The Chicago Bears turned their offense around in 2013, but ultimately couldn’t get back into the playoffs thanks to a terrible defense. Chicago made an effort to shore up their defensive line and secondary in free agency, so they could be well on their way to a quick turn around if their offense continues to play at a high level.
Still, even with the sound additions, the Bears need young talent at some very key spots. Thinking long-term should inevitably help them in 2014, as well. With that, let’s take a look at the Bears’ main draft needs heading into the 2014 NFL Draft:
Offensive needs: OL, Backup QB, TE
The Bears offense may not have glaring issues, but that isn’t to say it is without holes. Chicago nearly made the playoffs last year despite losing a chunk of Jay Cutler’s season. Josh McCown did more than enough to fill the void, but he’s moved on to Tampa Bay. It’s unlikely that Carson Palmer’s brother (Jordan Palmer) would be able to take the reigns so smoothly. The Bears could be in the market for a QB over the weekend.
The Marshall-Jeffery duo was the game’s most intimidating in 2013. The addition of Josh Morgan provides another target, but there isn’t much beyond him, or beyond 2014 if Marshall leaves after this season. With so many talented receivers in this draft, the Bears could get a good one later in the draft, but it wouldn’t be outrageous if they took one of the best with the 14th pick.
After the Orlando Pace misstep, the Bears did a tremendous job shoring up the offensive line the past few seasons. They’re finally at a spot where keeping Cutler healthy is more about him fending off nagging injuries than not getting crushed by the opposition. There isn’t a team in the league, though, that doesn’t want more depth on the o-line. The 14th pick is a great place to snag a stud that drops, and that might just be an offensive lineman like Jake Matthews or Taylor Lewan. That said, if the Bears intend to go best available, they could certainly take a look at the best TE in the draft, Eric Ebron, as well.
Matt Forte remains one of the best all-around running backs in the game, but he’s seen a lot of action over the last 5 years. He still has a couple years left in Chicago, but the Bears could be looking to add a backup later in the draft to hedge some of Forte’s playing time, while grooming him for a future starting role. Michael Bush is gone, too, furthering the need for some depth in the offensiven backfield. A middle to late round pick should do the trick.
Defensive needs: DT, CB, LB, S
In a Chicago role reversal, the 2014 Bears offense held the defense’s head above water. The Bears are suffering from the result of constantly trying to plug offensive holes while the defense does the work. Eventually the defense gets old and needs to be replaced. Last year, they lacked push, were inconsistent, had coverage breakdowns and allowed too many big plays. Losing a veteran presence like Brian Urlacher certainly didn’t help, while an injury to defensive tackle Henry Melton decimated their interior play on the defensive line.
Julius Peppers is gone, but with the signings of Jared Allen and Lamarr Houston, DE shouldn’t be an issue. The middle of the defensive line is still lacking. If they don’t select Aaron Donald or Timmy Jernigan in the first round, They should be looking at guys like Dominique Easley or Shamar Stephen moving forward in round two or three.
The Bears may never be able to completely replace Brian Urlacher in the middle, but there’s certainly a hole at linebacker, a position that has been historically strong throughout the years in Chicago. C.J. Mosley will likely be available in the first round, but there is a fairly significant drop-off after he’s gone. Guys like Carl Bradford and Chris Borland could still be adequate linebacker additions in round two, however.
The Bears’ secondary is horrid. How fun would it be to watch the Bears receivers face off against the Bears secondary for 16 games each year? Chicago needs a player that’s ready to step in and make a difference immediately, so if safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix is available, I expect the Bears to take him. If not, Calvin Pryor is a solid option, as well.
The Bears have several needs, but picking at 14, they should have plenty of options. Whichever direction they choose to go, though, the angry Friday callers on Chicago sports radio should be pure, comedy gold.
*Photo Credit – Mike Morbeck.