Originally posted on The Sports Bank  |  Last updated 1/16/13
It’s no secret at this point. The most glaring need that the Chicago Bears need to address this offseason is their offensive line. You can copy and paste the 2 sentences above into a description of the Bears heading into last offseason. And in 2010… And in 2009… You get my point. Unfortunately for Jay Cutler, he had to get dragged to the turf 148 times over the past 4 seasons for anybody with the appropriate power to notice. I have full confidence in GM Phil Emery that he will shore up the offensive line in some fashion in the coming months. It may be through the draft, it may be through free agency. Hell, it may be through both seeing how many holes there are to plug up front. But if there’s one thing Emery has shown to the fans since he’s been here, it’s that if there is a need, it will be addressed promptly and properly. Wide receiver problems? Let’s steal Brandon Marshall from the Dolphins. Need an offensive minded head coach? Let’s bring in upwards of a dozen guys, mostly noted offensive geniuses, and have that list narrowed down to 3 finalists within 3 weeks of the season ending. The man gets the job done, especially when it comes to fixing a top priority. The main focus obviously remains on the head coaching position. The remaining 3 candidates being brought in for a 2nd round of interviews are Darrell Bevell, Marc Trestman and Bruce Arians. After one of them is picked to command the ship, Emery will surely get the ball rolling on upgrading the offensive line. But hidden beneath the obvious needs, what other areas on the roster does the front office need to improve this offseason? Linebackers Linebackers aren’t included on this list for lack of effort or production. The core group is simply fighting an uphill battle against Father Time. We may have seen Brian Urlacher’s last game in a Bears uniform in their week 17 victory in Minnesota. Urlacher, who is now 34 and a free agent, ranked 5th on the team in tackles with 53 despite struggling with various injuries all season long. It’s still unclear whether the Bears will bring him back on a short term deal. Lance Briggs isn’t getting any younger either. At 32, he led the Bears with 73 tackles and tossed in 2 interceptions and 1.5 sacks to boot. But how long can we expect this Pro Bowl-caliber output from Briggs? The most pressing issue will be to fill Urlacher’s shoes, which is a nearly impossible duty to ask of anyone. But outside of Briggs, the depth at linebacker is far short of spectacular. Nick Roach is better suited as an outside linebacker. Geno Hayes and J.T. Thomas provide able bodies when the starters need a rest, but they’re not starter material. Neither are Dom DeCiccio or Blake Costanzo, who are mostly special teams contributors. The Bears should look to find Urlacher’s replacement in the draft. That way, he can learn from Lance Briggs in the few years he has left. Tight End Greg Olsen, why have we forsaken you!? Ever since he was essentially run out of town by Mike Martz for not “fitting in to the offensive scheme”, the tight end position for the Bears has become a black hole in terms of production. Thanks Mike. A pass catching tight end like Olsen would’ve been a perfect addition to this evolving Bears offense, one that finally seems like it’s moving into the 21st century and incorporating a passing attack. As intimidating as their sheer size may make them, Matt Spaeth and Kellen Davis just aren’t cutting it in the passing game. You can add Kyle Adams and Evan Rodriguez to that list too. Together, those four have combined for 51 receptions, 524 yards, and only 8 touchdowns over the past two seasons. Whoever is chosen to be head coach will bring in a more dynamic offense than we’re used to seeing in Chicago. If the new coach has a shiny new toy to play with at tight end, that will make the playbook even deeper, not to mention give Cutler a reliable safety valve in the passing game not named Marshall. Slot Wide Receiver This might sound nit-picky, but almost every elite offense has a go-to weapon in the slot. I’m sorry, but the “Devin Hester as a receiver” experiment simply hasn’t panned out. He’s learned the hard way that running pass patterns and catching lasers from Jay Cutler isn’t as easy as making defenders miss in the open field on kickoff returns. With a total of 6 touchdowns and barely over 1000 yards receiving over the last three seasons, it’s time to move on. Brandon Marshall is as elite as they come, and Alshon Jeffery will grow into a legitimate #2 option as time goes on. But the Bears don’t have much to look forward to in the slot. There’s a ton of talent to be had in free agency: Greg Jennings, Dwayne Bowe, Wes Welker, Mike Wallace, Victor Cruz, Ted Ginn, Danny Amendola, etc. I’m not sure if the Bears are willing to (or will have enough) to spend on a top-flight guy, but Amendola would look mighty fine in navy and orange if you asked me. Special Teams Coordinator Not an on the field problem here, but an important one all the same. Long time Special Teams Coordinator Dave Toub is slated to take the same job for the Kansas City Chiefs. It may be hard to gauge the impact of a Special Teams coordinator on a team, and you don’t hear much about him in the media. But consider that a good thing. Nobody ever questioned Toub’s procedures during his 10 year tenure. People just stood by and watched admirably as he presided over one of the most consistently productive units in the NFL. Place kicker Robbie Gould has added distance to his range seemingly every season while maintaining the accuracy that makes him the 6th most accurate kicker of all time. Devin Hester’s success under Toub goes without mentioning. And Toub’s preparation tactics makes his unit one of the most fundamentally sound in the game today. His replacement will have a big reputation to uphold here in Chicago. Covering up one or more of these secondary needs this offseason could have the Bears playing on Sundays next January and February instead of watching from their couches at home. Which do you think is the Bears most pressing need to fill outside of the offensive line?
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