The Chicago Bears season is coming upon us quickly, so I thought I would make a few predictions. There is a lot of optimism surrounding this new look Bears team, and rightly so. Free Agency was a success with Brandon Marshall and Michael Bush. The draft, while uncertain, has the potential to pay off big with the additions of Shea McClellin and Alshon Jeffery. The pieces are in place for a Super Bowl run. The Bears just need a few bounces to go their way. Jay Cutler and Marshall can handle the rest.
And despite my constant reservations about Lovie Smith still having the reigns, he might finally get it right this time. You never know. After we shed a lot of useless weight in Mike Martz and Jerry Angelo, this balloon might just float all the way to the top. I can’t wait. Let’s get to the predictions.
Offensive Player of the Year – WR Brandon Marshall
I don’t think Chicago Bears fans really realize the possibilities with Marshall. We have never had a receiver anywhere close to his caliber. (Don’t even try to compare him to Conway, Graham, Booker, Engram, et al). He’s even better than you think. Marshall is one of only three NFL receivers (along with Larry Fitzgerald and Roddy White) to currently have a streak of five consecutive 1,000 yard seasons. The Bears have had a player top the 1,000 yard receiving mark only seven times in the Super Bowl era (1966-present). In 91 career games, Marshall has finished 12 games with 10+ receptions (also holds the record for catches in a game with 21). The Bears have had a player catch the ball 10+ times in a game…you guessed it…12 times in the Super Bowl era. Marshall is the real deal as long as he stays out of trouble off the field. You’ll be convinced before the bye week.
Honorable Mention: QB Jay Cutler – See Brandon Marshall.
Defensive Player of the Year – LB Lance Briggs
You may not always notice him, but he’s always there. A model of consistency, Briggs has missed only four games in nine years. He also rarely misses tackles and still has great speed. With Urlacher ailing, expect Briggs to step up his game and help lead the defense.
Honorable Mention: CB Tim Jennings – He may be short, but he’s as disruptive as a grain of sand in your teeth. Expect him to generously improve upon his seven career interceptions.
Special Teams Player of the Year – PR/KR Devin Hester
It’s hard to not pick Hester. The Bears have dubbed him first string for both punts and kicks, so his chance for return touchdowns may go up. As long as he holds onto the ball, we should expect another season of 3+ kick/punt return touchdowns and his presence atop the field in punt return yards. Hester will put his name in the records books again, passing Deion Sanders’ 19 non-offensive touchdowns. Hester currently has 18 non-offensive touchdowns (12 punts, 5 kickoffs, 1 missed field). It’s gonna be ridiculous!
Honorable Mention: KR/ST Eric Weems – He will fill in for Hester on some kickoff returns, but his biggest role will be covering punts and kicks. He has a great nose for the ball.
Rookie of the Year – WR Alshon Jeffery
His biggest problem coming out of college was that he was, well, too big. Since joining the Bears he has dropped the excess weight and will benefits from a sleeker 6’3” 220lb build. The thing that impressed me the most was his focus when catching the football. He did have a few drops, but you can tell this guy will be a reliable target for Jay. At age 22, he has a chance to be the youngest Bear since Ditka to amass 50 catches in a season.
Honorable Mention: TE/FB Evan Rodriguez – A poor man’s Aaron Hernandez, the Bears finally have a TE that they can develop. He was recently designated as a FB, but he will be used in a dual role. At 6’2” 239 lbs, he is big enough to block but also has speed. His contribution on special teams will also be important.
“Don’t Expect Too Much From This Guy” Award: DE Shea McClellin – Anything you get from a rookie is gravy, even a first round pick. Give him time to develop and see where he fits in on this defense. Think big picture.
“Learn To Like Him Because He’s Going To Play” Award: S Craig Steltz – Chris Conte and Major Wright have shown that they are injury prone, so they will probably miss their share of games this season. Steltz is the best veteran that we have as a backup. He is what he is, so…
“Best Temporary Fill-In” Award: P Ryan Quigley – He may only play a couple of weeks while Adam Podlesh heals up, but if he can help the Bears control field position against a team like the Green Bay Packers, he may be instrumental in an early season upset.
“Talented Player But I Rarely Want To See Him Play” Award: LB Blake Constanzo and LB Geno Hayes – They each had a very impressive preseason and will be solid backups when Urlacher, Briggs and Roach need a rest. However, if Urlacher’s knee doesn’t hold up, we are going to see heavy doses of Constanzo and Hayes. No one wants that. I wouldn’t mind keeping them around for the near future though.
“Just Stay Healthy” Award: T Gabe Carimi – As long as he is on the field, I will bet that he is going to be the best offensive lineman we have. He can help make Jay’s life a lot easier if he performs well.
“Potential Disaster” Award: LG Chris Spencer – This is going to be Spencer’s first time starting at left guard and he has looked awful so far. When you are done worrying about JWebb Nation, keep your eye on Spencer. He may be a weaker link.
“Best Name” Award: DE Cheta Ozougwu – Can’t wait for Sam Rosen to repeatedly screw up his name. And the guy is actually very fast for a DE. He may prove to be a great addition on the end of the line.