By Kyle Johansen @kylejohansen on March 27, 2014
In Marc Trestman’s first season with the Chicago Bears, the quarterback whisperer led a revamped offense that ranked eighth in the league in total offense, fifth in passing offense and second in points per game at 27.8. Unfortunately the defense fell apart due to injury, inexperience and a general lack of leadership. In 2014, players on both sides of the ball will need to step up in order for the Bears to end their three-year playoff drought.
Marquess Wilson will be the first man up to replace Earl Bennett as the slot receiver. Wilson was a seventh-round pick out of Washington State in the 2013 NFL Draft after leaving left school early in 2012 due to an abusive head coach. In 2011, Wilson had 1,388 yards receiving with 12 touchdowns, and at 6-foot-3 and 194-pounds, he has the potential to develop into another weapon for Jay Cutler.
As a rookie fifth-round pick who started every game for the Bears at right tackle this past season, there is no way for 2013 to not have been a success for Jordan Mills. While fans never heard his name much, due to good or bad reasons, Mills graded out very poorly at Pro Football Focus where he was ranked No. 74 out of 76 offensive tackles. With a full year of experience under his belt, Mills needs to show continued growth and progress in 2014.
With the loss of Henry Melton, Nate Collins may play a major role in 2014. While the Bears will certainly select a defensive tackle at some point early in the draft, Nate Collins is going to be the primary three-technique tackle next year and needs to continue the ascent he began last season before being placed on IR. The effectiveness of Nate Collins in 2014 will go a long way towards bringing the Bears’ defense back to respectability.
The Bears released backup running back Michael Bush earlier this offseason, meaning that Michael Ford may get the first chance to take over in his place. Ford went undrafted out of LSU and averaged 5.5 yards per carry in 2012. Ford ran the 40-yard dash in 4.42 seconds and has decent size for a speed running back at 5-foot-10 and 216-pounds. He has the potential to blossom into a nice change of pace back who can be worked into the offense.
By signing Israel Idonije, the Bears fully replaced Julius Peppers, at a fraction of the cost. At 6-foot-6, and 275-pounds, Idonije is nearly the same size as Peppers and ranked just above Peppers according to Pro Football Focus last year. Idonije has the flexibility to play both inside at defensive tackle and outside at defensive end, and he will play a key role in the defensive line rotation during 2014.
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