John Crist: Once again the quarterback situation is an absolute mess in the Windy City, as the shadow cast by the legend of Sid Luckman continues to loom larger every year. The organization still seems to prefer Rex Grossman even though his gunslinger style isn't ideally suited for a roster built around tough defense and terrific special teams, while Kyle Orton won't ever single-handedly lose a game for you – he'll never single-handedly win one, either. If you were calling the shots at Halas Hall, who would get the nod under center?
Chris Steuber: It's unfortunate that Grossman and Orton are the only options in Chicago. They've already tried those experiments, and they failed. Grossman has the ability to take a team on a four- or five-game winning streak, appear confident, post great numbers and be considered as a player on the rise. But he can also be a deterrent and take a promising start and ruin it by not reading defenses correctly, locking in on just one receiver and throwing lollipops to the opposition that rival any J.V. quarterback in the country.
So I guess my answer, if I had to choose between the two, would be Orton. With Orton, I know what I'm going to get: A quarterback who doesn't possess elite talent, but is serviceable and smart enough not to make too many mistakes that will be detrimental to the team. He can run an offense, lead by example and won't turn the ball over in crucial situations. He's better than Grossman at game management and has more control in the huddle. I think when Orton is in the game, the Bears are more confident in their ability to win.
JC's Take: While I agree with most everything here, I still believe Grossman will win the job because he's always been the golden boy and the franchise has more invested in him – financially and emotionally.
JC: The Cedric Benson era is officially kaput in Chicago, and his legacy is now permanently cemented next to similar first-round busts like Rashaan Salaam and Curtis Enis. The coaching staff has raved about rookie Matt Forte since he was drafted in the second round, but can he come in right away and produce 1,100-1,300 yards and double-digit touchdowns? And if you could bring in a free agent running back to add a little depth at the position, who might be the best fit for Ron Turner's offense?
CS: I think Forte has the ability to rush for over 1,000 yards this season because he's going to get plenty of carries. He's a very talented player who has great size, speed, hands and toughness. A key to Forte's success this season will be the play of the offensive line. If the O-Line improves and gives Forte a seam to run through, I think you will see a very explosive back in Chicago.
As far as the free agents on the market and who fit well in the Bears offense, I think it's best to stay status quo and go into the season with Forte as the starter plus Adrian Peterson and Garrett Wolfe as the backups. I feel that Forte and Wolfe have great potential together and could cause problems for the opposition. Wolfe is a dynamic player who lacks size, but as a third-down specialist he could be dangerous.
JC's Take: I'm also of the opinion that Wolfe could be quite an effective change-of-pace option for a series here and there, although he didn't get much of a chance last year.
JC: The Bears have to replace both of their starting wide receivers from a year ago, as Bernard Berrian signed with the enemy Vikings in free agency and Muhsin Muhammad was released. Marty Booker and Brandon Lloyd are the most experienced wideouts currently on the roster and have both started in the past, but how much of a dropoff do you see from Berrian and Muhammad to Booker and Lloyd? Lovie Smith seems to think Devin Hester can be a primary target in this league – he's crazy, right?
CS: Well, obviously there is going to be a drop-off at the receiver position for the Bears. Berrian was a tremendous vertical threat for the Bears, and even though Lloyd flashed that ability early in his career, he was a major disappointment in Washington. Booker isn't the same player he used to be, and nobody will ever confuse him for a vertical threat, but I think his production this season will be comparable to what Muhammad provided to the Bears last season.
I like Hester, but to think that he could be a No. 1 receiver in the NFL is a little farfetched. Hester is a great talent and very explosive, but you're talking about a guy who was moved from position to position in college because he couldn't comprehend the playbook, and he has yet to grasp the Bears offense. I think Hester is just a situational vertical threat who can stretch a defense and allow other players on offense to make plays.
The wildcard for the Bears at wideout is third-round pick Earl Bennett. Bennett has an opportunity to make an immediate impact and compete for a starting job in training camp. He has good speed, sure hands and tremendous upside. I expect him to be a major contributor this season.
JC's Take: Bennett will certainly get an opportunity to break into the rotation, but I don't see him in the mix for a starting job just yet.
JC: Injuries totally decimated this defense a year ago, but now it appears former Pro Bowlers like Tommie Harris, Nathan Vasher, and Mike Brown are all completely healthy. Can the Monsters of the Midway be just as dominant defensively as they were during the first half of 2006 simply by staying on the field? And since this offense isn't going to be anything special based on what we saw during the offseason program, can Brian Urlacher and Co. carry this team back to the playoffs?
CS: That's an interesting question, and a lot will depend on the health of Urlacher and the rest of the defense. Urlacher is the leader of that defense, and it's known that his back isn't 100 percent. The Bears still have an explosive defense that can decide the outcome of a game, but injuries will always be a concern. The Bears have the potential to return to their 2006 form, but it seems like every year a key player on defense goes down with a disastrous injury that affects the entire team.
JC's Take: Even Urlacher will tell you, by the way, that Brown is the leader of the defense and not him.
JC: Jerry Angelo was praised for his draft picks on Day 1, although he rolled the dice a few times on Day 2 and consequently brought down the overall grade of his class in a lot of the experts' eyes. Give us one second-day selection he made that you really like and believe can have an immediate impact this season. Also, which one of the five seventh-rounders looks like a keeper and might be a contributor in a year or two once he gets a little extra seasoning?
CS: A second-day selection that I really like is Kellen Davis, but he won't make an immediate impact this season because of Greg Olsen. So since Davis won't make an impact, one player who really intrigues me and has a chance to see some action this season is Zack Bowman. If he didn't have the injuries he endured at Nebraska, would have been a first-round choice. Bowman is a premier talent when healthy and, just like Vasher was, will be a Day-2 steal.
Of the five seventh-round picks, I believe Kirk Barton is the most realistic selection to be a keeper. He's another guy who was bothered by injuries in college, but when healthy he's a very good offensive lineman with the potential to be a starter at right tackle. He's a solid player to keep on the roster and develop as the eventual replacement for John Tait.
JC's Take: Bowman will have a chance right away as a special-teams contributor, and his natural athletic ability was apparent the first time I saw him practice.
John Crist is the Publisher of Bear Report. Chris Steuber is the NFL Draft Analyst for Scout.com.
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