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Optimism Vs. Realism

By: Greill Kupicky

Ah, the smell of football is in the year. The only thing that Cubs fans and Sox fans will ever agree on has begun. Our beloved Bears are hitting the practice field, and the 2009 season is underway. I have heard a lot of talk…a lot of talk…about the Bear’s potential, and/or their lack of potential, to go all the way this year.

Optimistically, I feel the Bears could go 13-3, and all the way to the Super Bowl; and yes, perhaps even win it. They definitely have the talent, and I think that with the addition of Marinelli, Lovie calling the plays on the Defense, and Babich holding clipboards instead of making decisions, they do now have the total coaching package to make that happen. Plus, we all know that anything can happen on any given Sunday. Barring any key injuries, it is possible.
Realistically, the Bears will probably go 9-7 or 10-6, squeak into the playoffs, and stop there. There are a lot of question marks on this team, especially at wide receiver. Either way, whatever you believe, it will be a great beginning to the Cutler era. Incidentally, for all of those worried about Jay Cutler, quit worrying. You just have to get used to the fact that we finally have a legitimate quarterback. I know, I know, I keep pinching myself to see if I’m dreaming, too. Anytime he makes a mistake, and he will make mistakes, just always keep two things in mind. First, remember what we have had in the last 40 years under center. Second, remember that even the great ones struggle sometimes. How many interceptions did Favre throw? How many games did he win?

Aside from that, there is a lot of talk about Jay’s personality. Do you remember Jimmy Mac? All I will say is that if I had a job, and I was recently considered one of the best at what I did, and my employer told me my job was secure, and then behind my back the weasel started talking to guys to take my job, I would be pissed, too. And about the Urlacher and Cutler spat…WHO CARES!? We are talking professional football players and their egos here. It is nothing to worry about. When I played football, high school and college, the offense and the defense hated each other. If we won, we would both take credit for the victory. If we lost, the offense would say, “why didn’t you guys stop them?” and we would say, “Why didn’t you guys score more points?”
Back to more important topics, I listed each position below, and will discuss each position as to depth, last year’s production, and my opinion as to the realistic production from each position.

QB: Jay Cutler, Caleb Hainey, Brett Basanez
THANK GOD! We should all be cheering on this move. This position is all about Cutler, and who might step up to be the “back-up.” The optimistic numbers for Cutler are 3500-4000 yards, with 25-30 TD’s and 12 or less interceptions. The realistic numbers are 3000-3200 yards, with 20-25 TD’s and 12-15 interceptions. The reason I lean towards the lower yardage total and higher picks at this time has nothing to do with Cutler. It falls on the Bears definite lack of big play ability on the outside. The Bears have a lot of talent at TE, and Forte from the backfield. That will definitely come in handy for him if he decides to utilize those weapons. But until the Bears find someone to be a deep threat, or the “go-to-guy,” or, “guys,” the numbers for Cutler and the Bears offense will remain lower.

RB/FB: Matt Forte, Kevin Jones, Adrian Peterson, Garrett Wolfe / Jason Mckie, Jason McKie, Jason Davis, Will Ta’ufo’ou
The tailback position is Forte, Forte, Forte. He is the 3 down back the bears have been searching for since the late, great Walter Payton. He in some ways reminds me of a young Edgegerrin James, or a Marshall Faulk. Forte can do it all. Forte could rush for 1500 and score 12 on the ground while gaining 500-600 receiving with 5 more scores. The realistic numbers are 1200-1400 with 8-10 scores on the ground and 400 through the air with 3-5 scores. The lowers numbers are because Cutler is a downfield type of quarterback. He probably will not be looking at Forte or his tight ends when things go wrong (even though he should). If the back-ups contribute, 500 rush yards and 5-8 scores is not too big of a stretch. Jason McKie’s contributions at fullback should be solid.

WR: Devin Aromashodu, Earl Bennett, John Broussard, Rashid Davis, Devin Hester, Juaqiun Iglesias, Derek Kinder, Johnny Know, Eric Peterman, Brandon Rideau
This position has the biggest question marks of all, like I already stated. The Bears might have some talent there, but who knows for sure. Most, if not all, have yet to prove themselves. Cutler makes a bunch of three and four receivers a bunch of two and three receivers. He will make these guys better just like all the good quarterbacks do, but their production capability and their reliability is still an enigma. I see this position producing around 1400-1600 yards and 10-12 scores, and my gut tells me that Hester will be the biggest producer. But if Cutler and Bennett can get back on the same page that they were on at Vanderbilt, Cutler might have found the security blanket all QB’s want and need.

TE: Greg Olsen, Fontel Mines, Micharl Gaines, Kellen Davis, Desmond Clark
This is a solid and productive position for the Bears…finally. Olsen, Clark and Davis give the Bears one of the best tight end groups in the NFL. Optimistically, they could produce to combine for 1500+ receiving and 12 scores. I feel that they will produce numbers close to that. Olsen is a match-up nightmare and Clark still has the feel to get open. Add in Cutlers ability to spread the ball around, and this position will be very productive. They will really help the Bears offense become a pain to defend.

OL: Johan Asisata, Cody Balough, Josh Beekman, Dan Beaunning, Dennis Conley, Roberta Garza, Olin Kruetz, Lance Louis, Frank Omiyale, Tyler Reed, Kevin Shaffer, Orlando Pace, Chris Williams,
This position will have some new faces, and will be a little bit better overall than last year. Depth is a key component for any offensive line, and the Bears definitely have achieved that. With Orlando Pace at left tackle, we have one of the best that ever played, but he is long in the tooth and definitely on the downside of his career as he has had injuries. There will be fierce competition at a few spots, and there will be some new faces on the line come opening day. With Pace and Kruetz, the Bears have both leadership, and two of the finest players at their respective positions for the past 10 years. They will offer experience and NFL savvy. If youngsters like Chris Williams follow their lead, he and Garza will solidify the right side, and this could be one of the better lines in the NFL.

DE/DT: Mark Anderson, Ervin Baldwin, Alex Brown, Joe Clermond, Henry Melton, Adewale Ogunleye, Anthony Adams, Dusty Dvoracek, Jarron Gilbert, Tommie Harris, Marcus Harrison, Israel Idonije, Matt Toeania,
This is still a productive and active defensive front. The Bears have a good rush from all positions and a solid rotation. Brown, Ogunleye and Anderson offer a steady rush but their lack of true ideal size at DE hurts in the run defense. Harris could be the most dominant DT in the game. I heard that Warren Sapp was working with him this last off season. That is good. If someone emerges and takes the heat off of Harris he could have his best season yet. Jarron Gilbert could be a huge factor. He has the ability to play tackle or end. Due to his ideal size, my hunch is that he will be utilized as an end, and we will all love him. At 6’5” and 285 pounds, I already have a man-crush on him because of his display of athleticism by jumping out of a pool on youtube. Do you have any idea how impressive that is? Being a big man myself, and very athletic, I have a special appreciation for that type of display of super human strength and agility. He will likely start immediately, and look like Anderson did his rookie year, or better. The Marinelli factor should prove beneficial as well. He may have sucked in Detoilet, but I have never heard anything but good things about his ability as a defensive line coach. All that said, this could be a stron point of the Bears defense. Optimistically, the line will produce 35 plus sacks. Realistically, I see only 22-27 sacks.

LB: Lance Briggs, Marcus Freeman, Hunter Hillenmeyer, Joey LaRocque, Kevin Malast, Mike Rivera, Nick Roach, Pisa Tinoisamoa, Brian Urlacker, Jamar Williams
With two pro-bowlers, and some added depth from free agency, this could be one of the best LB cores in the NFL. Last year’s defensive performance was more a reflection of other areas than these guys. Granted, they need to step up, but hopefully, Urlacher’s ego will drive him to be the Urlacher of old. In addition, maybe Cutler and company will be able to give these guys some much needed rest in-between possessions rather than being gassed by the second half due to an inept offense. The production I will be looking for are turnovers, sacks, and sure tackling. Lovie is all about turnovers, so on the high side, expect 12-15 TO’s and 15 sacks. Down to earth, we are more likely looking at 6-10 sacks and the same in TO’s.

CB: Al Afalava, Zach Bowman, Josh Bullocks, Rudy Burgess, Dahna Deleston, Corey Graham, Marcus Hamilton, Danieal Manning, Trumaine Mcbride, D.J. Moore,
Kevin Payne, Craig Stelz, Charles Tillman, Woodny Turenne, Nathan Vasher
This could be a solid group if injured players come back to form, and the younger players step up their game. Steltz could be a factor at the safety position, along with Manning. Vasher and Tillman once offered one of the better tandems in the league. Remember that Lovie loves turnovers. He is probably looking for as many as 20 picks from this backfield, but I feel the number will be closer to 15. One thing is for sure, if they play like they did last year, this will be a long and frustrating 2009 season for Bears fans.


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