The Bears didn't answer very many of the myriad questions they had entering the offseason, most of them on the offensive side. The one exception was at running back, where the featured role now belongs to rookie Matt Forte with the release of Cedric Benson, who was arrested twice within five weeks on alcohol-related charges.
The wide receiver position will have a new look, as veterans Marty Booker and Brandon Lloyd have been added to fill the void left by the release of Muhsin Muhammad and the free-agency loss of Bernard Berrian. They were the team's top two receivers the past two seasons, and while Booker still appears to have some value left, Lloyd has been a disappointment in his unspectacular NFL career.
The wild card at wide receiver is Devin Hester, who is being given a much greater role in the passing game as his conversion from cornerback continues. Hester was a focal point of offseason passing plays, and he has shown the potential to be an impact player this season – even if he isn't a starter. The Bears also added a wideout in the draft, taking Earl Bennett in the third round.
OT Chris Williams
Warren Wimmer Photography
Any improvement on an offensive line that was a major disappointment last season will hinge on the ability of first-round pick Chris Williams to step in as the opening-day starter at left tackle. Steady veteran John Tait has already been switched from left tackle to right tackle where he should be an upgrade over Fred Miller, who got old in a hurry last season. Center Olin Kreutz is still a Pro Bowl-caliber player and right guard Roberto Garza works well within the unit, but left guard remains a question mark. That spot could be filled by John St. Clair, who is currently keeping the left tackle spot warm until Williams takes over, which the Bears hope will be early in training camp.
Defensively, the Bears locked up three-time Pro Bowl weak-side linebacker Lance Briggs to a six-year, $36 million deal, but four-time All-Pro middle linebacker Brian Urlacher remains unhappy with his current $56.65 million contract, which has four years remaining. If they can keep Urlacher happy – most of the key players from the 2006 Super Bowl defense are still playing at a high level – they just need to stay healthier than they did last season.
Rookie to watch
Running back Matt Forte: With Benson gone, Forte has to be the go-to guy since the only runners behind him are journeyman veteran Adrian Peterson and tiny Garrett Wolfe, who is essentially a situational player.
Safety Mike Brown: A major reason for the Bears' defensive demise last season can be traced to the season-ending torn ACL suffered by their former Pro Bowl safety. Brown has looked like his old self during offseason work, which means he's always in the right place and usually around the ball. But Brown has suffered serious injuries in each of the past four seasons, missing 43 games, so the Bears are holding their collective breath that he can play a full season.
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