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Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Your Bears 53 Man Roster: The Defense and ST

DE's: #90 Julius Peppers, #71 Israel Idonije, #99 Shea McClellin, #98 Corey Wootton, #95 Cheta Ozougwu
It's difficult to say which unit needs to improve more this year between the offensive line and defensive line. Julius Peppers, of course, needs only to stay healthy and match his usual production, but the others all have tons of potential and plenty of questions. Izzy is still solid against the run, but can he pass rush like he did in 2010? Can Shea McClellin be enough of a presence on third down and in passing situations to justify his draft slot? Can Corey Wootton stay healthy and be something other than the man who ended Brett Favre's career? Can Cheta Ozougwu be more than just an awesome name and keep himself on the roster all year?

I still like this unit's potential. The Idonije/McClellin combo will provide more than enough spark to improve on last year's production and for once provide the numbers you'd expect from the bookend to Julius Peppers. Wootton needs only to develop into a guy who can spell Peppers for 5-6 plays a game. Cheta has an awesome name.

DTs: #69 Henry Melton, #92 Stephen Paea, #75 Matt Toeiana, #91 Amobi Okoye, 
The Bears usually keep 9 defensive linemen, and this year is no exception, although it's surprising to see them go with just four DTs. It helps that Idonije, Melton, and Okoye all have experience playing both inside and out.

Melton was spectacular last year at times, as he finished with seven sacks, which was just a half sack behind Geno Atkins and Tommy Kelly for most by a DT in the NFL. He also disappeared for several games, however, so the important thing for him this year is finding consistency in his second full year on the interior of the line. The Bears were extremely fortunate that Greg Schiano's tough guy routine apparently led to him cutting a player who missed all of the preseason even though he was on pace to play in week one, so now they get Amobi, an extremely valuable backup three technique who contributed four sacks in part time duty, for a bargain bin price once again.

Paea had a great camp and was named the starter before he suffered an ankle injury that's seemingly taking forever to heal. If he can ever put it all together and stay in the lineup his skillset makes him the rare 4-3 nose tackle who has quickness to go along with his ability to draw double teams. He'll vastly upgrade the line if he's healthy, but they may end up with another season of solid-but-boring Matt Toeiana.

SLBs: #53 Nick Roach, #58  Geno Hayes
Nick Roach has quietly been a pretty solid player at the most unappreciated position on the Bears defense. For a guy who mostly slams himself into fullbacks in order to give Urlacher and Briggs room to make plays, he does pretty well. He's not a liability in coverage and he can play some MLB.

Geno Hayes was a solid signing. He's got a great deal of starting experience at WLB in Tampa Bay, but he can back up either OLB spot and has looked solid at SLB in the preseason.

MLBs: #54 Brian Urlacher, #52 Blake Costanzo
Urlacher's obviously the biggest question mark right now (he practiced on Monday solely because Telander made sure Emery was on to his ruse), but even if his knee is an issue you can still expect him to be one of the better middle linebackers in the game. In many ways his ability to get other people in position is even more valuable than his physical ability at this point.

Costanzo is a special teams ace and actually looked half-decent at MLB in the preseason. If Urlacher can't go Roach will get first crack, but it may not be DOOM if Costanzo has to play a game or so.

WLBs: #55 Lance Briggs, #97 JT Thomas, #59 Patrick Trahan
Lance Briggs is awesome, and just got a contract extension that he'll wait at least three games to bitch about.

JT Thomas seemed destined for the waiver wire after a year off with an injury and an offseason arrest, but he made plays in camp and during the preseason and now gets a shot to make an impact on special teams. It would be nice if they've managed to find one decent developmental linebacker. Trahan's a special teamer and nothing more.

CB: #33 Charles Tillman, #26 Tim Jennings, #30 DJ Moore, #24 Kelvin Hayden, #27 Sherrick McManis
P'Nut had a bad preseason game and it naturally brought the idiots who still don't understand zone coverage and ignore the fact that he MADE THE GODDAMN PRO BOWL last year. He's the very definition of a prototypical Cover 2 corner and hopefully has several years of ball-punching awesomeness left.

Tim Jennings was actually better than Tillman in coverage (THAT'S A COMPLIMENT YOU TILLMAN-HATING MORONS) last year but hasn't forced as many turnovers as he should. He held onto his job but will be in trouble the next time he fails to hang onto another dropped interception.

DJ Moore is an awesome nickelback and his best feature is that he's irritating as shit. Try to watch the wide receivers that DJ covers sometime. They can't fucking stand him.

Kelvin Hayden seems to be healthy, and that's good, because he's got the most experience of all four main corners on the outside and at the slot. He's great depth and may just force his way into the lineup regardless of how well Jennings plays.

Sherrick McManus was a surprise addition to the roster after he was traded by the Texans for Tyler Clutts. There's little in the way of stats or film for him, so the only thing we know about him is that the Bears apparently liked his potential on special teams better than Josh Wilhite, Isaiah Frey, or Greg McCoy.

FSs: #47 Chris Conte, #37 Anthony Walters, #46 Jeremy Jones
Sure, the safety position has plagued the Bears for nearly a decade, but at least they addressed that in the draft by taking Brandon Hard--oh fuck. He's on injured reserve already?

Okay. The situation at safety scares the piss out of all of us, and with good reason. Last year the Bears five game winning streak coincided with the pairing of Major Wright and Chris Conte at safety. Unfortunately, both of those players are made of glass and are still largely unproven. So we will sweat it out if any one goes down.

For what it's worth, I think Conte's a pretty good player who should make more plays on the ball this year. Anthony Walters is a hard hitter who hasn't gotten many reps on defense, but doesn't inspire much confidence. Who the hell is Jeremy Jones?

SSs: #21 Major Wright, #20 Craig Steltz
Major Wright is, as far as I can tell, made entirely of wet newspaper and he tears everything at the slightest misstep. He's also a feast or famine player in coverage, as he had three huge interceptions during the winning streak last year but also got badly burned in the loss at New Orleans. At best, his hold on the job is tenuous since, God in heaven, Craig Steltz was actually the most effective safety on the team last year. Guh.

Let's just hope that Wright and Conte stay healthy and don't just let Calvin Johnson roam free behind them. That's all.

Special Teams:

K: #9 Robbie Gould
No discussion required. Moving on..

P: #8 Adam Podlesh, #1 Ryan Quigley
Podlesh is out for a little while with a hip injury, which sucks, because he had the best season by a punter in franchise history (presented without sarcasm. I swear). Quigley will hopefully be on the roster for no more than a week or two, at which point he'll  be cut and I would assume someone like Brian Price or the suspended Nate Collins may make their way back on the roster. Or Josh McCown, which would make less sense.

LS: #65 Patrick Mannelly
Is it wrong to be this emotionally attached to a long snapper? Patrick Mannelly has been the Bears long snapper since I was in 3rd grade. I will be sad someday when he is gone.

That's it. Those are the 53 men who will charge onto the field on Sunday. Well, 45 of them will. Actually it'll be less than that since several that dress won't play. Then there's always the backup quarterback who you hope won't pla...what was I saying? There are roster moves to come in the future of course, since Podlesh is coming back at some point, Nate Collins is only suspended for one game, and Johnny Knox has six weeks to work his way back into playing shape before the Bears have to decide whether or not to shelve him all year.

In all, I'd say you can list QB, RB, TE, WR, LB, and CB as strengths. The OL and the DL will hopefully be much improved, and the safeties will hopefully just avoid doing really stupid shit (see Meriweather, Brandon). For the whole, this is appears to be the most talented team of the Lovie Era, and thus since the 1980s, at least. Hopefully that's enough. We'll find out starting Sunday.

Go Bears.

Your Bears 53 Man Roster: The Offense

HOLY SHIT PEOPLE. IT IS GAME WEEK. Really! We got a bit of college football to whet the ol' appetite (and I tell you as an Illinois fan, there's nothing like watching Nathan Scheelhaase's noodle arm to get you excited for Jay Cutler) this awesome Labor Day weekend, and now we get Bears football. Hell, they're even throwing us a game on Wednesday this year because THEY KNOW YOU NEED THIS. The new season of the Prognostication Bukakke should be up soon (in case we're too slow to have it up by tomorrow, all three of us have chosen the Giants).

All of that out of the way, it's time to break down the Bears 53 man roster and predict awesome career years for everyone:

QBs: #6 Jay Cutler, #2 Jason Campbell
I love that the Bears, now rid of Martz and his constant desire for a project QB, have decided to go with 2 QBs. There's no reason to waste a roster spot on "We're Fucked if this Guy is Playing Anyway." I'm betting Josh McCown will be available again. If not, Donovan McNabb will be. No one will care at that point anyway.

As for the two guys who are still here, well, Jay Cutler's improved every year as a Bear and there's no reason not to think that this won't be his best year yet. Jason Campbell is already the best backup quarterback in Bears history (and probably would be in the top ten of starting QBs). This part of the roster is definitely as strong as it has ever been.

HBs: #22 Matt Forte, #29 Michael Bush, #38 Lorenzo Booker
One of the things I love about Phil Emery so far is that everything he's done has made so much damn sense. So much scary, un-Bearslike sense. He signed Kahlil Bell to a decent contract and brought in Michael Bush in order to squeeze Forte. When Forte signed, he deemed Bell superfluous and dumped his high price tag for a cheaper player who adds more value on special teams. That's just the kind of shit Jerry Angelo would never have thought of.

This is a strong unit as well. Forte and Bush are both well-rounded backs who can run, block, and catch. Bush is (hopefully) the answer to the never-ending search for a quality short yardage back. Booker's been dynamic on returns and can probably add the occasional change of pace. Again, it's hard to remember any time when the Bears had so much talent AND depth at all three major offensive skill units.

FB: #88 Evan Rodriguez.
I wasn't surprised to see the Bears get rid of the overrated Tyler Clutts. Rodriguez is listed as a FB but is much more of an H-Back, a confusing hybrid that the Bears haven't ever really employed but really isn't much of a fullback at all. He'll shift around a bit and will mostly be used as a receiver, while Davis and Spaeth do most of the in-line blocking. Rodriguez is very intriguing. If he's over the personal issues that plagued him in college and develops his blocking, he'll be  a very valuable asset in the passing game.

TEs: #87 Kellen Davis, #89 Matt Spaeth, #86 Kyle Adams
With Clutts getting tossed and Rodriguez listed as a FB, Kyle Adams gets to stay on as a third tight end. Good for him, as he's a nice blocker and has actually flashed a mild amount of receiving ability this preseason.

Davis is a great blocker (no pressures or sacks allowed the last 11 weeks of last season) and has great athleticism. I think he'll probably haul in around 30-40 balls for about 500 yards this season, although he may see his targets diminish in favor of Rodriguez. Matt Spaeth is just a loveable red zone blocker and nothing else.

WRs: #15 Brandon Marshall, #23 Devin Hester, #17 Alshon Jeffery, #80 Earl Bennett, #14 Eric Weems, #18 Dane Sanzenbacher
So my long-awaited Sanzenbacher cut day has been delayed. Curiously, the Bears placed Johnny Knox on the PUP rather than IR, so Sanzenbacher may only get a six week reprieve. Either way it hardly matters since the Bears sixth wide receiver will hopefully never take the field on offense.

Marshall is obviously the number one wide receiver that's been missing since...forever. Hester will be a starter in name only, as his reps at this point are nearly equal with Alshon between the 20s and Alshon will get nearly all of the red zone work. Before long even the formality will give way. Earl Bennett is healthy, and is actually now in an offense where he can simply be the slot receiver. That's a good thing. Eric Weems can return kicks and may catch 10 balls this year if Hester gets the flu again. This, again, is the deepest receiving corps in Bears history.

OTs: #73 J'Marcus Webb, #72 Gabe Carimi, #74 Chris Williams
Not surprisingly, Webb won the left tackle competition that he was clearly supposed to win. I still don't hate him quite as much as I probably should. He's still a guy with a ton of talent who made the long jump up from Division II and who has basically had two rookie seasons, one at right tackle and one at left tackle. He'll also be less exposed this year, which is good. I don't really understand moving Chris Williams back to LT if he wasn't really going to win the job. He's still got a lot of potential and doesn't make much sense on the bench. They either never should have moved him to left guard or they should have left him there.

Carimi performed well in preseason and hasn't had any trouble with his recovery, so hopefully he's set to man the right side for a long time, as he's the biggest key to the offensive line's improvement this year. I was also happy to see that they got James Brown through waivers and onto the practice squad, as he's got the potential to develop into the swing tackle role when Williams moves on.

OGs: #67 Chris Spencer, #60 Lance Louis, #70 Edwin Williams, #62 Chilo Rachal
This is actually a pretty solid unit in the interior of the offensive line. Spencer and Edwin Williams allowed just 2 sacks total between the two of them last year. Lance Louis got manhandled at times at RT, but he's only allowed 1 sack when he's starting at guard the last two years. He's also a mauler in the run game. Chilo Rachal is a great run blocker who may work his way into the lineup if he fixes his footwork in pass protection. The tackles are still a question mark, but the guards are deep and solid, if not necessarily spectacular.

C: #63 Roberto Garza
Roberto is getting up there, but it's hard not to be impressed with how well he handled the move back to center last year. He certainly made fewer errors than his overrated predecessor, and he earned the small extension that he got. That said, should he falter, Edwin Williams is waiting in the wings.

That's it for now. I'll post the defense when I have time. Go Bears.