The Bears wrapped up the first offseason under new head coach Marc Trestman and GM Phil Emery’s second offseason. The team is starting to pull away from former GM Jerry Angelo’s gravitational pull and forge a new identity. What have we learned since Lovie Smith and his 10-6 record were sent packing and Marc Trestman became the hottest Canadian import to hit Chicago since Canadian bacon. We’re starting to learn about Phil Emery’s vision for the Chicago Bears. Let’s see what we’ve learned about the Bears this offseason.
5. There are a couple of new sheriffs in town
I am confident that if Lovie Smith were still here, Brian Urlacher would still be here. If Jerry Angelo were still around, I have to believe that Gabe Carimi wouldn’t have been traded to the Tampa Bay Bucs for a sixth round draft pick. As Brad Biggs pointed out in Sunday’s Tribune, more changes are on the horizon with a lot more free agents in 2014.
Phil Emery and Marc Trestman are reshaping this team to their vision. You’ll see Lovie Smith’s and Jerry Angelo’s fingerprints on this team, but Emery and Trestman will continue to work to wipe them away until pretty soon you won’t see much left of the old guard.
4. The Bears are committed to keep Cutler upright
The Bears tried to improve their offensive line multiple times since Jay Cutler has arrived in town but for one reason or another, they’ve failed. Whether it was bringing in a new offensive line coach like Mike Tice to ditching the seven step drops from Mike Martz’s regime, the Bears feigned action while throwing the same stiffs out there in front of Cutler. They now appear fully committed to protecting Cutler.
The only player likely to remain in the same position he held down last season is center Roberto Garza. The Bears dropped the richest deal to an offensive lineman in team history on Jermon Bushrod. They bumped J’Marcus Webb to compete for the right tackle spot with Jonathan Scott. They invested a first round draft pick on Kyle Long, who is expected to challenge for a starting guard spot and could project as a tackle down the road. They added another prospect in the latter rounds with Jordan Mills and brought in free agents Matt Slauson and Eben Britton. There are more new faces in the offensive line meeting room than old ones.
3. Tempo and speed
Trestman and Emery have put a premium on speed. Emery is obsessed with measurables and Combine numbers. Lovie Smith and Jerry Angelo may have dabbled in numbers; Emery takes it to a new level. And it’s not just the players whose speed is valued.
From the first minicamp, you’ve heard about Marc Trestman’s frenetic pace and coaching style. Everything is about a high tempo: fast in and out of the huddle, getting the ball out quickly, etc. I would be absolutely floored if you saw a delay of game or a burned time out in the first quarter of a meaningless drive because the Bears can’t get the play in on time.
2. The defense won’t be changing too much… yet
Phil Emery had a plan in mind when he handed Lovie Smith a pink slip after a 10-6 season. He wanted to carry over as much of Lovie Smith’s defense as he could. What was not to like? The D was not the weak spot on the team, especially not in the first half of the season when the turnover machine was cranked on full blast and carrying the Bears to a 7-1 record.
Emery tried to bring defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli to have some continuity from the ’12 team, but Rod took his compression stockings to Dallas to help them install a Cover-2 defense of their very own. The Bears brought Mel Tucker in as the new defensive coordinator. Tucker comes out of Jacksonville, where he was experienced with both 4-3 and 3-4 defenses.
Don’t expect any significant changes in ’13, but some of the draft choices and personnel moves make you believe the Bears could be only one or two players away from pulling off a switch. For now, expect the Bears to keep on keeping on and following their old blueprint with a few wrinkles.
1. This is Jay Cutler’s team…for now
A couple of seasons ago, Olin Kreutz was shown the door and everyone commented that it was now Jay Cutler’s offense. Kreutz was such a big personality and a well-respected locker room guy, Cutler couldn’t assert himself and take charge of the offense. Next, Brian Urlacher’s time passes and he is no longer with the team. Now, this really is Cutler’s team.
The Bears have sent the defensive-oriented head coach packing and hired an offensive guru to run the team. They’ve invested big free agent dollars on weapons to surround him and put him in a position to succeed. Besides being his team, it could also be Cutler’s last stand. He is in a contract year, so he’s got to grab it quickly and take control. It’s very possible the Bears will tag Cutler because it’s unlikely we’ll get a good understanding of his fit with Trestman in just this season.
What do you think? What have you learned about the Bears this offseason?