The season is upon us and the Bears will be facing the Falcons this sunday at 1:00 EST/12:00 CT. The off-season and pre-season have passed us rather quickly and it’s almost time to get down to the nitty gritty. Despite maintaining it’s core, the Bears are a much different squad this season. There are some new faces in the mix due to some old ones leaving. Let’s jump right in to the top 5 off-season moves.
5.) Going with Dane Sanzenbacher over Andy Fantuz
When the Bears signed WR Andy Fantuz from the Canadian Football League, it had Bear fans mighty excited, myself included. Fantuz was a low-risk, high reward for the Bears. He had the ability to go get a ball at it’s highest point or snag one across the middle. Not to mention he was 6’4” and would be the tallest WR on the roster.
When the Bears announced their bundle of undrafted free agents, WR Dane Sanzenbacher from Ohio State was the name that jumped out at most fans. He immediately became a fan favorite and really turned heads at training camp. Fantuz struggled and wasn’t looking as great as many had hoped. Sanzenbacher was 2nd in receiving at the pre-season’s conclusion with 10 catches for 107 yards. Fantuz finished with 2 catches for 19 yards. All of the Bear fans excited over the 6’4” Canadian can stop eating Fantuz flakes and go back to the traditional Flutie Flakes.
Jon Gruden isn’t the only commentator/analyst that gushed over Sanzenbacher. It seems as if Sanzenbacher’s name was being called left and right during the pre-season. Sanzenbacher wound up making the 53 man roster along with 4 other undrafted free agents. Sanzenbacher will get a little burn on special teams and seek rotation in Martz’ offense during the regular season. Plus, his last name is awesome.
4.) Defensive Line Beefs Up
It’s hard to improve when you already have great talents such as Julius Peppers and Israel Idonije. The Bears defensive line has been raved about by analysts and fans alike. The Bears re-signed Anthony Adams, drafted Stephen Paea, and added former 1st round pick Amobi Okoye to the list of great talents on the defensive line. The rotation the Bears hope to implement will be second to none in the NFL.
Peppers, Idonije, Melton, Toeaina, Adams, Wooton, Okoye, Paea, and even Addison & Reed. The signing of Okoye looks like it might just pan out successfully for the Bears. Okoye looked very solid during the pre-season and was able to penetrate the offensive line and get in the backfield to make plays. He seems to have found new life on the Bears DL.
The line-up of talents will all be kept fresh by implementing a monstrous rotation. Rod Marinelli is licking his chops just waiting to sick these guys on opposing quarterbacks. I think Matt Stafford’s shoulder starts to tingle at the mere thought of these guys coming after him. The emergence of Henry Melton and the re-signing of Anthony Adams has this DL looking fierce. The Bears run defense was ranked 2nd in the NFL behind the Steelers and 17th in total sacks, they hope to climb those ranks even more in 2011.
3.) Signed RB Marion Barber from Dallas, Released RB Chester Taylor
Having a reliable 3rd down option was key to the Bears offense this season. Despite Marion Barber being on the decline in Dallas, maybe a change of scenery would get him going again. The Bears didn’t have much success with Chester Taylor last season as he had 112 carries for 267 yards and 3 TD’s. Taylor only averaged 2.4 yards per carry.
Barber fared a little better in Dallas compiling 374 yards off 113 carries for 4 TD’s. Barber was brought in to help the load in short yardage situations while giving Matt Forte a breather as well. Barber excelled in pre-season and picked up positive yards on nearly every play while busting a couple big runs and screen passes as well.
His tough style of running is something the Bears have needed after the Chester Taylor experiment didn’t go over so well last season. He won’t be a feature back so there is no pressure on Barber to re-create the 14 TD season he rattled off in 2007. Regardless of how well or poor he does, anything was better than Chester Taylor.
2.) Signed TE Matt Speath from Pittsburgh
So the Bears traded Greg Olsen to the Carolina Panthers for a 3rd round pick. This pissed off a decent amount of fans. Olsen was the Bears’ best receiving option and a 1st round pick. The Bears are doing their best to accomodate offensive coordinator Mike Martz whose system doesn’t really call for a receiving TE. Trading away Olsen and Cutting the lazy ass Brandon Manumaleuna left Kellen Davis as the only option at Tight End for the Bears. They needed to sign somebody and I think they found the perfect fit.
Matt Spaeth comes to Chicago from the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Steelers are a hard-nosed, violent, hit you in the mouth, type of football team and that is the type of player the Bears need at TE. The Bears offensive line struggled a lot last season and bringing in a great blocker like Matt Spaeth is going to help them out a lot.
Spaeth only caught 9 passes last season for 80 yards and 1 TD but he isn’t a receiving threat. His production comes in the blocking game. Spaeth can seal off the edge and allow the RB to get to the outside for big pick-ups. The ground game was the Bears strength in the pre-season and imposed their will on other teams’ defenses. Part of the reasoning behind that was Spaeth’s ability to block and help the offensive line in the run game.
1.) Drafted T Gabe Carimi, the Bear Jew, in the 1st round
As stated in #2, the offensive line play last season was very poor. Something had to be done and the Bears front office used their 1st round draft pick on Tackle Gabe Carimi out of Wisconsin. Despite looking just like Roy from the Office, we can guarantee you that he plays very much like Darrell instead. Carimi is the starting right tackle and has helped bolster this offensive line. Between Matt Spaeth and Carimi being added for blocking, this is a much different squad up front then you saw last season.
Carimi played very well in the pre-season, especially against the New York Giants when he received down-by-down punishment by Justin Tuck and didn’t allow a sack. Carimi has been going up against Julius Peppers and Israel Idonije daily in camp, this has had a profound effect on his ability to adjust to the professional game. The first string offensive line played very well in the pre-season and didn’t falter like many expected. Bear fans don’t have on their tin-foil hats, this points to the fact that the offensive line is very much improved from last season.
Did we mention that his nickname is the “Bear Jew”? That is the most kickass nickname in the NFL.
-Sending Todd Collins back to whichever facet of hell he came from.
-Signing former Patriots S Brandon Meriweather