After watching Saturday night’s debacle against the Arizona Cardinals, the Bears have their fans (including this one) out on the ledge. So far this preseason, the Bears have done very little put offseason concerns to rest. So I’m not going to beat around the bush, here’s the question: after watching three preseason games what concerns you more – the Bears offense or their defense?
A case for the offense
I think we all realized that there would be some bumps in the road installing Mike Martz’s new offense but we didn’t realize that one of the bumps would be Jay Cutler playing the role of a speed bump for opposing defensive lineman.
One thing we thought we knew about the offensive line was Chris Williams. He had a nice dress rehearsal late last season after the Bears put Orlando Pace out to pasture, but so far this preseason Williams has looked pretty clueless. After a 5 sack performance by the Raiders in Week 2, the Cardinals sacked Jay Cutler another 4 times. The Cardinals who had 2 sacks in 2 games so far heading into their game with the Bears.
Jay Cutler hasn’t dealt with the pressure too well. If he didn’t have the past history of interceptions, I might not be too concerned. The fact is, it’s been hard to evaluate Cutler and the receivers while the offense has been so out of sync.
Mike Martz makes offenses better everywhere he goes. It’s a fact. In general, the offense is young, particularly at the skill positions, so there’s some upside there if the offense starts to click and Mike Tice can get his offensive line troubles worked out.
A case for the defense
Lovie Smith’s defense has been in steady decline ever since the Super Bowl and last year the bottom fell out. Yet somehow, Lovie has been able to save his ass by re-shuffling defensive coordinators the last three years. The biggest void in the Bears defense has been on third downs. They finished the 2009 campaign ranked 28th in third down conversions allowed and they appear in midseason form this preseason.
The Bears spent big free agent bucks on Julius Peppers to fill the void at defensive end and get the pass rush that’s been missing since Richard Dent was holding down the DE spot years ago. So far, teams have neutralized Peppers by using short drops and running screens to his side. Pep has been impressive, but it hasn’t been enough to lift the D.
Another thing that has really come out in the preseason has been the poor tackling. That is inexcusable for a veteran group like the one they have. Aside from Major Wright, the guys on that side of the ball are experienced and should be getting the job done. That’s really the biggest concern for the defense – they are the experienced bunch and should be light years ahead of the offense.
This is a well-established scheme that’s installed on the defensive side and the only real addition is Peppers. (Chris Harris is back after a brief hiatus to Carolina, but he himself said that the playbook hasn’t been changed much since he left.) There is no excuse to have guys constantly out of position. The safeties never know where they’re supposed to be and are constantly out of position, leaving giant holes that have been picked apart. I am sick of hearing about “a lack of execution” and “poor technique” as reasons the defense isn’t where it needs to be.
So which has you more concerned, the offense or the defense? Can they fix this in time before the regular season starts? Vote in our poll (along the right margin) and let me know your thoughts in the comments section.