Chicago Bears Midseason Report Card: Grades for Every Player on the Roster

The Chicago Bears survived the first half of the season with a 5-3 record, putting them barely on the inside looking out in the playoff hunt.  Their losses came to some of the best teams in the conference (Packers-1st, Saints-4th, Lions-5th), so there is reason to be optimistic about the second half.

We saw an offensive line go from terrible to good enough, a receiving core that still hasn’t found its identity, an OC that looked to be incompetent one week and a genius the next (he can thank Matt Forte), and a defense that has been playing just well enough to win.  It’s been quite the roller coaster but the Bears are on a three-game winning streak despite dealing with everything.

Matt Forte and Brian Urlacher have far and away been the best guys on offense and defense, respectively.  It seems like a different guy stepped up each week to help carry the team, whether it was Henry Melton, Devin Hester, Lance Briggs or Jay Cutler, to name a few.  While the safety position has looked atrocious for most of the first half, rookie Chris Conte seems to have brought some balance.

The second half is right around the corner, but let’s hand out some grades for everyone on the team during the first half of the season.  Note:  Some players received a grade of Incomplete due to too few or no games played.

Coaching
HC Lovie Smith –
He does this every year.  I hate him at the beginning of the year, he wins me over halfway through and then I end up hating him by year end.  Damn you, Lovie.  B+

OC Mike Martz – Despite him figuring out everything the hard way, he does figure it out eventually.  But he still does dumb things like trying to run the Wildcat.  I think Lovie and Cutler have more to do with fixing the offense than Martz.  D

DC Rod Marinelli – He makes the most out of what he has and knows how to call a game.  They have had a few shaky games but games aren’t measure by how many yards you give up, they are measured by points.  Rod’s defense has given up a respectable 21.8 PPG and they’ve scored a few TDs to boot.  A-

STC Dave Toub – The fake punt return was genius and his leading special team’s tackler is a rookie.  This guy has it running on all cylinders again. Oh yeah, having Hester helps too.  A+

 

Offense
QB Jay Cutler –
His numbers aren’t eye-popping (238.75 YPG, 58.7 Comp %, 11 TDs, 6 INTs), but he has shown that he can win games if given the time to throw the ball.  Expect a gaudier second half against weaker opponents.  B+

QB Caleb Hanie – Has only seen the field once, in garbage time against the Minnesota Vikings.  Let’s keep it that way.  Incomplete

QB Nathan Enderle – If plays even one snap this year, the Bears are in trouble.  So, let’s all give it up for the only official Chicago Bears cheerleader, Nathan “Honey Bear” Enderle.  Incomplete

RB Matt Forte – His 1,241 yards from scrimmage lead the league (155 YFS/G) and is on pace to challenge the all-time record for total yards in a season (2,509 by Chris Johnson).  The only complaint is his touchdown to fumbles lost ratio (3:2) needs to improve.  A

RB Marion Barber – He leads the team with four touchdowns (in five games) and has filled in nicely for Forte when he needs a breather.  His hard-nosed style is a perfect fit for what he Bears do.  A

RB Kahlil Bell – He hasn’t been needed in the running game since Barber’s return, but he has done a decent job on special teams with two tackles.  C+

FB Tyler Clutts – You might as well call him the sixth offensive lineman and despite a rocky start, the rookie has played well chipping and giving Cutler time to throw.  B

WR Earl Bennett – The second half of the season has Earl’s name written all over it.  He only played three games in the first half but Cutler loves this guy.  He looked like a No. 1 receiver against the Eagles.  And he’s the most reliable receiver the Bears have on the team.  Incomplete

WR Roy Williams – If you went into the season with any expectations for Roy, you were thoroughly disappointed with his 16 catches, 236 yards, 1 TD and 2 catches of 20+ yards.  I expected almost nothing, so he is who I thought he was.  C-

WR Johnny Knox – After last year’s 51 catch, 960 yard season, we hoped a big year was coming.  We were wrong.  Knox has only 20 catches for 362 yards and 0 TDs.  His KR average is also only 21.7.  D

WR Devin Hester – He has 49 targets and only 22 catches for 320 yards.  However, he is still a game-changer as a returner and two return TDs in the first half is a great start.  Receiver: D  Returner: A-

WR Dane Sanzenbacher – For an undrafted free agent, three TDs (leads Bears receivers) is nice, but he needs to catch the ball if he wants to remain an NFL wide receiver.  C

WR Sam Hurd – He’s a better special teamer than WR, but is a big target for Cutler.  His one fumble recovery on ST was nice, but you will rarely hear his name in the second half with Bennett’s return.  C-

TE Matt Spaeth – He has two TDs and usually does a nice job blocking, but he needs to watch the penalties.  B-

TE Kellen Davis – Speaking of penalties, Davis has to have more penalties and missed blocks than anyone in the league.  He is another big target for Jay when called upon (9 catches, 106 yards, 2 TDs), but can be a liability in the backfield.  D

TE Kyle Adams – He looked promising in the preseason but was recently put on IR.  Look for him in 2012.  Incomplete

TE Andre Smith – Undrafted rookie who has yet to see the field.  He could see action if Davis continues to struggle.  Incomplete

T Gabe Carimi – He showed a lot of promise until he got hurt.  The Bears could shut him down for most of the second half to ensure he is fully healed.  B

T J’Marcus Webb – The man is huge (6’8” 333 lbs.) but sometimes plays like he’s a midget.  He’s young (23) and as the first half went on, he continued to improve and looks to be finally playing up to his potential.  C

T Lance Louis – He has down a great job playing all over the offensive line as a replacement.  After last week, he made have won himself a permanent position on the line.  Where exactly, I don’t know.  A-

T Frank Omiyale – They call him Frank “Oh-my-god” for a reason.  He’s the human false start penalty.  F-

C Roberto Garza – Filling in for Olin Kreutz is not an easy task, but Garza has stepped up and done a really nice job.  He isn’t perfect but he’s the best we have.  B

G Chris Spencer – A converted center, he looks to still be adjusting to the position.  While he makes a mistake now and again, he is adequate.  I expect him to sit back down if/when Carimi returns.  C

G Chris Williams – It took him four years but I think he has finally found a home at left guard.  He even learned how to pull.  He has been a pleasant surprise of late.  B

G Edwin Williams – He hasn’t played very much but has potential to be a lineman of the future.  Incomplete

 

Defense
S Chris Conte –
He plays about 40 yards off the line of scrimmage on some plays, but the Bears are 3-0 since he got the starting nod and haven’t allowed a play longer than 33 yards.  He looks to have a bright future with the Bears.  A-

S Brandon Meriwether – He hits guys after the play, hits them illegally before the whistle and hasn’t been able to shut down anyone.  And this guy used to be a Pro Bowler?  F

S Craig Steltz – He hasn’t seen a lot of action but when he has his name has been called more for missing tackles than making them.  However, his is special teams play has been solid with seven tackles.  C-

S Anthony Walters – The undrafted rookie spent most of the first half on the practice squad but could see some action in the second half as the Bears spin the merry-go-round at safety.  Incomplete

S Major Wright – He’s been a major disappointment on the field and frequent injuries just add to the subpar play.  He has one interception (off a tipped pass) but has also been faked out of his jock on multiple occasions.  F+

CB Tim Jennings – Despite his diminutive stature (5’8” 185 lbs.) he has held his own among some big receivers (5 pass deflections).  He’s not flashy but has gotten the job done in coverage.  C+

CB Charles Tillman – His patented “ball punch” was in full effect early in the season but has tapered off as of late (2 FF).  He’s on pace to set a career high in tackles after posting 54 in the first half but has yet to make an interception.  B

CB D.J Moore – The guy has a nose for the ball (3 INTs, 6 pass deflections) but can have trouble with bigger receivers.  That being said, he’s done a very nice job for a second string CB.  A-

CB Zackary Bowman – Another special teams guy who hasn’t done much on defense.  He’s a far cry from the CB we saw in 2009 when he had six interceptions.  D

CB Corey Graham – He’s one of the best coverage guys on special teams in the league.  His forced fumble on DeSean Jackson last Monday was a turning point for the game, and possibly the season.  A+

LB Lance Briggs – He leads the team in tackles with 60 and continues to make noise on defense every game, both on and off the field.  I just wish he would shut up about his contract.  Oh well.  A

LB Brian Urlacher – Is there a more athletic linebacker in football today?  He has three INTs, six pass deflections and 52 tackles.  He’s playing like he’s 23, rather than 33.  A+

LB Nick Roach – It’s nice to play alongside two of the best linebackers in the NFL.  Roach has quietly has a nice season, playing his gaps and knowing his assignments.  C+

LB Brian Iwuh – The crafty special teamer and backup linebacker was injured in preseason and didn’t play in the first half.  Look for him to return next year.  Incomplete

LB Dom DiCicco – As a linebacker, he’s young and inexperienced.  As a special team’s coverage guy, he has looked like a veteran making eight special teams tackles.  And he has a great football name.  B+

LB J.T Thomas – The rookie was injured in the preseason and went on the IR.  He will be competing for a starting job next year.  Incomplete

LB Jabara Williams – Yeah, I didn’t know this guy was on the team either.  Incomplete

DE Julius Peppers – While his stats don’t tell the whole story (5 sacks, 2 FR), his presence is always felt.  He has had a bit of an up and down year, but looks to be getting stronger as the year goes on.  B+

DE Israel Idonije – Another guy who has potential to terrorize QBs, but has been noticeable absent in a few games.  Let’s hope his one man assault on Michael Vick was a sign of things to come.  C+

DE Mario Addison – The rookie has all the tools to be a good lineman but had a hard time winning time behind Peppers and Idonije.  He could be an adequate replacement if anyone goes down with an injury.  Incomplete

DE Nick Reed – The Jared Allen look-a-like won a spot on the roster but has yet to make much of an impact.  I think his future looks bright but he needs to use his quickness more.  C

DE Corey Wooton – He barely saw the field in the first half due to injury.  If he never plays another snap, he will still always be known as the guy who ended Brett Favre’s career.  So, he’s got that going for him.  Incomplete

DT Anthony Adams – When he’s not injured, he does a good job clogging up the middle.  Let’s hope he can stay healthy.  C+

DT Henry Melton – He started off the season with a bang (2 sacks against Atlanta and 1 against Green Bay), but hasn’t shown the same explosiveness off the line since.  He may lose his starting job if he can’t get pressure on the QB.  C

DT Amobi Okoye – He has consistently made plays despite limited action.  If he can improve on his three sacks and 14 tackles, you can expect to see him get more reps.  A-

DT Matt Toeaina – Another guy battling the injury bug.  However, when he has been on the field, he hasn’t done anything spectacular.  D

DT Stephen Paea – He exploded onto the scene with a safety in his first NFL game, but hasn’t wowed anyone since.  I would like to see more of the strongest rookie out of camp this year.  Incomplete

 

Special Teams
K Robbie Gould –
He’s missed only one field goal and consistently boots kickoffs for touchbacks (24 of 45).  He’s money, baby.  A-

P Adam Podlesh – He’s not booting it out of the stadium but his Net Average of 39.5 is 12th in the league.  Also, opposing punt returners are averaging less than four yards per return.  B+

LS Patrick Mannelly – At age 36, this guy is still near perfect at snapping the ball.  A+

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