Only four days of OTA’s remain for the Chicago Bears (June 3-6), and the only other offseason workout before training camp starts near the end of July is a mandatory minicamp June 11-13, but it’s never too early to take a peek at the new-look Bears offense.
In 2012, the final season of the Lovie Smith era, the Bears’ offense ranked 28th with 310.6 yards per game and 16th at 23.4 points per game. But even then, that ranking of 16th in points per game is flawed because of how often the defense scored last year (which was a lot). Besides not making the playoffs for the fifth time in six years, it was his inability to get the offense to improve that cost Smith his job.
Heading into this season, so many things have changed. GM Phil Emery has seemingly fixed their biggest problems on that side of the ball from a year ago, and that started with the coaching staff. He hired Marc Trestman to be the new head coach, who’s considered an offensive and quarterbacks guru by those he’s been around in the NFL and CFL. And that includes quarterbacks Steve Young and Rich Gannon, so that’s certainly notable praise.
Trestman brings a new system that has proven very successful in both the NFL and CFL. From what we’ve seen with his previous teams, it features several things that many fans have called for the last few years from the Bears offense. Most importantly — short, quick passes to move the ball efficiently. Trestman is also the play-caller for the offense, an ability he is well-known for.
Emery also hired an offensive coordinator, who doubles as the offensive line coach, in Aaron Kromer, who was the O-line coach for the very successful New Orleans Saints the past four seasons. In reality here, because Trestman calls the plays, Kromer is mainly the offensive line coach, which is a very good thing because he coached five lineman into Pro Bowlers during his time in the Big Easy.
Along with Trestman and Kromer, a handful of other new position coaches joined the staff as well.
Once the coaches were all in place, Emery shifted his focus to personnel. What were the main areas of weakness on the field in 2012? Clearly, the biggest issues were tight end and offensive line. Not that all of the offensive lineman were bad, but several of them were, and it was a group that, as a whole, subsided in the bottom third of the league.
On the first day of free agency, the Bears’ GM made major moves to fix those positions through the signings of tight end Martellus Bennett to a four-year deal and left tackle Jermon Bushrod (one of Kromer’s Pro Bowl pupils) to a five-year deal.
But there have been many more additions, and losses unfortunately, too. Let’s break it down.
Notable additions: TE Bennett, LT Bushrod, G Matt Slauson, G Eben Britton, TE Steve Maneri and TE Fendi Onobun, who has reportedly made some noise in OTA’s (as much as that matters).
Notable departures: G Lance Louis, QB Jason Campbell, TE Kellen Davis and TE Matt Spaeth.
The Bears also drafted G Kyle Long (Round 1), T Jordan Mills (Round 5) and WR Marquess Wilson (Round 7), as well as signed many undrafted free agents, who will fight for roster spots.
So, the next question has to be how the depth chart sorts out. The starting quarterback will obviously be Jay Cutler with Josh McCown backing him up. At running back, Matt Forte will start, of course, splitting time with Michael Bush. The receiver position will definitely have Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery starting with Earl Bennett in the slot, though they could add a receiver. Tight end will feature M. Bennett, with Onobun and Maneri likely backing him up.
That leaves the offensive line. Bushrod is a lock to start at left tackle. Slauson and Long will likely be the starting guards, and there’s no reason Roberto Garza won’t remain their center. Perhaps the only “real” question mark will be at right tackle. There are two candidates for the position: J’Marcus Webb and Jonathan Scott. As for Gabe Carimi and his place with the O-line, I don’t know if he’ll even remain with the team.
After missing the playoffs with a 10-6 record, one can only hope that these changes do in fact push them to a level they haven’t reached on offense in a long time, and maybe even a championship run.