You might read this title and think "too soon." But we've all heard it before, and no doubt in a couple weeks at training camp we'll hear it again; "This is the best team I've played on since the Super Bowl team" or something close to that. Fans on this very blog have been commenting "this is the best team since the 2006 squad." The big disclaimer being "on paper" as, obviously, the 2012 Bears have yet to play a game, but I think it'll be easy to make the comparison on paper, so follow me below and let's see how the offenses stack up.
We'll do this by offensive position groups. Perhaps after the 2012 season wraps up we'll be able to actually compare the numbers and rankings, however, we can only do an "on paper, eye ball" analysis now. This is also a nice look at what does six seasons do an NFL roster?
The 2006 squad finished second in points and 15th in yards.
The 2006 squad was a veteran bunch, comprised, from left to right of John Tait, Reuben Brown, Olin Kreutz, Roberto Garza and Fred Miller. The group, as you notice has zero Jerry Angelo picks on it, however he signed all but Kreutz as free agents, but it still shows his trouble drafting the positions. Anyway, the Bears surrendered a total of 25 sacks, 21 of those on starting QB Rex Grossman, who started all 16 games. The '06 Bears rushed for 1,918 yards and 14 TDs.
The 2012 Bears will field some of the following: Chris Williams, J'Marcus Webb, Chris Spencer, Roberto Garza, Gabe Carimi and Lance Louis. The '11 squad surrendered 49 sacks, even with improvements in blocking and overall offensive scheme I think most people would say it'd be a miracle if the '12 team came close to the '06's squad 25 sacks surrendered.
Edge: 2006 Bears
Going off a stat I gave in the last group, the Bears '06 RBs rushed for 1,918 yards. The back were lead back Thomas Jones, Cedric Benson and Chicago's Adrian Peterson. Jason McKie added 18 yards of his own from the fullback position (but no TDs). Jones and Benson each has six TDs and AP added two. Grossman rushed for two yards and Bernard Berrian rushed for five. TJ led them in yards with 1,210 and CedBen rushed for 647. Yes and if you're adding at home you'll come up with 1,923 yards but take out Brian Griese's -5 yards. The two lead guys tied for a healthy 4.1 YPC.
The 2012 squad features 1a and 1b backs Matt Forte and Michael Bush. Forte is coming off an injury-shortened season where he rushed for 997 yards and Bush is coming off a career best 977 yards. Forte averaged a career high 4.9 YPC and Bush a career low 3.8 YPC. Forte has two 1,000-yard seasons under his belt and scored three TDs last year, Bush had seven for the Raiders.
Edge: 2012 Bears. TJ and Benson were great in 2006, but neither are the pass catcher Forte is and Bush is about as good as Jones so the two '12 backs could catch 60 passes combined, whereas Benson and TJ caught 42. Bush and Forte are the best combo the Bears have had since '06, but better because Bush is better than 2006 CedBen.
This isn't really even close. The Bears' leading receiver in '06 was Muhsin Muhammad with 60 receptions, 863 yards and 5 TDs. The Bears' TD reception leaders were Desmond Clark and Bernard Berrian, each with 6. Berrian had 51 catches and Dez had 45. The fourth leading receiver on the team was Rashied Davis (in yards) and Thomas Jones (in receptions). The 2012 squad has Brandon Marshall, who is one of the best receivers in team history without playing a single down. Johnny Knox might not play this season and yet he and Devin Hester are both comparable, stat-wise, to Muhammad's Bears years. I would say Knox is also about even with Berrian. Earl Bennett is a better possession and slot guy than either Davis or Muhammad. Then throw in Alshon Jeffery and this receiving corps is way better than the '06 team.
Edge: 2012 Bears
Dez Clark stands alone as the only one at a position who is undoubtedly better than his 2012 counterpart (at a skill position), Kellen Davis, and that's only because we still aren't sure what Davis is. Davis is certainly more athletic, but Clark was a solid all-around contributor and a guy Davis has said really helped him develop in the NFL. Looking at the rest of the TEs on the Bears' roster, Matt Spaeth is the only other one who has contributed on an NFL field. He basically fills the Gabe Reid and John Gilmore role from the '06 team. We have yet to see what, if any, contributions the team can get from Kyle Adams or Evan Rodriguez.
Edge: '06 team but there is sleeper potential for the 2012 squad to jump them.
Is this even really a contest? Rex Grossman's '06 was his best year in the league, but Cutler has bested his rating all three years in a Bears uniform. Cutler has had better TD-INT ratio the last two years. Sure he hasn't posted a 13-3 record, but as we'll see on Monday, a lot of that was the defense, especially them bailing Grossman out. Grossman never handled pressure situations real well (hence "f--- it I'm going deep") either. He also doesn't have the athleticism of Cutler. Grossman has only won one more playoff game than Cutler. I don't think anyone, even the biggest Cutler doubters, would take Grossman over Cutler.
Edge: 2012 Bears.
Comeback on Monday for a comparison of the defense and special teams. Hopefully health is on the Bears' side in 2012 and we'll actually get a chance to compare the two teams at the season's conclusion.