2007 Review: The Lions got off to a hot start in winning six of their first eight games but endured a miserable six-game losing streak in the second half of the season, ultimately finishing 7-9 and out of the playoffs. Detroit ranked 19th in the NFL in total offense (31st in rushing, ninth in passing) and 32nd in total defense (23rd against the run, 31st against the pass).
Offensively Speaking: Mike Martz is out and Jim Colletto is in as the team's offensive coordinator, so look for a much different philosophy this coming season. A former offensive line coach, Colletto has more of a smashmouth approach and wants to run the football, while Martz has been heavily criticized throughout the years for ignoring the running game at times and not protecting the quarterback well enough with his blocking packages. Just ask Jon Kitna, who has thrown for a whopping 8,276 yards during his two years in the Motor City but also been sacked 114 times.
The running back position is in a state of flux, as former first-round pick Kevin Jones was released because he just couldn't stay healthy. Tatum Bell is currently atop the depth chart, although rookie Kevin Smith from Central Florida should challenge for playing time right away. The receiving corps is deep and talented, with a pair of physical specimens – Roy Williams and Calvin Johnson – in the starting lineup and two feisty possession targets – Shaun McDonald and Mike Furrey – also seeing the field a lot. The offensive line, however, needs an immediate makeover. Drafting tackle Gosder Cherilus from Boston College should help, although reaching for him at No. 17 overall was heavily criticized by experts.
Defensively Speaking: Aside from speedy linebacker Ernie Sims, the defense lacks playmakers and will now have to get the job done without tackle Shaun Rogers – he was traded to Cleveland during the offseason. The secondary has given up a ton of yards through the air the last two years, although getting cornerback Leigh Bodden from the Browns upgrades the starting spot vacated by the repeatedly disappointing Fernando Bryant. Putting pressure on the passer is also a problem, as the projected starting quartet on the D-line combined for only 14.5 sacks in 2007.
RB Cedric Benson
Nam Y. Huh/AP Images
General manager Matt Millen did focus heavily on the defensive side of the ball in the draft, as both tackle Andre Fluellen from Florida State and end Cliff Avril from Purdue could turn out to be third-round bargains. But on the other side of the ledger, Colorado linebacker Jordon Dizon was not worthy of a pick midway through Round 2.
Outsider's Perspective: "I really don't see what the Bears did to improve themselves on offense in the offseason, although Chris Williams should help the line right away. Cedric Benson proved last year that he isn't a primary back in this league, so I'd expect to see rookie Matt Forte, who the Lions really liked heading into the draft, take over in the starting lineup when it's all said and done. If they're planning on Marty Booker and Brandon Lloyd to replace Bernard Berrian and Muhsin Muhammad at wideout, they're crazy.
"On the other side of the ball, they should be pretty good again assuming they can get healthy. We know what Tommie Harris and Brian Urlacher and Nathan Vasher and guys like that can do when running at full steam, although hoping Mike Brown will be back at full strength is just irresponsible considering his long injury history. I see a Bears team that is closer to last season's 7-9 record than the 13-3 mark of the year before." – Nate Caminata, RoarReport.com
2008 Preview: Kitna put up almost identical numbers in `07 as he did in `06, but it remains to be seen how effective he can be at nearly 36 years of age not playing in Martz's QB-friendly system – at least he won't, presumably, get sacked as much. Bell was in the doghouse for most of last season, so look for Smith, who led the nation in rushing with 2,567 yards, to emerge as the featured back sooner than later. Williams and Johnson will make their share of big plays against any secondary, although they might have to do the majority of their damage while playing from behind because the defense looks to be porous once again.
John Crist is the Publisher of Bear Report and a member of the Professional Football Writers of America. To read him every day, visit BearReport.com and become a Chicago Bears insider.