Hello sports fans, Carlos here to give you a lowdown on the 2012-2013 Chicago Bears. In separate articles, I will cover the Offense, Defense, and Special Teams. Today, my focus will be the Bears revamped offense.
The Bears underwent an incredible transformation. Last year, QB Jay Cutler had another difficult time with Offensive Coordinator Mike Martz’s offensive scheme. It required Cutler to hold onto the ball for a long time (usually a 7 step drop), waiting for his receivers to get open.
This was the same offense that Martz used to create The Greatest Show on Turf with the St Louis Rams and win a Super Bowl. There were a couple of problems trying to implement the offense in Chicago.
First, the Bears do not have a great offensive line that could protect Cutler until the receivers could get open. Under the Martz offense, Cutler was sacked 110 times in only 41 games. That is almost 3 sacks per game.
Second, the Bears did not have the receivers who could get open quickly enough to have a dangerous offense. The best receiver was Earl Bennett, Cutler’s roommate at Vanderbilt. He is a good possession receiver, but is not a #1 receiver. Devin Hester and Johnny Knox are speed burners, but their route running left a lot to be desired.
In the offseason, Martz retired, and Mike Tice was promoted from Offensive Line Coach to Offensive Coordinator. They also hired Jeremy Bates to be the quarterbacks coach. Bates worked with Cutler for 3 years with the Denver Broncos and both he and Cutler are very comfortable with each other.
The offensive line did not change much, but there are some differences to it. Gabe Carimi, last season’s first round pick, was injured for nearly the entire season. This season, he comes in healthy and is slated to be the starting right tackle. Chris Williams, who has played every position on the line except for center, was also injured last season. He is back this season, and will be an invaluable asset as a backup.
Another Improvement made to the line will be the actual play-calling. Tice will be using a 3-5 step drop for Cutler, thus having him get rid of the ball quicker. By requiring the line to spend less time pass blocking, this will greatly cut down the number of sacks and knockdowns Cutler will have to experience.
On the receiving corps, the Bears made some MAJOR improvements. They pulled off a trade with the Dolphins to acquire Pro Bowler Brandon Marshall. This is the big, fast target that Cutler needs for him to just sling the ball and not have it intercepted. In fact, Marshall is the big, fast target he had in Denver where he experienced his greatest success. In the 2 full seasons Cutler had with Marshall, the two combined for 2,590 yards. It has been 10 years since a Bears receiver gained 1,000 yards while Brandon Marshall has done it himself for the last 5 years.
Another improvement to the receiving crew is rookie Alshon Jeffery. Jeffery has been wowing people in camp so far. Two seasons ago he was runner-up for the Biletnikoff Award, given to the best WR in college. Last season, he showed up overweight and it cost him both on the field and in the draft. He was originally slated to be one of the first picks in the draft, but ended up going to the Bears in the 2nd round. That could turn out to be a gain for the Bears. He is in shape this year and is out to prove his doubters wrong.
Having Marshall and Jeffery solidifies the wide receiver position for the Bears. Bennett and Hester fit in perfectly in complementary roles and will not have the pressure of trying to play as the top options when they really are not. Knox is still trying to rehab from the terrible back injury he suffered last season, so he starts this season on the Physically Unable to Perform list (PUP). Also, Dane Sanzenbacher will return and be the 3rd down receiver.
Throughout the offseason, there were concerns that RB Matt Forte would not show up to camp. The Bears placed the franchise tag on him, but he was looking for a long-term deal. Finally, on July 16th, just hours before the deadline to get a deal done approached, Forte and the Bears came to an agreement on a 4-year, $32 million contract, with $17 million in guaranteed money.
Having a happy Forte was crucial for the Bears to have any hope to contend for a Super Bowl. Before being injured last season (missing the final 4 games), Forte accounted for almost 60% of the offense. He will not be asked to do that this season with the added weapons so he should be fresh down the stretch. His ability to catch out of the backfield will be important now that there are downfield threats. Forte could have a career year this season.
Helping Forte with the running duties will be Michael Bush. Bush signed as a free agent after spending all his previous 4 seasons with the Oakland Raiders. He ran for 977 yards last year, and also had 418 yards receiving, so he has some of the same abilities as Forte. What he also does is score touchdowns in the red zone, an Achilles heel for Forte.
The Bears started out 7-3 last season before Cutler missed the rest of the season with a broken thumb. With Cutler out, the Bears struggled mightily from the quarterback position. They went 1-5 the rest of the way and missed the playoff.
This season, the Bears signed Jason Campbell to back up Cutler. Campbell is a solid veteran who has started many games with the Washington Redskins and Oakland Raiders. In fact, he led the Raiders last season to a 4-2 record before going down with a broken collarbone. The Raiders were desperate to win so they traded for Carson Palmer. They went 4-6 the rest of the way and missed the playoffs.
The Bears know that should something happen to Cutler again, they are prepared for success this time around. “He’s doing a great job of coming in and giving us that security blanket,” center Roberto Garza said. “He has a lot of talent, and he’s started a lot of games, so we’re very fortunate to have a guy with his experience. He’s going to make us all better.”
When all the dust settles from all the moves, the Bears should have a potent, dangerous offense. Of course, they have to show it on the field since titles are not won on paper. We shall see if they made all the right moves to have them compete with the Green Bay Packers.