Observations from Olivet, Part II

There's a difference between trying to make it to the Super Bowl and trying to make it BACK to the Super Bowl. The Bears had a memorable season in 2006, but they came up short of their ultimate goal down in Miami. This team is faster, deeper, and more experienced based on what we saw during training camp, so here is a top ten list of what BearReport.com took away from Bourbonnais.

6. This team has a ton of depth on both sides of the ball
Three quality defensive tackles (Tommie Harris, Darwin Walker, Dusty Dvoracek), three decorated defensive ends (Mark Anderson, Adewale Ogunleye, Alex Brown), a gifted fourth linebacker who can play all three positions (Jamar Williams), three solid safeties (Mike Brown, Adam Archuleta, Danieal Manning), three reliable cornerbacks (Charles Tillman, Nathan Vasher, Ricky Manning Jr.), three quarterbacks with significant starting experience (Rex Grossman, Brian Griese, Kyle Orton), a quintet of receivers that can do some damage (Bernard Berrian, Muhsin Muhammad, Mark Bradley, Rashied Davis, Devin Hester), a dependable backup at guard and tackle on the offensive line (Terrence Metcalf and John St. Clair, respectively), three tight ends with defined roles (Desmond Clark, Greg Olsen, John Gilmore) – there are very few holes on this squad right now.

If there is one position where Bears fans could be worried, it's at tailback since Cedric Benson has been known to get nicked up from time to time. However, Alex Brown, both Mannings, Williams and a few others would be starters on a lot of teams around the league. There will be some very good football players that don't even make the final 53-man roster because there simply is no room for them in Chicago.

7. Olsen has all the tools to be a difference-maker
The deeper we got into training camp, the more difficult it was to believe that rookie tight end Greg Olsen lasted until the 31st pick of the NFL Draft. There were questions about his ability and desire to be a good blocker, but the coaching staff has been pleasantly surprised with his performance in the trenches on top of his dazzling display as a pass-catcher. He has soft hands, runs good routes, and is noticeably faster than a few of the wide receivers currently on the roster.

Olsen is going to be on the field a lot – he lined up at several different positions in Bourbonnais – and has already become one of Grossman's favorite targets in the passing game.

8. Hester is going to be awfully fun to watch
Devin Hester is simply overflowing with natural talent as a football player, but he's never truly excelled at one particular position. Even as a collegian at Miami, he played cornerback, nickelback, receiver, and even fullback – all with somewhat marginal success. His ability on special teams has never been in question, as evidenced by the fact that he became a record-breaker on punts and kickoffs as a rookie and arguably the most dangerous player in the NFL with the football in his hands. The Bears moved him from corner to wideout during the offseason program, but nobody really knew what to expect from him. However, he looked like a natural catching the football and learned the nuances of the position seemingly overnight.

WR Devin Hester (Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Hester is not going to catch 50 balls or score a dozen touchdowns, but he's going to make some big plays this season and will scare the bejesus out of every enemy defensive coordinator.

9. Bazuin is way behind and may not contribute
GM Jerry Angelo has an impressive track record of finding talent in the draft, on the defensive side of the ball in particular, but second-round defensive end Dan Bazuin looks to be a wait-and-see prospect. The former Central Michigan Chippewa injured his left knee on the first day of mini camp, and he has been hampered ever since while missing a lot of practices down in Bourbonnais. Even when he has been getting reps, he hasn't made an impact and will likely not see the field very much behind Anderson, Ogunleye, and Brown this season.

Nobody's saying that Bazuin won't become a quality NFL player one of these days, but seventh-round cornerback Trumaine McBride – a pleasant surprise during training camp – is more likely to play a role on this defense as a rookie in 2007.

10. Expect the special teams to be special again
Kicker Robbie Gould led the NFC in scoring a year ago and was named All-Pro, and he looked every bit as accurate during training camp and showed even better leg strength. Punter Brad Maynard has been booming the ball all over the field since the day he arrived at Olivet Nazarene University, perhaps because he hit the weight room in the offseason for the first time in his 11-year career. We all know what Hester can do on both punts and kickoffs, and the coverage units are littered with proven veterans (Brendon Ayanbadejo, Adrian Peterson) and speedy youngsters (Jamar Williams, Kevin Payne).

The Texans had a couple of long returns in the preseason opener last weekend, but special teams coordinator Dave Toub maintains that his unit simply had an off night and will tighten things up come Week 1.

For a look back at observations 1-5 in Part I 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.

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