Chicago Bears push ALL their chips to the middle of the table for 2014…

 

Coach Trestman (left) and GM Phil Emery have put their stamp on this 2014 team and expect BIG things from this group...
Coach Trestman (left) and GM Phil Emery have put their stamp on this 2014 team and expect BIG things from this group…

Published by Jerz on 8/30/2014

It seemed like only yesterday that Marc Trestman was announced as the next Head Coach of the Chicago Bears. In the above pict you see him (left) and General Manager Phil Emery (right) forging a commitment in the form of a handshake to restore this team to prominence and NFL dominance. An 8-8 campaign later and there are still questions that loom heavy going into the 2014 season…

Defensive Coordinator was under heavy fire after the BEARS defense turned in an all-time worst season. He's added veteran coaches, players and system tweaks to what should be a much improved unit from a season ago...
Defensive Coordinator Mel Tucker was under heavy fire after the BEARS defense turned in an all-time worst season. He’s added veteran coaches, players and system tweaks to what should be a much improved unit from a season ago…

There isn’t much doubt, in the minds of those that followed the BEARS closely last season, that if the defense was just an average “run of the mill” unit this team makes the playoffs easily in 2013. There are some that will say injuries to key players was the main reason for the defense’s drop off from 2012 to 2013 but there were times when the defense was at full strength and couldn’t generate a pass rush and get off the field on 3rd downs. Losing the likes of Henry Melton, Lance Briggs and Charles Tillman for extended periods didn’t help this cause either. Add to that the on again, off again performance of former freak of nature Julius Peppers and inconsistent play from safeties Major Wright and Chris Conte on the backend and you have the disaster on wheels that was the Chicago Bears 2013 defense. Let’s see what the beleaguered unit looks like going into 2014…

The BEARS will count on quite a few members of the +30 club to produce on Defense led by 7 time Pro Bowler Lance Briggs who comes into 2014 with something to prove...
The BEARS will count on quite a few members of the +30 club to produce on Defense led by 7 time Pro Bowler Lance Briggs who comes into 2014 with something to prove…

The team made no secret that they would look to improve the much maligned defensive unit and did exactly that through Free Agency and the NFL Draft. Gone are the likes of Major Wright, Henry Melton, Julius Peppers, Corey Wootton and Craig Steltz (among others). The BEARS knew they’d have to infuse a blend of pass rushers on the edge, stoutness at the point of attack at tackle and playmakers on the back end. Enter sack specialist Jared Allen, the versatile Lamarr Houston and Lions defector Willie Young to go with draft picks Ego Ferguson and Will Sutton. The BEARS now have a mix of veteran productivity and young talent up front that the unit missed desperately last season. The BEARS didn’t stop there as they also added who some say was the best Cornerback available in this year’s Draft in Kyle Fuller and Safety Brock Vereen who may end up being a steal as a 4th round pick. The team also signed veteran Safeties Ryan Mundy, Danny McCray and M.D. Jennings to compete for the starting safety spots with Vereen and holdover Chris Conte.  Veteran Linebacker D.J. Williams was re-signed and looks like he’ll go into 2014 as the starting middle linebacker in base sets. The BEARS are banking on 2nd year linebacker Jon Bostic and 3rd year player Shea McClellin (making the move from defensive end to outside linebacker) to play key roles on defense this year as well. Veteran Lance Briggs (coming off a shoulder injury in 2013) will be backed up by 2nd year player Khaseem Greene. Undrafted Rookie Free Agent Christian Jones may have impressed coaches enough to make the 53 man roster, with his size, versatility and athletic ability. Changes in scheme, coaching and player personnel upgrades should make this defense look like a completely different unit from 2013. If this defense struggles again in 2014, with all the changes made in all the areas mentioned, Mel Tucker will be on the hottest seat known to man.

Head Coach Marc Trestman is under pressure to take a team loaded with talent on both sides of the ball on a Super Bowl run...
Head Coach Marc Trestman is under pressure to take a team loaded with talent on both sides of the ball on a Super Bowl run…

I’m not sure there is a 2nd year Head Coach with more loftier expectations than Marc Trestman. Forget that he took over a team that was 10-6 the year before. Forget the fact he inherited a 3 headed monster of Jay Cutler, Brandon Marshall and Matt Forte to build his offense around and a defense that had just performed as a Top 5 unit in 2012. Those factors alone would make one think that making the playoffs with THIS team in 2013 would be a “lay up” right? No… The defense collapsed and cost the team at least 2 wins and losing Cutler for most or all of 7 contests resulted in an uninspiring 8-8 season (after winning 4 of their first 6 games). What Trestman WAS able to do was quite remarkable in turning an offense that couldn’t get out of it’s own way in 2012 into one of the best in football in 2013. The restructuring of the offensive line was the main reason for the offense’s instant success as they opened running lanes for Pro Bowler Matt Forte and gave BEARS passers time in the pocket that hadn’t been seen in some time. The BEARS will need to build on the successes of 2013 to get to where this team ultimately sees itself going. Alshon Jeffery and Brandon Marshall should benefit from playing opposite each other for the 2nd straight season which will also open up opportunities for tight end Martellus Bennett (who enjoyed career highs in catches and yards in 2013). The loss of 2nd year wide receiver Marquees Wilson hurts but the BEARS are holding out hope he returns some time later on this season. He was having a solid training camp and had the 3rd receiver position on lock but his loss just opens up an opportunity for the likes of Josh Morgan or Santonio Holmes. It will be interesting to see what the BEARS decide to at this position and it has everything to do with what designation they place on Wilson.

Jay Cutler has waited for this type of talent to work with for years and is now in a position to take this team to the next level. He'll have to practice self preservation in an effort to be available for every game the BEARS play in 2014...
Jay Cutler has waited for this type of talent to work with for years and is now in a position to take this team to the next level. He’ll have to practice self preservation in an effort to be available for every game the BEARS play in 2014…

There were always so many “ifs” associated with this team going into past seasons. The biggest 3 are “if” the offense can continue to build on 2013’s success, “if” the defense can bounce back to stopping the run, taking the ball away and getting off the field on 3rd down and “if” Jay Cutler can stay available for every game. This team has the talent to win 11 or 12 games but all the variables have to fall into place almost perfectly. If the money and draft picks spent on the defense pan out and major injuries are avoided, this team will be a force to be reckoned with but even teams that go on storied Championship runs have their share of “luck” and matchups that fall into their favor. The start of the 2014 season is upon us and this version of the Chicago Bears is ALL in…

Hit me up on Twitter at @nicethegr34t!

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