Very, very few meaningful positives are to be found in a five-game collapse that cost the Bears a virtual playoff lock. But there actually have been a couple, beyond the odd Kahlil Bell or Josh McCown.
An issue plaguing the Bears for the past decade has been failed draft choices. A combination of indicators suggests that this may be changing, at least slightly.
Of the five Bears selected to this seasons Pro Bowl, four were Jerry Angelo draft choices (Lance Briggs 03, Matt Forte 08, Corey Graham 07, Charles Tillman 03). It is the highest number of Angelo picks ever selected to one Pro Bowl, and Forte is the first Angelo offensive draftee to make a Pro Bowl.
Returner Devin Hester (06) and defensive tackle Henry Melton (09) were among the alternates. Of the combined 11 Bears selected for some level of Pro Bowl honor (five voted, six alternates), only Brian Urlacher was not acquired by Angelo, whether by draft, free agency or trade.
Of the starting offense for much of the offensive surge that contributed to the five-game run to the 7-3 record, seven of the starters were draft picks and that does not include right tackle Gabe Carimi.
Not anything to get particularly excited about, after the general draft malaise of the Angelo era.
But two of the Bears top three 2011 draft picks also were starters before injuries sent them to IR: Carimi and safety Chris Conte, besides defensive tackle Stephen Paea.
The draft choices have been great and our rookie free agents have been awesome too, said Urlacher. Since my 2000 class Mike Brown, myself, Paul Edinger this is one of the better classes Ive seen.
Paeas playing time has increased substantially after dealing with a knee injury in training camp and being inactive for the first five weeks of the season. He has 2 sacks on the season, 6 quarterback pressures and 2 tackles for loss.
Paeas production is notable in part because he has been tasked with playing both nose tackle and three-technique.
The only true difference is youve got to have patience on the nose and on the three youve got to go, Paea said. Ive got to have that mentality.
I hate waiting on the line and having patience. I can get to aggressive and not have patience to play my keys, which is perfect for the under-tackle.
The No. 2 tackler on special teams behind Pro Bowl starter Graham is Dom DeCicco, an undrafted rookie free agent.
I still feel a little like a rookie, DeCicco said, but like Ive learned so much and its night and day from preseason and even the first few games.