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With the 4th Pick...

By Benjy Lipsman in News on Jan 3, 2005 10:55PM

2004_1_sports_bears_week17.jpgAnother painful Bears season wrapped up Sunday, with the Packers avenging their earlier loss 31-14. In the rout, the Packers tied a team record with 9 sacks. And the Packers, having already locked up the NFC North title, mostly played their backups. Packers QB Brett Favre sat after the Pack took a 14-7 lead in the 2nd quarter. No matter, they still killed the Bears.

With Sunday's loss, the Bears finished with a 5-11 record, last place in the NFC North. So much for all that playoffs talk when the Bears won 3 in a row to reach 4-5. But when only one team in the NFL has fewer playoff appearances in the last decade (the Bengals), fans and media grasp at whatever playoff hopes may exist.

So while other cities gear up for the playoffs, Bears fans can start gearing up for the NFL draft. As a result of having the weakest schedule among the 5-11 teams, the Bears end up with the 4th pick in the 2005 draft. The Bears last had the 4th pick in 2003. Pulling a number of draft-day trades, they ended up trading down to the 14th spot, where they grabbed defensive end Michael Haynes and picked up the 22nd pick used on quarterback Rex Grossman.

So where do they look to improve with the 4th pick? With an offense that ranked dead last in the NFL in both total yards (238.5 ypg) and points (14.4 ppg) they clearly need to upgrade their offense. Sure, starting QB Rex Grossman was lost for the year early in the season but offensive coordinator Terry Shea came from a Kansas City system that led the NFL in points last season. The offense shouldn't have suffered that much. At least the Bears may have found a competent backup in Chad Hutchinson. After a number of mediocre efforts by Jonathan Quinn and Craig Krenzel, Hutch at least somewhat resembled a QB. Thomas Jones seems to be an adequate RB, but the Bears offensive line needs some real help as does its receiving corp. How would Mike Williams or Braylon Edwards look in blue and orange?

Defensively, the Bears were hampered by injuries all season. Nearly every big name defensive player missed time. Jerry Azumah and Adewale Ogunleye missed 4 games each. Standout linebacker Brian Urlacher missed seven games, Peanut Tillman missed 8 games and safety Mike Brown missed all but two games. With these starters healthy and the experience the backups got this year, the Bears defense should be formidable next year.

Be sure to circle April 23 on your calendar...

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