With the Chicago Bears on a bye this week, I have been thinking about which guys can potentially make the biggest impact throughout the rest of the season. Not necessarily the guys who will fill up the stat sheet, but rather those who are the most important at their position. The guys who will really make or break the Bears chances of being championship contenders.
Here’s my top 10 list of the most important Chicago Bears for a Super Bowl run this season:
10. Robbie Gould – Week after week, he does his job and does it well. He hasn’t missed a field goal or extra point this season. So far, seven Week 6 games were decided by three points or less. If the Bears want to go deep in the playoffs, Gould is going to have to take advantage of every opportunity he gets.
9. Tim Jennings – He worked his butt off in the offseason to improve his game, and it has shown with four interceptions and 10 pass deflections, both leading the NFL. The NFC North has a lot of great receivers, and it’s going to be his job to shut them down and take the ball away. He has set the bar pretty high for himself and needs to continue to play at that level if the Bears want to beat the upper echelon teams.
8. Matt Forte – Last year he accounted for 28 percent of the team’s total yards from scrimmage, while only playing 12 games. This season, the Bears have more weapons around him, but his role is the same…keep the chains moving. We have seen what happens to Cutler when the Bears stop running the ball and it isn’t pretty. Forte has to stay healthy, while fighting and clawing for every yard he can get. If he can keep defenses on their toes, look for the offense to thrive.
7. Jay Cutler – Plain and simple, he needs to lead the team. He has the ability to make game-changing plays every time he throws the ball…for better or for worse. A turnover isn’t the end of the world, but a turnover in the red zone in the fourth quarter is. Through five games, he has five fourth quarter touchdowns, two fourth quarter interceptions and zero red zone turnovers. The Bears have shown that he doesn’t need to be great for them to win…he just needs to play smart. I would have put him higher on the list if it wasn’t for Jason Campbell. If Cutler were to get hurt, Campbell is a very competent short-term solution.
6. Israel Idonije – You may disagree with this choice, but I think any defensive end playing alongside Julius Peppers has huge big play potential. As well as the rest of the defensive line has played, Idonije needs to step up his game. He has young guys like Corey Wooton and Shea McClellin eager to take his spot, but Izzy is the veteran and needs to play well to take the pressure off the other guys. If he elevates his play, the defensive line can be considered the best in the NFL.
5. Brandon Marshall – We have all seen what he can do on the field, but his importance lies in what he does off the field. In case you aren’t aware of his long list of run-ins with the law, check out his “Rap Sheet” courtesy of the Chicago Tribune. If Marshall does something that affects his ability to be on the field for the Bears, they are done. From everything he has said so far this year, it sounds like he is on the road to becoming a model NFL citizen. However, one bad decision could change the Bears season overnight.
4. Lance Briggs – There’s no way to know if/when Brian Urlacher will return to form. That leaves Briggs to be the dominant force in the middle of the field, stopping runs and passes. He is going to have to work twice as hard this season, if the Bears want to go to the Super Bowl. I don’t doubt that he can perform at an extremely high level. I am just concerned that, at age 31 (32 in November), he won’t have enough left once the playoffs begin.
3. Devin Hester – No, I don’t expect him to catch 100 balls and score 10 touchdowns. That being said, he is going to be very important moving forward. With Earl Bennett and Alshon Jeffery battling injuries, Hester is going to need to help out Cutler when entire secondaries are trying to cover Marshall. He has the speed to make big plays every game. As he gains confidence as a receiver, Hester should continue to improve. Great offenses need depth at wide receiver. Even if he only makes one big catch a game, he can help stabilize the offense. And anything he can do in the return game is just gravy.
2. Major Wright – We have waited for two years to see why the Bears chose him in the third round of the draft in 2010. He used to miss tackles or hurt himself by leading with his head on tackles. This year, he looks to finally be playing like we were expecting. The Bears defense thrives on preventing the big play and taking away the ball. Wright has done both this season and needs to keep improving. If he reverts to his old ways and teams start beating the Bears deep, watch how quickly the defense collapses.
1. J’Marcus Webb – You all probably saw this coming. We have been talking about it for two years now and nothing has changed. Webb is the Bears left tackle and will be, barring injury, for the rest of the season. I think that the best thing to happen to Webb was Cutler blowing up at him against the Green Bay Packers on Thursday night. Since that game, he has zero false start penalties, zero holding penalties (he was called once for holding, but it was offset by a defensive penalty), and one sack allowed (to sack guru, DeMarcus Ware). If Webb lets up for even a play, Cutler could quickly be lost for multiple games. The worst part is that we have no one to replace Webb if he went down with an injury. That could cause a reshuffling of the line, and the Bears offense would have to start from scratch, ending any hopes of a Super Bowl or even playoff football.
There you have it, the 10 most important Chicago Bears for a Super Bowl run. Please leave me a comment if you think someone should be in/out or moved around in the list. I look forward to your thoughts.