Preseason power rankings: No. 14

Since reaching the Super Bowl in 2006, the Bears have gone 16-16. And a boring 16-16 it has been.

The pop-gun arm of Kyle Orton meant the Bears passing “attack” wasn’t threatening anybody last season. And a defense that – two years earlier was as formidable as any in the league – suddenly became one of the league’s worst against the pass.

This year, the boring’s been booted with the addition of the supremely talented Jay Cutler at quarterback. Forget about his poutiness and the way he extracted himself from Denver for a moment and realize that he has one of the three strongest arms in the league.

More importantly, Cutler usually knows how to use it. (He takes a few too many chances). With Cutler directing an offense that has huge-play man Devin Hester at wideout, Greg Olsen at tight end and young, explosive Matt Forte in the backfield, the Bears are going to score some.

The concern is on the other side of the ball where the Bears have slipped from formidable to forgettable. They keep rolling the same guys out there — only Tank Johnson, Hunter Hillenmeyer and Mike Brown are gone from the 2006 starters — but with diminishing returns.

The Bears didn’t generate a ton of pressure in 2008 (28 sacks) and that led to teams throwing with impunity on them (622 attempts, 3,859 yards). That, despite the fact teams weren’t trying to rally from big deficits against Chicago. The Bears need to get a better push up front to stem that tide. They also need to cross their fingers and hope that the secondary remains healthy, an ongoing concern the past few years. 

The NFC North is going to be one of the league’s most intriguing divisions in 2009. With Cutler in Chicago, Brett Favre in Minnesota, Favre’s replacement Aaron Rodgers in Green Bay and young Matthew Stafford running the show in Detroit, the whole division might go from boring to interesting.

And if Cutler makes the impact many expect him to, the Bears might be going from mediocre back to the elite.

Key player: Brian Urlacher. If the Bears can’t get back to where they were on defense, it’s not going to really matter how wondrous Cutler’s throwing ability is. They need Urlacher to roll back the clock and be the best middle linebacker in the league again.

Rookie to watch: Juaquin Iglesias. The 99th overall pick, Iglesias caught 8 passes for 130 yards and a touchdown in the preseason. Iglesias, from Oklahoma, and Johnny Knox from Abilene Christian are a nice little rookie receiving duo.

Best veteran acquisition: Cutler. They gave up a significant amount to get him, but unless Orton or one of the picks sent to Denver was going to emerge as a player with top-five talent at quarterback, it was a good move.

Key game: Week Two vs. Pittsburgh. Going against the NFL’s best defense, we’ll all get a look at how far Cutler and the Bears offense has to go.   

6 responses to “Preseason power rankings: No. 14

  1. You’re right in that the Bears’ capacity for success this year rests mostly on their defense.
    I’m banking on a renewed ability to rush the passer–thanks in large part to Marinelli. He’s been the talk of the team all off-season, and may prove to be as significant of an off-season signing as you-know-who.
    Speaking of Cutler and his “taking too many chances”–yes, but (unlike Bratt and other notable “gunslinger” types) how many times was he compelled to play from behind?
    I believe, once that d-line gets some pressure, the secondary should be able to perform at a much higher level (assuming they stay healthy).
    Making that same assumption, I expect Kevin Payne and/or Zack Bowman to become HUGE playmaker(s) in the secondary.
    Just have to chime in, also…consider:
    what might be the best LB corps in the league. And perhaps the top TE tandem.
    And one of the league’s BEST overall special teams units.
    I don’t see the key game being the home opener against Pitt, either—-clearly it’s week 1, on the road, against a prolific passer/passing attack AND a divison rival.
    THAT’S when we’ll know a whole helluva lot more about the Bears’ d-line/secondary.
    Finally, all that “boring” talk in regard to the Bears and the North is pretty insulting to the entire division…unless the Lions are getting blown out, I don’t find a damn thing about the division to be boring.
    Are you one of those people who wants his football to look like a video game?
    Call me crazy or old-fashioned, and it might require a bit more appreciation of the nuance, but some of us actually enjoy stout defensive football and the game-within-the-game aspect of field position battles.
    When all is said and done, people (Queens fans especially) will remember that games aren’t won in the media or on message boards or in power rankings or with hype, but on the field.
    And to date, in my humble opinion, the Bears have done the most in the division to upgrade this off-season–now we just need to see it translate into wins.

  2. the Bears aren’t going to win anything this year, the defense is well past its prime, and for the same people that complain about favre being over the hill to state that urlacher will roll back the clock is insane. LB’s that do their job are getting hit on EVERY play, hopefully at full speed. QB’s are getting hit, maybe twice a drive. You do the math.
    Dewey the dbag does have a point in that defensive football thats played tough is much more enjoyable to watch than glorified basketball, but without the scoring, and in pads…..
    as far as the LB combo, they’ve got nothing. Take a look at Henderson, Greenway, and Leber vs. those washed-up has been’s in chicago. I’ll concede that at this moment Olsen is a better TE than Shiancoe, but certainly not the best in the league, and the special teams that carried the bears in 07 are nothing without the fulltime service of hester, which will not be happening.
    but its nice to know that you’ve picked up the head coach of the only team to go 0-16, I’m sure that will be a nice addition and probably better your team.

  3. As a huge Bears fan, this is hard to say but it is time we moved on from Brian Urlacher. He is in decline and his contract does not reflect that. Time to move on from guys like Adewale Ogunleye (last year of contract) and anyone who cannot stay healthy. We have been paying for potential instead of results and paying so much that we have not been able to afford depth.

  4. ChiBears5 I totally agree with Adewale Ogunleye , they should start Brown/Anderson in my opinion. But Urlacher/Briggs/ and now Piso Tino(cant spell rest) Sure up the Defense LB corp.
    If tillman stays healthy, the secondary will be elite once again. But it all comes down to the pass rush. Harris is an elite DT in the NFL. but he’s always hurt. On the offense , the additions to the Offensive Line and the addition of Cutler will Take Defenses out of doing (8 in the box). and Hopefully will open up Forte more. So the Offense is Much improved, the Defense Looks a little better with Marinelli coaching the D-Line. So im gonna say 10-6 or 11-5 win NFC north Yet fall short of a Superbowl this year.

  5. Best LB corps in the league? Look I love the Bears but Theres no way that’s true. Briggs is still awesome but 54 is past his prime, thou he won’t be awful this year if he stats healthy. As for Henderson and co… I think good but not great either. Hate to admit it but the best LB combo still resides in Pittsburgh.

  6. I’d actually rate the Bears a couple spots higher, and I can’t believe I’m saying this, I agree with Dewey — the Bears’ season depends on the performance of it’s defense. I’d be worried about Harris, as no amount of Marinelli coaching is going to heal ruined knees (or Tillman’s back for that matter).
    However, it is pretty rich that the same guy who posts more on Viking articles than any other is the one saying the season isn’t won on message boards.

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