Bears 2012 projected starters and grades
Quarterback: Jay Cutler B+
Jay Cutler is set up to have a breakout season with a revamped WR core, and a new offensive coordinator. Last year before his thumb injury he was on the way to one of his most efficient seasons as a passer, Cutler can make all of the throws with his big arm, the questions lie in whether or not he can make the right decisions with the football, and if his offensive line can keep him clean. This grade could very easily become an A if all the pieces come together.
Quarterback Depth A
No other team can say they have a QB with 5 years experince as a starter and still in his prime as their backup QB. Jason Campbell could fight for a starting job on several NFL teams and though he has never put together a great season, he has been a solid player for his entire career. Behind Campbell is Josh McCown, a 10 year veteran, he isn't much, but you could do much worse for a 3rd string QB.
Running Back: Matt Forte B+
Matt Forte is a versatile back who can do a great many things well, he has good speed, good vision, good hands and is a very good blocker. While Forte is a solid all around back he doesn't excel in any one area, and has been known to disappear around the goal-line. While some of this can be attributed to Chicago's offensive line woes, Forte needs to find the endzone more often to be considered an elite RB.
Running Back Depth B+
Another area that Chicago upgraded after suffering a major injury the previous season. Michel Bush saw extended playing time last season in Oakland due to some injuries to the starter Darren McFadden and rushed for 7TDs and nearly 1000 yards. Bush is a solid #2 option who also covers up for Forte's goalline deficiency. At 245lbs he's a battering ram in the redzone. Behind him is Kalhil Bell who doesn't get many touches, but has made the most of the ones he's had, averaging 4.7 yards per carry for his career so far.
Wide Receiver: Brandon Marshall A
New edition Brandon Marshall is coming off of a Pro Bowl season in which he caught 81 passes for 1200 yards from a hodgepodge of mediocre (at best) Quarterbacks. Marshall is a big target that can go up and take jump balls away from smaller defensive backs, as well as break tackles after the catch. With a more reliable QB than he's had in the past few years, Marshall looks to have another big season this year.
Wide Receiver: Alshon Jeffery C
Alshon Jeffery is an unknown commodity. He has great size and hands, with solid route running, but there are a lot of question concerning his work ethic and whether or not he can remain healthy. I believe at the end of the season Jeffery could grade out as high as a B+ or as low as an F. He's a wildcard in the truest sense.
Tight End: Kellen Davis D
Davis is a HUGE target at 6'7, but Mike Martz's offense pretty much rendered any receiving TE obsolete. Davis could possibly be a breakout player on this offense, but his body of work just isn't big enough for me to grade him higher.
Wide Receiver/Tight End Depth: C+
The 3rd-5th WRs on the Bears team have all shown flashes but none of them have shown the consistancy to be a relaible target. The best of this group is easily Earl Bennett. Bennett has fantastic hands and route running, but often has trouble staying healthy. He has a knack for finding holes in defenses and this year we might finally get to see if he can become a go to receiver for Cutler. Hester has big play written all over him, but below average route running and hands keep him from being a viable option. He can be a huge threat once the ball is in his hands though. Dane Schanzenbacher, Daniel Thomas and Eric Weems round out this group. Matt Spaeth is another huge TE who's main duty is to block, and he plays his role well.
Left Tackle: Jamarcus Webb D-
Webb has not shown us much of anything, but Tice has enough faith in him that he's letting him protect Cutlers blindside. So much faith in fact that the Bears passed up Riley Reiff in the draft this past April.
Left Guard: Chris Williams C
Williams has played well at times, but he seems like an injury waiting to happen, with back problems that have been plauging him since his college days. He should be decent though assuming he can stay healthy.
Center: Roberto Garza C+
Garza did an ok job last season as a makeshift center. Hopefully a year of playing the position will make him a little better this season.
Right Guard: Lance Louis C+
Lance Louis is a good interior run blocker who can open up holes on his side of the line. Last year playing tackle for the injured Carimi he looked out of place, and often was beat around the edge. He looks to bounce back this year in his more natural guard position.
Right Tackle: Gabe Carimi B-
Carimi played very well in his limited playing time last season. If his knee holds up he will likely be the best player on this years offensive line.
Offensive Line Depth F
Can i give an F-? If anyone gets hurt here we're screwed.
Left Defensive End: Shea McClellin C
Honestly I don't know much about this kid. I'm throwing the C out there just as an average, though the Bears do seem extremely high on him, and he will get almost exclusively 1 on 1s with Peppers drawing so much attention on the other side.
Right Defensive End: Julius Peppers A+
Peppers is a nightmare for opposing offensive lines. He has the speed to edge rush and the size and power to bullrush. And in his stint with the Bears has also been a force against the run game. He remains one of the top 5 ends in the NFL.
Defensive Tackle: Henry Melton B
Melton showed some flashes last year, racking up 7 sacks from his defensive tackle position. If he continues to improve he could cause a lot of trouble next to Peppers and should be a solid starter for the Bears.
Defensive Tackle: Isreal Idonije C+
Idonije is a versatile player who can play anywhere along the defensive line. He will split time here with Paea.
Defensive Line Depth B-
The Bears have a solid rotation of young and veteran players all along the defensive line. Idonje will be the primary backup for both ends and tackles, and players such as Matt Toena, Corey Wotton and Stephen Paea round out a solid group, though the loss of Amboi Okoye hurts.
Outside Linebacker: Lance Briggs A
Briggs is coming off of a pro bowl season, looks to repeat that performance this year. Briggs has a nose for the ball carrier and makes plays from sideline to sideline one of the best 4-3 Linebackers in the league.
Middle Linebacker: Brian Urlacher A
Another Bears linebacker coming off of a pro bowl season. Though he's nearing the end of his career he has seen no drop in production as of yet, and if his knee has healed up then there's no reason to believe this trend can't continue.
Outside Linebacker: Geno Hayes C+
Geno Hayes played well in Tampa Bay but was never a star type player, he should do well in a support role alongside Briggs and Urlacher.
Linebacker Depth D
Nick Roach is the only linebacker on the bench with any experience, if Urlacher or Briggs go down there is no viable replacement and there will be a huge hole in that part of the defense.
Cornerback: Charles Tillman B
Tillman is another Bears player coming off of a pro bowl season. He fits very well into the Bears cover 2 scheme and is a ball hawk, contantly punching balls out of the hands of the opposing players. Tillmans age has to be a concern going into this season though.
Cornerback: Kelvin Hayden C-
Hayden or Jennings will start in this spot. Jennings has been in and out of the starting lineup due to performance issues the past two years, and Hayden hasn't impressed enough to gain a sizeable deal in free agency. Overall not much is expected from this spot this season.
Cornerback Depth C
DJ Moore is a ballhawking 3rd corner, but after him there is little to nothing in this group to get excited about.
Free Saftey: Chris Conte C+
Conte is a solid tackler, there's still some questions about his coverage skills, but there should be a marked improvement from his rookie season into his second.
Strong Saftey: Major Wright C-
The 3rd year pro hasn't been able to stay on the field, and when he's been on the field we've seen lapses in both his tackling and coverage skills.
Saftey Depth C-
Craig Steltz is a relaible player who can be a solid fill in at either saftey position, Brandon Hardin is an unproven rookie and an unknown commodity.
Special Teams A+
Robbie Gould is one of the most accurate kickers in the history of the NFL, Devin Hester and Eric Weems are two of the top return men in the game, the Bears special teams are one of the strongest in the league, if not the best.
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