This is the first in a series of six posts in which APC will examine the transactions and player movement on each side of the ball for each of the Green Bay Packers' rivals in the NFC North division. Today we will take a look at the changes on offense for the Packers' oldest rival, the Chicago Bears.
Jason Campbell comes to Chicago to be Jay Cutler's backup after spending time in Oakland. He broke his collarbone midway through the 2011 season but should be back to full strength. Signing Campbell gives the Bears a backup with legitimate starting experience who should be able to operate the Bears' offense acceptably if Jay Cutler were to miss time. Blanchard is a rookie from Division III powerhouse University of Wisconsin-Whitewater and led UWW to two straight undefeated national championships. Blanchard could be a practice squad candidate, but is likely nothing more than that at this point.
The Bears signed their third backup running back in three years this off-season, inking Michael Bush to a multi-year contract after signing Barber in 2011 and Chester Taylor in 2010. Bush at this point in his career is a better back than either of the other two, however, and many speculated that he's ready to take on a feature back role. This could be a sign that the Bears are unwilling to pay Matt Forte the money that he's asking for and are prepared to let him walk at the end of this season. In any case, Forte and Bush give the Bears as good a 1-2 punch at running back as any team in the league. Alexander is a practice squad candidate, and Unga spent all of 2011 off the active roster.
Wide Receivers: Devin Hester, Earl Bennett, Johnny Knox, Dane Sanzenbacher
Additions: Brandon Marshall (trade with Dolphins), Alshon Jeffery (2nd-round draft pick, South Carolina), Devin Thomas (free agent), Eric Weems (free agent), Chris Summers (UDFA), Terriun Crump (UDFA), Brittan Golden (UDFA)
Subtractions: Roy Williams
Here is where the Bears made the biggest splash of their off-season, trading for the enigmatic Brandon Marshall. When focused, he can be a top-10 receiver, and he had some of his best years in Denver with Cutler as his quarterback. He and Jeffery are tall, physical targets, giving Cutler a different type of receiver to throw to than what he has had in Chicago. Thomas fits that mold as well. Weems was a kick-return specialist with the Falcons and signed a three-year deal in Chicago. He may take some of the burden off of Hester in the return game.
Offensive Line: Gabe Carimi, J'Marcus Webb, Roberto Garza, Chris Williams, Chris Spencer, Lance Louis, Edwin Williams, Ricky Henry
Additions: Cory Brandon (UDFA), James Brown (UDFA), Nick Pieschel (UDFA), Chil Rachal (free agent)
Subtractions: Frank Omiyale (h/t to David in Maine in the comments for pointing out my earlier omission)
The Bears go into 2012 with much the same offensive line that they had in 2011, and they are clearly counting on their young players like Carimi and Webb to progress under new offensive coordinator Mike Tice. It's rather surprising that the team did not address this unit from the personnel side this offseason.
Clutts, in addition to having the best name for a fullback EVER, is back as the lone fullback. Davis shows promise as a receiver, while Spaeth is an excellent blocker. There won't be a whole lot of change on this unit.
All in all, the Bears improved their wide receiver corps significantly, while gaining an upgrade at the running back position and backup quarterback. There's definitely more skill-position talent here, but if the offensive line doesn't make progress fast, expect the poutrage to resume as Cutler ends up on his back frequently again in 2012.