The Chicago Bears are looking to build off a disappointing 2011 season.
After starting the season with a 7-3 record, Chicago lost five of their last six games as quarterback Jay Cutler was sidelined with a tumb injury and missed out on the playoffs.
Nothing seemed to go right for the Bears towards the end of the season. Running back Matt Forte also missed the last four games with an injury, while tight end Greg Olsen had an exceptional season after being traded to the Panthers.
The Bears wasted no time in looking to improve their team in the offseason, and could perhaps be a Super Bowl contender.
Reforming an old relationship for Cutler, the Bears traded for Brandon Marshall, who played with Cutler in Denver. Marshall will be the first true No. 1 receiver the Bears have had in a long time.
Continue Reading Below
Brandon is raising all those receivers' level of play, Cutler said. He's pushing everybody, even me.
Besides this addition to the receiving group, the Bears expect a lot of production out their now-veteran-like secondary including Kelvin Hayden, Jonathan Wilhite, and 10-year star Charles Tillman.
Tillman was part of the back-to-back 20-plus interceptions seasons, and is optimistic that this new group of guys will exceed that mark. Chicago will look to sport one of the best secondaries in the league.
In my 10 years of being here, this is the best group of corners we've had, just overall talent, Tillman said. They're still learning the defense, but just as far as a talent standpoint, this is by the far the best group
In the first round of the draft, the Bears selected Shea McClellin from Boise State University, who they expect to have a perhaps immediate impact on the defense. As captain Brian Urlacher has struggled with injuries, the Bears looked to the future and believe McClellin has the skills to reinvigorate the unit.
He's got really good movement, defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli said. He's got really good speed. He's got nice range. His size is fine. He's a real hungry guy and he's very smart. I know he's tough. Now we'll get the pads on him. That determines everything but I believe he'll come out and do a very nice job.
McClellin is expected to play opposite of Julius Peppers on the defensive line. He can also be moved to linebacker where he may eventually serve as Urlacher's successor.
Despite their tremendous efforts to improve the defense, the biggest story surrounding the Chicago franchise is the developing news about running back Matt Forte.
Forte, who skipped mini-camp in response to the lack of communication between his representatives and the Bears organization for a new restructured deal, will have his hands full learning the new plays during training camp.
There's a little different terminology, but Matt is smart enough that he should be able to pick it up, running backs coach Tim Spencer said. Some of our things we're doing with the same name. We're doing some of the same things with a different name, too. So once he masters that he should be OK. He should be very functional when he comes in.
The Bears open up the regular season on Sept. 9 against the Colts in what is expected to be Andrew Luck's debut.