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2012 NFL Preview: Cutler, Marshall reunite on Bears' offence

Justin Boone, TSN.ca

8/30/2012 12:57:20 PM

Reasons To Believe

1. The Three Amigos - Cutler has been in need of a reliable pass catcher ever since the Bears acquired him in 2009. This off-season the club finally made a significant move at the position, trading for Cutler's former number one target in Denver, Brandon Marshall. Chicago also brought in Cutler's old quarterbacks coach from his days at Mile High, Jeremy Bates. In two seasons in Miami, Marshall still averaged 84 catches and 1,114 yards per season with below average quarterback play. Needless to say, both players are happy to be reunited.

2. Run Together - When Forte was lost to injury last season, the Bears turned to Marion Barber and eventually Kahlil Bell to carry the load. Neither player was able to spell Forte during the year, or adequately replace him once he was sidelined. Enter Michael Bush. The longtime Raider knows all about being an understudy after backing up injury report regular Darren McFadden in Oakland. Bush can be a short yardage and goal line back or handle the rock if Forte is out for any period of time.

3. Today's Special - Under special teams coordinator Dave Toub the Bears third unit has been at or near the top of the league. Devin Hester steals all the headlines with his electrifying returns, but the Bears special teams are solid in all facets. They signed Eric Weems, who was a Pro Bowl returner in 2010, and he will likely take over kickoff returns to allow Hester to focus on punt returns and offensive snaps. Kicker Robbie Gould and punter Adam Podlesh have also managed to thrive, despite playing in the Windy City.

Reasons To Doubt

1. The Life of Brian - Middle linebacker Brian Urlacher underwent arthroscopic surgery in August and reports out of Chicago suggested it wasn't his first surgery of the off-season. There are reports that Urlacher had the same treatment on his knee a few months ago that Kobe Bryant had done in Europe last year. The results were positive for Kobe, so there is hope for Urlacher, who claims he will be in the lineup Week 1. If he is unable to play early in the season or if his knees don't hold up, it would be a major downgrade for the Bears' defence.

2. Issues On The Line - Offensive line coach Mike Tice is the new offensive coordinator, taking over for Mike Martz. However, Tice will still need to focus on getting the most out of his unit up front, a group that has allowed 105 sacks in two seasons. The Bears blocking has been a problem area for the team for a few seasons and they nearly got Cutler killed a year ago. Tice has promised fewer seven step drops in his offence, but that doesn't completely solve the issue. If 2011 first round pick Gabe Carimi can lock down the right tackle spot, that would be a start.

3. Step Up - Most of the attention on the defensive line will be paid to the rushers on the edges, leaving the Bears' defensive tackles primarily one-on-one inside. Henry Melton, Stephen Paea, John McCargo, and Brian Price will all battle for playing time with Melton and Paea being the favourites to land the jobs. Melton came up with seven sacks a year ago, but that's more a product of the system than the player. If Urlacher misses time as well, offences will attack up the middle and very well could be successful doing so.

What To Expect

Even with the questions on the offensive line, the Bears offence will be more dangerous thanks to their improvements in the passing game. With their defence holding strong, Chicago will remain in the playoff hunt this season and be able to hold off the Lions for second in the NFC North behind the Packers. A second place finish in the division will be good enough to help them capture a wild card berth in the NFC.