Thursday, August 4, 2011

Getting to Know Your New Chicago Bears

So it's been a pretty eventful offseason as far as player movement goes for the Bears, and while I recapped the team's free agent efforts, I still feel some of you may want some more information on the more notable additions to the Bears roster, be they draft picks, undrafted rookies, or free agents. So without further ado, meet your newest Bears:

WR Roy Williams
HT: 6'3'' WT: 210 LBs
Years in the League: 7 Seasons
Draft: 1st Rd, 7th Pick, 2004 NFL Draft (Lions)
So for the last year meathead Bears fans have been screaming from the top of their lungs that they wanted a big target for Jay Cutler. The Bears went out and got one in Roy Williams, whom most fans have already decided to hate. Now, I myself hate Williams' personality and the useless bravado he exhibited with the Lions, but I have no beef with the signing. He fits well in Martz's offense and, considering I have more faith in the Bears' current crop of wideouts than most, I think the team will be fine whether Roy pans out or not.

However, many fans are pissed because Roy didn't produce much as Romo's third or even fourth option in Dallas as he had just 37 receptions for 530 yds and 5 TDs last year. Now, Bears fans, in their infinite wisdom, are smarter than Jerry Angelo and know that a guy like Sidney Rice (averages 44.4 ypg in his career, Roy averages 52.1) would have been a much better option, since Roy Williams is a fluke who only has one 1300 yard season in his career to hang his hat on. Oh, wait. That sounds like it might apply to Sidney Rice, too.

Well, the Bears at least should have gotten Plaxico Burress, because a guy who is older than Roy Williams and hasn't played a down since 2008 must automatically be better than Roy.

Okay, well the Bears should have gone with Mike Sims-Walker, even though he's never had a 1,000 yard season and he's averaged 43.4 ypg in his career. Maybe, just maybe, this WR crop in FA wasn't as great as people made it out to be and MAYBE, given Roy's previous sucess in the system and the fact that he's actually produced better in his career than both Rice and Sims-Walker, he actually was the smart pick. I don't know.

WR Sam Hurd
HT: 6'2'' WT: 187
Years in the League: Five
Draft: Undrafted
As I mentioned the other day, Hurd's biggest contributions will come on special teams, where, based on the reports I've heard, he's possibly an upgrade over Rashied Davis and, considering Rashied generally couldn't catch Syphilis in a 16th century French brothel, I'm guessing Sam would be at least a mild upgrade if forced to take meaningful reps at wide receiver. He also went to Northern Illinois, for all of you Huskie homers.

WR Dane Sanzenbacher
HT: 5'11 WT: 185 LBs
Years in the League: Rookie
Draft: Undrafted Free Agent
It'll be alright if Roy Williams doesn't pan out, however, because the meatball crowd now has Dane Sanzenbacher, scrappy white wide receiver from Ohio State, to root for. If you're on twitter, do a quick search for "Sanzenbacher" and marvel at the results from Bears fans already stating that he'll be better than Roy Williams and inquiring desperately about his roster status. I'd be truly sad if this annual tradition wasn't kept up. I'm sure he'll be just as great as Mike Haass. He also went to Ohio State, so, you know, f*&k him.

WR Andy Fantuz
HT: 6'4'' WT: 220 LBs
Years in the League: Rookie
Draft: Undrafted, Acquired from CFL
As a CFL fan, I'd normally root for any guy like Fantuz to succeed in the NFL and legitimize the league, but Fantuz played for the Roughriders, sworn enemies of Smilin' Hank Burris' Calgary Stampeders, so woe unto him. Also he's just a tall, slow wide receiver that can't block. And you thought they'd miss Greg Olsen.

DE Vernon Gholston
HT: 6'4'' WT: 265 LBs
Years in the League: 3
Draft: 1st Rd, 6th Pick, 2008 Draft (Jets)
Gholston was a beast in college, where he had 22.5 sacks and 30.5 tackles for a loss in 34 games. In the NFL he was a surprisingly poor fit after switching from a 4-3 DE to a 3-4 OLB. Then Rex Ryan moved him to a 3-4 defensive end, which is never much of a premier pass rushing position. The Jets then brought in veteran 3-4 DE Trevor Pryce, and Gholston had just 2 starts while attempting to learn an entirely new position. In my opinion, Gholston never should have been put anywhere in a 3-4. He's still got incredible burst and straight-line speed for a 4-3 DE (4.56 40 time) and he may very well progress into something resembling the guy he was supposed to be under Rod Marinelli. At worst, he's a big upgrade at the #4 DE spot over Mark Anderson, who broke camp at that position last year, and over Henry Melton, who was more of a fit at defensive tackle, where he now lines up this year. At best...he could be a terror in a pass-rushing rotation with Peppers, Idonije, and Corey Wooton. The standard response as I've mentioned before was "LOL, look at ol' Angelo pickin' through the trash," but I absolutely support this move. There's nothing to lose.

DT Amobi Okoye
HT: 6'2'' WT: 292 LBs
Years in the League: 4
Draft: 1st Rd, 10th Pick, 2007 Draft (Texans)
Akoye is another "bust" the Bears have picked up for their DL, but unlike Gholston he actually has produced in short stints. He had 5.5 sacks as a rookie, a very solid total for a DT, and he has 11 sacks overall, for an average of 3 a year. In Chicago he's not going to be asked to be a three-down defensive tackle, eliminating his struggles against the run, and if he manages to be part of the 3-technique rotation during passing downs, I think his speed will be a benefit to the team. Some people are pissed the Bears failed to add some secondary depth during this offseason and instead addressed the DL. If the Bears can get similar production from their line as last year, they'll be able to get by once more with the secondary they have. If they get improved production from guys like Idonije, Wooton, Melton, and Toeiana they'll be in really good shape, and if guys like Gholston and Okoye tap into their potential you'll probably stop hearing all of that crap about Detroit's defensive line being something near-godlike (especially since Fairley is already hurt). The only constant on the Bears' D-Line this year may be Peppers, but if the other three spots can keep up a consistent pass-rush by committee, the entire Tampa-Two will click better than it has since 2006.

DT Stephen Paea
HT: 6'1'' WT: 311 LBs
Years in the League: Rookie
Draft: 2nd Rd, 2011 Draft (Bears)
Of course, one key to ensuring that the Bears defensive line turns into the monster unit I'm optimistic that it can be is if Paea is able to earn his way to a starting job and become a force either at the three-technique or the nose tackle. Paea's versatility is an asset, since he's got the size to take over for Anthony Adams at the nose if Melton or Okoye proves to be a better penetrator at under-tackle, but his burst and his absolutely ludicrous showing at the combine (that's a video of him doing 49 bench press reps of 225 lbs. No big deal) indicate that he's got the quickness and brute strength necessary to be a disruptive pass-rushing force at under-tackle. Plus, he an Toeiana give the Bears a +1 over Detroit and Green Bay in the all-important category of Polynesian defensive linemen. Suh, Raji, your move.

OT Gabe Carimi
HT: 6'7'' WT: 315 LBs
Years in the League: Rookie
Draft: 1st RD, 29th Pick, 2011 Draft (Bears)

Of course, Gabe Carimi will be the most watched rookie on the Bears this year and the one that absolutely must make an impact. I've heard some minor hand-wringing about the Bears moving J'Marcus Webb to LT and Carimi to right, but I don't really consider it an issue. Webb was a small school talent with similar overall measurables to a guy like Carimi who got much better as the season went along last year and has every bit as much of the potential to be a starting LT as Carimi does, plus a slight edge as far as experience goes. Carimi by all accounts could be a great left tackle in the NFL, but there's some disagreement there, while I haven't heard anyone yet say that he wouldn't be a great right tackle in the NFL. Carimi's greatest strength is plowing people over in the run game, while he's an above-average, but not elite blocker in pass protection. Hopefully they both work out. If Carimi and Webb can lock down both ends of the line the team then the team will be in great shape for years to come at two of the most important positions on offense. I understand the fear that the team may be lying about their faith in Webb given the $33 million contract they offered to Willie Colon, but reports that I heard even then seemed to indicate that Willie would be moved to guard in Chicago and only moved to tackle if Webb struggled. So hopefully this is a move that pays off. Either way, I'd expect Carimi to succeed at right tackle, to say the least.

C Chris Spencer
HT: 6'3" WT: 309 LBs
Years in the League: 7
Draft: 1st Rd, 26th Pick, 2005 Draft (Seahawks)

Spencer is now the replacement for Olin Kreutz at center. I gave my feelings on letting Olin go before, and I definitely think Spencer can be an improvement over what Olin gave the Bears over the last several years, even if he's a step down from the Pro-Bowl caliber center that Olin Kreutz used to be (and that apparently some people still imagine he is). For one, Spencer has both height and a nearly 20 pound weight advantage over Kreutz, which should hopefully allow the team to reduce the amount of pressure up the middle from guys like Suh and Raji. Spencer's only 29, and he's also got a full year's experience playing guard under his belt. While some have ragged on Spencer for inconsistency, he's generally performed adequately when he hasn't struggled with injuries, something that plagued him from 07-09. Last year Pro Football Focus had him as comparable to Kreutz in pass protection and a much better run blocker. Spencer at 29 should be able to sustain that production, if he doesn't improve under Tice, while Kreutz at 34 is likely to continue his decline. Spencer may not be an all-pro, but he was certainly the best center on the market, and that market included Olin Kreutz.

Those are all of the additions I deem worthy of an actual breakdown, although I will add that the Bears signed Oregon State's center Alex Linnenkohl (6'2'', 303 LBs), who was the highest rated center that wasn't drafted this year. While he's not ready to start now, he's a strong candidate for the practice squad or a guy who can be stashed on injured reserve for a year while he adds strength and could possibly replace Spencer if he Spencer disappoints over his two-year contract.