5 Chicago Bears Who Need to Step Up in 2014
Chicago Bears Who Need to Step Up in 2014
In 2013, the Chicago Bears had to overcome many obstacles in order to be successful. Some of these hurdles they cleared, while the team stumbled over others. The offense’s ability to flourish in a new scheme was definitely the high point for Chicago. Unfortunately, that joy was overshadowed by the rash of injuries on the other side of the ball, resulting in the worst defensive season in franchise history.
Regardless of how the offense and defense fared at the end of the year, there are numerous players who need to step up their game this upcoming 2014 season. A lot of the Bears’ key players will be hitting the free agent market this offseason, and a vast number of opportunities will be offered to fill those potential voids.
The likelihood of Chicago re-signing wide receiver Earl Bennett seems very slim. However, in the event that he does sign a deal, he’ll have competition breathing down his neck. As for cornerback Zack Bowman and defensive end Corey Wootton, they may have a better chance at continuing their careers in the Windy City. If Charles Tillman doesn’t return for 2014, Bowman could be looked upon as the team’s replacement at cornerback. On the other hand, Wootton was a productive starter last year, but will need to be an important part of a Bears pass rush that was tied for last in sacks in 2013.
Besides Chicago’s free agents, there are some players who are still under contract who need to take their game to the next level. Just like Bennett, the chances of defensive end Julius Peppers suiting up for the Bears next season is unlikely. There has been speculation that the aging defensive star will be released to free up cap room. However, assuming that he takes a drastic pay cut, Peppers will have to somehow revert to his Pro Bowl level of play to help the defense get back to their dominating ways.
Running back Michael Bush, who had a disappointing campaign last year, will also need to find a way to increase his productivity on offense, if he isn’t jettisoned for the team’s financial gain.
The aforementioned players are just a few that come to mind when speaking of individuals who need to step up to the plate. Here are my top five Bears that need to improve the most for 2014.
5. Marquess Wilson
As mentioned before, there is a good chance that the Bears will cut ties with Bennett this offseason. Second-year wide receiver Marquess Wilson is said to have a lot of potential, and could be a dynamic addition along with fellow receivers Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery.
4. Jon Bostic
Jon Bostic was thrown into the fire his rookie season, and was gashed on several plays throughout the year as a result. It’s uncertain if the Bears will re-sign starting middle linebacker D.J. Williams. If Williams doesn’t return to Chicago in 2014, Bostic will have to step to the learning curve quickly.
3. Stephen Paea
Defensive tackles Henry Melton and Nate Collins are coming off season-ending injuries, and will be unrestricted free agents come March 11. Stephen Paea, who will be entering his fourth year in the league, could possibly be buried on the depth chart if the Bears re-sign either Melton or Collins, and draft a defensive tackle with their 14th overall pick.
2. Shea McClellin
The Bears drafted Shea McClellin in 2012 in hopes that he would help their pass rush. During McClellin’s two seasons in Chicago, he’s only amassed 6.5 sacks. His potential move to outside linebacker just may be his last chance to prove that he was worth the first-round investment.
1. Chris Conte
Entering the final year of his rookie contract, safety Chris Conte will have to fight for his life this coming training camp for his starting spot. Chicago will more than likely bring in safeties via the draft and free agency to improve the weakest part of its defense from last season.
Worst case scenario, Conte will be demoted to the bench in 2014, could face the chance of not returning in 2015 and the possibility of several teams not seeking his services.