DRAFT PREVIEW – CHICAGO BEARS

A look at Chicago heading into the NFL Draft; the Bears have the 29th pick in the first round.

REVIEW OF 2010

Record – 11-5 and won the NFC North division title.

Playoffs – beat Seattle in the divisional round, 35-24. They were beaten by Green Bay in the NFC Championship Game at Soldier Field, 21-14.

OVERVIEW

Over the last five years, the Bears have been on a roller coaster, disappointing more often than exhilarating. They put 11-5 and 13-3 bookends around three seasons at either 7-9 or 9-7 over the last half-decade. All of those have been under the direction of GM Jerry Angelo and head coach Lovie Smith.

The biggest move the Bears have made in the last few years was the trade with Denver that brought QB Jay Cutler (right)  to the Windy City. That cost them dearly, in a pair of first-round draft choices (2009-10) and a third-round pick (2009) along with veteran QB Kyle Orton.

On defense, they spent big NFL money on defensive end Julius Peppers in free agency before the 2010 season.

But the bulk of the Bears has been built through the draft, although there hasn’t been a lot of starters added in the last few drafts, only five in the last four drafts. 

PARTICULARS

Offense – averaged 289.4 yards per game (30th in NFL) and scored 33 touchdowns on offense. The offensive start was RB Matt Forte, as he led the team in rushing with 1,069 yards and was the second leading receiver, with 51 catches for 547 yards. Overall he scored nine TDs. WR Johnny Knox caught 51 passes for 960 yards. WR Earl Bennett, TE Greg Olson and WR Devin Hester all caught more than 40 passes. Cutler had 23 TD passes against 16 interceptions, passing for 3,274 yards and a passer rating of 86.3. The Bears gave up 56 sacks and had the worst pass protection in the league.

Defense – gave up an average of 314.3 yards per game (9th in league), allowing 28 touchdowns. They forced 35 turnovers, including 15 interceptions with CB Charles Tillman and FS Chris Harris each contributed five each. In pass rushing, Peppers and Israel Idonije were on top with eight sacks each. The defensive leader is MLB Brian Urlacher.

Special teams – Everywhere you turn with the Bears, they have outstanding returners, especially Hester on punt returns where he averaged 17.1 yards on 33 returns with 3 TDs. Daniel Manning was 24.7 yards on average on kickoff returns. Robbie Gould is a solid kicker (25 of 30 on FGs including 3 of 4 from 50 yards out.) Brad Maynard is a reliable punter (40.1-yard average, 35.2-yard net average.)

DECISION MAKERS

Owner – The Halas/McCaskey family, with Ted Phillips as President/CEO. There’s little interference in football other than at budget time, where the Bears are sometimes on the cheap side.

GM – Jerry Angelo is in his 11th season as GM of the Bears, joining them in 2001, coming out of 14 seasons with Tampa Bay where he was director of player personnel.

Head coach – Lovie Smith has put in seven full seasons as head coach of the Bears with a 66-52 record, including the playoffs. Smith came up through the defensive side of the ball, where he coached linebackers and defensive backs.

Player personnel director – Tim Ruskell will be going through his first NFL Draft with the Bears; he joined them at the end of April 2010, coming over from Seattle. His background was with the Buccaneers, where he replaced Angelo as director of player personnel.

Who has the power? – That’s been Angelo over the last decade.

TEAM NEEDS

1. Offensive tackle – All the conversation about the toughness of Cutler after the NFC Championship Game seldom addressed the fact that during the season he was sacked 52 times in 484 passing plays, or every 9.3 passing plays. That Cutler was able to start 15 games during the season was remarkable. Veteran free agent Frank Omiyale was at LT, but he’s best at RT or even guard. RT J’Marcus Webb might be able to handle the position, but that’s a stretch at this point. Draft choice Chris Williams maybe more of a guard than a tackle. So, that leaves a big hole at LT that needs filling and there could be a body or two at the end of the first round that could fill it, somebody like Colorado’s Nate Solder.

2. Guard/Center. In the last seven drafts, the Bears have drafted three interior blockers, none higher than the fourth round. None of them are still on the roster. They grabbed Chris Williams an OT in the first round, and played him at guard. C Olin Kreutz will be 34 in June. Short-term this team needs guards, longer-term they need a center. A player like Mike Pouncey out of Florida would probably tickle their fancy.

3. Linebacker. The Bears have three good linebackers in Lance Briggs, Pisa Tinoisamoa and Urlacher. But all three will be 30 or older in the ’11 season and there appears to be little in the way of replacements coming up through the pipeline. It’s an area that needs to be addressed by Angelo/Smith.

FIVE-YEAR DRAFT HISTORY

The Bears have struggled in the NFL Draft over the last five years. Just seven starters have been produced from those drafts choices. Since 2001, the first-round choices have been WR David Terrell, OT Marc Colombo, DE Michael Haynes, QB Rex Grossman, DT Tommie Harris, RB Cedric Benson, TE Greg Olsen and OT Chris Williams. Only Olsen and Williams are still on the roster.

This year, Chicago has a first-round pick for the first time in three years, after trading away the pick in 2009 and 2010 in the Cutler trade.

2006: The Bears hit the sweet spot with Manning and Hester in the second round. Plus, they had a nice quick hit with 5th-round DE Mark Anderson.

2007: Only Olsen remains from this group of nine players.

2008: Chicago hit on the first three picks with Williams, Forte and WR Earl Bennett. Not much from the rest.

2009: They hit on Knox in the 5th-round and that’s it.

2010: Webb in the 7th-round was eventually the starter at RT, otherwise there were no major contributions from the rookies.

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