Final results are in because, well, we decided it was time to close the polls on our question that started our countdown to training camp last Wednesday.
The question was posed -- We're in July! It's football season! What is the Bears' biggest issue heading into camp in Bourbonnais, Ill.?
More than 1,400 votes later (I'm pretty sure there are more than 1,400 of you out there to vote), the No. 1 concern (among the five responses we created) was how the defensive line will turn around under new coach Rod Marinelli.
Here is how voting broke down:
1. It starts in the trenches and this team will not get any better defensively unless Rod Marinelli does indeed possess the magic touch with that line. 35% (493 votes)
2. Jay Cutler is a great addition, but it's about the defense. Can Lovie Smith the Play Caller turn around this unit that has struggled at times for two seasons? 32% (444 votes)
3. Umm, exactly who is going to line up at free safety? I'm not sure the team addressed this position during an eventful offseason. 19% (267 votes)
4. Umm, Jay Cutler is going to throw the ball to who? I'm not sure the team can count on its wide receivers. 10% (144 votes)
5. It starts in the trenches and from the looks of things the offensive line will have three new starters. Don't overlook the obvious. 4% (59 votes)
If someone had asked us, here is how we would have ranked the issues:
1. Jay Cutler is a great addition, but it's about the defense. Can Lovie Smith the Play Caller turn around this unit that has struggled at times for two seasons?
Here is our reason why: From a personnel standpoint the offense is at least a year away from being where it needs to be. Matt Forte and Cutler will provide a nice 1-2 punch but the Bears know they need upgrades at wide receiver. They tried to trade for Anquan Boldin, they've sniffed around on Plaxico Burress. Those aren't moves made by a team that believes it's set at a position. For the Bears to make a run in the NFC this season, they need to turn things around defensively. The defense surrendered a couple of large leads in ballgames last season and a W in just one of those games would have ultimately produced a playoff berth. While we believe strongly about the next option also, the problems on the defense were not limited to the line and a lack of a pass rush. That was just the most consistent issue. Play calling left something to be desired at times and the Tampa Bay loss is a perfect example. Smith made his mark in the league as a position coach and then as a coordinator. Smith has some winning parts to work with and work is what he's done since the season ended, starting the coaching staff with a crash course in the Halas Hall basement. The Bears aren't ready to win on offense, they need to win on defense.
2. It starts in the trenches and this team will not get any better defensively unless Rod Marinelli does indeed possess the magic touch with that line.
Here is our reason why: The Bears have the personnel to be dominant here and they've been simply pedestrian the last two seasons. If Marinelli can spark this unit to produce, it will go a long ways toward making Smith successful as a play caller. But it's just part of the equation. It is the responsibility of the coordinator, Smith in this instance, to have the entire defense playing together and it starts up front.
3. Umm, Jay Cutler is going to throw the ball to who? I'm not sure the team can count on its wide receivers.
Here is our reason why: The Bears will tell you that Forte led all NFL running backs in receptions last season and that tight end Greg Olsen is poised for a breakout season but running backs and tight ends aren't gamebreakers in the passing game. Devin Hester has the physical traits to be better this season but might not develop into the No. 1 target the Bears say he can be. After Hester there is a cast of unproven veterans and rookies. The Bears need to have more success picking up big chunks of yardage and reliable big-play targets are probably still needed. Maybe Cutler makes these receivers better than most think they will be. Otherwise, it's going to be a top priority going into the offseason, one the team will have to solve without its first-round draft pick.
4. It starts in the trenches and from the looks of things the offensive line will have three new starters. Don't overlook the obvious.
Here is our reason why: Forte averaged 3.9 yards per carry last season and while working with Cutler will help him, for him to improve on that average like he needs to, the line needs to perform better. There projects to be new starters at left tackle, left guard and right tackle. Orlando Pace must prove he can stand the test of an entire season at left tackle. General manager Jerry Angelo and the staff remain high on Chris Williams, who will slide in at right tackle, but he's unproven. It takes time to develop cohesiveness on a line. This will be a work in project and it looks like it's going in the right direction, but the line play will be critical.
5. Umm, exactly who is going to line up at free safety? I'm not sure the team addressed this position during an eventful offseason.
Here is our reason why: This remains an interesting storyline heading into camp. Will Craig Steltz capitalize on the momentum he has coming out of the offseason program? Will Corey Graham still be in the mix for this job? It could be the player the Bears ultimately want at this spot isn't on the roster. That's not an alarming thing. Coaches will tell you that a team can manufacture a safety. There are not a lot of elite ones out there and the Bears have enough options to get by here. An issue at cornerback would be far more alarming.
Just our reasons. There is plenty of good conversation to support arguments for all five choices. We'll be getting to Four Down Territory on Friday. Make sure you get your questions in.