5 Questions Chicago Bears Must Answer During Training Camp
5 Questions For The Chicago Bears During Training Camp
A few of the best things about sports is that “hope springs eternal” and “there's always next year.” These may also be two of the oldest clichés in sports vernacular, but for the 32 teams around the NFL, these statements hold the same amount of weight. With the 2012 season nothing more than a distant memory and the 2013 season under a 100 days away from kicking off, every team from worst to first wants to claim the next Lombardi trophy.
The Chicago Bears finished the season with a 10-6 winning record but no playoff appearance. Despite the win-loss margin, missing the playoffs cost Lovie Smith his job. Lovie was a good coach, but let's just put this out on front street: in his nine seasons as the head coach, the Bears made the playoffs three times. Three times? Really? As much as I liked Lovie as coach, I like playoff games and wins more.
Another knock on Lovie was the offense, or lack of a consistent one. Lovie ran the Bears the way the team's been historically known for: intense defense and a three-yards-and-a-cloud-of-dust rushing attack. However, the NFC North has evolved into a pass-happy division with teams such as the Detroit Lions and the Bears' rival from up north running three and four receiver sets and tossing the pigskin around like a game of Madden '13.
The Bears ultimately felt similarly and turned to an offensive-minded head coach in Marc Trestman. A coach that's worked with Hall of Fame quarterback Steve Young, Trestman steps into Halas Hall with an uptempo and fast-paced pure west coast-style offense.
However, there are a number of on-the-field challenges that Trestman and his coaching staff must target and eliminate if the Bears want to play in the playoffs instead of watching them.
1. Who makes the cut on the Bears' Offensive Line?
I've gone on the record previously on the former state of the Bears' offensive line, which now has four new linemen on the roster in the form of free agents Jermon Bushrod and Matt Slauson as well as rookies Kyle Long and Jordan Mills. Bushrod and returning veteran Roberto Garza are the only assured starters on the line at left tackle and center respectively. With the other three positions on the line up for grabs, Trestmen and company must spot their best combination of linemen and get them playing as a cohesive unit.
2. Which receiver(s) not named Brandon Marshall becomes a reliable target?
This is another topic that I have discussed. However with the assumption that Trestman's offense will resemble a traditional west coast offense, that means all comes down to a quick release off the line of scrimmage and YAC (yards after the catch) for a receiver. With Brandon Marshall likely to see lots of double coverage early and often, someone else out of the receiving corp, be it second-year man Alshon Jeffery, or rookie Marquess Wilson, need to take advantage of those opportunities.
3. Which Linebackers on the roster will start beside veteran Lance Briggs?
The Bears has a long storied tradition at linebacker. With the team losing one to free agency and another to a contract dispute and ultimately retirement, the defensive coaching staff must identify their best two linbackers to fill the outside and middle linebacker positions. With veterans James Anderson and D.J. Williams on the roster, right along with rookies Jon Bostic and Khaseem Greene, whomever steps on the field with Lance Briggs must play up to his level of productivity.
4. Has Devin Hester lost his 'Mojo'?
There was once a time where special teams coaches dared not kick to Devin Hester. Hester would tell you that he was insulted when teams kicked to him. He was that dangerous. He made head coaches around the league devise game plans for special teams. That was before the Bears experimented with Hester at wideout, and during his time at there, the team actually lost production from the return specialist. With Hester entering this off season solely as a return man, does the loss of receiving responsibilities mean an increase in kickoffs and punt returns for touchdowns? Or has the damage already been done, and the Hester that we're looking at is simply a shell of his former spectacular Pro Bowl self?
5. Is Jay Cutler the franchise quarterback for the Chicago Bears?
Over the last few seasons in Chicago, strong>Jay Cutler has been beat up by opposing pass-rushers as well as local and national sports pundits. However, entering into the 2013 season, all the misgivings about Cutler could fade away; all he has to do is be like the late great Al Davis, "and just win baby." Cutler can make himself the unquestioned starting quarterback for the Bears now and in the future with a great first showing in training camp. This being a contract year, Cutler can quiet detractors early by displaying his willingness to learn from Trestman as well as command the offensive scheme.