Of course, no one ever wants to panic, and as Bears fans, we are used to plodding through season after season of barely getting by, putting band-aids on things, and having our leaders tell us "We're okay". Well, right now, we're not okay, at least in some spots on the roster.
We all know that we are close, really close, to fielding a football team that can be legitimate contenders in the NFC. But, we have some personnel issues right now, and we've got to figure out what to do about them.
Most pressing issue- Offensive guard:
I was afraid that Frank Omiyale was getting hit a little too hard by Bears fans, thinking we just needed someone to place some blame on. But, after watching a replay of the Bears game in Atlanta, we need to do something different. While no one person is to blame for our lack of running game, Omiyale is not getting the job done. He does decent in pass coverage, but is getting dominated during runs. We cannot rely 100% on our passing game to take us to the playoffs... we have to have a running game.
So what's the solution? Josh Beekman is the next guy in line, and I don't think he is the answer either. Beekman is a young guy, who may have something to contribute one day if our coaches can develop him, but we saw last year that Beekman is not the answer. And honestly, a lot of folks have said that Frank Omiyale at left guard was an experiment, but I don't buy that. He started because the Bears coaches felt he is better than Beekman.
Bottom line: With only three offensive guards on the roster, and two of them being below average, this is a position that could cause us problems for the rest of the year.
#2 Most pressing issue- Linebacker
With Brian Urlacher out for the year, and Pisa Tinoisamoa likely out as well, we are looking at three linebacker positions with only four guys to fill them: Lance Briggs, Hunter Hillenmeyer, Nick Roach, and Jamar Williams. Tim Shaw and Darrell McClover are also on the roster, but they are considered special teams players.
We know that Briggs has the WLB spot tied down, and the Bears are expecting Hillenmeyer to be ready this week to fill in at SLB for the injured Tinoisamoa. Roach will make the start at MLB, as Lovie Smith said he was pleased with Roach's performance filling in for Urlacher. That only leaves Williams on the bench.
Bottom line: The Bears may have rushed Tinoisamoa back a little too early, and you have to wonder the same about Hillenmeyer. Say what you will about playing with cracked ribs, but that is an injury that can be made much worse by playing before it is completely healed. Like offensive guard, we are too thin at linebacker.
#3 Most pressing Issue- Running back
The Bears running game is off to a dreadfully slow start (see: issue #1), and it doesn't help that our roster, which started with four RBs, is down to two. With Kevin Jones on the IR, and Adrian Peterson nursing an injured knee, we are left with only Matt Forte and Garrett Wolfe. If/ when Peterson does come back, how much can we expect him to contribute considering he suffered a significant sprain to his knee?
The Bears need a strong, short-yardage RB. Wolfe is fine to give Forte a break (which the Bears have said they will do), but he is not a compliment to Forte in short yardage situations. Ron Turner said himself that he called the pitch out on the goal line in Atlanta (that Forte fumbled) because he didn't think we could punch it in between the tackles.
Bottom line: The Bears not only need to get the running game going, but also need to be able to make a big push in critical short yardage situations. We can't run pitch outs all year long.
In summary, we have three critical personnel issues that need addressing if this team is going to make a serious push for the playoffs. And if we do make it to the playoffs, we have to be able to contend. Right now, we have sub-par left guards who are hurting our running game, we have to hold our breath that Hillenmeyer is 100% ready to come back, and we have to cross our fingers that we don't have an injury to another RB.
And honestly, no serious contender should have to wonder, worry, and hope for luck to get them through the season. The trade deadline is 4pm today. While Jerry Angelo is busy adding more pass rushers, maybe he should be looking around for other positions that we are in need of.