On January 16, 2013, Bears’ GM Phil Emery ushered in a new era of accountability by opting for quarterback guru Marc Trestman. Signaling a change that brought to bear implications deep within the organization, Emery cited an emphasis on “championships,” something rarely referenced by former coach Lovie Smith, whose doctrine concerning all things Green Bay had begun to ring hollow. A half-dozen months later, the Bears find themselves at a crossroads with a myriad of key players facing expiring contracts at the conclusion of the season. Indeed, 2013 may prove a swan song for many a veteran at Halas Hall. A poor showing and Phil Emery likely will rebuild in favor of resigning expensive, aging talent. A closer look on both sides of the ball reveals a team reliant on quality coaching and a lack of depth at key positions.
Last season, it was evident that OC Mike Tice was out of his league, as the Bears’ offense struggled to muster points. The modest improvement Mike Martz was able to achieve in 2010 and 2011 never materialized. As a result, the Bears offense hamstrung the team, making it impossible to defeat premiere competition. QB Jay Cutler was most affected by the vanilla and predictable playcalls. Lauded for his work with the offensive line, Tice also proved woefully incompetent when tasked with protecting his “franchise” signal-caller.
In point of fact, Cutler rarely had time to set the pocket and scan the field. Versus better teams such as Green Bay and Houston, the Bears offense was downright stagnant, unimaginative, and predictable. Matt Forte was not utilized properly. Earl Bennett and Devin Hester enjoyed single coverage all year but failed to capitalize. Kellen Davis became another comical entry in the long line of failed Tight Ends employed by the charter franchise.
In 2013, the Chicago offense must be more creative and efficient. The mental mistakes must fall by the wayside. Jay Cutler must improve his poor play versus the Packers, and this unit needs to carry the defense for a change. While the offensive line can’t be much worse, if it isn’t substantially better Trestman and company won’t prosper.
It’s one thing to have multiple weapons to offset poor play in the trenches (i.e. Aaron Rodgers), but when you only deploy one accomplished wideout (Marshall) it’s often a daunting task indeed. Getting the ball out quickly is essential, but there will still be 3rd downs in which Cutler will be faced with a long conversion. These are the plays that make or break a season, and coaches must design plays that cater to the strengths of this team. Personnel must dictate scheme. In the end, the Bears still have too many limitations on offense to make much of a jump in the rankings.
Suffice to say, the 2012 Chicago Bears were a dysfunctional team. While the defense was top 5, it had to perform to perfection lest the offense fail to produce. Many times, the defense not only kept the Bears in it, they flat out won the game. Take the Dallas matchup, for example. The Bears most likely don’t emerge victorious without the big plays by the defense. While this unit most likely won’t duplicate last year’s scoring spree, it is a very experienced one that should not see much drop off, Urlacher’s prolonged absence notwithstanding.
DE Julius Peppers is what he is, and along with Charles Tillman, Tim Jennings, Lance Briggs, and Henry Melton the unit presents plenty of problems for an offense. Even if the Bears’ D falters somewhat, they’ll still be good enough to keep the Bears in most games.
The key to sustaining last year’s success is the development of Shea McClellin and Cory Wooten. If these two can bring their “A Game,” the Bears won’t have to rely as much on their perennial stars. However, the lack of depth at defensive tackle could come back to bite Phil Emery and his staff.
While the Bears added some nice pieces this past offseason, their offense still has too many holes to jump into the upper echelon of the league. Martellus Bennett is a viable upgrade over departed Kellen Davis, but he’s prone to drops, and in his last 3 games of 2012 he only reeled in 6receptions. Jermon Bushrod will grant the offense some badly needed stability on the left side, but Roberto Garza and Jamarcus Webb are liabilities, and the Bears simply don’t feature enough speed to test the better defenses. Brandon Marshall will carry the receivers, and if Alshon Jeffery can stay healthy he’ll make teams pay for focusing solely on #15.
10-6, 2nd in NFC North