1. Devin Hester - If there was ever any doubt before the Super Bowl, there is none now. He is the most dangerous player in the NFL. If you kick the ball to him on a kickoff, there is at least a 25% chance he takes it back for a TD. That is freaking insane. Because of this, we're going to see a lot more squibs. Something tells me Reid, Gilmore, etc. will be receiving a ton of practice returning squibs in training camp. If they can be counted on to hold onto the ball, half of our drives will start at our own 40. Again, this is insanity.
2. Rex Grossman - He's got seven months to reflect on this season. Regardless of what some people think of him, he exceeded all expectations and brought this team to the Super Bowl. 26 total TD passes, 3700 yards in 19 games (topping his previous career high of 3 games). Led the league with 8 games rated over 98. All of this at the age of 26. And people still mention him as one of the worst Super Bowl QBs ever. I don't understand it, but I know Rex wants to put that talk to rest, especially after the way his season ended. We're going to see a more mature, confident, consistent Rex next year. I'm guessing somewhere around 25 TD passes with only 15 INT (and 2-3 FL).
3. The return of Tommie Harris - One of the biggest differences between the 7-0 Bears and the 8-4 Bears was the pass rush. During the first half of the season, the front four generated all the pressure that was needed. Whenever analysts mentioned the defense, the first things they mentioned was the ability to get to the QB without blitzing. When Harris went down, the pass rush stopped and Rivera's blitz packages were exposed as pretty terrible. Not to mention a significant decline vs. the run. Harris should come back stronger than ever off of his injury, and hopefully ready to dominate over a 16+ game season.
4. The return of Mike Brown - If this board had the capabilty of turning its attenion to someone other than Rex, they would have seen that safety was the biggest problem during the latter part of the season. Harris significantly declined after a great rookie season, and while he still has potential as a starter, he's better suited as a backup. Danieal Manning seems to have a good grasp of the defense and definitely has the physical tools, but some of his mental mistakes were costly. IMO, Mike Brown's injury was the single biggest blow to this team. He is possibly the most complete safety in football - NEVER makes a mistake in coverage, NEVER misses a tackle, and is ALWAYS around the ball. Great pass rush can often make up for a bad seconday, but a secondary including Mike Brown, Nathan Vasher, and Charles Tillman wouldn't have allowed Peyton Manning to pick us apart and wouldn't have allowed the big plays it did (if you want to get technical, Brown's presence allows the Bears to play more cover 2 than Tampa 2, meaning Urlacher stays closer to the line, meaning no easy dump of passes to Joseph freaking Addai).
5. The return of Brandon McGowan - This is overlooked. Before tearing his ACL against Minnesota, McGowan was looking like Mike Brown's eventual successor. Very smart and physical and seemed to have the physical tools. While he's unproven, he's probably a better SS than Harris or Johnson and just as reliable than any rookie. If Brown goes down, this is the guy that I want at SS.
6. The potential departure of Ron Rivera - I'm not one to make to make knee-jerk reactions like the rest of the Rivera haters on this board. I wouldn't even say that I hate Rivera. But I think it may be best if he takes the Cowboys DC job. When Harris and Brown went down, this defense needed the creative defensive mastermind that many believed Rivera was. Instead, we got that same defensive gameplan every week with the same crappy, unimiganitive blitz packages sprinkled in, usually starting in the second quarter when it became apparent that the front four wasn't going to do anything. He showed no ability to adjust to an opposing offense's gameplan, and this was magnified in the Super Bowl. For a guy that has been touted as a disciple of Jim Johnson, one of the best blitz designers in football, Rivera hasn't shown the slightest ability to get his players to the QB. Ricky Manning probably blitzed off the edge 3-4 times a game and had two sacks. That is pathetic. Brian Urlacher, one of the best MLBs of all time, had none. Why was he not allowed to get after the QB a few times a game? This all falls on Chico, IMO. I think fresh blood at DC may be best, either in the form of Bob Babich or Mike Singletary (who I've really warmed up to, provided he buys into Lovie's system).
7. The running game/Benson - This is a huge question mark, but it's got the potential to be great. Thomas Jones has shown that he is a starting RB in this league and one of the better RBs around. I wouldn't want to trade him for less than a top 40 pick. At the same time, I love Benson's style, and he is definitely the kind of guy that can carry the load and rack up 1300-1500 yards in a season. In a perfect world, Benson is the feature back and TJ is the change of pace guy. However, TJ is not merely a change of pace guy, and he knows it. If he wants out, you have to honor his wish. Don't let him become a distraction. He probably goes for a third-rounder. While losing TJ may be tough, I look forward to watching Benson emerge to superstardom, and over a full season I can esaily see 1300 yards and 10 TD.
8. Bernard Berrian - Another guy that should break out next year. He was used as field-stretcher this year and is already one of the most feared deep threats in the NFL. However, he showed that he is a pretty damn good receiver in the short field as well - runs routes well, dropped very few passes, and for a slender guy, he can take a pounding. I'm not saying he'll have a Steve Smith-type season, but he's exactly the type of reciver I can see Bernard becoming next season - a guy that is a threat to take it to the house on both long and short patterns as well as a reliable third-down target. Of course, this is provided Ron Turner uses him in this capacity, but there is no reason he shouldn't. Bernard should be the focal point of the passing offense next season.
9. Angelo's drafts - If you haven't figured it out by now, you just don't understand football. Jerry Angelo is one of the best general managers in football, particularly when it comes to drafting. Arguably his worst draft netted a guy that will start on this defense for the next five years, the #2 vote getter in rookie of the year voting, as well as a player that has completely revolutionized his position, and is arguably the best at his position of all time, despite playing only one season. That's pretty good. Whatever Angelo does, it's what is best for the team. Not a single person here can question him.
10. I'm a Bears fan. I'm always excited about this team.