NFL Chicago Bears

Chicago Bears End of the Year Awards

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Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

Looking back on the Chicago Bears 2012 season, you can find plenty of positives. Some young players have stepped up this season and have provided hope for the future. Henry Melton has turned into one of the league’s best defensive tackles in just his second full season starting at the position. His combination of quickness and speed at the position has made him one of team’s most impactful pass rushers.

Corey Wootton has managed to stay healthy throughout the season and has raised his game to another level. His seven sacks ranks second on the team, trailing only Julius Peppers who has 11 ½. Wootton also has improved as a run defender which has convinced head coach Lovie Smith and defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli to insert in the starting line-up.

Major Wright has gone from fans labeling him “Major Wrong” to possible Pro Bowl Snub. This season he has four interceptions and eight pass deflections. What’s most impressive has been Wright defense against the run. He has become more discipline in that aspect, taking the right angles and become a much better tackler.

As great as some of the young players has been this season, not one of them are selected for my end of the year awards. Here’s a look at who took home this year’s honors and who has been the most disappointing this season.

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Most Improve Player on Defense: Tim Jennings

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Tim Jennings has come a long way. He started the season last year as the starter, but was benched towards the end of the season for Zachary Bowman. He was re-inserted in the line-up for the season finale in game where he earned a second contract for the Bears. Jennings hard work in the off-season has paid off as this season he leads the NFL in interceptions with eight. Jennings went from serviceable back-up to one of the better cornerbacks in the NFL.

Honorable Mention: Major Wright

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Most Improve Player on Offense: Lance Louis

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Lance Louis was the offensive equivalent to Tim Jennings; a player last year that was nothing more than a serviceable back-up to this year being a solid starting offensive linemen. Not only was Louis the team’s best pass blocker, but also the team’s best run blocker. Louis was playing some of his best football in his career before he tore his ACL on a dirty hit by Jared Allen. Louis is in a contract year, and with the Bears needing an infusion of talent on that line, Phil Emery can start the re-building process by bringing back Louis.

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Most Disappointing Player on Offense: Matt Forte

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The curious case of Matt Forte; the running back certainly hasn’t look like his 2011 form (the year he went to the Pro Bowl).There’s numerous reasons why Forte has regressed this year, one of them have to do with Mike Tice play calling and obvious lack of experience as an offensive coordinator. Injuries are another excuse you can use for Forte regression as he has re-aggravated his ankle a few time this season. When healthy and given the chance, Forte hasn’t been running as hard and obviously doesn’t trust his linemen blocking.

Honorable Mention: Earl Bennett

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Most Disappointing Player on Defense: D.J. Moore

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Remember the stories pumping out of camp that D.J. Moore wanted a shot to play on the outside (how ironic for him to bring that up in a contract year)? Fast-forward to now and not only has Moore not been given that opportunity, but he also lost his starting job at nickle back to veteran Kelvin Hayden. It wasn’t that long ago that Moore was recognized as one of the best NB in the league, but horrible play this season has took away that reputation. You’re very likely not going to see Moore in a Bears uniform next season.

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Rookie of the Year: Shea McClellin

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Shea McClellin has been mostly a project this season. He’s undersize to be a full-time defensive end and his lack of strength shows when opposing offensive tackles get their hands on him. However, a trait that McClellin been using to contribute to the d-line is his speed and quickness off the edge. The two and ½ sacks this year doesn’t tell the whole story of McClellin. Fellow rookie DE Bruce Irvin has 18 hurries in 387 snaps; McClellin has 18 hurries in 299 snaps. If McClellin builds up strength, he can take that next level as a DE.

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Defensive MVP: Charles Tillman

Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

National media now know why Charles Tillman name is always linked with the likes of Brian Urlacher, Lance Briggs, and Julius Peppers. Tillman has been a great player for a long time and he’s having his best season of his career. So far this season, Tillman has three interceptions (all going for defensive touchdowns) and 10 forced fumbles. He has shutdown opposing team’s #1 WR’s throughout the season; something you don’t see often with cover-2 CB’s. There’s other players on the defense that you can make an argument for, but Tillman in my opinion deserves the honor.

Honorable Mention: Lance Briggs

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Offensive MVP: Brandon Marshall

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When it comes to the Bears offense, it is Brandon Marshall world and the rest of his teammates are just living in it. Marshall has been nothing short of spectacular for the Bears this season. Marshall’s 113 receptions this season broke Marty Booker’s franchise record and his 1446 receiving yards broke Marcus Robinson’s franchise record. All of that in just his first year with the Bears, Marshall has a great chance to break more franchise records for years to come.