CHICAGO BEARS / 2013 TEAM NEEDS
The Bears have wiped the slate clean, firing head coach and defensive guru Lovie Smith and his entire staff on offense and bringing in Marc Trestman to lead the offense into the 21st century. The only thing that won’t change on offense in 2013 is that, like Smith, Trestman will sink or swim with QB Jay Cutler piloting his ship.
TOP 3 OFFENSIVE NEEDS
OL — Lance Louis is the Bears’ best offensive lineman, but he went down for the year with an ACL at the end of November and is an unrestricted free agent. Roberto Garza gets the job done at center, but the bottom line is the Bears need to get better at all five positions. Undrafted rookie free agent James Brown was an OT in college who stepped in at guard when Louis went down and showed promise, and 2011 first-round pick Gabe Carimi is worth one more look at right tackle.
TE— The Bears added UFA Matt Spaeth in 2011, gave UFA Kellen Davis starter’s money to stick around in 2012 and used a fourth-round pick on Evan Rodriguez. But none of them are NFL starters, perhaps not even No. 2s. With the premium Trestman will put on the position, the Bears are certain to try to bolster this spot.
WR — Brandon Marshall is one of the elite receivers in the league, and 2012 rookie Alshon Jeffery showed real promise as a possession receiver on the other side. But the Bears need a speed receiver to stretch the field and keep teams from doubling Marshall.
This has been one of the league’s elite units, but new coordinator Mel Tucker prefers a more traditional base 4-3 package. Pro Bowl CBs Charles Tillman and Tim Jennings are zone corners who struggle with the man-to-man Tucker likes to use, and Tucker will have to find more pass rush.
TOP 3 DEFENSIVE NEEDS
MLB — This sounds like heresy for the Bears, but with the uncertainty about his health and the departures of Smith and Rod Marinelli, it seems unlikely that UFA Brian Urlacher will agree to the hometown discount the Bears will demand for his return. Nick Roach is serviceable on the strong side, but he is not the answer inside and is an unrestricted free agent. Lance Briggs has been a perennial Pro Bowler on the weak side but will turn 33 in November. The Bears were so thin at LB last year they were signing guys off the street in December.
DT — Coming off his first Pro Bowl, Henry Melton was given the franchise tag, but he’s a bulked-up college RB who is strictly a one-gap penetrator. Stephen Paea is a 2011 second-round pick who’s shown flashes but lacks consistency and is still an unknown, and depth behind them is nonexistent.
S — Major Wright and Chris Conte have both shown promise but struggle at times in coverage, and both have been injury prone. Brandon Hardin was a third-round pick last year who spent the season on injured reserve and is an unknown, and Craig Steltz is strictly a backup.
2012 DRAFT REWIND
1st round (19): DE Shea McClellin / Boise State (GP/GS: 14/0)
Skinny: High-motor player occasionally flashed as rotational DE.
2nd round (45): WR Alshon Jeffrey / South Carolina (GP/GS: 10/6)
Skinny: Injuries derailed rookie season that started with great promise.
3rd round (79): FS Brandon Hardin / Oregon State (GP/GS: 0/0)
Skinny: Backup/special-teamer will be returning from neck injury.
4th round (111): TE-H/B Evan Rodriguez / Temple (GP/GS: 12/5)
Skinny: Showed ability to be functional blocking specialist.
6th round (184): CB Isaiah Frey / Nevada (GP/GS: 0/0)
Skinny: Good-sized prospect was stashed on practice squad.
7th round (220): CB-KR Greg McCoy / TCU (GP/GS: 0/0)
Skinny: Spent season on Cardinals practice squad. Signed by Vikings.
SUMMARY: Far from a great debut for GM Phil Emery’s first draft class, but it’s too soon to call it a failure.
Pro Football Weekly's 2013 Draft Guide is now available at stores where magazines are sold. It can also be ordered by calling 1-800-FOOTBALL.
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