Bridging the Talent Gap: How Much Work Is There?

One of the key phrases we heard in the firing of Jerry Angelo was that there was a significant talent gap within the division that would have to be made up in order for the Bears to push towards being a championship contender. We know where our draft needs lie, but how does that stack up against our division-mates? And where do the Bears fall behind the most? Follow me past the jump and let's look at our team in the context of the division.

Offense: WR, TE, Backup QB, LT

Halfback, Matt Forte is probably at worst the #2 back in the division, and depending on which Lions fan you ask, Jay Cutler is either the #2 or #3 quarterback in a quarterback-heavy division. But the Bears had arguably the worst backup situation in the division - the Vikings had a serviceable Joe Webb, the Packers have Matt Flynn who in a small sample size looks like he could start elsewhere in the league, and the Lions have Shaun Hill and Drew Stanton, who each had some decent games last year. The Bears are almost assured Caleb Hanie will not be around next season, and Josh McCown had two not incompetent games, but a backup situation next year of McCown and Nathan Enderle would still probably put the Bears last in the division for backup quality.

As far as receiver, pending how much of a believer you are in Johnny Knox or Earl Bennett, you'd be hard pressed to not take the top two receivers in each other division team (save maybe Minnesota) ahead of taking even one Bears' receiver - the Packers with Greg Jennings and Jordy Nelson, the Lions with Calvin Johnson and Nate Burleson or Titus Young, and the Vikings with at least Percy Harvin. And for Kellen Davis' touchdowns, I'm not sure how many people wouldn't take Jermichael Finley, Brandon Pettigrew or Kyle Rudolph ahead of him. Three first or second rounders there.

Offensive line, compared to the division, the Bears generally might be fine, especially with Tice coordinating an offense he coached his guys for. Left tackle is still a need of magnitude, but relative to the division, it could be a lot worse.

Defense: DT, DE, LB, CB

Defensive line in general is a mismatch in Detroit's favor as a unit, though each team has a dominant pass rusher= the Vikings' Jared Allen and the Bears' Julius Peppers are both great end threats (and don't forget that glorified rush-end Clay Matthews. Pot stirred). That being said, the Vikings as a unit had 50 sacks, tied for the best in the NFL, the Lions had 41 and the Packers had 29. The Bears at 33 are below average, and it looks like yet another pick will need to be spent on a defensive lineman. (Is Angelo still in charge?) Peppers is still excellent, but there isn't another end that can consistently help him - Idonije on occasion but rarely, and Wootton hasn't been able to sniff the field, but when he has, it's been kinda meh. They've gotten quite a bit out of their tackles, especially Henry Melton, but they need more consistent penetration and less flash-in-the-pan-ness.

Linebacker's always been a team strong suit, but Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs aren't getting any younger (something I wrote about when Dane and co. started tolerating my presence on the front page), they spent so much of last season in nickel, Nick Roach and Brian Iwuh haven't been that good when they've been on the field (except Iwuh's special teams play has been fine) and JT Thomas, last year's draft pick, was on IR. What do they have here beyond Urlacher and Briggs? I'm not sure - in a division with a young Clay Matthews, still decent Chad Greenway, and Lions' addition Stephen Tulloch, maybe linebacker is more of a need than we think.

As far as the secondary, for spending so much time in nickel, the Bears rated as the fifth worst passing defense, although Green Bay (worst), Minnesota (7th) and Detroit (11th) all were in the bottom half by traditional pass defense statistics. While the secondary, particularly the second CB, is very much a need, compared to the rest of the division, it's right in line.

Summary:

So compared to the division, the Bears are actually in better shape than we thought. Adding an impact receiver and a backup quarterback should fill in the biggest holes on offense and make up the most ground, and on defense, a second end, a cornerback and additional linebacking depth will further pull the team closer.

What do you think? How much room do the Bears have to make up in terms of talent, and how would you like to see them get there?

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