What changes do these two have in store for us this offseason?
The 2010 NFL season officially ended last night where the Green Bay Packers defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers 31-25 behind Aaron Rodgers' three touchdown passes. This should have struck a nerve with Bears fans across the world. Rodgers' dominance was exhibited against some of the best defenses in the NFL during the playoffs in Pittsburgh, Atlanta, and Philadelphia. What was the one defense that made Rodgers look human throughout the entire season? Your Chicago Bears. The Packers offense scored 14 points in the NFC Championship, 10 points in week 17, and 17 points in their week 3 loss at Soldier Field.
So what must the Bears do to improve their team, get over the next hurdle, and win Super Bowl 46? Here are five key issues the Bears must have settled prior to Week 1 in early September:
1. Solidify the Offensive Line: The Bears' offensive line in 2010 was just that - offensive. Yes, they improved during the course of the season, but does improvement really matter when the performance changes from "very bad" to "bad"? Roberto Garza will be back and you have to imagine Jerry Angelo will bring Olin Kreutz back on a short term deal. Frank Omiyale will be in the third year of a 4-year $14 million deal and his best position is left tackle - so for now we can assume he will stay there. Here's the major question though: What about Chris Williams? Williams' performance at left guard was poor, early rumbles from various reporters out of Halas Hall is a return to right tackle. 2011 will perhaps be Williams' last chance to prove his status as quality offensive tackle worthy of a 1st round pick or pure bust.
2. Acquire a Non-Little-Person Wide Receiver: Yes, the Bears wide receivers are very nice. They played well this season in their first year in a complex system, which is commendable. But the bears need a wide receiver who is a bigger, stronger target for Jay Cutler to get the ball to. Cutler excelled when throwing to Brandon Marshall. Greg Jennings and Donald Driver are both big strong targets for Rodgers to sling the football to. Cutler receives a ton of criticism for his attitude and play but has he ever complained about not having a legitimate target at wide receiver? Jerry Angelo can help him out by drafting or signing one in the offseason. And no, this bum they just picked up from Canada doesn't count.
3. Cornerback: Who will play cornerback opposite Charles Tillman? Going into the season, Zack Bowman was being advertised as a shut-down cover corner for the future coming into training camp. He was benched during the week 3 win over Green Bay and never saw the same playing time again. Tim Jennings exposed a weakness in the Bears NFC Championship loss when Mike McCarthy targeted him consistently throughout the game. Yes, the Bears defense relies more prominently on getting pressure from the front four, however, athletic corners who can tackle and make plays on the ball are important for the defense. This will be an interesting position to follow leading into training camp at the end of July.
4. Pressure the QB: Speaking of pressure from the front four, who is it going to come from and will they be able to do it more effectively in 2011? The Bears defensive line played very well in 2010, thanks in large part to the addition of Julius Peppers. The double-teams he commanded left Israel Idonije to have the best season of his NFL career. The Bears would like to add one more disruptive end to the mix and are hopeful that Corey Wooten can be that individual. Whether or not he can be is yet to be seen. And how about on the inside? We will probably say goodbye to Tommie Harris this spring. The Bears cover two scheme is based on an athletic "3-technique" under tackle that Tommie Harris was four years ago. Can we really trust Matt Toeina and Henry Melton to take on that responsibility?
5. Jay: Ugh, where should I start with Jay. He had a nice season, certainly much better than in 2009. He has a rocket arm and a knack for making big plays. His fundamentals need work though. If he had his feet set and read his keys, would he throw the game-ending interception in week 17 at Green Bay? How about the interception in the red zone to DeAngelo Hall in the loss to the Redskins that was returned for a touchdown? If he was a better decision-maker would he have thrown the interception intended for Johnny Knox in the first half of the NFC Championship game? Does Cutler care enough to put in the work during the offseason to improve his mechanics? Every Bears fan should wonder that exactly. Forget about his public persona and who cares about his image? Jay's tough, he certainly has proven that over the last two years so let's forget just for a second all of the controversy surrounding him the last three weeks. Let us pray to see him put the work in this spring and summer to get better on Sundays next fall.