5 Storylines to Follow During Chicago Bears Training Camp
Five Storylines to Follow During Chicago Bears Training Camp
The Chicago Bears won 10 games during the 2012 football season but failed to make the playoffs. This gave them the distinction as “The Best Team to Not Make the Playoffs,” a moniker that always ends with a sour expression on one’s face. They were riding high halfway through the season at 7-1, but when the defense stopped forcing turnovers at a historic rate and couldn’t take picks back for touchdowns, they came back down to earth and finished the season just 10-6, losing the tiebreaker to the Minnesota Vikings.
After the defense stopped getting so many turnovers, the offense was exposed and they couldn’t win games themselves. This led to a complete overhaul of the coaching staff, including long-time head coach Lovie Smith, both coordinators, among others. They decided to bring in Marc Trestman, who has flourished in the Canadian Football League and been a successful assistant and offensive coordinator in the NFL and College game. Trestman was the offensive coordinator for the 2002 Oakland Raiders when Rich Gannon won league MVP, and will bring a west-coast type of offense to the team. Hopefully, it will help this squad get things together and start competing quickly.
There are a number of things to look at for the Bears this season. The team has 12 guys who figure to see a lot of playing time, including Jay Cutler, on a one-year deal or is in the final year of their contract. GM Phil Emery has said he isn’t extending anybody, so it’s up to the players to earn their money going into the next season.
5. The Relationship Between Jay Cutler and Marc Trestman
Marc Trestman brings a strong offensive background with him to the Bears, something they haven't had in a head coach since Mike Ditka. Jay Cutler has had to suffer through terrible offensive coordinators in his time in Chicago, and the one he felt most comfortable with, Jeremy Bates, was canned after one year because they couldn't get it done. It's up to Trestman to fix this offense and help Cutler reach the top-10 potential ESPN's Ron Jaworski believes he can become. Trestman's offense is quicker and more precision based than any offense Cutler has had before, so it will be intriguing to see how Jay responds. His future with the team also depends on it.
4. How Lance Briggs Adjusts to Play-Calling Duties
One of the things to worry about as a Bears fan is that their long-time leader of their ferocious defense, Brian Urlacher, is no longer with the team and retired. With the other two linebacker spots in flux, the play-calling duties have been designated to Urlacher's long-time pal Lance Briggs. Briggs hasn't called plays since college, so it'll be a challenge to him to make the transition, but he will without a doubt be up for the challenge.
3. Developing a Pass-Rusher Opposite of Julius Peppers
The Bears had no trouble letting long-time defensive lineman Israel Idonije go because, while he was an pretty good defensive end, he wasn't the kind of game changer they want to play on the line with All-Pro Julius Peppers and interior pass-rusher Henry Melton. They drafted Shea McClellin with the hope that he can become a threat and get to the quarterback. McClellin will also be competing and likely splitting time with Corey Wooton, who's only career highlight is knocking Brett Favre out of a game near the end of the 2010 season. It's up to one of these guys to step up if they want to keep their current defensive system.
2. Finding Lance Briggs Running Mates
After declining to re-sign Urlacher and letting Nick Roach go in free agency, the Bears have to vacancies at the middle and strong-side linebacker spots. The Bears addressed the future of these spots in the draft by selecting Florida's Jon Bostic in the second round and Rutgers' Khaseem Greene in the fourth. They also signed veterans James Anderson and D.J. Williams, who are currently the projected starters. Despite the veterans holding the early edge, the rookies will be given more than enough chances to earn a starting spot for this season, and looking next to Briggs will be on the of biggest things to look at in training camp.
1. Finally Fixing The Offensive Line
The biggest problem that this team has had ever since the 2007 season began has been the offensive line. Cutler has never known a Bears team with an line that could keep him upright. After ignoring the problem and hoping to fix it within the current roster and signing nobodies for three seasons, they finally made a real splash this offseason, signing one-time pro bowler Jermon Bushrod from the New Orleans Saints and drafting Oregon guard Kyle Long with their first round pick. They hope filling in these guys and reshuffling some other guys will improve the unit that has held the offense back for so long.