It's somewhat shocking that this question can even be asked with a straight face. Going back into time immeasurable when men were men, Bears were Staleys, and Honey Bears still brightened your day with short skirts and pom pom's instead of sweetening up your morning biscuit the Bears have been a defensively minded team.
Sure we've had some all time greats scoring points for our beloved Bears, including Ditka, Grange, Payton, and Sayers, but the offensive players stand out like shining orange stars on a dark blue smothering expanse of Chicago Bears defense. There are just so many names that struck fear into the hearts of opposing teams, and so many broken bodies and shattered dreams left on the ground at Soldier Field when the Monsters of the Midway got finished with their opponents.
Oh how the cold winds shift in our old Chicago home as a sea change of young talent has infused the offense, and the defensive side has become a bastion for times long past, stocked to the brim full of grizzled veterans and battle-tested war machines brought over from past conquests. Well, all the Pepper cannons in the world can't hide the fact the old tower is showing its age, and has more than a few holes once you get past its formidable front.
Follow me below the fold where I'll take a quick look at the state of both phases, and who I think is going to come out on top in 2010.
I hate to start off on such a bitter note, but the majority of us finally got what we wanted with the announcement of Omiyale moving over to the RT position. The only real issue with the decision is that it is happening in the off-season instead of happening during the end of last year when we could have seen what we had in him as a player instead of going into the season with nothing but hope and promises.
Jay Sizzle is ready for his official welcome to the city, and I can think of no better place to have it than a nice little parade through the city when we crown our Bears champs this year. His comfort level with his receivers markedly improved over last year, and while there were some mistakes made on multiple occasions it's hard not to lay some of that blame on the line, and it's effect on Jay's confidence. More than a few times you could see him hurry a throw not due to any actual pressure, but just because the pressure had been there so often before. As long as Omiyale shows why we picked him up in the first place starting at RT, I have a great deal of hope for our offensive line, even if we didn't directly address the LG position.
You know what they say, you can't have Sizzle without the Steak, and the meat of this Chicago Bears offense is without a doubt the plethora of playmakers we now have. Say what you will about toughness, or size, or experience, but it's hard to imagine a team with more legitimate pass catching threads on any given play.
Hester while likely taking a bit of a downgrade in the amount of playing time, should still have that Anytime big play ability, and Fort Knox will undoubtedly be taking more than a few deep balls to the bank this coming season. DA has proven himself to be a quality well-rounded receiver, something that really can be underplayed when compared to the speed demons already mentioned, but having that reliable and versatile guy can be a great asset to a quarterback. Finally we've got the man, the myth, the legend, the Vanderbilt connection, Earl Bennett. Now, some people still aren't real high on Bennett, but it was very easy to see Bennett grow leaps and bounds as a player last year compared to the year previous, and some of the tough catches he came up with have glimpses of what he was capable of. Throw in his precise route running, high level football intelligence, work ethic, and all around toughness and you've got the model of a receiver who should flourish under Martz system.
The Tight Ends speak for themselves, with Clark, Davis, and Olsen making up one of the top TE groups in the league. While this is very likely to be Clark's last year with the Bears it'd be great to send him out with some hardware and if the end of the season is any indication he has enough left in the tank to make some tough plays and get us there. Olsen offers up a large fast target with good hands, and makes it easy to see why he quickly became Cutler's go to guy all last year. Davis is the third man in this grouping, and part of the future of the position with Clark rapidly approaching the end of his years in the league, but don't let his lack of game time fool you. Davis has shown a great willingness to lay some crucial blocks on more than one occasion, and while he might not be the specimen that Olsen is, he is definitely a great athlete.
Last, we're looking at two of the best pass catching backs in the league, which is something people seem to be underestimating as part of Chester's game. While Forte may have caught over 120 passes in his two years in the league, Taylor has quietly amassed over 40 catches in four of his last five years, and that's while playing a distinct second fiddle to AP. Look for these two guys to be used extensively in the short passing game, keeping the middle of the field honest and opening up some fantastic routes for our receivers to pick up some yards after the catch.
I'm going to keep this much shorter as we as Bears fans tend to know a lot more about the workings and the players on the defensive side of the ball.
We picked up one of the most productive defensive ends in the league in Julius Peppers, and on the defensive line it's one of those places where one guy making everyone else look a lot better is incredibly true. Tommie Harris should benefit greatly from the reduced attention he's going to receive, and should that not be enough Izzy and Anderson are going to be looking to make the most of their re-entry into the regular defensive line group.
Our LB are for all intents and purposes back and going to be 100% healthy by the start of the season. Granted, that didn't mean a whole lot last year since the first game decimated us for the year, but as long as everyone stays off the cart we should be looking at one of the most dominant linebacking groups in the league, if not the most dominant.
It's at this point it all gets a bit shaky, Chris Harris coming back where he belongs is definitely a boon for the Bears, but at the same time it's impossible to argue that we didn't need a lot more help at FS than SS. It's also tough to argue that Kevin Payne wasn't developing fairly well as a player, saying nothing about the also quality development of Afalava. Chris Harris is better than both, and this is definitely a win now move, but expecting our new rookie Major Wright to come in immediately and be the best thing since sliced bread without growing pains that involve more than a few blown coverages is an exercise in delusional thinking. Wright has the ability and skill set to be very good, but there are probably going to be more ugly plays than beautiful ones coming from him in the next season.
That leaves us with our CB which is really a murderers row of question marks, Tillman is Tillman. The guy probably has the best ball rip, and ball punch in the league and he breaths air into his body for the sole purpose of generating turnovers. With that said, his coverage abilities are above average at best, and with his injury history it is always a bit worrisome when you see him hit the ground or a player hard on a tough play. The rest of the squad is filled with tons of promise, and very little experience. More than a few injuries fill the backfield as well, making this position an interesting one at least from a training camp perspective, but a place of concern if you have Super Bowl dreams from this team like me.
In my opinion it's almost unquestionable that the offense is going to be the better squad this year, and that's saying a lot with the talent that I believe we have coming in on the front 7. Look for the rapid development of our formerly "ragtag" group of receivers to become a prime story in the upcoming season, as well as the birth of St.Sizzle, patron saint of the deep ball.