BY TYLER GROSS
We are eight games into the Marc Trestman era in the Windy City, and at 5-3, the Bears have had their share of ups and downs. The offense has vastly improved, while the aging defense has been bitten by the injury bug. Injuries and lack of depth at specific positions can be used as a clear indicator as to which positions the Chicago Bears need to draft next May. Lets start with the offensive draft needs.
Roberto Garza is the lone returning starter from the 2012 offensive line, and while he has been an effective at points in his career, his age is beginning to show clearer. Two rookies, Kyle Long and Jordan Mills, have held down the right side of the line efficiently, and now it’s time to complete the offensive line remodeling and grab a center through the draft, possibly even an undrafted free agent.
Don’t be alarmed, I’m just as big a fan of the “Black Unicorn” as everybody else. But Trestman’s offense requires more than one tight end to catch passes. The Bears need a versatile tight end similar to Tyler Eifert; someone that can line up in tight or split out and become a matchup nightmare for the defensive backs. Martellus Bennett has been incredible for the Bears, but adding a tight end that can be somewhat of a Swiss-Army knife would make this offense special.
Jay Cutler will return from a groin tear this week against the Lions, and his performance from this point on will go a long way in the Bears’ decision to extend him, franchise him, or let him walk. No matter what happens, the Bears need to pick up a developmental quarterback in the draft. Spending a mid-round pick on a developmental quarterback will give Trestman options moving forward, and they may not have to pay the market price for Cutler if Trestman can find his guy in the draft. Josh McCown’s performance in Lambeau on Monday night is a testament to the fact that Trestman can work with any QB that is willing to learn.
Now let’s take a look at the draft needs of the Chicago defense. This unit has been decimated by injuries and its lack of depth has been exposed.
Season-ending injuries to Henry Melton and Nate Collins, along with a nagging turf toe injury to Stephen Paea have revealed the lack of depth on the interior of the defensive line. There are several strong prospects that fit the Bears 4-3 scheme in the college ranks that can be picked up via the draft. Players like Will Sutton (Arizona State), Dominique Easley (Florida), and Ra’Shede Hageman (Minnesota) would all be valuable pieces for this defensive line. The Bears should get Melton back for a bargain, as he was franchise-tagged this season and his market value will be significantly lower due to his injury. Collins will be back as well, but the Bears need depth at the DT position.
Major Wright and Chris Conte were serviceable starters at the safety positions when the Bears defensive line was healthy; the line created enough pressure to cover up their shortcomings. But with the depleted unit the Bears are putting out every Sunday, the safety play has been horrendous. Both have been caught out of position far too many times, and their lack of play-reading instincts has reared its ugly head this season. There will be several potential starters at the safety position available for Chicago through the draft.
Charles Tillman is getting old, and while Tim Jennings has been a solid CB, he is not the interception machine that he was in 2012. These two can be successful for maybe another season or two, but the Bears lack of depth at the corner position has been exposed, as well. An injury to Kelvin Hayden in the preseason placed Isaiah Frey at the nickelback position. Frey has been successful, especially for a player who spent the 2012 season on the practice squad. In the NFL, you can never enough true coverage cornerbacks and the Bears will be in a better position defensively going into the 2014 season if they add another cover corner through the draft.
The Bears offense has made up for the defense’s shortcomings, but the Bears can strengthen that defensive unit and help Mel Tucker next season by adding some young impact players.