So I thought it would be appropriate to write up some kind of mid-year post at the Bears’ bye week, then to celebrate the event I may take Friday off from the blog. That will mean I’ll only have 99 things to do tomorrow rather than 100.
I’m not going to give out the Bears Blog midseason grades, player-by-player. The “real” media that actually get paid to do that for a career can go ahead with that.
What I’m going to do today is talk a little about the biggest surprises of the 2008 season, most of which won’t be Earth-shattering to any of you readers. But the reason I’d like to do it is to answer in some way the first criticism I received yesterday for my season predictions I made back in August. I have to mention that in addition to writing that what I saw from the Bears in the offseason and midseason convinced me they would finish the year 7-9, I also mentioned:
1. Predictions are a total crapshoot. I had never made a season prediction, game-by-game, on any of my sites before for this very reason. If I’m overoptimistic as a fan and the team finishes far short of how I write, I’ll be called an idiot homer. If they far surpass my predictions, as is happening this year, I get called a rotten, moronic Packer fan that doesn’t know anything about football because he didn’t predict a 16-0 finish for the Bears. But I did it this year because in order to keep making the 7 cents per day I make on this site, I have to write about things that will get indexed and will bring traffic, good and bad.
2. I certainly mentioned that I hoped I was WRONG and the Bears would finish far better than the 7-9 I predicted. I would hope I’d get the benefit of the doubt on this.
3. In predicting a 7-9 finish I was much more generous that some of the “real” media, who predicted anywhere from a 4-12 to 6-10 record.
There was nothing in the way the Bears played in the preseason, what I heard coming out of Bourbonnais, or the moves they made in the offseason to think the team would finish any better than 7-9. It seems that there was some validity to the players complaining that the preseason doesn’t show anything–I will give them that this year.
Here are the surprise areas this season that have been responsible for the respectible start to the 2008 season:
The Bears currently rank 13th in overall offense, 11th in passing and 19th in rushing. Middle of the pack. But when you consider the Bears have ranked in the bottom 10 in the league in 12 of the last 15 seasons, often close to the very bottom of the league, the play of the offense this year is impressive.
I have always liked Kyle Orton. As I mentioned the other day, I was not a member of his bashers in 2005 that thought he had nothing to do with Lovie Smith’s first playoff run. But I will admit, when Orton was named the starter over Rex Grossman in August of 2008, I rolled my eyes. I figured that Orton would deliver a slightly less aggrevating overall performance, with a good deal of interceptions and missed opporunities. But I did think he’d be more consistent than Grossman. I don’t have to admit this, but I’m being honest. Let’s all temper our enthusiasm on this–there is a lot of season and a lot of critical situations left for Kyle to manage, but damn has Orton been impressive this season. Anyone could say they believed in him prior to the season, but I’d like to see a preseason prediction that Orton would be in the top 10 in the NFL in many categories. Consider this: Orton’s 7-game numbers averaged to 16 games would give him 3,808 yards, 23 touchdowns and just 9 interceptions. This would be just 30 yards short of Erik Kramer’s best all time performance in 1995. And Orton’s 91 quarterback rating? A Bears quarterback has only finished with a 90 or higher rating 7 times since 1933. Think about that.
Offensive line overall:
I’ll admit, I expected the line to be crushed, with John St. Clair at left tackle, a guy who years earlier in his career I watched get smoked at right tackle with the Rams. With Josh Beekman, an undersized second-year player that was only thrown into the lineup in an emergency. I do feel that the run blocking hasn’t been superior, but the pass blocking has far exceeded expectations. I couldn’t be more impressed with them. But remember, this line still has to be totally rebuilt in the next few seasons. After Olin Kreutz retires, Beekman will probably slide over to center, but both guards and John Tait at right tackle will need to be replaced after the 2009 season.
The Bears’ pass rush and pass defense have faltered bigtime in the last several weeks, but the run defense has flourished. Credit coordinator Bob Babich for devising some schemes to stop the run, but stopping the run has led directly to everything given up via the pass.
Again, who would have thought this rag tag group would be coming through? Brandon Lloyd was on the verge of a breakout following the Tampa game, then was injured, but should return after the bye. Marty Booker, Rashied Davis, Devin Hester have all contributed to Kyle Orton’s big year so far.
The individuals I see has having the greatest impact on this surprising first half of the Bears season are:
- Kyle Orton: See above.
- John St. Clair: See above.
- Josh Beekman: Ditto.
- Matt Forte: The rookie back has tailed off the last few weeks, but I think the lack of dominant run blocking has something to do with this. For a rookie to lead the league in touches, he’s done all that can be asked of him.
- Israel Idonije: Unsung hero of the defensive line who has filled in for the disappointing and now grossly overpaid Tommie Harris.
- Marcus Harrison: Ditto.
- Alex Brown: Ever the competitor, Brown makes up for the rest of the underachieving line starters with his hustle.
- Corey Graham: Really has done a remarkable job filling in for the oft-injured Nathan Vasher.
- Robbie Gould: Generally solid as always in the kicking game.
- Garrett Wolfe: Leading team in special teams tackles.
So, what are everyone’s predictions for the final 9 games of the 2008 season? I’d love to hear YOUR predictions this time!