Arguably the most heavily scrutinized player in the entire NFL last season, quarterback Rex Grossman admits that the pounding he took from the national media got to him at times. The Bears added all kinds of speed and athleticism at the skill positions in the offseason, but none of that will matter if the fifth-year signal-caller continues to take chances and turns the ball over too frequently. He looked sharp more often than not down in Bourbonnais and appeared to be brimming with confidence in the preseason opener at Houston, which is a very good sign for a passing offense that could be downright explosive if run efficiently.
Grossman is a free agent at the end of the season and knows all too well the pressure on his shoulders in 2007, but how he deals with it all just might be the deciding factor in the fate of this football team.
2. The jury is still out on Dvoracek
After missing all of 2006 on injured reserve with a foot problem, defensive tackle Dusty Dvoracek is stronger and leaner than ever thanks to all his work with strength and conditioning coordinator Rusty Jones. Head coach Lovie Smith spoke glowingly about Dvoracek and the progress he was making all offseason, but then GM Jerry Angelo struck the deal for Darwin Walker just a few days into training camp. Smith likes to rotate players along his defensive line in an effort to keep them fresh throughout a ballgame, however, Walker was apparently brought in to be the starter and not just to add depth.
Dvoracek plays with a mean streak and seems to enjoy the nasty nature of life in the trenches, but he has a tendency to jump offsides and needs to be a more disciplined player.
3. Benson absolutely, positively must stay healthy
While it's quite possible that Cedric Benson's straight-ahead running style is a better fit for this man-blocking scheme than the departed Thomas Jones ever was, that all becomes null and void of he can't suit up for 16 games. Jones may not have been as fast or as powerful as Benson, but he was incredibly durable and managed to stay productive despite a laundry list of minor ailments along the way. All Benson ever wanted was the be the featured back in this offense and get 20-25 carries a game to show what he can do, and that's exactly what he'll get this season after a two-year wait.
Adrian Peterson has never been asked to contribute this much on offense and rookie Garrett Wolfe missed a week of training camp with a bum hamstring, so the situation could be dire if Benson is forced to sit and watch for any substantial period of time.
4. Brown and Archuleta may need some help
The defense was never truly the same after safety Mike Brown was lost for the season yet again in Week 6, so having him back in the secondary is a huge shot in the arm. Adam Archuleta was one of the best safeties in football as a St. Louis Ram, but he was a stranger in a strange land as a Washington Redskin in 2006 and is very thankful to be back in a Cover 2 scheme. While both of them are fantastic against the run and know how to lay the lumber to helpless receivers over the middle, the Bears are now essentially starting two strong safeties and may be leaving themselves exposed to big plays in the passing game.
Brown does not have the quickness he once did and Archuleta has never been a very good defender in open space, so this combination could very well struggle handling like likes of Detroit's Roy Williams and Green Bay's Donald Driver down the field.
5. Berrian is the top target in the passing game
Bernard Berrian came to training camp a year ago with his sights set on becoming the much-needed secondary target opposite veteran Muhsin Muhammad, and he was able to do just that with a breakout performance. This season, Berrian looks bigger, stronger, and faster in every capacity and ready to unseat Muhammad as the primary weapon for Grossman in the passing game. While Muhammad is clearly on the back nine of his career and little more than a possession wideout these days, Berrian dominated at times in Bourbonnais and looks to be on the verge of his first 1,000-yard campaign in the NFL.
Grossman will have the ability to spread the ball around to a lot of playmakers in 2007, but there's no question that he looks for Berrian first when he really needs a completion.
For a look ahead at observations 6-10 in Part II of this series, Click Here.
|John Crist is the Editor in Chief of BearReport.com and a member of the Professional Football Writers of America. To read him every day, visit BearReport.com and become a Chicago Bears insider.|