With the start of the Chicago Bears season less than 24 hours away, I thought I would prematurely allocate some hardware to the 2011 Chicago Bears. Be careful, this might get messy.
I’m just happy that the season is starting on time after the tomfoolery in the offseason. Here is some impromptu love (and hate) for the upcoming season.
Offensive Player of the Year – RB Matt Forte
Matt Forte has been the most consistent offensive player that the Bears have had over the last three seasons. He brought his yards per carry up to 4.5 last year and his yards per catch up to 10.7, with little help from the offensive line. This year he has (hopefully) a better line and a possible new contract to play for. Also, Mike Martz realized after the bye week last year, that, with this offense, you have to establish a running game. When Marion Barber is back healthy, Forte should shine. I foresee 1,200 yards rushing, 500 yards receiving and 14 total touchdowns.
Honorable Mention: QB Jay Cutler
Defensive Player of the Year – LDT Henry Melton
I’m going out on a limb here, but Henry Melton has looked really good in the preseason. Playing next to Anthony Adams, Israel Idonije and Julius Peppers is going to place him under the radar, freeing him up to make some plays. Who’s going to expect a guy named Melton to do anything? I don’t know if he will put up huge sack numbers, but he is going to be a key guy against the run. He was a backup running back in college, scoring 16 touchdowns over two seasons. This means he knows how to think like a running back, thus making him better able to stop a running back. He should rack up three sacks, 12 tackles for loss, three forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries…maybe even a blocked kick.
Honorable Mention: RDE Julius Peppers
Special Teams Player of the Year – PR Devin Hester
There’s not much to say here, but it looks like Devin Hester has the magic back. If they let him return kickoffs as well as punts, the opposition is in trouble if they can’t kick the ball out of the end zone. I think, as a whole, special teams is going to struggle more this year than before. New punter Adam Podlesh should be adequate, as long as he doesn’t outkick his coverage, and kicker Robbie Gould looked a little shaky in the preseason. Let’s just hope that the coverage team can continue their dominance from the last few seasons. As for Hester, I think he’s going to especially shine during the first few weeks of the season and, overall, rack up four return touchdowns, another 600 yards on punt returns with a fumble or two mixed in there.
Honorable Mention: DB Corey Graham
Coach of the Year – Offensive Line Coach Mike Tice
This is purely based on the thought that they can’t be worse than last season. I like Mike Tice’s ability to get the most out of what he has. While the O-line is far from perfect, Tice will play a big role in getting it to where it needs to be. Barring injuries, Tice will be the foundation for an improved Bears offense.
Honorable Mention: Defensive Coordinator Rod Marinelli
Rookie of the Year – DE Mario Addison
While Gabe Carimi would be the sexy pick here, he may just look good this season by comparison to the rest of the line. The Bears don’t seem to have many promising rookies, but I really liked what I saw out of Mario Addison in the preseason. The only thing stopping Addison would be a lack of playing time behind Peppers and Idonije. But the knowledge he will gain from those two will be priceless. If he can pick up three or four sacks, his future looks bright.
Honorable Mention: QB Nathan Enderle…just kidding, god I hope he doesn’t see the field this year. Let’s go with WR Dane Sanzenbacher.
Biggest Bust Free Agent Acquisition of the Year – C Chris Spencer
I had a few choices here, including P Adam Podlesh and, the obvious, WR Roy Williams. I really think the Bears overpaid for Spencer and he will be used sparingly. Maybe he will take over for Garza next year, but Spencer is currently an expensive backup.
Honorable Mention: S Brandon Meriweather
“I Didn’t Even Know This Guy Was On The Team, But He’s Pretty Good” Award – FB Kyle Adams
The fullback position is one that doesn’t get much glory, but Kyle Adams will make an impact on this team. He’s smart (received multiple awards for academics at Purdue) and big (6’4”, 255 lbs). He will be used mostly for blocking and possibly on special teams, so he isn’t going to show up much on the stat sheet. His play on the field will speak for itself. Cutler will be glad he’s there when he has a chance to play.
Honorable Mention: DE Nick Reed
Well, there ya have it. Some predictions that we can revisit at the end of the season to see how far off I am. A few guys are missing from these awards, as you can probably tell. I’ll never buy what Lovie Smith is selling, but he’s the coach. I’ll tolerate him but won’t encourage him. If he loses another challenge, I’m going to lose my mind. Also, Lance Briggs really irks me. He’s good, but his off-the-field talk will negate some of his stellar play. Finally, Charles Tillman worries me with his inconsistency. The man can punch a ball, that much I know, but he should be more of a veteran leader in the secondary than he is. He needs to make sure guys are in the position they need to be and know the play (see Bears vs. Patriots game last year).
I don’t know about you guys, but I’m ready for some football. As you can tell, the optimism is flowing pretty thick here, but what’s a season worth if you aren’t hoping for the best. Who’s with me?
Falcons beware, here come the Bears!