Plugging the holes: NFC North

Biggest remaining questions for the Bears, Lions, Packers and Vikings

Originally Published: August 10, 2011
By Rivers McCown | Football Outsiders

Note: This is the last part of an eight-part series going division-by-division through the NFL.

One effect of the lockout is that teams don't have as good a feel for their roster as they would in normal years. No one has conducted OTAs; rookies haven't had a chance to study the playbooks or meet with position coaches; and, because free agency was pushed back until after the lockout, many teams don't know what their rosters will look like, even as they begin training camp. So without further ado, let's look at the biggest remaining question for all four teams in the NFC North.

Chicago Bears: Will the O-line allow the rest of the offense to succeed?

The Bears finished with the 28th-ranked offense in the NFL in our DVOA ratings last season. Chicago seemed to have a decent, if not overwhelming, core of skill players in Jay Cutler, Matt Forte, Johnny Knox, Greg Olsen and Devin Hester. So why did the offense perform so poorly?

The root of their problems moving the ball came from the unit closest to it on the snap: their weak offensive line. The Bears finished dead last in adjusted sack rate, allowing a league-high 56 sacks, and also finished 29th in adjusted line yards, our attempt to measure the impact of an offensive line in the running game.

Chicago offensive line coach Mike Tice added Wisconsin first-rounder Gabe Carimi in the first round of the draft, but the Bears didn't otherwise pursue any solutions in free agency. They also let six-time Pro Bowler Olin Kreutz walk. Kreutz was getting a bit older, but losing him over a reported $500,000 has left the Bears with even more shuffling than they would already have had to do.