The Chicago Bears currently have a head coaching vacancy and an empty general manager’s chair, but that is only the tip of the iceberg in terms of identifying and fixing what is wrong with this team.
Over the next several weeks here at Grizzly Detail, we will be working through all of the issues that the team has, and we will be examining what the new coach and GM need to do in order to turn things around at Halas Hall for the 2015 season.
Today, we’re turning our attention to a simple question: What is the biggest positional need that the Bears have right now? Some positions, like running back and defensive tackle, are already pretty well locked down, but there are several spots that need to be addressed as the team moves forward.
The Bears have two very good wide receivers in Alshon Jeffery and Brandon Marshall, but there have been some question marks for the team concerning their inability to really spread the ball around the field. Most successful offenses have a speedy wide receiver that can take some pressure off of the bigger receivers on the edges, and the Bears haven’t gotten what they’ve needed in that regard from Marquess Wilson.
Whether it’s a draft pick, a free agent signing, or just getting Wilson more involved in the team’s offense, the Bears have got to take pressure off their vertical game by adding in a speed threat that can catch balls over the middle of the field and create matchup problems with nickel cornerbacks.
The Bears’ offensive line will likely return largely intact next season, with Roberto Garza signing a one-year extension and Kyle Long, Matt Slauson, and Jermon Bushrod all under contract. Jordan Mills is too, but with his poor performance in pass blocking and his penchant for getting hurt in the 2014 season, the Bears need to look for a player to either compete for the starting job from him, or to take it outright.
The Bears brought in two high-priced free agents to contribute at defensive end this season, and while Jared Allen was a disappointment, Lamarr Houston was a full-fledged disaster. Both players will likely be back next season, as will Willie Young (who was arguably the team’s best defensive player all season), but it would still behoove the Bears to add a young guy to the mix who can glean lessons from the veterans and provide a long-term solution at a position where the Bears will be looking to upgrade within the next few years.
This position is absolutely critical for the Bears to address. Lance Briggs is all but gone. D.J. Williams likely won’t be back. In fact, the Bears don’t have a guy who should have a guaranteed starting job currently on their roster, so their shopping list for linebackers should be wide open. Jon Bostic could well be a short-term answer at either middle or weak side linebacker, and Christian Jones could get some good playing time next year, but don’t be surprised if the Bears use a high draft pick or some big free agent dollars to bring in a linebacker to help solidify what is arguably their weakest position.
Going into the 2014 season, the Bears signed Tim Jennings to a lucrative contract extension, drafted Kyle Fuller in the first round of the NFL Draft, and signed Charles Tillman to a one-year deal. While it seemed like they were set at the position, it didn’t turn out that way, as Tillman was injured, Jennings was ineffective, and Fuller had a whale of a time defending some of the league’s best wide receivers in his rookie year.
The Bears likely won’t spend another first round pick on a cornerback this year, but they still need to be on the lookout for a big, physical player that can make life more difficult for guys like Calvin Johnson and Jordy Nelson. Adding some press coverage into the mix would help too, as Fuller seemed to struggle even more when he couldn’t engage with receivers at the line of scrimmage.
Another huge hole for the Bears to fill will come at the safety position. Chris Conte can’t stay healthy, Ryan Mundy had bouts of ineffectiveness, and Brock Vereen had a tough time adjusting to the position in his rookie year.
With some solid talent available in the draft and limited free agent money to spend, the Bears will have to address this position in a big way, because without a good safety to help out over the top on wide receivers (not to mention one that can actually remember whether the team is in zone or man coverage), the team’s defense will continue to sink further into mediocrity.
And the Winner Is…..
The Bears have plenty of big needs. Everyone who watched even one snap this season can safely assume that there are holes to fill. Spots like safety must be addressed, and there are plenty of areas to choose from in terms of the team’s biggest need, but the big winner in our eyes is the linebacker spot. Replacing Briggs won’t be easy, and frankly the team still hasn’t replaced Brian Urlacher in the middle. That number seven overall pick that the Bears have might be the tool to start turning the tide at that position, but just doing that won’t be enough as this team tries to rebuild their horrendous defense.