Let's face it, this was not a good week to be a Bears fan. Nothing burns worse than a loss to a rival at home. I'd honestly go as far to say as the loss in the Super Bowl actually didn't burn as much even with the epic failure that existed in that game. There is just something that crawls up your throat when you see the Packers raising their hands in victory at Soldier Field. Enough negativity though, follow me below the fold while we look for the few rays of sunshine on that dark dark day.
We have the deepest and most promising group of WR outside of Arizona, Denver, and possibly Indy.
It's really amazing the amount of hate this heaped upon our wide receivers on a consistent basis.
We have Devin Hester, who a vocal minority of people were happy to see out of the game against Green Bay, previously on pace to be a top 15 wide receiver in the league. That's something he was accomplishing when what makes him special, his deep threat speed, was taken away by the lack of ability of our offensive line to allow deep plays to develop. To make up for this you've seen Hester really start showing a more complete game including better hands, better route running, more willingness to go over the middle, and catching the ball in traffic. For someone in only his second year at the position at any level, his progression is amazing.
Johnny Knox has been nothing short of phenomenal in this his rookie year which is a notoriously tough adjustment. He's looked great since the start of training camp, doing a great job catching just about anything thrown in his direction. He has also showed a great sense of the game by knowing when and how to bump DB's to create separation without getting flagged, as well as causing contact the other way to get the flags thrown on the other guy. He's floating around between the third and fifth best rookie WR in the league in a draft that was filled with quality WR. Right now the only people I have ranked over him are Maclin, Harvin, and Collie, and I think Knox has a lot more going for him than any of those three. He's shown himself to have elite speed and now really just needs to work on the timing and routes that come with time and experience. This guy has star written all over him.
Earl Bennett is finally seeing the field after experiencing a bit of DMS the first year from trying to learn all three WR positions in a single off season. He's really stepped it up in becoming a reliable possession receiver coming out of his slot, and his sure hands are a massively welcome change from the Droppapotamus that used to be in his position. Sitting pretty at 4th in receptions for all second year wide receivers you can expect the Vanderbilt connection to get even stronger once opposing defenses are forced to spread out and respect the deep ball more opening up the intermediate game for this great player to work.
Finally Devin Aromashodu has received the chance to showcase his abilities in the big show, and I for one couldn't be happier for him. Standing at six foot two inches he is one of the Bears tallest receiving threats, and having spent three seasons in the league he has more NFL WR receiver experience than anyone else at the position and it shows on the field. He has a great grasp of his routes and where he is supposed to be on any given play. He seems to give a ton of effort and makes the tough catches when it counts. Another diamond in the rough finally get his shot to shine, and he'll get a chance to be a diamond amongst gems on this great WR corps.
In this game we got to see Aromashodu and Knox both score a touchdown and look good the majority of the game, with a few miscues and wrong routes marring what was otherwise a superb performance by both men. The thing to take away from this game isn't that Hester is a bad WR and that's why DA could just immediately fill in, but that all of our WR are good now, and they are all getting better every game.
Even being under constant fire, Jay Cutler hasn't forgotten how to use his legs.
We finally got a chance to see Cutler get flushed out of the pocket in the game, and he took the opportunity to run up field for an extremely good looking 20+ yard scramble. Now, I know you're saying two different things to this, the first being why doesn't he do this all the time? Even on a QB scramble there has to be some kind of blocking and protection to get flushed out instead of crushed down. Most of the time when the pocket collapses for us this year it's much like a bubble that has been popped than a can that is slowly being crushed. With all of the stories about Cutler looking bad under the constant pressure it was really a relief to see that being shell shocked hasn't affected his confidence when it comes to his scrambling ability for a long first down. The second thing you're going to say is that it got called back. It may have been called back, but at the end of the day it showed me something I'd really been wanting to see from Jay so whether or not we got the first down is irrelevant to Jay's scrambling ability.
A lot of the issues that we have on offense can be fixed by next year.
For all the issues we have on offense we are in a pretty great lynch pin scenario. It can be argued that are problems stem from only two spots on offense, coaching and the offensive line. Since coaching salary doesn't apply to any cap or draft considerations that should be extremely fixable, and should be fixed this off-season. Better play calling, better talent evaluation, and ultimately better performance from parts that we already have would go a long way to fixing this offense.
The offensive line is the elephant in the room on this one, but we're really in a great position as long as you believe in Chris Williams, CDub, is the future at the LT position. I think he's looked pretty damn good in his first two appearances at LT, and as long as he continues to improve the penalties should decrease as the comfort level increases.
So if we have CDub holding down the LT position, a left guard position that needs filled, a center position that will likely be a great fit for Beekman, a RG position that should be okay with Garza for one more year, and a RT position that will likely either end up with someone new or Omiyale/Shaffer at the spot.
You can consider me one of the many that hopes Omiyale either does very well at RT or gets cut, and you can also count me amongst those that thing Shaffer hasn't been very good. However, even if both are awful and neither are better than a back up last year we should be able to find at least one quality lineman in the third and fourth round next year. Interior lineman are like the fruit and nut caramels in the Russel Stovers box. Sure they are okay, and they are caramel, but if you really want caramel your're going for the butter creme first. Fantastic interior lineman usually barely get into the second round, and usually fall to the third meaning we should have second or third pick at LG, or RT whichever we deem a more pressing concern and possibly our 5th or 6th pick at the other position in the 4th round.
That's not a guarantee of line supremacy next year, but it's really not that hard to imagine a vastly improved line with only these two second day picks to our name. Our offensive rebirth starts right here though, and if we can really improve the line then everything else is going to fall into place very quickly. Better protection means more time for Cutler to throw, more time for Cutler to throw means deep routes that our current #1 and #2 are unmatched in tandem at., more deep routes means less crowding the box and more Safety help coming out of the middle, that leads to the middle opening up for the slot and TE, and with the LB keeping an eye out on the slot and TE it frees up gaps in the run game and that's all she wrote.
We're just not that far away from being an offensive force, it's like we have all the game pieces but someone broke the board in half. Hopefully we can break the draft board in half this off season and grab what we need to show the league who the hell we are next season.