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Chicago Bears 2009 Off-Season Report

Chicago Bears 2009 Off-Season Report

Since the end of the Chicago Bears’ 2008 season, many football followers are suspecting that the Bears will improve on their 9-7 record due to the many off-season moves that were made.

Many key players have left Chicago, leaving much needed holes to be filled. Starting with the only major loss to the defense, safety Mike Brown was released despite being productive and healthy for the majority of the 2008 season. Brown is known for his playmaking ability on the defensive side, but unfortunately is equally known for his injury plagued career. It seems that the eight-year veteran has found a home with the Kansas City Chiefs. On the offensive line, Chicago has lost tackles John St. Clair and John Tait. St. Clair is now a member of the Cleveland Browns, while Tait decided to call it quits after a history of ankle injuries. Another key loss on offense is the release of wide receiver Marty Booker. Booker failed to return to the Pro Bowl form that he once had with his first stint with the Bears, only recording 14 receptions for 211 yards and two touchdowns in 2008. But the two biggest losses came at the quarterback position. Rex Grossman was released after it was crystal clear that he was no longer the number one guy under center in the 2008, and is still in search for a spot on someone’s roster. As for the other quarterback, it really isn’t considered a loss, but more of an upgrade. Kyle Orton was traded to the Denver Broncos, along with Chicago’s 2009 first and third-round draft picks and 2010 first-round draft pick, for Jay Cutler and Denver’s 2009 fifth-round draft pick.

The addition of Cutler to the Chicago Bears arguably made the biggest splash in the NFL’s off-season. The 2006 11th overall draft pick from Vanderbilt was selected to his first Pro Bowl last season, after compiling 4,526 passing yards, 25 touchdowns, and a QB rating of 86.0. Cutler is said to be the franchise quarterback the Bears have been searching for since the years of Sid Luckman in the 1940s. And to add more depth to the quarterback position, Chicago signed former Carolina Panther Brett Basanez. Along with the arrival of Cutler comes some much needed help on the offensive line. The biggest piece of the o-line was added when Chicago signed 13-year veteran left tackle Orlando Pace. With this signing, Chicago will move Chris Williams to the right tackle position, where he will battle for the starting spot against former Cleveland Brown Kevin Shaffer. Along with acquiring Shaffer, Chicago also signed former Carolina Panther Frank Omiyale, who is slated to be the starting left guard. Defensively, the Bears acquired safety Josh Bullocks from the New Orleans Saints and linebacker Pisa Tinoisamoa from the St. Louis Rams. Not only did the Bears upgrade with players, but they also did the same in coaching. Former Detroit Lions head coach Rod Marinelli was brought in to be the Bears’ defensive line coach. Marinelli is unfortunately known for coaching the first team in NFL history to go winless in a season. But on the flipside, he is also known for being one of the main ingredients that help mold the Tampa Bay Buccaneers into Super Bowl champions in 2002. Marinelli was the d-line coach for Tampa Bay, and many have said that the talent on the Bears’ defensive front is similar to what the Bucs had in 2002. These key additions of players gave the Bears more flexibility to fill the voids of wide receiver, safety, and defensive lineman in the draft.

Not being able to snag a number one receiver via free agency in the off-season, experts predicted that Chicago would use their first pick in the 2009 NFL Draft (third round, 68th overall) on a receiver, but opted to select defensive end Jarron Gilbert out of San Jose St. The 6’5”, 288 pound Gilbert, who can be found on YouTube jumping out of a swimming pool, was said to be one of the steals of the draft by some experts. It was later in the third round where the Bears would use the 99th overall pick to select Oklahoma wide receiver Juaquin Iglesias. Iglesias was Oklahoma’s “go to” guy in their passing game last season, and hopes to play the same role in the Bears’ offense. All in all, Chicago had nine draft picks this year. After selecting Gilbert and Iglesias in the third round, Chicago chose defensive end Henry Melton from Texas, and cornerback D.J. Moore from Vanderbilt in the fourth round. Abilene Christian wide receiver Johnny Knox and Ohio State linebacker Marcus Freeman were selected in the following round. Free safety Al Afalava of Oregon St. was picked up in the sixth round, and guard Lance Louis of San Diego St. and wide receiver Derek Kinder of Pittsburgh were chosen in the seventh round.

With NFL mini-camps coming to an end, and training camp on the horizon, the Chicago Bears are geared to turn some heads in the league. Even though the four teams that played in last season’s NFC and AFC championship games are on the Bears’ schedule, statistically they still have the easiest schedule in the league, and should improve on their 9-7 record of last season, which could result in winning the NFC North title.

Clyde A. Speller

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