We're finally in the giant nebulous off season, and we are smack in the middle of a coaching search to fill the new offensive and defensive coordinator openings. Both of these positions are of great importance to the team, but our needs at various positions actually on the field will have as much if not more to do with how we fare next season.
So tonight, we will take a look at what I think our top eight positional needs are in no specific order. Then in the following weeks, we'll take a closer look at the individual positions and what kind of help we may be able to find before next year.
Halfback: We've got a young back in Matt Forte, but we are still in need of someone to properly spell the young back. Bell could be the answer, but it's hard to say in his limited amount of touches behind our ramshackle line.
Fullback: Jason McKie, he's a fantastic human being, but not exactly the best at any aspect of the FB game. A jack of all trades, McKie will be 30 before the start of next season, so it's likely that we'll see someone else getting groomed for this position even if it's on the practice squad.
Guard: Frank Omiyale and Roberto Garza are our current starting guards, and while Omiyale at no point appeared to be an answer at guard, he did show a large amount of improvement in the waning weeks of the season. Garza has been one of the few consistently above average linemen on the team, but he'll be turning 31 before the start of the season.
Tackle: Chris Williams, and I suppose Kevin Shaffer would be the other currently penciled in on the right side of the line. Chris Williams has finally found his way to his natural position and looked very good considering the small amount of time he'd spent in live games at left tackle. A young player still filled with a lot of upside, he has a strong future ahead of him anchoring the left side.
Kevin Shaffer isn't the worst tackle to have ever played the game by a long shot, but he's not a high quality starter either. When he came into a league he showed an aggressiveness that he's lost over the years, and his former strong suit of run blocking has declined with that loss. Coming into next season at age 30, it's unlikely that he'll learn any new tricks.
Defensive End: Adewale Ogunleye, Mark Anderson, Alex Brown, Gaines Adams. A lot of this position really writes itself. Ogun is 32, and I believe going to be 33 for next season. Always a high effort guy, Ogun looked as good as always until going onto injured reserve at the end of December. It's going to be hard to come back from a broken leg at his age and level of wear and tear.
Mark Anderson is trying to live down the label as a one season wonder, after having a Bears rookie record of 12 sacks in that 2006 campaign. Since then he has totaled less than 10 over the last three entire years. Sometimes criticized for having only a single pass rush move, at age 26 he's still hopefully still young enough to learn something new and take his game to the next level.
Alex Brown, what more can be said except class act. Even with a team that was out of serious contention, Alex Brown continued to play with grit and determination, as well as trying to make the case for a new contract if memory serves. He racked up 7.5 sacks in a year that was marred with bad line play and injuries to the linebacker corps.
Gaines Adams is a young kid that was drafted because of all the promise in the world, but traded away because of a lack of production. Gaines is a risk/reward case if I ever saw one but his diminutive size, coming in about the same weight as Brown while being two inches taller, has caused a lot of pause with the Bears fan base.
Defensive Tackle: Tommie Harris, Israel Idonije, Jarron Gilbert, Anthony Adams, Marcus Harrison, and Matt Toeaina. At first glance the word glut immediately jumps to mind, but once you dig down a bit deeper you come to the realization that this position is experiencing the most flux out of any except perhaps safety.
Tommie Harris is a fantastic player, when he feels like playing both mentally and physically. Injury issues, motivational issues, and more while Tommie probably had the most raw talent and promise on the team, it's extremely likely that Tommie is going to be cut or traded sooner or later, even if it's not next season.
Izzy is listed as a DT, and he can play it, but he's better known as a special teams all star who basically won the game for us a few weeks back with a blocked XP. Always known for doing what's asked of him, whether it be gaining or losing weight, playing special teams, the works, he's also a solid contributor on the defensive line recording 2.5 sacks in limited playing time this year.
Jarron Gilbert and Marcus Harrision are both the young guns of the tackle group, coming off their rookie and second years respectively. They've both got high ceilings and could be very good tackles given the opportunity on the field. Gilbert needs a lot more work out of the two, but both should be able to contribute next year. Matt Toeania was a sixth round pick of the Cincinnati Bengals and while he's looked okay in limited reps, is the most likely to be cut from the active roster of the three.
Anthony Adams has been a decent contributor and a great depth guy since coming over from the 49ers, probably never going to be an all star, but like Hunter for the LB corps, this guy makes a fantastic safety net knowing how to play across the entire line as well as fullback.
Safety: A position of weakness for the last couple of years, we've finally started to develop some talent with the draft the only problem is attempting to figure out who is going continue to develop, and who is already playing at their highest level.
Al Afalava has looked fantastic, and is playing well beyond his years as a rookie safety in the league. Without a doubt the best safety currently on the roster, this was an amazingly good draft pick having been grabbed in sixth round.
Daniel Manning while a fantastic athlete hasn't really shown what he can do at the position. The same could be said for Craig Steltz, and Kevin Payne, with Kevin Payne having had the most opportunity to show we he can do in his short career.
Josh Bullocks is still technically on the roster, but he is most definitely one of the primary target for roster cuts considering his low price tag, and his position of not being drafted by the organization.
Cornerback: Charles Tillman, Nathan Vasher, Corey Graham, Zackary Bowman, and D.J. Moore. Where to start with this motley crew of corners.
Nathan Vasher never really recovered from injury, and has been extremely lackluster ever since. He has a contract that his highly overpaying him for his current level of production, and barring a miraculous rebound he will very likely be off the team at some point next year.
Charles Tillman while still not at the same level he was, was back to his ball hawking ways this year with 6 forced fumbles and two interceptions. If he continues his return to form he started this year, then it's very likely he holds onto his starting job.
The young trio of Zackary Bowman, Corey Graham, and D.J. Moore are an odd group to gauge. We haven't seen D.J. Moore hit the field at all this far, and Corey Graham has had his only little version of attempted DMS by the attempted but apparently aborted move to safety. Bowman however had plenty of time on the field this year and looked fairly good for a second year player, ending the year with 6 INT and a FF.
The large number of young unproven players at the position make it hard to judge exactly how big of a need this position is.
So, that's it for a quick little rundown of the main positions of need for the team. Now I throw it to you guys, if you had to rank our needs by position from eight to first, what would your ranking be, and why?
I'll see you all next week when I get a bit more in depth on what I think number eight is.