In 2009 Bears fans had reason to talk during the pre-season, SI's Peter King had the Bears rated as the second best team in the NFL and playing the Patriots in the Super Bowl.
A year later King has done a complete 180 as far as his opinion of the 2010 Chicago Bears are concerned. King has the Bears rated in 25th place in the NFL one spot behind the Detroit Lions, meaning the Bears are a last place team.
More reason for Bears fans to be angry, King has the Packers as his pre-season number one team in the entire NFL.
Okay perhaps there isn't any real reason to be angry, King himself even admits that pre-season picks aren't his strong suit because at the beginning of the column he starts off with this tidbit:
So before I go out this morning, let me embarrass myself by ranking the NFL one through 32. That's not being overly modest -- just realistic. I stink at this. In fact, my recommendation if you really want to find out what's going to happen in the NFL this year is to take a bye on this column. Last year, I really distinguished myself. Picked the Bears to make the Super Bowl. Picked the Saints 24th in the league, which was a point of some contention all season, right up to the moment 30 minutes after the Saints won the Super Bowl and Sean Payton walked up to his podium to meet the press after the game, saw me, and said: "Not bad for number 24.''
Here's King pre-season ratings click here if you want or ignore it simply based on the fact that King may be a self admitted idiot.
So while most Bears fans will laugh this off as King being an idiot, for the moment let's look at the facts surrounding the 2010 Chicago Bears and reasons why King might be right.
Issue number one the offensive line, Orlando Pace is gone, and Frank Omiyale has been moved out to right tackle, problem solved right?
Wrong, because the left guard spot is still a huge question mark until further notice. Josh Beekman seems like the odds on favorite to win the starting LG spot he held down in 2008, but when he started in 2009 he was as awful or worse than Frank Omiyale was at LG in 2009. Even with Kevin Shaffer competing for the starting LG spot I don't suspect anyone will beat out Beekman, nor do I believe that Shaffer is any sort of permanent fixture at the LG spot. Shaffer is at the LG spot right now out of pure necessity of numbers, Olin Kreutz isn't working out at the moment because he's recovering from off-season surgery and the Bears would prefer to have a veteran at LG instead of the cast of Lance Louis and Johan Asiata running with the first team right now.
I suspect Louis will make a push at the LG spot, but in the end I have a feeling Beekman will wind up the starter and that doesn't exactly bode well for the O-Line. I like Beekman don't get me wrong but he's not a good guard and he's not a strong body mover at the POA, worse yet pass protection is not Beekman's strong suit meaning there will be more pressure on Chris Williams.
At center Olin Kreutz is a year older, and while he's been the best performer on the offensive line year in and year out at some point his production is going to plummet and the entire success of the O-Line will falter as a result. I don't know at what point in time Kreutz will reach the point of no return, but at some point it will happen and when it does Bears fans will know it's time for him to hang them up. I don't know when it's going to happen, when Kreutz will reach that point of no return, but the fact of the matter is he's much closer to reaching that point of no return than he is at returning to dominant form. There in lies the major problem, Kreutz is only going to get worse and likely won't get better.
Roberto Garza is another average offensive guard on the right side, and Garza like Kreutz is not going to get any better. The best you can hope for is that Garza doesn't get any worse because any drop off in consistency will only hamper the problems on the O-Line.
The major problem with your 2010 Chicago Bears lies with the offensive line, end of debate and discussion. Jerry Angelo's ignorance in addressing the needs of the offensive line is flat out mind boggling and it's the reason he'll be fired at the end of this season. The O-Line is one of the worst in football and is on the verge of being the worst O-Line in football regardless of what hope we have with Mike Tice the new coach of the hogs.
Now outside of the offensive line we come to the secondary and the problems out there, Charles Tillman is another player that has hit the wall and has begun to decline in production and consistency. Tillman is the best player the Bears the Bears have in the secondary, that is all that needs to be said. Tillman is not a Pro Bowl corner and he's not going to be a Pro Bowl corner and the major concern is that he needs to stay healthy. An issue that Tillman has been dealing with for quite some time.
The only real positive is that Angelo hasn't ignored the secondary like he has ignored the offensive line, there will likely be two new starters at safety with Chris Harris and Major Wright and there is added depth free agent signee Tim Jennings. Jennings it is hoped will just help to improve the depth and consistency of the secondary. If he does this the unit should be better off than last year, assuming Tillman's production doesn't fall off too far.
The wild card here in Zach Bowman, and the fact that we don't know if he's reached the pinnacle of his career or ability. Will Bowman be better in 2010 and just how much better will Bowman be? The answer needs to be Bowman needs to step up and be the best player in the secondary, period. Bowman needs to take this year, his second as a full time starter and explode on to the NFL scene.
I however have doubts that Bowman is that type of player, a player that can be the best player in the secondary. Bowman doesn't have to be a Pro Bowl corner, he merely needs to be the best CB in the NFC North.
Those are the two major aspects of this team that are likely to hold the Bears back in 2010, the offensive line and the secondary. Even with the expectation of an improved pass rush the secondary will likely be the achilles of the defense that may hard to overcome in the pass happy NFC North.