It’s the dog days of summer, and the one thing Blackhawks and Bears fans have in common, other than hailing from the fine city of Chicago, is counting down the days till the kickoff of the regular seasons at the United Center and Soldier Field.
In the spirit of this solidarity, I sat down with Staff Writer Tim Lively (TL) of Bear Goggles On’s sister FanSided site Blackhawk Up, for a Q & A session on all things Blackhawks and Bears:
TL: As you know I like to focus on team dynamics. With the departure of Brian Urlacher, who do you see stepping into a leadership role for the Chicago Bears defense?
MC: Right now, even though they’re at the end of their career, you have two of the best defensive players to ever put on a Bears uniform in Lance Briggs and Charles Tillman. Both of them are impact players that other players will listen to and emulate. Last year I do not feel that the lack of success had to do with lack of player leadership on defense. It was more coaching, lack of depth and injuries, in my opinion. Defensive Coordinator Mel Tucker has surrounded himself with a better coaching staff this year with the addition of Paul Pasqualoni, Reggie Herring and Chris Harris. However, there are respected leaders on this defense like Briggs, Tillman, DJ Williams, Jared Allen and Tim Jennings. There will not be any leadership issues that should be affected by Urlacher’s departure. It’s time to move on.
TL: Generic question maybe, but how do you think the Bears did in the draft?
MC: I gave them a B- right away. First off, it is almost impossible to grade a draft this quickly. However, it’s fun so lets do it. I’ve never been an advocate of drafting a punter and no, Ray Guy should not be in the hall of fame. I heard from a lot of people that the Bears “covered their needs.” I take that with a grain of salt – just because they have more bodies at a needed position, doesn’t necessarily mean that they covered their needs. However, the Bears got deeper on the defensive side of the ball. Their 4th round safety selection, Brock Vereen, is maybe their best value pick and will probably be your starting safety by the start of the regular season. First round pick, Kyle Fuller, along with Vereen give the Bears flexibility in the defensive backfield as both players have experience at a few different positions. The rotation at DT got a bump and now they don’t have to worry so much about the health of Stephen Paea. They have capable replacements in line with Ego Ferguson and Will Sutton. On the flip-side, there does not appear to be a major impact, pro-bowl type player in this bunch. Emery may have not gotten his first 4-5 choices at DT and may have settled with Ferguson to fill a gaping void. The 2 biggest areas of need coming into the draft were Safety and DT. The Bears added depth to these groups, but did they add quality starters? Only time will tell. Until then, In Emery We Trust.
TL: Former Bears Coach Lovie Smith once said the Chicago Bears have always been about two things: a running back and a middle linebacker. Given the improvements in the Bears’ passing game, do you see them moving away from the strong defense/running game approach?
MC: I think that offensively, they are pretty balanced as evidence of last year. They passed a little bit more than they ran but were still effective running the ball – averaging 114 yards/game. Even though the defense is improved, it is not a defense that appears that you can rely on winning games for you. In short, the Bears will not be as dependent on running the ball and their defense because they have guys that can spread the field. This is a different team with different strengths than years past. It’s ok if they’re not your father’s Chicago Bears. This game is evolving and teams must evolve with it. However you score points or prevent points from being scored is fine, as long as it produces victories.
TL: Which offensive and defensive players are going to have breakout seasons this year?
MC: Offensively, I think WR Marquess Wilson has a break out year with 45+ receptions, improving on his 2 from last year. With Earl Bennett gone, he is going to get the opportunity in the slot and he’s got the skills to execute.
Defensively, I think rookie Safety, Brock Vereen, wins the starting Free Safety job and has an impact year. I will also go out on a limb and say that Vereen leads the Bears in interceptions this year. Many scouts have said that he has the ability to read routes well and is a very intelligent safety that always seems to be in the right spot. That skill set should produce some much needed turnovers. If he can work on his tackling, he will have a good career.
TL: What’s your bold prediction for the Bears this season?
MC: Even though this kills me to say, I have to predict with my head and not my heart. I think the Bears get swept by the Packers but are still able to finish 12-4 and take the division.