To get out of last place in the NFC North, the offense will need to keep the pressure off the defense. That's where Muhammad, a great locker room guy and an even better player, comes in. --P.K.
Tommie Harris is a knifing, 6'3", 300-pound defensive tackle who was consistently double-teamed as a rookie late last year. "To be a great defense," Bears coach Lovie Smith says, "you need a dominating player up front. Tommie can be very, very special." Harris finished with 3 1/2 sacks and six tackles for loss. If ends Alex Brown and Adewale Ogunleye can be effective on the outside, Harris may turn into the interior pass rushing force this team has lacked since the days of the great Chicago defenses of the 1980s.
An Opposing Scout's View: Enemy Lines
I really admire Thomas Jones. His career was in the toilet after failing in Arizona, but he's had two good rushing years in horrible offenses in Tampa and Chicago. Jones is a tough inside runner and doesn't fumble. I'd rather have Jones for $1.8 million than Shaun Alexander for $6.3 million.... The sleeper on this offense is Justin Gage. He has good hands and runs terrific routes.... This defense has got to get more production from Adewale Ogunleye, who's going to keep the rap that he was a system rusher in Miami--helped by having Jason Taylor on the other side--unless he starts beating the quicker right tackles in the NFC.... One guy I love is Lance Briggs. The kid is everywhere. He's hard to block and has good balance and the ability to shed blocks to get to the tackler.... Brian Urlacher ought to play the outside where his speed and quickness could be used best. He's getting beat up too much in the middle.... Charles Tillman is one of the good young corners in football. He plays totally unafraid.... The Bears missed the brains and playmaking ability of Mike Brown last year. They had no enforcer in the secondary. Now they've got one.
PROJECTED STARTING LINEUP with 2004 statistics
2004 RECORD: 5--11
NFL RANK (rush/pass/total): OFFENSE T25/32/32 DEFENSE 25/15/21
COACH: Lovie Smith; second season with Chicago (5--11 in NFL)