Today we continue our 32 NFL Team Preview, as we cover the Chicago Bears. The Bears played well last season, finishing with a record of 10-6, but just barely missed the Playoffs. Chicago has always been known for their Defense, as their Offense hasn’t finished inside the Top since 2006. In hopes of turning the Offense around, the Bears hired Marc Trestman to be their Head Coach. Trestman has been out of the NFL for a little while; he was an Assistant Head Coach for the Miami Dolphins in 2004. Since that time, he’s gone on to be an Offensive Coordinator for North Carolina State and Head Coach in the CFL. Many fans have their concerns about Trestman being able to lead this team due to his name not being too familiar.
Offense: The Chicago Bears ranked 28th in Total Offense in 2012. That might catch a few people off guard, as they seem to have a lot of weapons offensively. The weakest part is the Offensive Line. J’Marcus Webb has been somewhat of a liability at Left Tackle since being drafted in 2010. He is moving to Right Tackle this upcoming season after the team signed Left Tackle Jermon Bushrod, formerly with the Saints. Bushrod was a solid player in the Saints high caliber Offense, and the Bears are hoping he will perform just the same. Center Roberto Garza has been the staple of the Bears Offensive Line since 2005. It’s incredulous that he’s never been selected to represent the NFC in a Pro Bowl in my opinion. Garza is getting up there in age (34), so the organization is hoping that he can keep up his spectacular level of play. The Right Guard position got a nice addition during the 2013 NFL Draft, when the Bears selected Kyle Long 20th overall. Long is the son of former NFL player, Howie Long, and can play either the Tackle or Guard position. He’ll start out at Right Guard, but if J’Marcus Webb struggles over at Right Tackle, Long could replace him by season’s end. The starting Left Guard will be a battle in Training Camp between newly acquired Matt Slauson and 4-year Pro Edwin Williams. Slauson comes from the New York Jets and is the favorite to win this battle. The Offensive Line is going to have to gel and perform at a higher level to give Quarterback Jay Cutler time in the pocket. Cutler has played well since the Bears traded for him in 2009, but I don’t believe he’s lived up to his expectations by any means. Cutler had a difficult 2012 as he only threw for 3,033 yards, 19 touchdowns, and 14 interceptions. New Head Coach, Marc Trestman, has been working with Cutler on being more decisive with the football and getting it out quicker. If he can excel at doing this, Jay should take his game to another level. Cutler has some great talent to throw the ball too. Wide Receiver, Brandon Marshall, has made a huge impact for the Bears since they brought him in from Miami. He is Cutler’s security blanket as he targeted Marshall 194 times in 2012. Brandon caught 118 of those targets, for 1,508 yards, and 11 touchdowns. In 2012, Chicago drafted Alshon Jeffery to be another huge threat on the field. Jeffery didn’t have as solid a rookie season as fans had hoped (only catching 24 passes for 367 yards and 3 touchdowns) but should be primed to excel in 2013. Earl Bennett and Devin Hester round out the top prospects of this receiving corps. Bennett is looking to have a season much like 2009, when he put up career-highs in receptions and yards. Bennett played at Vanderbilt with Cutler so they are pretty familiar with one another. Hester has been a project for some time now, coming into the NFL as a Defensive Back and moving to Wide Receiver. The new Head Coach said that Hester isn’t a Wide Receiver and will have to battle to have the returner job; many people think Hester’s days in Chicago are numbered. Cutler will have a new toy at Tight End as the Bears signed Martellus Bennett, giving him his 3rd team in just as many years. Bennett had a breakout season in 2012, catching 55 passes, for 626 yards, and 5 touchdowns. Bennett is the most talented Tight End on the Bears roster and, if he can be as productive with the Bears as he was with the Giants, he’ll be the x-factor to the Offense in 2013. Chicago has one of the most versatile Running Backs in the game in Matt Forte. Forte, slowed by an injury last season, managed to rush for 1,094 yards and caught 44 passes for 340 yards. His backup, Michael Bush, could be a starter on other teams. Bush is a physical Running Back who has shined when filling in for injured players, and is an asset to the Goal Line formation. Chicago has as good of talent offensively as any other team. Whether they can gel together is going to be the key for them in this upcoming season.
Defense: The 5th best team in Total Defense for 2012 (8th against both the Run and Pass) made a lot of good moves this Offseason to be able to perform at the same level in 2013. The Linebacker corps is the heart and soul of this Defense. Lance Briggs, who led the team in tackles last year with 103, is one of the most complete Linebackers in the NFL. Chicago signed former Denver standout D.J. Williams during Free Agency to play Middle Linebacker, with the departure of Brian Urlacher who had been the face of the organization since 2000. Williams was not the only great addition the Bears made in the Offseason. During the NFL Draft, the Bears drafted 2 Linebackers, who I had my eye on personally, in Jon Bostic and Khaseem Greene. Bostic hails from the University of Florida and can blitz as well as play the pass. He’ll most likely sit behind D.J. Williams for the 2013 campaign. Greene comes to Chicago from Rutgers. He had a very gruesome knee injury in a Bowl Game vs. Iowa State in 2011, but returned in 2012 to lead the Scarlet Knights in tackles. Greene tallied 136 total, with 6 sacks, 6 forced fumbles, and 2 interceptions. I believe when Chicago selected Greene in the 4th round, they got a steal. James Anderson, who was signed in the Offseason, is a favorite to start at the other Outside Linebacker spot, but I think Greene has a chance of taking that position during Training Camp. The Bears Secondary has one of the best Cornerback tandems in the NFL. Charles “Peanut” Tillman and Tim Jennings aren’t players that Quarterbacks or Receivers look forward to going against. Tillman was 2nd on the team in tackles with 86 and racked up 16 pass deflections, 10 forced fumbles, 3 interceptions and 3 defensive touchdowns. Jennings had an NFL and career-high 9 interceptions, with 21 Pass Deflections (a team high), while teams were targeting his side of the field more, throwing away from Tillman. Chris Conte (Free Safety) and Major Wright (Strong Safety) occupy the Safety slots. Chris is coming off his first season as a full time starter and performed admirably with 68 tackles and 2 interceptions. Wright started all 16 games for Chicago for the first time in his career in 2012, and was an impact all year long. Defensive End, Julius Peppers, heads the D-Line in the Windy City. Peppers has shown no signs of slowing down going into his 12th NFL season. He’s accumulated 22.5 sacks the last 2 years. Corey Wootton is the other starter at Defensive End, who started 7 games for the first time in his 3-year career last season, registering 7 sacks. A wild card for the Defensive End rotation could be Cornelius Washington, who Chicago selected with the 188th pick overall. Washington didn’t have a ton of sacks in his career at Georgia but, during the Senior Bowl, seemed to be giving the Offensive Linemen fits all week during practice and in the game itself. It’ll be interesting to see what he does when spotting other guys a rest. Henry Melton is the team’s most impressive Defensive Tackle and had the Franchise Tag placed on him so that he wouldn’t leave during Free Agency. Melton, the past 3 years, has 15.5 sacks for Chicago and has become one of the more talented Tackles in the league. Stephen Paea will get the start at the other Tackle spot along side Melton. Paea started 14 games for the first time in his career in 2012, and had a fairly decent year. If the Offense continues to struggle in this upcoming season, the Defense will have to perform to its usual standards to keep Chicago competitive in the grueling NFC North division.
End Result: I foresee the Bears having some troubles under the new Coach in 2013 and finishing with a record of 8-8.