL as a WR, punt returner and kick returner for the Giants, Packers, Cardinals and Chargers. Played college football at the Naval Academy and served in the U.S. Navy before joining the NFL. Best remembered for his oustanding game in Super Bowl XXI.
    Josina Anderson
    Josina "JoJo" Anderson is contributing reporter on Showtime's Inside the NFL and is a weekend co-anchor/reporter/producer for FOX 31 Sports in Denver, Colorado. Josina produces the nightly sportscasts and covers the Denver Broncos, Denver Nuggets, Colorado Avalanche, and the Colorado Rockies.
    Jerry Jones
    NFL Draft Expert, has published the acclaimed Drugstore List since 1978.
    Russell S Baxter
    Researcher, writer and editor covering the NFL for over 30 years.
    Andy Freeland
    Statistician and researcher for NBC's Sunday Night Football.
  • Can the Bears Take the Next Step in 2011

    The Bears surprised me last year making it to the NFC Championship game. I saw them against the Giants, when they gave up 10 sacks in the first half, and I wasn’t sure any of them would survive the season, especially Jay Cutler. Mike Martz was trying to install his Kurt Warner offense, releasing a lot of receivers into the route forcing the Cutler to protect himself with quick reads and hot throws. It worked great with Warner, but Jay Cutler had much to learn. To make matters worse, the Bears offensive line had to be shuffled. Frank Omiyale and Chris Williams basically traded positions at left guard and left tackle after Williams’ injury, but the Bears drafted Gabe Carimi for a reason, their left side has to be better. Look for J’Marucs Webb, the surprising bright spot on this OL, to get a shot at LT with Carimi moving to RT. Long time center Olin Kruetz could also leave which may force Roberto Garza to center.

    The Bears receivers probably take the most heat, but Johnny Knox and Devin Hester can fly, Greg Olsen is a fast tight end, Earl Bennett inside catches everything and really shined after an early injury, and Matt Forte is an intelligent guy who is a talented receiver. I have seen much worse receivers than those five on teams. I thought the biggest issue was getting settled on the offensive line and learning the new style of offense. The Bears were never great on offense, but they sure improved from that night against the Giants. The question is will the lockout inhibit their ability to take the next step. Cutler has to live in Mattz’ offense to learn it. Quick decisions by Kurt Warner intimidated defenses out of blitzing. The Bears never got there with Cutler. Jay will also have to overcome the questions from the Championship Game, but I don’t think that will be much of an issue after week one.

    Defensively, the Bears really inserted two superstars into the lineup last year. Brian Urlacher was hurt the entire year before and surprised some people with a really good year. But, the story was Julius Peppers. Peppers may have been the best defensive line acquisition since Reggie White. He dominated in all phases of the game. The NFL players voted him the 10th best player in the league and from what I saw could have been higher. DT Tommie Harris is gone, but the combination of athletic Henry Melton and rookie strongman Stephen Paea could improve the three technique tackle. The other “Major” change may come at safety where Major Wright (Gator) made a big impression when healthy last year. Daniel Manning is a free agent and may be gone. Both strong side linebackers, Pisa Tinoisamoa and Nick Roach will be free agents and the Bears will need to get at least one signed quickly. Tim Jennings and Zack Bowman will battle at corner opposite Charles Tillman.

    Finally, the Bears coaching staff is second to none and have to get a lot of credit for turning their team around. Lovie Smith, Mike Martz, Mike Tice, and Rod Marinelli are all former head coaches who were able to put egos aside and make it work. 2011 will come down to another reshuffle on the offensive line and how much Jay Cutler can grow in Mike Martz’ offense. Nothing new really, but with the way the Bears finished last year, they cannot be ignored going into year two of Martz’ system.

    Comments 65 Comments
    1. dj003's Avatar
      One coach you neglected to mention (likely because he hasn't previously been a head coach like the others listed) that deserves a ton of credit is Dave Toub. His units consistently perform phenomenally and give the Bears an advantage in that phase of the game against any opponent they face.
    1. jasonpatel11's Avatar
      Things that you did not mention: Hester's offensive playbook was cut back which allowed him to concentrate on returning kicks and punts at a very high level again. DJ Moore emerged as a playmaker as the nickel corner. Idonije benefited most from having Peppers on the opposite side as he had the best year of his career. Lovie sat Martz down around the bye week and the offensive play calling became much better/simpler and effective. Bears also did not miss many games due to injury.

      Areas of concern: O-line: Tice is working some magic hopefully. WRs: Bennett is probably the most consistent of the bunch, but is really a number 2 or 3 at best. DT: Can the rookie step in and play right away? DBs: Can Major Wright stay healthy? Will someone step up opposite Tilman? RBs: Can Taylor take some of the load off of Forte? Injuries: It is highly doubtful given the average age that next season will be as injury free as 2010.

      The biggest area of concern is if the Bears front office is able to identify talent well enough in the draft to reload every season. Angelo has consistently failed in the early rounds and really has not had many players of impact drafted during his tenure.
    1. Hawkecr's Avatar
      Special teams was a huge part of the bears success, and should be again. Your correct about the O-line. However. Bears will sink or swim on the backs of the offensive line.

      You missed depth at the running back spot also. Forte is a beast, with plenty of skill on the bench when he needs a breather.
    1. Cris Collinsworth's Avatar
      Quote Originally Posted by dj003 View Post
      One coach you neglected to mention (likely because he hasn't previously been a head coach like the others listed) that deserves a ton of credit is Dave Toub. His units consistently perform phenomenally and give the Bears an advantage in that phase of the game against any opponent they face.
      Can't argue with that. Bears STs have won a lot of games.
    1. Cris Collinsworth's Avatar
      Quote Originally Posted by jasonpatel11 View Post
      Things that you did not mention: Hester's offensive playbook was cut back which allowed him to concentrate on returning kicks and punts at a very high level again. DJ Moore emerged as a playmaker as the nickel corner. Idonije benefited most from having Peppers on the opposite side as he had the best year of his career. Lovie sat Martz down around the bye week and the offensive play calling became much better/simpler and effective. Bears also did not miss many games due to injury.

      Areas of concern: O-line: Tice is working some magic hopefully. WRs: Bennett is probably the most consistent of the bunch, but is really a number 2 or 3 at best. DT: Can the rookie step in and play right away? DBs: Can Major Wright stay healthy? Will someone step up opposite Tilman? RBs: Can Taylor take some of the load off of Forte? Injuries: It is highly doubtful given the average age that next season will be as injury free as 2010.

      The biggest area of concern is if the Bears front office is able to identify talent well enough in the draft to reload every season. Angelo has consistently failed in the early rounds and really has not had many players of impact drafted during his tenure.
      Great post. Injuries really are a non-factor for the Bears this off-season unless I am forgetting somebody. Pretty rare. It gives them a big jump to start camp.
    1. dj003's Avatar
      Do you feel as though there are likely to be more injuries this preseason, not just for the Bears but the NFL in general? With players on their own for workouts all spring and summer, it would appear to be likely that many will come to camp out of shape. And if camps are shortened, there will be an added sense of urgency to drills and practices. It seems like a recipe for disaster, and the Bears after having such good luck on the injury front last year need to be prepared.
    1. Pulyx's Avatar
      Well
      After last season there sure is chance the bears won't be as good.

      People like to point out luck as the "it" factor for this chicago Team last year, specially after the non-td-catch with Megatron.

      But fact is, most good teams create their own luck.
      People claim the bears stole that game from the Lions, but the lions lost that game BEFORE the non-catch. They lost it on the Forté TD. No they lost even before, when Peppers sent Stafford to the Hospital (the bears have a knack for doing that, it seems)

      They Also claim we only beat Green Bay because they had 18 Penalties..They beat themselves, right ?
      No. They lost when Devin Hester took one to the House and then they lost a fumble right before the 2 minute warning.

      They Claim the bears faced 3rd string QBs a lot of the Time, but so did the Lions, Packers and Vikings.

      Yet...The bears won the division. They took care of Business.
      Cutler won HARD on his first playoff game, against a team he struggled against in their first meeting. Threw 2 Beautiful TDs and Ran for 2 more. (Only Otto Graham did that on the Playoffs, that's nice company if you ask me.)

      I think the Year off might 've been the best thing that ever happened to Urlacher's career. He looked like he was 27 years old on the field.
      The Bears had NO interior passrush, and yet, collected 23 interceptions. Mostly due to DL stunts that work wonders when you have Peppers.

      They made most QBs *not named Brady, look like Regular Joes (even Aaron Rodgers).

      And yet...People STILL can't believe the Bears.
      And weirdly, are really quick to Believe the LIONS.

      I Think the Bears will improve greatly, even though like i said there IS room for decline, i don't think that will be the case.

      This division is getting harder. And that's natural.
      NFC East has been brutally hard for the past 10 years and still the good teams always came through.

      I Think Paea and Carimi will be instant hits.
      And my biggest hope is that ANDY FANTUZ will be that n.1 receiver the bears need in the Endzone.

      The sack totals WILL go down. Not because the Pass Protection will get ridiculously better. But because bears run game just got INSTANTLY good with Carimi on the Line.

      And i don't know if many people noticed Olin Kreutz regaining his form around the end of last year.
      It's something that you can check by the lack of INTs Cutler threw on the final 6 weeks of Regular Season and Playoffs. Interior rush scares the hell out of Cutler and Kreutz not being in his old form was one of the reasons cutler threw 26 INTs in his debut for the Bears.

      Kreutz + Webb + Garza + Carimi = RUN GAME.
      Run Game = Less 7 step drops = Less Sacks and more ball control.

      People keep thinking Martz will start airing out as soon as he can. But he works with what he has. Until San Fran he has always had an Elite receiver. He doesn't know. And he KNOWS it. And will not jeopardize it just to throw 30+ TDs.

      The defense will stay just as good. With or without Anthony Adams and Daniael Manning.
      We have Paea, Toeaina (who kicked ass last year), Melton who is my choice for Breakout player this year and Major Wright who is just as good as Manning for the bears.

      I predict the bears rankings will be like this.

      Offense : 13th in Total Yds, 12th Pts, 15 Passing yds, 17th pass TDs. 10th Rushing Yds, 12th Rushing TDs.

      Defense: 9th yds allowed, 4th Pts allowed, 2nd Pass TDs Allowed, 19th in pass Yds allowed, 3rd rushing yds allowed and 13th rushing TDs allowed, 3rd or 2nd in Turnovers created.

      And that is it.
    1. Russell S Baxter's Avatar
      Troy Polamalu was the Defensive Player of the Year in 2010, but you could make the case that Julius Peppers was the league's most "valuable" defensive player. He helped revitalize the Chicago defense and it was interesting to see his stat line compared to DE Israel Idonije. Both had 8.0 sacks, both had 3 forced fumbles, Peppers 50 tackles and Idonije 46. The Bears were much-improved across the board and combined with the fact that QB Jay Cutler cut back on his mistakes, it added up to a successful season...
    1. Pulyx's Avatar
      As for Injuries, i think the bears came out clean last year because it seems the Bears always play it safe.

      From the starters , only Williams, Briggs, Cutler got injured and only Williams sat for more than 2 games.

      The defensive guys rarely get injured because it seems Tampa-2 teams are like that. (The corners being a bit more vulnerable, if the personnel doesn't fit. In this case, Lovie likes bigger corners just because of that. Smaller corners endup getting hurt when in run support. Same goes for Strong and Free safeties).

      On offense, bears just didn't get destroyed because those kids are Tough man. Specially Cutler.
      I wouldn't wish for a beating like that for the worse of my enemies.
    1. KabaModernFan's Avatar
      Injuries regress to the mean though, unless you're the Phoenix Suns. Expect the Bears to have to deal with more games lost from starters this year.
    1. dj003's Avatar
      And of course, a major injury didn't happen until the second quarter of the NFC Championship game. Figures.
    1. Trumpetbdw's Avatar
      Quote Originally Posted by Pulyx View Post
      NFC East has been brutally hard for the past 10 years and still the good teams always came through.
      I disagree. The NFC East has not been brutally hard. They've been brutally over-pubbed because they take up the biggest markets. And the worse that division is, the better the Eagles are. The better that division, the worse the Eagles perform.

      Without a doubt the NFC North is becoming a rough top-to-bottom division. And I really do hope that the Bears stay at the top. I love that franchise, and the NFL is better when they're good. I'm partial to the Steelers-Ravens rivalry as the best in football, but Chicago-GB is the one matchup that holds the test of time historically, and has the best chance of matching Steelers-Ravens in the future.

      All that said, they scare me. There's talent there, and a healthy Urlacher along with a healthy Peppers is frightening. But I see them regressing. I don't want to, and I'm not sure I have a great explaination why, I just think they do. They don't have the talent that GB has. Detroit has enough talent to where it's going to come down to which of the two stays healthier. Both teams have a tendency to get bitten by the injury bug, so we'll see.

      But at least they'll have the Vikings to stomp on. Because unless the Vikings grab Donovan McNabb, and convince him it's 2005, they're going nowhere.
    1. Pulyx's Avatar
      I think the key for the Bears is to have a good start. Or even a decent start.
      They have a tendency to start fast, falter and then get a little better with time and finish strong.

      If the bears can scrape out a 3-1 or even a 2-2 at the start of the season, they might be able to win 10 or 11 games.
    1. darvon's Avatar
      Can the Bears Take the Next Step in 2011
      I think that after what happened in Yellowstone that you might want to reconsider this title.
    1. bluestree's Avatar
      You can't underestimate how much being freakishly injury free helped Chicago last season. Traditionally the Bears have kept special teamers over backup position players, so when a guy goes down, it's a shuffle, not next man up.
      Also, is this one of those situations where the offense finally gels just in time for the defense to get too long in the tooth? I think that's why the Lions are getting more people jumping on the bandwagon. They're young on both sides of the ball. So is Green Bay. Minnesota and Chicago however have dynastic type defenses that are not seen as being on the ascending arc, and offenses that are unsettled. They both have some outstanding players, but haven't yet put a cohesive unit together going forward.
      I predicted last year's Bears being a sleeper. This year, they take a step back. They'll make progress, but not fast enough to keep pace. The roster just isn't there.
    1. Cris Collinsworth's Avatar
      Quote Originally Posted by dj003 View Post
      Do you feel as though there are likely to be more injuries this preseason, not just for the Bears but the NFL in general? With players on their own for workouts all spring and summer, it would appear to be likely that many will come to camp out of shape. And if camps are shortened, there will be an added sense of urgency to drills and practices. It seems like a recipe for disaster, and the Bears after having such good luck on the injury front last year need to be prepared.
      I wonder what kind of shape guys are in. No matter how much you think you train, it is never like OTA's or mini-camps. Guys get in shape because they know the coaches will judge them based on their conditioning in those off-season drills, without them, guys may slide and we could see more pulled muscles in camp.
    1. Cris Collinsworth's Avatar
      Quote Originally Posted by Pulyx View Post
      Well
      After last season there sure is chance the bears won't be as good.

      People like to point out luck as the "it" factor for this chicago Team last year, specially after the non-td-catch with Megatron.

      But fact is, most good teams create their own luck.
      People claim the bears stole that game from the Lions, but the lions lost that game BEFORE the non-catch. They lost it on the Forté TD. No they lost even before, when Peppers sent Stafford to the Hospital (the bears have a knack for doing that, it seems)

      They Also claim we only beat Green Bay because they had 18 Penalties..They beat themselves, right ?
      No. They lost when Devin Hester took one to the House and then they lost a fumble right before the 2 minute warning.

      They Claim the bears faced 3rd string QBs a lot of the Time, but so did the Lions, Packers and Vikings.

      Yet...The bears won the division. They took care of Business.
      Cutler won HARD on his first playoff game, against a team he struggled against in their first meeting. Threw 2 Beautiful TDs and Ran for 2 more. (Only Otto Graham did that on the Playoffs, that's nice company if you ask me.)

      I think the Year off might 've been the best thing that ever happened to Urlacher's career. He looked like he was 27 years old on the field.
      The Bears had NO interior passrush, and yet, collected 23 interceptions. Mostly due to DL stunts that work wonders when you have Peppers.

      They made most QBs *not named Brady, look like Regular Joes (even Aaron Rodgers).

      And yet...People STILL can't believe the Bears.
      And weirdly, are really quick to Believe the LIONS.

      I Think the Bears will improve greatly, even though like i said there IS room for decline, i don't think that will be the case.

      This division is getting harder. And that's natural.
      NFC East has been brutally hard for the past 10 years and still the good teams always came through.

      I Think Paea and Carimi will be instant hits.
      And my biggest hope is that ANDY FANTUZ will be that n.1 receiver the bears need in the Endzone.

      The sack totals WILL go down. Not because the Pass Protection will get ridiculously better. But because bears run game just got INSTANTLY good with Carimi on the Line.

      And i don't know if many people noticed Olin Kreutz regaining his form around the end of last year.
      It's something that you can check by the lack of INTs Cutler threw on the final 6 weeks of Regular Season and Playoffs. Interior rush scares the hell out of Cutler and Kreutz not being in his old form was one of the reasons cutler threw 26 INTs in his debut for the Bears.

      Kreutz + Webb + Garza + Carimi = RUN GAME.
      Run Game = Less 7 step drops = Less Sacks and more ball control.

      People keep thinking Martz will start airing out as soon as he can. But he works with what he has. Until San Fran he has always had an Elite receiver. He doesn't know. And he KNOWS it. And will not jeopardize it just to throw 30+ TDs.

      The defense will stay just as good. With or without Anthony Adams and Daniael Manning.
      We have Paea, Toeaina (who kicked ass last year), Melton who is my choice for Breakout player this year and Major Wright who is just as good as Manning for the bears.

      I predict the bears rankings will be like this.

      Offense : 13th in Total Yds, 12th Pts, 15 Passing yds, 17th pass TDs. 10th Rushing Yds, 12th Rushing TDs.

      Defense: 9th yds allowed, 4th Pts allowed, 2nd Pass TDs Allowed, 19th in pass Yds allowed, 3rd rushing yds allowed and 13th rushing TDs allowed, 3rd or 2nd in Turnovers created.

      And that is it.
      That is what I am talking about with local fan knowledge. Thx.
    1. Cris Collinsworth's Avatar
      Quote Originally Posted by Pulyx View Post
      As for Injuries, i think the bears came out clean last year because it seems the Bears always play it safe.

      From the starters , only Williams, Briggs, Cutler got injured and only Williams sat for more than 2 games.

      The defensive guys rarely get injured because it seems Tampa-2 teams are like that. (The corners being a bit more vulnerable, if the personnel doesn't fit. In this case, Lovie likes bigger corners just because of that. Smaller corners endup getting hurt when in run support. Same goes for Strong and Free safeties).

      On offense, bears just didn't get destroyed because those kids are Tough man. Specially Cutler.
      I wouldn't wish for a beating like that for the worse of my enemies.
      Interesting that one of the toughest corners is one of the smallest, Tim Jennings. But, you are right, Cov. 2 corners have to tackle.
    1. GoBigOrGoHome's Avatar
      A few nice efforts in this thread from some new posters.
    1. darvon's Avatar
      Very nice analysis, newbs. Welcome.

      And yes, Detroit is the trendy pick. Lions are the new Cardinals.

      We'll see.