Five Questions: Chicago Bears

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There will surely be moments this season where the Chicago Bears look like contenders — legit contenders. They will look this way because of their offense, which is loaded with top-tier talent at quarterback (Jay Cutler), tailback (Matt Forte) and wide receiver (Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery). In fact, the Bears may look their very best when they are behind and it’s time for Cutler and Co. to pass Chicago back into the game.

Assuming the 2014 Bears stay healthy on offense, they are going to have more than enough highlights for the annual NFL Films season-review video. But can the Bears do enough in the other phases to be a playoff team? Are they going to be a lamentable 8-8 or a you-don’t-want-to-face-them-in-January 10-6 or 11-5?

Here are five questions to weigh about these intriguing Bears:

1. Will Jay Cutler be named to the Pro Bowl for the second time in his career?

We hear you: The Pro Bowl doesn’t matter, you say. Look at some of the recent rosters — the game has lost luster being moved a week before the Super Bowl, which precludes players from the conference winners playing in the NFL’s all-star affair. And what’s the deal with the new captains system? Why not call it the “Rock N’ Jock Football Jam” and get it over with?

Well, in the case of Cutler, a Pro Bowl selection would be a big deal. And we’re talking about a selection right off the bat, not an addition to the roster because of injuries/defections at the position.

Here’s why this would be notable:

It means he played all or nearly all of a full season. Considering he’s missed at least five games in two out of the last three seasons, 16 Cutler starts would be a welcome development for Chicago.

It means the Bears’ offense likely would have met the high expectations set for the group entering this season. There haven’t been many, if any, Chicago offenses with this much talent. If Cutler shines, the Bears’ skill position players should stand out, too.

He would have beaten out several other capable quarterbacks along the way. Consider the NFC’s depth at the position: Aaron Rodgers. Drew Brees. Russell Wilson. Colin Kaepernick. Nick Foles. Tony Romo. Cam Newton. Matt Ryan. Matthew Stafford. Robert Griffin III. Eli Manning. If Cutler is one of the NFC’s top three initial selections at the position, he likely will have had a monster year.

2. Was the Bears’ preseason debacle at Seattle an aberration — or a chilling hint of where the club fits in the NFC’s pecking order?

In the third preseason game for both clubs last Friday, Seattle converted all seven third-down attempts in the first half, running out to a 31-0 halftime lead on Chicago. Yes, it was just an exhibition, but it was the most important of the preseason games — the closest to a real dress rehearsal. And under the somewhat-bright lights, Chicago wilted. At best, it’s a throw-out performance, one not to be taken at face value. At worst, it’s a loss that suggests Chicago’s ceiling isn’t at high at all.

3. Is Chicago’s defense materially better than a season ago?

It better be. The Bears’ run defense was the NFL’s worst a season ago — and the pass defense wasn’t much better, frankly. Chicago spent big in free agency to improve the defensive line, signing defensive ends Jared Allen, Lamarr Houston and Willie Young. Then, in the draft, the club added secondary help in Round One, selecting Kyle Fuller.

The moves were a nod to the obvious — the Bears needed to get deeper and more talented on defense. If indeed the Bears have succeeded in this regard, it should show up early in matchups against the Bills (Week One) and Jets (Week Three) — clubs without much offensive punch.

4. Will the special teams be a weakness?

For years, the Bears’ special teams were a major strength, but entering 2014, they are, at best, a question mark outside of steady kicker Robbie Gould. The Bears’ coverage units are worth monitoring; Chicago really struggled in his regard at Seattle. The Bears also need a returner to emerge to replace Devin Hester. And Chicago is untested at punter and long-snapper, too.

5. Can the Bears survive their first nine games?

After beginning their season at home vs. the Bills on Sept. 7, the Bears then play 6-of-8 away from Soldier Field, with road trips to the 49ers (Sept. 14), Jets (Sept. 22), Panthers (Oct. 5), Falcons (Oct. 12), Patriots (Oct. 26) and Packers (Nov. 9). This will be a test of the Bears’ resolve and their readiness. They probably will have to shake off some adversity and perhaps steal a road game or two early to give themselves a chance to make the most of having five of their last seven at home. If the Bears are truly playoff contenders, they can emerge from these first nine games with a winning record. However, if they start slowly, it’s probably unreasonable to expect a strong stretch run.

23 responses to “Five Questions: Chicago Bears

  1. Mentioning Eli Manning in a list of potential pro bowl quarterbacks at this point in his career is almost as ridiculous as putting RGme on the list at this point in his career.

  2. The biggest hurdle for Jay Cutler getting a Pro Bowl berth is that getting people to like him enough to throw away their negative stereotypes of Cutler (the ones he doesn’t really deserve anyway) and actually vote for him.

    But regardless of how he plays, some will refuse to see him as anything but a pouty-faced, chubby, double-chinned coach killing chain smoking whining interception machine who throws teammates and coaches under the bus and screams at and shoves his teammates all the time and only throws to Brandon Marshall and treats the media like garbage at press conferences and flips off the paparazzi while walking his ridiculously hot wife’s toy dog.

  3. Cutler = Quitter

    He’ll never live down the playoff game “injury” – sorry Bears’ fans but someone had to tell you.

  4. I don’t give a crap about the Bears in general, but I think I’d take the Bears’ Jeffery, Marshall, Bennett and Forte over any wr/end/back set in the league, if all healthy. Cutler can do a lot of good things with those guys. However. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again:

    If you have good running backs, maybe you can run the ball. If you’ve good receivers and a quarterback, maybe you can throw the ball. But if you don’t have a good enough line, you won’t be doing either. That’s where all hard questions about the Bears’ offense start and end.

  5. hyzers says:
    Aug 28, 2014 7:08 PM

    The Lions will bend them over twice again this year.

    _______________________________________

    Yep, you’re probably right but the Bears will bend over and flip the bird finishing ahead of the PATHETIC Lions at the end of the season, again this year….

    2013 NFCN Final Standings:

    1. Green Bay Packers
    2. Chicago Bears
    3. Detroit Lions
    4. Minnesota Vikings

    Lions Suck!

  6. 1.) It’s certainly possible.
    2.) Aberration.
    3.) Yes
    4.) No.
    5.) Only if #3 holds true.

    They need to go no worse than 5-4 in those first nine to have any chance at the playoffs.

  7. Mike, you’ve based far too much of this list on the bears’ preseason game against the Seahawks. Despite what anyone says, the #1 objective of preseason games is: don’t get hurt. Nothing else even comes close.

  8. Unfortunately as a huge Bears fan, this season looks to be lost, Emery can’t build a defense to save his life. The Bears look worse on D than a year ago, which would be hard to do, but Emery is complete garbage at evaluating talent on D. Fire Emery!

  9. Bears fan here. For all the offseason hype and personnel moves, the Bears are still looking like a very incomplete and unbalanced team. They have half an offense (pass but no run), a defense full of slow players with terrible instincts and bad fundamentals, and abhorrent special teams.

    Unless Trestman & Co. are keeping a whole lot under their hats until the games count, I see a struggle to finish above .500 this year… and their DC and special teams coaches exiting soon thereafter.

  10. the biggest unasked question: What did we get from the Lovie for Trestman trade except a great number of useless points. 10/6 for an 8/8 with more mundane games on the way

  11. @ shep – Hester wasn’t expensive? $3M per year when the Bears needed a complete overhaul of the D?

    Hester is at the tail end of his career. He plays one way on ST. Based on the kickoff rule, he’s of no value there (on the contrary, he could never quite figure when to take it out or not, resulting in drives starting at the 9 yard line). So, he’s effectively a punt returner. If a team punts to him 5 times a game, at least 2-3 will be away from him or out of bounds or pinned. At least one will be misjudged by Hester. He won’t fair catch the ball and it will roll allowing the gunner to down it at the 5. He’ll also have one where he’ll catch the ball at the 35, run backwards and get tackled at the 26.

    So, $3M a year for a guy who will effectively give the Bears 1 or 2 plays a game?

  12. Wow, I’m seeing a lot of pessimism from my fellow Bears fans here.

    I admit, I’ve seen some concerning things on defense and especially special teams this pres-season, too. But I’m still cautiously optimistic about this year, with the #1 reason being the amount of talent & depth on that newly rebuilt D-line.

    On both sides of the ball, it does all start up front, doesn’t it?

    I also think we’ve had a lot of wiley old vets taking it real easy this pre-season: Briggs, Tillman, Allen, Jennings, etc.

    These guys will show up when it’s game time, I have NO doubt.

    As long as these key pieces stay healthy, and a couple youngsters can step up to at least play adequately (Fuller, McClellin, Bostic, etc.), we’ll be contenders.

    And if our rebuilt d-line is getting consistent pressure, not getting gashed in the run game, not biting on misdirection, or not getting burned by bubble screens – we’ll be okay. Their pressure will force turnovers to the secondary.

    I’m also thinking/hoping Allen brings some attitude and swagger back to that defense, which it’s been sorely missing since Urlacher left.

    Here’s the biggest reason not to go all panicky, sky-is-falling: it’s PRE-SEASON, and Trestman strikes me as just the type of coach who’d rather play things smart and conservative and close to the vest (think: the opposite of obnoxious Pete Carroll), and then have his team come out swinging, a real surprise after all the underwhelming exhibition. It’s sound strategy over ego.

    So…in Trest I trust (but Tucker & DeCamillis? not so much). Either way, we’ll be right in the mix when Decemeber rolls around, have faith.

    Bear down!

  13. where have you been the last 3 years? Very few draft choices on D have made the team and nothing in the preseason gave us any real insight into a much better D.

    Yes the rules have opened the NFL offensive side but if you can’t ever stop the other guys look for others to make the play-offs in your place.

    Scoring points is not the only route to success.

  14. Defense and special teams look to be a major problem. They have been manhandled on the d line throughout the preseason. Yes, it is only preseason but that is ominous because it is simple man on man performance, and they have been BAD. Unless the Packers get snakebit with injuries again the Bears will playing for second place and wild card berth.

  15. A lot of pessimism in this thread.

    I think for a team to be successful, it has to have an identity. Something that they can hang their hat on and say “We do this well.” And the Bears do have that. They have an amazing collection of talent on the offense and if Cutler stays healthy this season, they’re going to put up a ton of points.

    I expect their offense to be dominant enough that they’ll win a bunch of games no matter what the defense plays like.

    But it’s those half a dozen games against really good teams that should concern Bear’s fans. Those games where the offense might only be able to put up 25 and they’ll need the defense to seal the game. I’ve watched the Bears closely in the pre-season and that defense still looks bad. They made some definite improvements in FA and the draft and if they do so again next year that defense will start getting respectable.

    But at least right now, I see a 9, possibly a 10 win season for the Bears and an early exit from the playoffs. That defense just has to further improve.

  16. One of the things with the Bears under Lovie was that even when their D gave up a lot of yards (which happened more frequently towards the end of his run there), they still took the ball away regularly. Two- and three-turnover games by that D were not uncommon even in their down years.

    Whereas now, the Bears defense shows no ability or inclination to force the other team into turnovers at all. They also are terrible tacklers. There is decent physical ability among the defenders on the Bears roster, but for whatever reason they are playing much slower and weaker than their talent would warrant.

  17. Very old defense, maybe they should start there…that being said the lions defense is suspect also but at least were young and have upswing and a stout d-line. last i looked the bears d-line is swiss cheese factory..
    eat it.

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