Sports Note of the Day
I'm a Bears fan (shut up!), so much so that I subscribe to the NFL Sunday Ticket in order to watch the horror shows that are their games.
However, I have had some cause these past few weeks to gain some optimism for our prospects next year. That cause is the Bears' defense... they have really turned a corner (and not an eternal Dubya Corner) such that they are keeping a rather anemic offense in ball games, or, as in last week against the Titans, outright winning ball games for them. Check out some of these quotes courtesy of Dr. Z's column:
Following the events I described, Tennessee LB Keith Bulluck had this to say: "I'm dumbfounded. We gave up three points and we're on the losing end of it." Cornerback Samari Rolle put it even better: "Their offense just gives its defense a breather by running on the field."
A lot of that is a slam on the offense, but it also says a lot about their defense. They have turned the D-line, which was previously a big weakness, into what is emerging as a strong point: they have a great rotation which keeps folks fresh, and a lot of upside in their younger players (Alex Brown, Tommy Harris, Michael Haynes), a proven player in Ogunleye, and some hungry no-names like Tank Johnson. Their linebacking core is strong with All-Pro Urlacher and rising star Lance Briggs, and their beat-up secondary is holding... if they didn't have so many injuries back there, they would be pretty strong as well (Mike Brown, Charles Tillman). Special teams ain't too bad either... Azumah and McQuarters are very solid if unspectacular return men, Edinger's screwy kicking style works pretty well, coverage is solid, and they have been pretty successful with trick plays (not that trick plays is a great standard, but it seems to me that it would be indicative of good coaching)
So what about the offense? Yeah, it sucks now, and it certainly doesn't have as much to be hopeful for as the defense, but there are also some positives to note. The line is starting to solidify with Tait and Kreutz leading the way, and is also finally getting healthy as well (Mark Columbo is finally active after about 2 years). Thomas Jones has been a great back thus far, and if not for his injuries he would be one of the biggest fantasy finds this year. (The A-Train has also shown some resurgence of late, but I still think he is one of the most over-rated players in the league.)
Of course, the big concerns surround the WR core and the QB position. Grossman is young and needed time under center (especially to hone his decision-making)... plus, how healthy will he be next year? I think the Bears really need to bring in an old hand who has little chance of starting a QB controversy to help mentor Grossman (why Jonathan Quinn is still drawing a paycheck is beyond me).
The WR core is perhaps the bigger issue... after trading Booker to Miami for Ogunleye (which I approve of) the Bears don't have much left. David Terrell should be cut or traded; he's a punk whose talent will never fully be harnessed, and he drops way too many easy passes. Justin Gage has the body and skills, but apparently no drive or knowledge; he has been a huge disappointment this year. Bobby Wade is quickly developing into a fan favorite with his all-out gutsy and intelligent play, but he's never going to be The Man. Bernard Berrian is just a speedster and not much else.
What to do? I don't know... I would need to check to see who is going to be a free agent next year. I don't think the draft would be the best way to address this; they already have enough youth as it is, and so I think they need to bring in some proven WR (not necessarily a stud) to help with production and the development of Wade while others (Gage, draft picks) get more time to learn.
Anyway, the main point of this post is that my inherent sports optimism from being a Cubs fan (shut up!) is creeping into football, and I see some good things coming down the road.