Chicago Bears: 2015 Season Preview
The Bears brass will never admit they tried to trade quarterback Jay Cutler but you had better believe the Bears tried to trade Cutler. Whether no one was interested or the Bears couldn’t get what they considered “fair value”, Cutler is back from his seventh season in the Navy and Orange. I’m not ready to buy into the “Jay’s a changed man” narrative that has been hyped throughout the preseason. I’ve seen that movie before and would like to see some evidence before I buy in.
Jimmy Clausen returns as Cutler’s backup which doesn’t exactly inspire confidence if #6 goes down. Either David Fales showed enough in the preseason finale to earn a roster spot or the Bears were guarding against Jimmy Clausen‘s latest concussion. Either way, the depth behind Cutler is lacking and you can bet that if the Bears have a bad season, this will be Cutler’s last and they’ll be in the market for a new quarterback in 2016.
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In the backfield, Matt Forte is back for his eighth season with the Bears. We know what we can expect from Forte. Or do we? Forte has got a lot of miles on the tires. Is this the season when he falls off the running back cliff? In Adam Gase’s offense, expect to see more of a running back by committee approach.
Jeremy Langford was drafted to be groomed as Forte’s successor and showed flashes of speed and vision in the preseason. Veteran Jacquizz Rodgers can step in on third downs to catch a pass out of the backfield or help in pass protection.
The wide receiver group takes a big hit with top draft choice Kevin White starting the season on the PUP list following surgery to repair a stress fracture. Alshon Jeffery, sore calf and all, will be asked to step up to the #1 wide receiver role vacated by the departed Brandon Marshall. He missed the entire preseason while nursing injuries and will put a lot of pressure on himself to put up big numbers in a contract year.
Eddie Royal, who enjoyed his best season as a rookie when Jay Cutler was his quarterback in Denver, should provide a reliable target in the slot. Is this finally the season when Marquess Wilson steps up and earns more touches?
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For the tight ends, it’s Martellus Bennett or bust. The Bears had about 50 tight ends come through training camp, so it tells you they’re not excited about their reserves. They opted to keep the oft-injured Zach Miller and undrafted rookie Khari Lee for whom they traded a 2017 draft pick. Look for Bennett to have a big year while seeking new paper.
On the offensive line, Kyle Long, a two-time Pro Bowler at right guard, may or may not be moving to right tackle for the cut Jordan Mills as the line is in a rebuilding mode of its own. Former Bronos center Will Montgomery will anchor Roberto Garza‘s old spot while Matt Slauson will return after a season-ending injury to hold down the left guard spot. Jermon Bushrod will have to battle a bad back to hold down the left tackle spot and newcomer Vlad Ducasse is expected to slide in next to Long at right guard. The key to the line will be Long’s transition to tackle and Jermon Bushrod‘s health. The Bears don’t have a lot of depth on the offensive line, so an injury could be devastating.