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2010 Team Report: Chicago Bears

Quarterbacks

Starter: Jay Cutler
Backup(s): Dan LeFevour, Caleb Hanie

Starting QB: At first glance, you might be tempted to say that Jay Culter running a Mike Martz offense would mean an easy top-10 season for Culter in 2010. Given Cutler's strong finish: 550 yards passing, 8 TDs, and a single INT over the final two games, all the evidence seems to be in place. However, the biggest challenge in Chicago is the poor offensive line. Last season, Cutler spent much of his time running for his life. Many of his 26 interceptions were thrown under tremendous pressure. To make matters worse, without a 1st- or 2nd-round pick, the Bears were unable to add any depth to their already aging offensive line. A new offensive coordinator and poor protection could have Cutler topping last season's seven games with two or more interceptions. In late June, CBSSports.com reported that Jay Cutler said he's continuing to learn about the new offense Mike Martz has installed. "There's a lot to like about it," Cutler said. "The ball's in the air, we're doing some great stuff in the run game, we're trying to get guys open, we're trying to find spaces for them, we're trying to create matchups and I think Mike does a great job of that."

Backup QB: Caleb Hanie had a total of three completions last season on just seven attempts, and one interception. Dan LeFevour is a solid backup and should beat Hanie out for the No. 2 slot on the roster. Unfortunately the poor offensive line means that if Chicago has either of these two guys under center, it's not going to be pretty. If Cutler goes down, expect opposing defenses to blitz quite often. These reserver QBs will be running for their lives and tossing a lot of interceptions. Chicago needs to hope that Culter makes it the entire season or every other skill player on the team is going to suffer. In late June, ESPNChicago.com's Jeff Dickerson, citing multiple team sources, reported that the Chicago Bears appear content to open training camp with Caleb Hanie as the team's No. 2 quarterback.

Running Backs

Starter: Matt Forte
Backup(s): Chester Taylor, Kahlil Bell, Garrett Wolfe, Harvey Unga
Fullback(s): Eddie Williams

Starting RB: Matt Forte had a disappointing sophomore season for the Bears, finishing with just 325 touches for 1,400 yards but only 4 TDs. In several games, he was completely taken out because the Bears were behind and throwing for much of the second half. The offensive line failed to open any holes for him as well, and he averaged just 3.6 yards per carry. Forte enters the 2010 season as the starter, but he will certainly lose time to newly acquired Chester Taylor. Expect a RBBC approach to Chicago this season, and Forte likely finishing out of the Top 20 for fantasy RBs. In mid June, CBSSports.com noted a hamstring injury kept Forte out of OTAs and part of training camp last year and a knee injury in Week 3 limited him through Week 17. He looks healthy now. "I feel a lot faster," he said Wednesday. "I actually went down to Florida and did some training, so I could redo the speed training and stuff that I did before that I didn't get to do because of my injuries." Forte said he never viewed the acquisition of Chester Taylor from Minnesota as a criticism of his 2009 production. "Competition is part of the game," Forte said. "If you're afraid of competition you shouldn't be playing, anyway, so I come out here and compete every day." But Forte, who continues handling first-team duties for the majority of offseason work, is glad to have Taylor on the team to help share the load. "It's not me vs. Chester," Forte said. "He's in here to help out the team, and I'm here to help out the team, too, to get to a championship. So that's what it is." In mid July, ChicagoBears.com reported that Forte worked hard during the offseason, improving on his lower body and upper body strength, according to running backs coach Tim Spencer. "He made a point to get back and get his body in better shape," Spencer said. Forte was healthy enough to play last year, but was rarely full speed due to injuries. Spencer said the team was looking for Forte to improve on his yards per carry and yards per catch last year, and they feel those will improve this season because Forte will be fresh. "He won't have to take the entire load. He can share it," Spencer said of Forte's role sharing touches with Chester Taylor. "Chester will do well, and they can kind of feed off each other," he added.

Backup RBs: The Bears definitely upgraded their RB corps by signing Chester Taylor away from Minnesota early. He brings solid hands and excellent blocking skills into the mix to help take some of the load off of Forte, and give Cutler some extra protection on potential passing downs. Taylor should definitely see more action than he did in Minnesota, but probably not enough for him to crack the top 25 for fantasy RBs. Second-year RB Kahlil Bell showed some flashes last season, but the addition of Taylor clearly shows that Bell has room to improve. Garrett Wolfe lacks the size to be an every down back in the NFL, and he will continue to see spot duty as the change-of-pace back for the Bears. In mid July, ChicagoBears.com reported that Bears running backs coach Tim Spencer said he feels good about the team's acquisition of Taylor during the offseason. "Chester is a smart football player. He's been around a long time, so he knows a lot about the little ins and outs. You don't have to teach him that. He studies the game. So from that aspect, you feel real comfortable about putting him in there. He is a veteran who has taken care of his body and doesn't have a lot of mileage on his body," Spencer said. In mid July, the Bears selected Brigham Young RB Harvey Unga in the seventh round of the NFL supplemental draft, according to Adam Schefter, from ESPN. Unga has good size and receiving ability. He will compete with Bell and Wolfe for the No. 3 RB job.

Fullback: The Bears will probably use Taylor and Forte for any two RB sets that they run this season, and they prefer to use a TE rather than a true FB. Eddie Williams is listed as the team's No. 1 FB, but his fantasy impact will be nominal at best.

Wide Receivers

Starters: Devin Hester, Johnny Knox, Earl Bennett
Backups: Devin Aromashodu, Rashied Davis, Juaquin Iglesias

Starting WRs: The Bears list Devin Hester as their No. 1 WR, but you'll have a hard time finding a lot of people to back up that belief. He performed well during the first half of the season, but disappeared after week nine and missed three games due to injury. His production could seriously fall off with the increase in production from the other WRs. Earl Bennett finished the season with just 54 receptions for 717 yards but his connection with Cutler will certainly help as the passing game opens up under Mike Martz. Johnny Knox showed solid potential in his rookie season, but he missed the last two games due to injury. All three have the potential to finish as the team's leading WR this season. In mid June, CBSSports.com noted that in an effort to fully understand the complex offense of coordinator Mike Martz, Devin Hester will work with future Hall of Fame receiver Isaac Bruce this offseason in Florida. Hester told the Chicago Sun-Times that it was his idea to contact Bruce, who had some incredible seasons working under Martz's tutelage in St. Louis. "We'll get on a field, watch some film and everything," Hester said. "I can't learn from anyone better." In mid June, ESPNChicago.com's Jeff Dickerson reported that Johnny Knox is entrenched as one of the team's starting wide receivers after performing well during offseason workouts.

Backup WRs: Despite currently being listed as a backup, Devin Aromashodu stepped in late in the season when Hester and Johnny were down with injuries. He and Cutler developed an instant connection and the "other" Devin finished with 22 receptions for 282 yards and 4 TDs in the last four games. At the very least, look for him to take a serious bite out of Greg Olsen's stats this season. However, it is quite possible (likely?) that Aromashodu will ascend to the top of the WR depth chart this preseason and be the Bears' top receiver. Rashied Davis had some bright moments in 2008 but disappeared into the depth chart last season. He has veteran experience but will probably the odd man out by week 17. Juaquin Iglesias spent most of last season on the inactive list. He was a 3rd-round pick last year though and should see more of the field this season as he matures.

Tight Ends

Starters: Greg Olsen
Backups: Brandon Manumaleuna, Desmond Clark, Kellen Davis

Greg Olsen has the most to lose going into the 2010 season for the Bears. Despite back to back top 10 fantasy finishes for this TE, the emergence of Devin Aromashodu and the addition of Chester Taylor mean fewer check downs and more blocking for Olsen in 2010. New OC Mike Martz also would prefer to go with three and four WR sets rather than use a big TE like Olsen. While the Bears aren't exactly The GreaTEst Show on Turf Part 2, they will certainly try to take their passing game down the field more in 2010, knocking Olsen out of the Top 10 for fantasy TEs for sure. The rest of the TE crew are more for backup and blocking purposes and do not have any legitimate fantasy value.

Place Kicker

Robbie Gould : As a rookie in 2005, Gould was a serviceable replacement for Doug Brien. In 2006 he addressed his weaknesses, easily held off Josh Huston for the job, and subsequently emerged as one of the top kickers in the league. He was 32 of 36 on FGs (88.9%), including 12 of 14 from 40+ yards, and totaled 143 points (1st). His field goal percentage has remained over 85% every year since, although his point totals have dropped to 126 to 119 to 105 last year. The big change on offense this year is new OC Mike Martz, whose high scoring offenses have traditionally benefited the teams' kickers (although San Francisco last year was an exception).

Kick and Punt Returners

Kick Returners: Johnny Knox, Danieal Manning, Devin Hester, Rashied Davis, Earl Bennett, Chester Taylor, D.J. Moore, Juaquin Iglesias, Garrett Wolfe, Corey Graham

The Bears have two capable starters on kickoff returns. Part way through 2008, DB Danieal Manning took over kickoff returns and provided a spark, averaging 29.7 yards on 36 returns and scoring once. WR Johnny Knox emerged as a threat during his rookie season last year, averaging 29.0 yards on 32 kickoff returns and scoring once. Chicago has a boatload of potential backups. After two magical years on returns, Devin Hester became a starting WR and was demoted to a backup on kickoff returns (7 returns, 22.3 avg. last year). Rashied Davis was the lead kickoff returner during parts of 2005 and 2006, and has been a backup since. RB Chester Taylor has experience returning kickoffs from his years with the Ravens, and had 10 returns with a 23.4 avg. for the Vikings in 2008. WR Earl Bennett handled kickoffs during his freshman year at Vanderbilt and had two returns last year. CB D.J. Moore averaged 22.8 yards on kickoff returns during his career at Vanderbilt. WR Juaquin Iglesias averaged 26.4 yards on kickoff returns during his career at Oklahoma and scored once. RB Garrett Wolfe had 5 returns (19.6 avg.) in 2008. CB Corey Graham scored twice on kickoff returns during his college career at New Hampshire. In mid June, CBSSports.com reported Bears coach Lovie Smith has no plan to put WR Devin Hester on kickoff returns, but Hester has fielded some kicks in OTA workouts. "If they do, I guess it's an opportunity for me to break the (TD return) record. I'm hoping I get an opportunity to go back there a little bit," Hester said. "Every time I see a kickoff in a game, I miss it. When push came to shove, at the very end of the season, I did punts and kickoff returns." Hester had seven kickoff returns late last year when Danieal Manning or Johnny Knox were hurt. This year, Hester plans to focus more at WR, and he enters training camp as a starter opposite Knox.

Punt Returners: Devin Hester, Earl Bennett, D.J. Moore, Johnny Knox, Juaquin Iglesias, Rashied Davis, Danieal Manning

Devin Hester averaged 12.8 yards in 2006, improved to 15.5 yards in 2007, but dropped to 6.2 in 2008 and 7.8 last year. After two years as the number one returner, he dropped to 25th in 2008 and 43rd in 2009 among fantasy returners. Earl Bennett produced stronger numbers last year, averaging 10.2 yards on 14 returns and scoring once. During their final year of college in 2008, D.J. Moore averaged 14.4 yards on punt, Johnny Knox averaged only 7.4 yards, and Juaquin Iglesias lost yardage. Rashied Davis handled five punts in 2005 (6.2 avg.). Danieal Manning averaged 22.0 yards (1st in Division II) on punt returns during his senior year at Abilene Christian in 2005. The Bears have ranked in the top ten in fantasy returns each of the last four years.

Offensive Line

Projected Starters: LT Chris Williams, LG Josh Beekman, C Olin Kreutz, RG Roberto Garza, RT Frank Omiyale
Key Backups: T/G Lance Louis, T/G Kevin Shaffer, T James Marten

The Bears offensive line performed as expected last season. They were below average in run blocking while holding their own in pass protection. For the Bears it all starts with Olin Kreutz who has missed just one game over the past nine seasons. He is still a solid player in his 13th season. At guard, Garza has started each game over the past four seasons. He is a strong pass blocker but struggles to open holes in the running game. Beekman started four games last year after starting all 16 in 2008. He will likely start at guard and may be the starting center once Kreutz retires. Kevin Shaffer is a decent option at tackle but is not going to get better. Chris Williams is still learning on the job and really struggled in pass protection last year. He needs to improve this season or may find himself in a battle for his job. Lance Louis and Frank Omiyale are decent depth guys for the Bears.

Team Defense

Defensive Line

Starters: DE Julius Peppers, DT Tommie Harris, DT Marcus Harrison, DE Mark Anderson
Backups: DE Israel Idonije, DE Corey Wootton [R], DE Henry Melton, DT Anthony Adams, DT Jarron Gilbert, DT Matt Toeaina

Starting DL: Coming off a disappointing season, the Bears made some major changes up front this offseason as Alex Brown was released and Adewale Ogunleye was not re-signed. Taking the place of one of them will be Julius Peppers, who was signed to a 6-year, $91.5 million contract with $42 million guaranteed. Although his effort has been questioned in the past, Peppers remains one of the league's best pass rushers and he should provide a big boost to the pass rush. Tommie Harris didn't live up to his reputation as one of the best DTs in the league last year, but injuries played a role and the addition of Peppers should help elevate his game. Marcus Harrison came into training camp overweight and out of shape last year, but the Bears will be counting on him to hold down the fort at NT. Mark Anderson signed a 1-year contract so he should have plenty of motivation to go out and prove that he deserves a long-term contract either in Chicago or elsewhere. While he may be better suited to a role as a pass-rush specialist, it appears the Bears will give him another shot to earn a full-time role playing opposite Peppers.

Backup DL: To address the lack of depth outside, the Bears plan to move Israel Idonije from DT to DE and he could wind up in a run/pass platoon with Anderson. Corey Wootton is a 4th round pick who played in college just down the road at Northwestern who could see playing time right away. Henry Melton was a 4th round pick a year ago who wound up spending the year on injured reserve. Anthony Adams isn't an exciting player, but he's a strong and reliable option at nose tackle who can step in if Harrison falters. Jarron Gilbert is a very athletic DT who the Bears took in the 3rd round last year who should compete for playing time behind Tommie Harris. Matt Toeaina initially spent some time on the Bengals practice squad before signing with the Bears, but he's only played in 4 games over the past 3 seasons.

Linebackers

Starters: WLB Lance Briggs, MLB Brian Urlacher, SLB Nick Roach
Backups: OLB Pisa Tinoisamoa, OLB Hunter Hillenmeyer, ILB Tim Shaw

Starting LBs: While he doesn't always get the attention, Lance Briggs has been the Bears best defensive player for the past couple seasons. He's averaged over 90 solo tackles with a handful of big plays and is one of the most reliable fantasy options at OLB. Brian Urlacher is 32 years old so he's not quite over the hill yet, but he missed all of 2009 with a wrist injury and his level of play has slipped a bit in recent years. It wouldn't be a big surprise if he bounces back with a strong season, but he's a much riskier fantasy option these days. Nick Roach was one of the players who filled in for Urlacher last year and he did better than most expected. He's probably a better fit playing outside anyway, and should compete for the starting spot on the strong side.

Backup LBs: Pisa Tinoisamoa was brought in to solidify the strongside spot last year but he suffered an injury and only managed to play in a couple games. Hunter Hillenmeyer has been a very reliable player for the Bears over the years given his ability to play inside or outside and he should also be in the mix for the SLB job. Tim Shaw was signed early in the season last year and wound up setting a club record with 30 special teams tackles.

Defensive Backs

Starters: CB Charles Tillman, SS Chris Harris, FS Danieal Manning, CB Zackary Bowman
Backups: S Al Afalava, S Major Wright [R], S Craig Steltz, S Josh Bullocks, CB Corey Graham, CB Tim Jennings, CB D.J. Moore

Starting DBs: You'll have a hard time finding a more consistent fantasy corner than Charles Tillman since he entered the league in 2003. Playing in the Tampa 2 defense always gives him a great opportunity to post a lot of tackles, and he's an excellent playmaker with 19 forced fumbles and 22 interceptions in his career. Chris Harris started out his career in Chicago but really emerged as a fantasy star in 2007 with the Panthers when he finished as the highest scoring safety in the league. In an effort to cut costs, Carolina traded him back to Chicago this year and the big hitter should help solidify the SS spot. Danieal Manning was very productive while playing primarily as the team's free safety last year, but the addition of an in the box player like Harris could lead to a drop in his tackle numbers. Another potential cause for concern is that Manning is a restricted free agent who had not signed his tender offer as of mid-May as he was hoping for more money or a longer term. Zackary Bowman took over the starting corner job from Nathan Vasher last year and put up some impressive numbers with 6 interceptions, but he has been injury prone in the past.

Backup DBs: Al Afalava took over the starting SS job last year but didn't make enough plays and looks like he'll be reduced to a backup role. Major Wright was the Bears first draft pick this year and he should be in the mix to start at free safety, but will probably need some time to adjust and develop. Craig Steltz is a 3rd year pro who has been unable to take advantage of the opportunities he's had the past couple seasons. Josh Bullocks was a castoff from the Saints who was also a disappointment in Chicago last year and may have trouble making the roster. The Bears released Nathan Vasher, but Corey Graham has starting experience and could contribute as the team's nickel back. Tim Jennings was signed to a 2-year deal from the Colts and his experience playing in a similar defense should help for a smooth transition. DJ Moore was a 4th round pick last year who saw very little playing time and might be in line for a bigger role if he shows improvement in training camp.

Last modified: 2010-07-15 15:20:31