Bears look for more offence under Trestman
HC M.Trestman, OT J.Bushrod
TE M.Bennett, LB D.Williams
LB J.Anderson, OG M.Slauson
LB B.Urlacher, LB N.Roach,
OG L.Louis, DE I.Idonije,
Posting a double digit win total in the NFL is a major feat, but when you reach the midway mark of the season with a 7-1 record expectations grow beyond a 10-6 record. The Bears were playing like a true Super Bowl contender halfway through their 2012 campaign, with an efficient offence and a defence that was scoring almost weekly.
The second half of the season wasn't as kind to Chicago, as they lost five of six from Week 10 to Week 15 and despite ending the year with back-to-back wins, they failed to earn a playoff berth.
The disappointing finish pushed the front office to remove head coach Lovie Smith, ultimately replacing him with former Montreal Alouettes coach Marc Trestman.
Trestman inherits an offence that has no shortage of firepower with strong-armed quarterback Jay Cutler, ball magnet wide receiver Brandon Marshall, and the always elusive Matt Forte.
After all the success he enjoyed as the head coach of the Montreal Alouettes, it will be interesting to see what kind of offence Trestman implements in Chicago. Trestman has a deep NFL history working as an offensive assistant for several years before heading to Canada to get experience as a head coach. He is particularly skilled at working with quarterbacks, which is a good sign for Cutler.
Other positives for Cutler include improvements to a very poor offensive line. The Bears brought in left tackle Jermon Bushrod, who is coming off two straight Pro Bowls with the Saints. His arrival will push J'Marcus Webb to right tackle, a position he may be more qualified to play. The Bears also signed Matt Slauson from the Jets and drafted Kyle Long.
With their revamped line, Cutler should have time to find his receivers, which include Marshall, second-year wideout Alshon Jeffery, and newly acquired tight end Martellus Bennett.
Marshall is one of the most consistent receivers in the league and has enjoyed the best years of his career playing with Cutler in Denver and now Chicago.
Marshall faced double and triple teams in 2012 and still put up his best season as a pro with 118 receptions, 1,508 yards and 11 touchdowns. He may not eclipse those numbers this season, but as long as his hip is healed, he will continue to be one of the best receivers in the league at age 29.
Forte is also a skilled pass catcher out of the backfield and despite a drop in his receptions last season, he has consistently caught more than 50 balls per year.
Forte is often forgotten when discussing the the NFL's top backs, but he is in the prime of his career and has already gone on record saying that he expects to run a lot of routes in this new offence. Under Trestman, he could easily break his previous career high of 63 receptions in his rookie season. (-TSN.ca)
Life After Urlacher
The Bears' defence remains mostly inact, with one glaring absence. The team decided to part ways with leader Brian Urlacher.
Urlacher will go down as one of the great linebackers in the history of the Bears' franchise, adding to a list that includes Mike Singletary, Dick Butkus and Bill George.
NFC NORTH PROJECTIONS
1st in NFC, first-round bye
One game out of playoffs
Ponder can't take next step
Missing something in Motown
To replace Urlacher, Chicago took a chance on former Bronco D.J. Williams, who missed the majority of last season due to suspensions. Williams will get the first opportunity to start, with rookie Jonathan Bostic learning behind him. Willaims injured his calf during on July 31 though and has hardly practised since. Working on a one-year deal and received no guaranteed money, so his roster spot is far from locked in.
Julius Peppers is coming off his fifth straight Pro Bowl, after his eighth season with double-digit sacks in his career. Peppers doesn't have to do it alone on the Bears' defensive line now that Henry Melton has emerged as a quality starter. Melton will play this season under the franchise tag, but he is deserving of a long term deal as one of the better defensive tackles in the game.
On the outside, Chicago's cornerbacks Charles Tillman and Tim Jennings are an aggressive pairing that isn't scared to step up in run support. They do an excellent job of trying to force fumbles, with Tillman punching the ball every chance he gets.
Kelvin Hayden will play slot corner and that could be the area teams target to attack in the Bears' usually stout defence. Chicago is great at forcing turnovers, but with Urlacher's coveage skills now gone, the middle of the field will be more open than it has in year's past.
The Bears looked like contenders last season, before their collapse and ultimately failed to make the post-season. Expectations will remain high with Trestman on board, as the club has all the pieces in place to challenge for a playoff spot.
The defence will miss Urlacher's presence, but they will still be a fierce group that values the turnover more than anything else. Life in the NFC North isn't easy with the Packers constantly in the Super Bowl conversation and the Vikings showing signs that they may be regulars in the post-season.
Your move Marc Trestman. (-TSN.ca)
Special Teams: K R. Gould, P A. Podlesh, KR D. Hester, PR D. Hester
Special Teams: K R. Gould, P A. Podlesh, KR D. Hester, PR D. Hester
Fantasy - By The Numbers
QB Jay Cutler has one 4,000-yard season to his credit, and it came in 2008, so he's a long way from having fantasy appeal. At this point, he's maybe, possibly worthy of a backup spot in standard leagues.
Get ready for the fantasy season with the latest from TSN.ca.
Rankings: QB | RB | WR | TE | DEF
Fantasy Schedules: AFC | NFC
2013 Auction Values: Cheat Sheet
Fantasy Depth Charts: AFC | NFC
With at least 1,400 yards from scrimmage in each of his five seasons, RB Matt Forte is a safe option, because he's going to get a lot of touches, but he also has a total of 23 touchdowns in the last four seasons, which limits his fantasy appeal. If the Bears' offensive line is finally improved, after several down seasons, that could boost Forte's numbers.
WR Brandon Marshall, re-united with Cutler, had career-highs in receptions (118), receiving yards (1,508) and touchdowns (11) last season and, with six straight seasons over 1,000 yards, he's one of the top options at the position. With Marshall taking up such a high percentage of the Bears' passing attack, that leaves WR Alshon Jeffery and TE Martellus Bennett as sleeper picks, at best.
DE Julius Peppers has registered double-digit sacks in eight of his 11 NFL seasons and, even as he gets older, he's consistently productive. DE Corey Wootton and DT Henry Melton both have potential to have value in deep leagues or on the waiver wire too. Veteran LB D.J. Williams steps into Brian Urlacher's old spot in the middle and Williams, if healthy, is the best bet among Bears linebackers, though narrowly ahead of outside 'backers James Anderson and Lance Briggs. CB Charles Tillman is incredibly productive for a corner, with at least 75 total tackles in nine of his 10 seasons, with at least three interceptions in eight of 10 seasons. (-Scott Cullen)