Since the Bears have their hands full trying to fill vacancies at both offensive and defensive coordinator, coach Lovie Smith and general manager Jerry Angelo will skip this week's Senior Bowl activities in Mobile.
However, coming off a disappointing 7-9 campaign, and with Smith facing win-or-else expectations in 2010, the Bears need to have a successful NFL Draft this April and find some immediate contributors out of their next rookie class. That may be more difficult to do than in previous years, as the Jay Cutler and Gaines Adams trades have left them without a first or second rounder, although their two top rookies from a year ago – receiver Johnny Knox and safety Al Afalava – were taken in Rounds 5 and 6, respectively. As of right now, Angelo's initial selection will be No. 75 overall in the third round.
On the offensive side of the ball, the Bears are primarily looking for both guards and tackles along the line, with lesser needs being a big wideout and a power back.
While free-agent addition Frank Omiyale started to play better at left guard as the schedule wore on, and right guard Roberto Garza was his usual steady self, neither can even be considered an above-average player in the league. The primary backup is Josh Beekman, who started 16 games at left guard in 2008 before Omiyale's arrival, but his future may be at center since he's a bit undersized and the Bears prefer bigger blockers in their man-on-man scheme. Two guards worth considering in the third or fourth round are John Jerry of Mississippi and Mitch Petrus of Arkansas.
After Orlando Pace was taken out of the lineup due to an injury, former first-round pick Chris Williams took over for the future Hall of Famer at left tackle and did a pretty good job overall. Pace's ouster also opened the door for Kevin Shaffer at right tackle, and he proved to be a better fit there than Williams had been because he's more of a mauler and Williams is more of a technician. If the Bears are looking for a youngster to bring along and perhaps be ready to start in 2011, LSU's Ciron Black and Notre Dame's Sam Young also have the look of third or fourth rounders.
Chicago's receiving corps is young and improving, so adding another draft pick might not make much sense, but Cutler could definitely use a big target in the red zone. At 6-4 and 215 pounds, Danario Alexander of Missouri is being given a third-round grade currently after a monster final season with the Tigers: 113 catches for 1,781 yards and 14 touchdowns.
With Kevin Jones lost to injured reserve in the preseason finale, the Bears didn't have a between-the-tackles banger to spell Matt Forte and pick up those tough yards in short-yardage situations. Oregon's LeGarrette Blount has a long way to go from a public-relations standpoint after sucker-punching a Boise State player in the opener and essentially losing his senior year to the subsequent suspension, but he did all the right things following the heat-of-the-moment incident and brings some wallop behind his 6-2, 240-pound frame.
As for the defense, Chicago needs a big-time pass rusher off the edge more than anything, with a pure free safety and depth at tackle a little further down the list.
Alex Brown and Adewale Ogunleye are dependable veterans and play both the run and pass equally well, but unless the Bears can get more sacks up front, Smith's Cover-2 system will continue to disappoint. The tragic death of Adams this offseason makes the depth chart thinner, with Ogunleye likely to depart in free agency and Mark Anderson also ready to test the open waters – albeit it in a restricted capacity. C.J. Wilson of East Carolina has the build teams look for in a 4-3 end at 6-4 and 273 pounds, while Austen Lane of Murray State is an intriguing small-school prospect at 6-6 and 258.
Another position crucial in the Cover 2 but presently void of adequate talent is free safety, where Danieal Manning has been given four years to figure it out but is yet to do so. Strong safety-types like the aforementioned Afalava and Kevin Payne simply don't have the coverage skills necessary to succeed there, and since Angelo has always said you can find quality safeties late in the draft, it's time for him to find one. Notre Dame's Kyle McCarthy turned into a playmaker his last year in South Bend, while Maryland's Terrell Skinner is a late-round consideration with upside.
The entire offseason could swing one way or another based on what the Bears decide to do with Tommie Harris, who has a $2.5 million roster bonus due in June. Should Chicago decide to cut ties with the up-and-down former Pro Bowler, Tyson Alualu of Cal could be a quality three-technique tackle one day.
Smith and Angelo may be stuck back at Halas Hall picking up the pieces of their coordinator search, but this week's activity in Mobile is no less important and could go a long way in determining their team's success or failure in 2010.
Be sure to visit BearReport.com each and every day this week, as we will have the very latest from Mobile with regard to the Monsters of the Midway.
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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.
No Smith, Angelo, but Mobile a Must
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