Offensive coordinator Terry Shea was jettisoned after just one season, and his chances of returning to the Windy City were slim due to the fact that no Bears receiver caught more than two touchdown passes in 2004. To add further insult to Chicago's 5-11 season, its offense was ranked last in the NFL after mustering just 238.5 yards per game.
New coordinator Ron Turner will have his hands full as he retools an inconsistent offense. Last season, the quarterback play was poor, the quality and depth at wide receiver was below average, and the offensive line was sieve-like despite two significant offseason acquisitions in Ruben Brown and John Tait .
The return of a healthy quarterback Rex Grossman and the acquisition of wide receiver Muhsin Muhammad gives the Bears something to build their foundation for 2005 and beyond. Grossman possesses the qualities Turner seeks in a quarterback: the ability to recognize the defense and the decidedness to get the ball out of his hands quickly.
While the offensive line did not play well, Chicago allowed 66 sacks last season, there are factors that provide promise heading into the season. There'll be a change in the scheme in which the offensive linemen won't be required to lock one-on-one continuously with the defensive end. There'll also be an up-tempo passing attack in which the quarterback gets the ball out of the pocket quickly, and a power-rushing game to keep the defense honest.
Adding right tackle Fred Miller from Tennessee in free agency will help solidify the offensive line. Miller's arrival moves John Tait to left tackle to replace the inexperienced and overmatched Qasim Mitchell . Former Falcons offensive lineman Roberto Garza has been signed to compete at right guard, which is presently manned by Terrence Metcalf .
Heading into the draft, the Bears would like to secure a top-caliber talent early on. Trading down slightly to acquire additional selections may best serve the continued building of the team, but holding the fourth selection in the draft and securing the services of a top-notch running back or wide receiver may be too enticing for the Bears to pass up.
Running back – Anthony Thomas is an unrestricted free agent and is not expected to return. While the team maintains it is satisfied with Thomas Jones, there have been overtures the Bears are seeking a bigger, more physical rusher in offensive coordinator Ron Turner's scheme. With the fourth overall selection in the draft, the Bears have the option of securing one of the top-three backs (Ronnie Brown , Carnell Williams or Cedric Benson ) while improving the depth at the position.
Wide receiver – Acquiring wide receiver Muhsin Muhammad was a positive first step toward improving the league's second-worst passing attack. While the team has youth at the position (Justin Gage and Bernard Berrian ) and has also signed former Titans receiver Eddie Berlin , the Bears may be best served by adding another explosive-type receiver in the draft (Braylon Edwards or Mike Williams ).
Linebacker – The Bears lack quality and depth at this position, especially on the strong side. They have recently contacted linebacker Anthony Simmons , who was released by Seattle, to help fill the void. Also, the Bears have expressed an interest in drafting Derrick Johnson .
Quarterback – With starter Rex Grossman coming off knee surgery and Chad Hutchinson and Craig Krenzel being the backups, this position is a weakness. The Bears must add depth, either through free agency or the draft.
FREE AGENCY AND OFFSEASON
FRANCHISE PLAYER: None.
TRANSITION PLAYER: None.
UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: QB Jeff George , OT Aaron Gibson , RB Anthony Thomas.
RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: OG Terrence Metcalf, TE John Owens .
EXCLUSIVE RIGHTS FREE AGENTS: None.
PLAYERS RE-SIGNED: OL Steve Edwards , TE John Gilmore, S Bobby Gray , CB Todd McMillon .
PLAYERS ACQUIRED: WR Eddie Berlin (Titans), OL Roberto Garza (Falcons), WR Muhsin Muhammad (Panthers), OT Fred Miller (Titans).
PLAYERS LOST: QB Jonathan Quinn (released), WR David Terrell (released).
Inside the Chicago Bears
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