by Carlos Nazario
Now that the NFL is back, let the craziness begin. Teams have been running around trying to improve themselves. The Philadelphia Eagles have assembled a “Dream Team” (in their own eyes) of players and are confident of success this season. The Jets, who never lack confidence, resigned Antonio Cromartie and Santonio Holmes, and plucked Plaxico Burress from the Free Agency ranks. Then we have the Bears.
The Bears seem to be at a crossroads. They have traditionally been a grind it out, smash mouth type of team. This season, however, they appear to change all that. Offensive Coordinator Mike Martz has never run that type of offense and he is not going to change now, even if the Bears have never had a good aerial attack. Martz is, of course, the creator of the “Greatest Show on Turf” in St Louis, and whether the fans like it or not, he is trying to bring it to Chicago. The Bears cut or traded longtime fan and clubhouse favorites, C Olin Kreutz, TE Greg Olsen, and P Brad Maynard. The O-Line gave up a league-worst 56 sacks last season, and QB Jay Cutler was knocked out of one game and missed another because of a concussion. Head Coach Lovie Smith and Martz decided to go younger and more athletic by drafting OT Gabe Carimi and signing C Chris Spencer. Martz has never used tight ends very much except to block, and seeing that Olsen was never a great blocker, the writing was on the wall. The newly structured offensive line should be quicker and more athletic this season and Cutler should have more time to throw. He’ll also have a bigger, taller target in WR Roy Williams, who was a Pro Bowler the last time he was teamed with Martz. The Bears also have a one-two combo at RB after signing Marion Barber. New P Adam Podlesh has a history of pinning teams inside their 20 (over half his punts were inside the 20 and he averaged 43 yards/punt last year), and that will really help the defense, which once again will be a strong point for the Bears.
Not all fans are confident in the moves the Bears made. They are used to seeing the running back run for big yardage and the wide receivers to just take up space and occasionally catch passes. This is, after all, the team of Walter “Sweetness” Payton. This season’s team, however, is trying to change things. It will be very difficult to change the mentality of a fan base that has only seen ground and pound, and get them to accept the Air Bears. I, for one, like the changes. It’s time for a change at Soldier Field. This is now a league where you need to have a powerful air attack, and a running game to complement that passing game. Yes, Roy Williams has been an underachiever. When he made it to the Pro Bowl, however, he had Martz running the offense. He has stated that he loves that offense, and perhaps there are more good games from him. Yes, Marion Barber has a history of injuries, but he is a good back, and now that he is not the featured back, he’ll have fewer touches and more yards.
I am ready for a great season, and believe that with the moves the Bears made they will again contend for the NFC Title this season. They are stepping up, and though the fans are hesitant, they will come around. They always do.