All the starters are expected back next season since all are under contract and none will become unrestricted free agents. None of them have reached 30 years old yet either, so it's expected that the unit still can get better. Five players from the defense made the Pro Bowl and none is older than 27.
While the offense struggled, the Bears won eight straight under fourth-round draft pick Kyle Orton, who showed that he could be a factor down the road by managing games without making mistakes. And starting quarterback Rex Grossman made it back on the field after suffering a fractured ankle in the preseason. He was rusty, but the Bears still like his potential.
Despite the lack of a consistent passing game, the Bears were able to run the ball. Thomas Jones became just the second running back in franchise history to go over 1,300 yards rushing in a season. The bulk of his production came with eight defenders on the line of scrimmage that focused on stopping Jones from running the ball. When Jones took a break, Cedric Benson and Adrian Peterson were than capable of carrying the load.
WHAT NEEDS ATTENTION: The Bears might have two young quarterbacks who can play, but they still aren't sure if either is capable of helping them to the next level. While the addition of a veteran signal caller is not out of the question, one that will cost big money is.
The Panthers' Steve Smith exposed the Bears' corners, or at least Charles Tillman. The other corner, Nathan Vasher, is going to the Pro Bowl based on his eight interceptions, but Tillman is not the shut-down corner that the Bears hoped he would become. With nickel cornerback Jerry Azumah's future in jeopardy because of a chronic arthritis problem in his hip and is impending free agency, the Bears lack depth.
The offense is still in need of playmakers. Veteran Muhsin Muhammad showed little evidence of being an impact player this season, although speedy Bernard Berrian emerged late in the season as a legitimate deep threat and more. Rookie Mark Bradley was also starting to show signs of becoming a playmaker when he suffered a torn ACL midseason. Even though he's expected to be ready by training camp, there are still too many question marks at the positions because of injury and inexperience.
Adding another young receiver to the mix through the draft may not be the answer. If the Bears are able to acquire some veteran help at wideout through free agency the move could be complimented by taking a tight end on the first day of the draft. The position has been overlooked by the franchise for years and finding a threat to stretch the middle of the field would benefit the receivers as well as the running game.