Now that the dust has settled a bit, let’s take a closer look at the offense and where it finished so we can evaluate where to go from here.
Kyle Orton manned the most important position on the field admirably for the better part of the season, though he wasn’t quite the same after the ankle injury sustained Week 9 versus Detroit. I think it’s important to keep everything in perspective. A few years of Grossman may have blinded Bears fans as to what a real QB is supposed to be. Other than not being Rex, did Orton really do that well?
The Bears offense ranked 21st in passing with 191.5 passing yards per game. Some of that may be attributed to the lack of WR’s, but we’ll get to that later. Orton finished with 18 TD’s and 12 INT’s with a QB rating of 79.6. Hardly mind-blowing numbers. Does Orton deserve an extension? I say no. Let him play in a contract year with a sense of urgency and earn some new paper.
Rex Grossman is an unrestricted free agent and I would think that unless he has some compromising photos of Jerry Angelo or “sweaty” Teddy Phillips, Grossman is outta here. When given the opportunity to fill in for Orton, Grossman did nothing to give me confidence that he could be a serviceable backup. Caleb Hanie showed flashes in the preseason, but did not have to see the field during the regular season. Should probably be in the mix in ’09 unless the Bears actually draft someone.
There are some veteran QB’s out there that might be a good idea for Jerry Angelo to consider. I’ve heard some rumblings for Matt Cassel, but I doubt the Patriots will let him walk with Tom Brady still rehabbing his injured knee. Besides, if he does choose to walk, I expect he’ll get a big money deal that the Bears would be unwilling to pay. Other names include Kurt Warner, who led the Cardinals to their first playoff appearance in 10 years, Jeff Garcia, who led the Bucs to a winning record this season, while Kerry Collins shook off the rust to lead the Tennessee Titans to the #1 seed in the AFC this season.
I could very easily leave this area blank and give a reasonable assessment of the Bears receiving corp. Devin Hester is still a work in progress, finishing the season as the 49th ranked receiver in terms of yardage with 665 yards. He added 3 TD’s, which is exactly half of the total he had in the return game last season. Are these #1 receiver numbers? Enough said. The rest of the receivers couldn’t catch a cold. Marty Booker’s second go-around was unsuccessful, while newcomer Brandon Lloyd was too inconsistent and took too long to recover from injury to gain the trust of coaches and make any serious contribution. Rashied Davis showed early chemistry with Orton, but dropped off the scene both literally and figuratively late in the season.
One of my biggest frustrations has to be the fact that 3rd round pick Earl Bennett couldn’t get on the field aside from some limited special teams duties. I know that a receiver typically doesn’t excel until a few years in the league, but he should at least be able to get on the field. Either Jerry Angelo is to blame for spending a higher round pick on a player that can’t grasp the playbook or Bennett just lacks the talent compete on Sundays. Either way, with the lack of production from this position group, I wish we could go into 2009 knowing if this guy can contribute.
TJ Houshmandzadeh heads the list of unrestricted free agent receivers, while Devery Henderson is another name that looks intriguing. Anquan Boldin has been a name that has been making the rounds on talk radio, but the Bears would have to make a trade with Arizona to get him. I think this is the best option. Given the Bears recent draft history, particularly of offensive players, I would rather take a proven commodity in Boldin than draft and pay another unproven rookie.
Matt Forte burst on the scene, setting a Bears rookie running back record with 1238 rushing yards. He finished 7th in yardage and was 4th in the league with 316 attempts. Clearly, the rookie runner was a big upgrade over Cedric the Bust Benson, but that’s not saying too much. Forte looks to be a complete back who has shown ability in all aspects of the game; running, receiving and blocking. His yards per carry left a bit to be desired at 3.9 yds/carry, but I think the addition of some real WR’s will make him more effective as teams cannot load up the box to stop him. A re-tooling of the offensive line should also allow him to improve.
Look for the Bears to try to get another compliment or change of pace to Forte in the offseason as well, whether through the draft or free agency. Kevin Jones seemed to fall out of favor with coaches, while Garrett Wolfe and Adrian Peterson made their impact on special teams.
Probably the biggest strength of the offense. The torch was passed from Desmond Clark to Greg Olsen, as Olsen led
the team with 5 receiving TD’s and second only to Devin Hester with 574 yards. Clark was still solid 41 catches for 367 yards. Rookie Kellen Davis will probably best be remembered for the missed block on a critical 4th and 1 play in Week 2 at Carolina. I suspect this position should remain a source of strength for the offense. I’d like to see them continue to expand Olsen’s role and involve him in the vertical passing game more, catching passes down the seams.
Probably the biggest concern heading into the 2008 season, the line held up better than expected. John St. Clair did a decent job filling the shoes for Chris Williams, the 1st round draft choice who had to undergo back surgery during the preseason. St. Clair is an unrestricted free agent, and while it is unlikely that he starts at left tackle in 2009, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Bears try to bring him back as a swing tackle.
The line is definitely aging, with an average age pushing 30. They gave up 29 sacks, ranking them in the top half of the league in that category. Give some of the credit to Kyle Orton for extending some plays by stepping up in the pocket and also to Matt Forte, who excelled in pass protection when called upon. I expect Chris Williams to anchor the left tackle spot next season, but the jury is still out on another high-round Jerry Angelo pick. I would also hope that the Bears make a couple of draft picks to continue re-building the line to start grooming replacements for the John Tait and Olin Kreutz, whose best NFL days are in the rear view mirror.
It goes without saying that the Bears need to improve their Wide Receiver position. Look for a veteran QB to back up and/or compete with Kyle Orton. I expect at least 2 offensive linemen to be added to the roster during the offseason too. Finally, expect to see someone to bolster the depth at running back .
Topics: 2008 Season In Review, 2009 Free Agents, 2009 Offseason, Adrian Peterson, Anquan Boldin, Brandon Lloyd, Caleb Hanie, Carolina Panthers, Chicago Bears, Desmond Clark, Detroit Lions, Devery Henderson, Devin Hester, Earl Bennett, Free Agents, Garrett Wolfe, Greg Olsen, John St. Clair, John Tait, Josh Beekman, Kellen Davis, Kerry Collins, Kevin Jones, Kurt Warner, Kyle Orton, Marty Booker, Matt Cassel, Matt Forte, New England Patriots, Olin Kreutz, Rashied Davis, Rex Grossman, Roberto Garza, TJ Houshmandzadeh, Tom Brady