If you haven’t heard, the NFL lockout appears to be just about over and pretty soon NFL players will start to get together to prepare for the 2011 season. With teams coming into this with basically the same players on their roster as they had at the end of the season we all know that some needed and perhaps unexpected change is coming for the Bears and all of the other teams in the NFL.
Chicago did make a few key moves both before the lockout started and in the 2011 NFL Draft on the defensive side of the ball. Their first move was to cut the expensive and underperforming Tommie Harris in a move that should be considered one of the best of the offseason. Cutting Harris opened the door for the Bears to bring in someone younger, healthier and even better.
The Bears turned that opportunity into Stephen Paea, a second round draft pick out of Oregon State. Paea is sure to compete for a starting spot on the line and should be an improvement over what Harris gave the Bears last season.
The Bears have strength at the defensive end position but may not have the depth that is desired and if someone gets hurt there will be trouble. We can expect another strong season out of Julius Peppers while Corey Wootton should be able to contribute much more this season.
A little while back I had written something about the potential struggles that the Bears may have at the outside linebacker (the position opposite Lance Briggs). There are some that wonder if that may end up being a key weak point that brings the Bear’s defense down. While it didn’t appear as if that wouldn’t be too serious of an issue having someone solid at the position helps take the heat off of the playmakers (Briggs and Brian Urlacher) by having that player absorb some of the blocks by opposing players.
If the Bears are unable to resign guys like Nick Roach or even Pisa Tinoisamoa it could be a long and difficult season at the position.
Middle linebacker Brian Urlacher won’t have the kind of rest that he had going into last season but should still be one of the top performers on defense next season. The coaching staff and Bear’s fans will keep their fingers crossed in hopes that he doesn’t get hurt and plays much like he did last year.
The cornerback position will be a point of concern once again, like it always is, and the Bears did nothing to help address that position during the offseason (so far). Charles Tillman returns as their best cornerback option even though his skills have slipped. Tim Jennings and Zach Bowman will battle it out for the spot opposite Tillman and it’s likely that Jennings will win that battle. But would he be the best fit for the Bears as a starter?
The safety position will also probably see some changes in 2011 especially if the Bears fail to resign Danieal Manning. Major Wright should be able to step in and play as the starter right away providing he stays healthy. Chris Harris will remain the starter at the other safety position and hopefully he’ll be able to clean up his coverage skills and play better in 2011.
There are a lot of people that feel that the Bear’s defense is going to take a step back next season due to the loss of some free agents (depending on who the Bears decide to sign or not to sign) as well as the fact they are bound to drop off after last season’s performance. It can be said that the defensive coaching staff is going to do their best to not let this defense slip and they should be able to keep it solid in 2011.
The defense is always the key to Chicago football and they still need a strong effort by their defense to help them win games and make another run at the playoffs this coming season.