Bears Need to Spread the Wealth

After the NFL Draft last month, quarterback Rex Grossman had two new weapons to fire on offense in tight end Greg Olsen and tailback Garrett Wolfe. And how that Devin Hester will be moved to the other side of the ball, that's yet another mouth to feed. The Bears certainly appear to be more dangerous offensively, but will there be enough footballs spread around to make all the playmakers happy?

A child never thinks he can have too many toys, but once they're all out on the bedroom floor together, he soon realizes it's impossible to play with all of them at once.

Chicago Bears offensive coordinator Ron Turner probably feels the same way right about now, but it's a problem he's more than happy to have. Not only did GM Jerry Angelo draft the field-stretching tight end he coveted in Greg Olsen and a shifty running back in Garrett Wolfe, but it was announced on Monday that Devin Hester will be switching from defense to offense beginning with this weekend's veteran mini camp at Halas Hall.

The 31st selection in last month's NFL Draft, Olsen comes from a long line of great tight ends at the University of Miami. The Hurricanes have produced the likes of Bubba Franks, Jeremy Shockey, and Kellen Winslow Jr. – all first-round picks – since 2000, and Olsen has the skills to be as good as any of them. His numbers were not as gaudy thanks to some inconsistent quarterback play in Coral Gables, but he is a natural pass-catcher and runs the 40-yard dash in the 4.5 range.

Desmond Clark was a pleasant surprise last season and is a much better blocker than Olsen right now, but the rookie will have a package of plays designed for him right away.

Much has been made of the fact that Wolfe is only 5'7" and about 180 pounds, but nobody can deny that he is one of the more decorated runners in college football history. Averaging better than 150 yards a game for his career, Wolfe destroyed the MAC week in and week out en route to Offensive Player of the Year honors. He caught the ball beautifully during a personal workout for the Bears at Halas Hall, something he was not asked to do very often at Northern Illinois.

More and more teams are going to the two-back approach in the running game simply because there are only so many LaDainian Tomlinsons and Larry Johnsons out there, and Turner was openly lobbying for another tailback before the draft.

Most everyone felt that the Bears had to address the wide receiver position at some point this offseason, so Hester's move from defense to offense better explains why they didn't. Hester set an NFL record last year by scoring six times on returns, and that was before he set Dolphin Stadium into a frenzy bringing back the opening kickoff of Super Bowl XLI for yet another jaw-dropping touchdown. Whether he lines up wide, in the slot, or in the backfield, defenses will have to account for him on every snap.

Hester played some offense in college with minimal success, but he is a once-in-a-lifetime talent with the ball in his hands and can be incredibly effective just as a decoy.

The Bears were much better on offense in 2006 than they were the year before, largely due to quarterback Rex Grossman finally staying healthy for a full season. Tailback Cedric Benson got stronger down the stretch spelling the now-departed Thomas Jones, and Bernard Berrian emerged as the secondary receiver opposite Muhsin Muhammad that this team so desperately needed. Clark had his best year as a pro and Rashied Davis made some huge catches on third down out of the slot, so even with Jones traded away to the Jets, this already appeared to be an offense on the rise.

But with all the additions this offseason, will there be enough footballs to go around in 2007?

Olsen may be the tight end of the future, but Clark did nothing last year to warrant losing his job this year. Wolfe certainly isn't going to start ahead of Benson, and as a matter of fact, he'll begin his career behind incumbent Adrian Peterson on the depth chart. And Hester may be the most dangerous man in football, but is he better equipped to contribute at wideout right now ahead of Muhammad, Berrian, Davis, or even Mark Bradley?

There are still plenty of questions that need to be answered, but here's what to look for this coming season:

THE MAN IN THE MIDDLE

Clark was very good in 2006 and will be the starter at tight end again, but Olsen offers the kind of field-stretching speed Clark simply does not possess. Grossman proved to be very adept at throwing the ball down the seam this past season, and Olsen's presence should only make that facet of the passing game more dangerous. He is too fast for most linebackers and too big for most defensive backs, so be on the lookout for some big plays between the hashmarks.

THE CHANGE OF PACE

Benson is going to be the primary ball-carrier and will tote the rock 20-25 times per game, but the Bears had a ton of success utilizing a two-back approach on the ground last season. Wolfe's elusiveness might be a perfect complement to Benson's power, and defenses will have to make some adjustments from one to the other over the course of a game. If Wolfe shows that he can get the job done in pass protection, he could be a weapon on third down.

THE WILD CARD

Arguably the most gifted open-field runner the Bears have had since Gale Sayers, Hester is that rare breed who can score every single time he gets his hands on the football. He was nothing short of electrifying in the return game in 2006, but it will be interesting to see if he can bring that same game-breaking element to an offense that has become too reliant on 10- and 12-play drives to score. From screen passes to sweeps to reverses, the possibilities are endless.

And as for Turner's unenviable task of getting everyone involved each and every Sunday, much like a child thinks, it's better to have too may toys than not enough.

John Crist is the Publisher of Bear Report and Editor in Chief of BearReport.com. To read him every day, visit BearReport.com and become a Chicago Bears insider.

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