No Sneak Peek at Next Season?

Outside of first-round tight end Greg Olsen, the Chicago Bears didn't get very much out of their 2007 draft class. However, that had more to do with rookies not being given consistent playing time as opposed to them not performing well. Shouldn't Lovie Smith start planning for 2008 right now?

If Lovie Smith continues to insist on playing only the players he thinks give the Bears the best chance to win, even in the meaningless season finale against the Saints at Soldier Field on Sunday, at least that will create something to look forward to next July in Bourbonnais. And several things to look forward to not seeing.

But first, in the spirit of Festivus, the airing of the grievances: It defies explanation why players like wide receiver Mike Hass and guard Josh Beekman haven't and probably won't get a chance to perform this season for a team that has precious few irreplaceable players.

In case anyone's forgotten in the two years that Hass has languished on the sidelines, he left Oregon State with 3,924 receiving yards, 11th most in NCAA Division I-A history. He was the first Pac-10 player with over 1,000 receiving yards in three seasons. But, even after two years in the Bears system – last year on the practice squad and this year as a game-day inactive 14 times out of 15 – he still can't get a chance.

He's the guy who made news during this year's training camp when he dropped a pass. It was news because none of the first 100 or so throws within his reach touched the ground. Apparently, coaches believe Hass is good enough to keep around for two years but not good enough to put up the kind of production that Mark Bradley did in 15 games – five catches for 52 yards. The Bears offense certainly couldn't have achieved its "lofty" status without that average of 3.5 receiving yards per game from Bradley.

And, if Beekman was good enough for the Bears to spend a fourth-round pick on, why couldn't he start even one game ahead of Terrence Metcalf, who played himself out of the lineup in five games? Or at least Beekman could play a couple series in relief of John St. Clair, a backup tackle for most of the past five years.

But enough about this season.

TE Greg Olsen
M. Spencer Green/AP Images

Next season, hopefully the Bears will be starting more offensive linemen who aren't on the verge of retirement and can either pass protect or run block proficiently. That way, even with an average running back and quarterback, the offense can still be productive. Without an improved offensive line, even excellent skill-position players won't enjoy much success. With an effective offensive line, imagine how much of an impact talented young players like tight end Greg Olsen and wide receiver Devin Hester can make. They both showed plenty of big-play potential without the benefit of a run game or decent protection for the quarterback.

Defensively, the hope is that Smith and his coaching staff finally realize they made a mistake giving Alex Brown's job at right end to Mark Anderson. It does not seem like a bad idea to return Anderson to the role of pass-rush specialist that he played so well as a rookie in 2006 when he collected a dozen sacks. A return to complete health by linemen Dusty Dvoracek, Tommie Harris and Anthony Adams would make Brown, Anderson and Adewale Ogunleye even more dangerous as pass rushers.

It's probably too much to hope for a healthy Mike Brown, but that might be the most welcome development in the history of Bears football since it would fix the safety situation without having to spend draft picks or money in free agency.

As far as addition by subtraction, let someone else overpay for Lance Briggs, who will find out soon enough that he isn't nearly the same player without Brian Urlacher next to him. And let some other team get duped into paying Darwin Walker not to show up. The $5.2 million roster bonus he's due in March would be better spent on players who suit up every week, even when they aren't 100 percent.

News & Notes

  • QB Kyle Orton has committed just one turnover in his two starts, and he's been sacked just once.
  • RB Adrian Peterson's 3.4-yard average per carry last week was his best in the past seven games, but he's second on the team with 50 catches.
  • TE Desmond Clark caught his fourth TD pass last week, tied for first on the team. He's second on the Bears with 545 receiving yards and third with 44 receptions but has just six catches in the past three games for 55 yards.
  • WR Bernard Berrian needs 80 yards for his first 1,000-yard season, but he's had just three catches for 37 yards in the last two games with Orton at quarterback.
  • WR Muhsin Muhammad was shut out last week and remains 95 yards short of 10,000 for his career. His 37 catches represent his lowest output in 10 years.
  • LB Brian Urlacher's 85-yard interception return for a TD Sunday was the first of his career, and it was his third pick in the past four games. He has four interceptions this season, a personal best.
  • DE Mark Anderson was placed on injured reserve. He had one sack in his final 10 games after getting four sacks in his first four games.
  • K Robbie Gould is 12-for-13 on FG attempts at Soldier Field. He was 15 of 16 last season (93.8 percent), tying Paul Edinger's franchise record for accuracy.
  • TE Greg Olsen is fifth on the team with 37 catches and 374 yards, but he has just nine catches in the past five games for 76 yards.
  • RB Garrett Wolfe has all eight of his receptions this season in the past three games for 85 yards.

  • Could Cedric Benson's reign in the backfield be over?
  • Same problems on offense despite coordinator carousel
  • A look back at the Fog Bowl against Buddy Ryan's Eagles
  • Remembering legendary Hall-of-Famer George Musso
  • Getting to know rookie cornerback Corey Graham
  • All of that plus much more in the February issue of ...

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