- Brian Urlacher is back. Urlacher hasn’t been THAT great the last few years (and of course, he was injured all of last year). And there will still be times when I’ll think he’s overrated. But he brings a soul to the Chicago defense. He knows what he’s doing out there and in tandem with Lance Briggs, the Chicago LB group can play at a high level. His return is big.
- Chris Harris is back at safety. The Bears lost Harris to Carolina a few years ago but have decided to bring him back – mostly because the guy is a quality safety. The secondary is a bit suspect overall, but bringing Harris back was smart and he will help this team.
- Unfortunately for the rest of the NFC North, I think Mike Martz will settle in well. For the last few years, there has been some controversy in Chicago over who calls the defensive plays. Most recently, Lovie Smith himself has done this. But whenever a head coach is so involved in one aspect of the game like Lovie is with the defense, it necessarily has to detract from his overall ability to contribute to the other aspect of the game (in this case, the offense). To get around this, some teams just have their head coaches be head coaches and leave offensive/defensive playcalling to the respective coordinators. Other teams (like the Packers and Mike McCarthy) decide to hire a strong personality (often a former head coach) who can just handle that whole other aspect of the game (like Capers does with the Pack’s defense). Mike Martz will handle the offense and now Lovie can just focus on the defense. This will work well in Chicago. Also, remember, these two have coached together (with success) earlier in the decade for the Rams.
- The Martz offensive system will also work well because Martz has some quality personnel to carry out his elaborate offensive game plans. I know many who will disagree with this, but I think what Jay Cutler actually needs is a coach with a huge ego who can run interference with Cutler getting carried away with himself. Think Holmgren/Favre. I hate to say this, but with two very good RBs, some fast and quick WRs and a couple quality TEs, and a creative offensive system, this offense could take off this year.
- Matt Forte will be back. Last year, Forte dealt with some nagging injuries and a porous O-Line. While the line does remain a big question mark for this team, Forte was so dangerous his rookie year it’s hard to imagine that he’d repeat his performance from last year and not the performance from his rookie year now that he’s healthy again. He’s a really good player.
- Chester Taylor will be there in case Forte isn’t that good – or, as a nice complement to Forte if he is good. Taylor is a very good RB – MN was unwise to let him slip away this past offseason and especially unwise to let him go to a division rival. Taylor seems to me to be a scary fit for a Mike Martz style offense.
- WR Devin Aromashodu is good. This guy came out of nowhere last year and dominated in his last 4 games. (4 TDs, 280 or so yards receiving). Cutler likes throwing to him. He will be a big key to this offense because if he can stretch the field and make big plays, it will open things up for quick passes underneath to Hester and Johnny Knox. If these WRs get things rolling, Chicago could be really difficult to stop.
- Chicago has to be good or everyone gets fired. There is a lot of pressure right now on this Bears team. If they suck this year, everyone (including the GM) will get canned. There won’t be give-up at least from the coaching staff. Couple this with the fact that the Bears are not expected to be that good and it makes for a team that will have plenty of incentive to play well (I believe Lovie is well-liked by the players) and a team that doesn’t have the weight of expectations outside the locker room.