2012 NFL season preview: Chicago Bears

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In the years since the Chicago Bears faced off against the Indianapolis Colts in Super Bowl XLI, the team has looked like a team with just enough talent to compete but not enough to put it all together. They’ve made the playoffs just once in the last five seasons and have finished with winning records in just two. 2011 looked like it would be a winning year after a 7-3 start, but timing is everything and some of the Bears’ key players suffered injuries towards the end of the season. Quarterback Jay Cutler broke his thumb and missed the last six weeks, while star running back Matt Forte missed the final four weeks with a knee injury. On top of this, wide receiver Johnny Knox also missed time. These injuries to key players turned that 7-3 start into an 8-8 finish.

Injuries heal, though, and so do the Bears. The offseason has given the players enough time to lick their wounds and make it back to 100 percent. Jay Cutler is lining up under center once again, and Matt Forte – entering the first year of a new four-year, $32 million deal – is also poised to enter the season with a new burst of energy.

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Of course, having their starters healthy now doesn’t guarantee that they will remain like that throughout the season. Cutler has looked fragile throughout many of his seven seasons in the league, and the offensive line is going to have to do a better job of protecting him this year. If opposing defenses are able to reach Cutler frequently, he’s going to struggle and likely miss time.

Even if Cutler does miss time, the Bears are much better prepared for such a scenario than they were last year. While last season saw the team forced to rely on reserve Caleb Hanie after Cutler’s injury, new general manager Phil Emery used this offseason to sign former Raiders quarterback Jason Campbell. Campbell was solid in Oakland prior to getting injured and losing his job to Carson Palmer. With Campbell as the second in line behind Jay Cutler, the Bears have a decent insurance policy at quarterback.

That same approach of mitigating risk also appears to have been extended to the running back position. Emery also signed Michael Bush, another former Raider who put up solid performances in Oakland. Bush brings a bruising element to the running back position, and he’ll be an excellent fill-in for when Forte needs to come out for some snaps.  Read More…

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