It's all over folks, this lost season is officially in the books and all we can do now is sit back and survey the landscape before us. We all found out we'll be coming in to next year with a new offensive line coach, as well as a new OC and a new DC. Everyone is happy about that, even if they aren't entirely happy that Lovie and Angelo are back next year. However, we also just got done beating up on the whipping post of the NFC North, the Lions, and we can take a few things out of this game into the next season as definitively high points.
The entire Chicago Bears offense is looking like it could be something special in very short order.
- Greg Olsen - Much maligned for playing softer than some people thought he should through the first half of the year, this blue chip TE has finally started to show us what he's made of making clutch catches, fighting for the ball as much as he fights for the PI calls, and breaking a few tackles here and there as well. Olsen has solidified himself as the starting TE going into next season, not only because he's the best we have, but he's starting to look damn good too.
- Wide Receivers - We've got a fantastic group of wide receivers that in the short order of one terrible season have went from a position of weakness for the team, to a position of strength. Even the Droppapotamus himself has proved his worth on ST, and the few times he was actually called upon to touch a ball with his hands, he didn't drop it like a red hot iron ingot. DA has shown why Cutler wanted him on the field all along, Hester has continued his progression into a top 15 wide receiver. Knox was a rookie sensation all year, proving himself to be big play capable and about as reliable as rookies come. Bennett has shown up as good possession guy, not afraid to go over the middle, and not afraid to see the field after a no show in his rookie season. We've got four young guys that should only get better with time and teaching, and combined with a pass catching threat out of the backfield known as Matt Forte and you get performances like the one against the Lions where we have 5 players with three or more catches.
- Matt Forte - A somewhat puzzling sophomore campaign that was partially explained by the absolutely terrible offensive line, but it was only very recently that we found out that Forte had been battling injury for the majority of the season. Matt Forte showed some flashes towards the end of the year and finished up against the Lions with a solid 100+ yard game, with a couple of catches as well. We should see a much improved and hopefully healthy Forte behind a improved offensive line.
- Offensive Line - I don't know if much more can be said except for I'm extremely happy Chris Williams finally got the opportunity to start at LT. We've got some upgrading to do across the line, but a healthy and quickly improving left tackle goes a long way to solving our woes in the realm of pass blocking. A couple of good draft choices on the interior of the line, and Beekman finally showing his worth at center should give us a great chance at putting good line to protect Jay Cutler, and block for Matt Forte
- Jay Cutler - We finally got to see what we actually paid for against the Minnesota Vikings, and the fun continued against a fairly terrible Lions team. Sizzle also went a long way towards easing some of the Grossman comparisons by showing he also knows how to throw the ball away. Of course, that was in between throwing some of the most beautiful tiny window passes I've seen in awhile, and finding the open man most of the game. We've got our franchise QB folks, and I'm really excited to start building a wall in front of him.
The defense is getting back a few good people, and bringing back a couple as well.
The argument that Urlacher is in the twilight of his career is no longer an argument, and is now fact. Simply put, his age is going to catch up with him sooner rather than later, as father time doesn't stop even for elite level athletes. However, the one good thing we can find with his season ending injury is that it basically gave him an entire off season of rest, which could end up being a blessing in disguise.
In addition to a hopefully rejuvenated Urlacher, Pisa should be back off of his right knee surgery next year assuming we sign him for another year. He looked very good in the few plays he got in this year, and would be a good asset if healthy next year.
Of course, the defensive leader this year will be back next year, none other than Lance Briggs. He's been fantastic all year, and one of the few highlights on the defensive side of the ball all year.
We've also got Nick Roach, and Jamar Williams showing they are more than capable of backing up the aforementioned three, and possibly becoming full time starters. In addition to these we've got the all-world back up of Hunter Hillenmeyer, who I may not like as a starter for the team but there isn't a single better back up LB in the league in my opinion. He knows the positions, and came through in the clutch for us multiple times this season.
The special teams are starting to become something special again.
We've got multiple excellent returners, we've got more than a few ST stand outs like Garrett Wolfe and a possible new BA in Tim Shaw. We've got a extremely clutch no worries borderline automatic kicker in Robbie Gould, and a wily veteran of a punter that I can honestly say might have been the one of the MVP for the team this year.
More importantly, all of these guys and our second stringer have finally been playing together long enough to start to get in the swing of things and the great job by Toub is causing them to play as well oiled unit once again. If the second half of this season is any indication, our special teams will again be one of the top in the league next year.