The optimism surrounding the 2012 Chicago Bears is boundless. Even the players and coaches, who usually shy away from the words Super Bowl in July, sound like they believe this could be a special season for the Beloved. I know that I’m excited. With the addition of Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery, Michael Bush and Jason Cambell, this has the makings for a memorable year. Before we go booking our trip to New Orleans, let’s pump the brakes and look at how games are really won; in the trenches.
As the Bears gear up for their first padded practice on Saturday night, I thought of the the old football cliche is that games are won and lost in the trenches. Whose fat guys can push around the other guys’ fat guys? We are victims of the fantasy footballification of the NFL. We’re stats whores who know every skill position player in the league while we’ve forgotten about the guys pushing each other around up front to allow all those yards and touchdowns to pile up our fantasy stats.
I think that’s why there’s such a big buzz around these 2012 Chicago Bears. It seems like they’ve got the “fantasy”guys – Cutler, Marshall, Forte, etc. and the offense is ready to take flight. But if the offensive line doesn’t come together, those flights could quickly be grounded. The interior of the line appears to be pretty well set with Roberto Garza and Chris Spencer pretty much locks while Lance Louis could be facing a challenge from newcomer Chilo Rachal for the other guard spot.
The tackle spots are a little more iffy. Gabe Carimi is expected to anchor the right side, but can he return from a serious knee injury that ended his season before it really got going in Week 2. The left tackle spot is a steel cage death match between J’Marcus Webb and Chris Williams, neither of whom inspires a ton of confidence based on their past performance.
On offense, the Bears will tell you that losing Mike Martz and his 70 step drops will make the line perform better. I don’t fully buy it. There will be times when they need to convert a 3rd and 15 and the guys on the edge are going to have to block the man/men in front of them. There can’t be missed assignments, lapses in technique or mental mistakes.
The bigger concern for me could come on the interior of the defensive line. Julius Peppers will do his thing and the combination of Izzy Idonije and Shea McClellin should be able to get their share of pressures and sacks. The DT spots are a little more concerning. Converted college running back Henry Melton showed flashes last season, but consistency was lacking. Second year man Stephen Paea is still a work in progress as he develops and carves out his role with the Bears. Is he a 3-technique or a Nose Tackle? We’ll find out this season. Matt Toeaina is steady as a nose tackle, but he’s not spectacular.
The depth behind the starters is lacking, with guys like newly acquired Brian Price, John McCargo, Chauncey Davis and Corey Wooten will vie for roster spots and playing time along the D-line. If there are any injuries on the D-line, things could get a little scary. If the Bears can’t generate a pass rush and pressure with just their front-4, the back end of the defense could be exposed. That’s not how Lovie’s Cover-2 is designed.
Let’s hope the Bears can win the battles in the trenches and live up to the sky-high expectations. What do you think? Am I overreacting? Which line scares you more – offense or defense? Post your thoughts in the Comments.