Chicago Sun-Times

25 days to Camp: Revisiting the Bears' top issues this summer

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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.

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14 Comments

Did I read this correctly? The Bears' (aka Monsters of the MIdway) top questions this off-season are about a (under)whelming defense, and our most reliable position is at QB?! I partied a lot this 4th of July, maybe I should go have a second cup of coffee. It's early. It's Monday. Maybe I'm still asleep?

Just Kidding. I'm actually 100% with you Brad. A reenergized defense is the key to success this season. I've said many times on this blog that Da Bears inept, game managing offense has had a negative affect on our defense. Why should they play balls-to-the-wall D and get after the QB if they know the other half of the team is about to go 3 and out (again). They have to have reason to go out and perform. Coaches have been asking them to win games without the offense for way too long.

I firmly believe that if the offense can bring some excitement and firepower this season that our defense will be more motivated to go out and dominate. Besides, an offense that can control the clock gives them more time to rest and gameplan. I also believe that (and this is my theory, and it obviously can't be proven, but......) our offense has put together so many long strings of piss poor performances that it has caused unwarranted injuries to defensive personnel. It seems to me that we've been asking our D to play iron-man football the last 5 years because our offense can't stay on the field for more than three plays at a time.

Bear Down! Go Bears!

PS. Thanks for helping us get through July Brad. Cycling, tennis, and golf are nice and all, but I'm ready to watch some real sports again.

The #1 question for me is will the lovie and turner run an nfl offense this year?in other words when it's 3rd and 5 call a play that goes for 5 instead of a 4yd. out or whatever stupid call that leaves them 1 yd. short.I know they will be a running team and that's fine as long as they realise they now have a qb. capable of making plays when called upon. this means when you get a lead running a no huddle you keep running that untill they stop it!in otherwords do what every other team in the league does,nobody but the bears refuse to run a play that works more than once a game.cutler may not be the savior but he is a proven qb who moves the ball when given the oppertunity.never heard about how immature or what a selfish player he was untill he came to the bears.sounds like sour grapes from denver and the rest of the league now that they have real qb.

ahhhh.....their are no issues wiht teh bears!! i just played madden on my xbox that santa claus gave me ans i won teh subper bowel!(on rookie mode) you see loosers al teh bears have two do is tel cutler to pump fake ans tehn throw it deep to hester becusase he has a 100 speed rating. works everythime LOOSERS ans i now sense ia m alwasy right ans i only give FACTS! oh ans if taht doesnt work then tell lovie to use some madden cards. i allways do!

ans i now some of you feelas siad youre no.1 consern was seeing me in pink panties????? oh you boys are so naughty naughty!! lucky you sense my mom and me are teh same size :)

but you gays now me old carp-ton just trying to be posative...

ps i said dont disturrb me wehn im cleaning my room mom!!!!

pps i HATE BWANDO!!!!!!!!!!

I have to agree with most of the points in this blog, but optimism still rules the equation for me on all of these issues. I think the Bears are a far, far better team this year than last, and they almost were serious contenders last year. On all fronts they have taken steps to make themselves a viable Super Bowl contender. Cutler is of course the key, but the other areas have been addressed, at least partially, as well.

We will rue the day we let Mike Brown go.

Brad, I hope you get paid more than that schlep, Gordon Wittenmyer that does the 'Inside the Cubs' blog. We're in the middle of the baseball season, there are a few roster moves looming today, and yet he hasn't updated his blog in weeks. On the other hand, you continue to churn out thought provoking articles for 'Inside the Bears'. Great work as always, and please keep it up during the season.

Umm, the questions on receiver and safety really have the same answer. That answer is: "As long as the answer is currently on the roster, who cares? Let the fun begin!!"

Blanks to be filled in on the depth chart are one of two things. They are either competitions among current teammates to be judged in training camp by the coaching staff; or holes in the talent base to be filled by trade, draft, or free agent signings. Roster competitions among talented players are part of the fun of being a Bear fan. Holes in the talent base are very frustrating and no fun at all.

For example last year we were treated to a full-blown competition at QB. Kyle Orton won, but at the end of the day the answer was "none of the above". On the other side of the ledger we all had questions about the post-Benson/Jones running back situation. The answer was Forte. He was already here and the competition was short, but fun.

So the real question is do the Bears have enough talent on their roster at wide receiver and at safety? I think they do. If so, these competitions are going to be fun to watch.

I hate Bwando too! It's such a twavesty that he's always causing twouble on Bwad's wittle website! As a fewoh junawist, I know just how you must feewel about it Bwad Biggs.

Anyway, Go Behs! Go Bawack Obama! The gweatest Pwesident in the histowy of the United States of Amewica!

This site needs a moron filter. Just selecting on the basis of correct spelling alone would push the level of discussion and analysis to new heights unheard of.

And... how come so many sports fans do not understand the definition of what a fact is?

Now that he is finished with drug court, I hope to hear about a Matt Jones signing. Move Basanez to the practice squad and make Matt Jones #1 receiver and #3 QB.

IM sorry guys but i think one of the top five things needed to be addressed was OFF and DEF Co-Ord.And Now Lovie has to worry about the def as well as play calling and if hes leaves it all up to turner thier in trouble.Defense was Numero uno.Then recivers then O-Line.Crossin my fingers......keep it up brad doin good buddy!!!

Matt Jones as #1 WR, and 3rd string QB ???????????? Are You stupid? The Bears are not going to sign those kind of MALCONTENTS. You can't do everything in one swing.

ALL YOU HILLBILLIES need to take a step back and THINK """in reality""".

WAKE UP !!!!!!!!!!!!

This takes time, There will be a draft next year, There will be a Free Agency period next year.

HEY CRAPTON!!! LEARN HOW TO SPELL AND TALK """CORRECTLY""

Intelligent people do ""not"" talk like you do. You are NOT funny.

After one sentence ---I quit reading your post because you seem to be an absolute IDIOT.

Hey Mick - I very well may be stupid, but how is Matt Jones a malcontent? They guy was unlucky enough to be in a vehicle that had an eight ball of coke in it that may or may not have belonged to Jones. He does not have a conviction on his record and handled the matter in drug court. He was suspended three games by the NFL and served his suspension.

He may have made a few poor choices, and has paid dearly for them, but I don't see how the label malcontent applies to him.

And as far as the 3rd sting QB stuff goes, that was half-joking, and was referring back to the QB thread the other day that opened a debate as to whether the Bears should carry 2 or 3 QBs on the roster. By listing Jones as a 3rd string QB, it seems like a way to have your cake and eat it too. You could have an emergency QB without dedicating a roster spot to it. Yes it's stupid, but considering he played QB at the University of Arkansas where he set (and still holds) the Southeastern conference record for rushing yards by a QB, it's not like he's totally unfamiliar at the position.

Additionally, it's not like the Bears are squeaky clean in this area. They decided to draft Marcus Harrison after he got busted with some Ecstacy and a couple of blunts. The Bears were smart enough to realize that this made him an extraordinary value--just like Matt Jones has the potential to be right now.

I, for one, would love to see him in a Bears uniform this season. But I guess that's just the stupidity talking.

The issues are many, as always this time of the year.

1. The Defense: It only has to be a top half NFL defense. It is more than capable of that. Jay Cutler is 12-1 in games the opposing offense scored less than 24 points. That is how crappy his Denver D was.

2. The D-line: Should be fine, and is deep in terms of the talent being pretty equal between first and second string. they should always be fresh. Besides Harris, there really isn't another guy on the D-line that can't be replaced by his respective backup. Plus, assume the Bears offense is a lot better. The defense should be facing a one dimensional team. They will get to teh QB this year more than 40 times.

3. The Receivers: Yea, this is teh weak point of the offense, but better than having the O-line or the QB as your weak link. And they won't be that weak. Orton did an OK job last year, and was on pace to comoe close to Bear's passing records in the first half of the year. Cutler will at least do that for the whole year. And Cutler to Hester deep will happen 3 times the first 4 games. After that, forget about 8 in the box. Then Forte pounds the rock all day.

4. The O-line: Cohesiveness has not been an issue since 2004. Heirstedt is a good O-line coach that showed his mettle last season. The O-line far outperformed what was expected of it.

5. The safeties: This will be worked out in camp. The athletes are there. I prefer Manning and Graham to make it hard to pass. Gosh darn Manning has got to get "it" at some point if you just stick with him.

And some points about Matt Jones. I don't care about his legal troubles. I just don't think he is very good. He wasn't good enough in Jacksonville with a great running game, and a competent QB.

And Lovie Smith is a great coach. He made it to the superbowl with Rex Grossman at QB. Nuff said.

Go Bears!!!

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This page contains a single entry by Brad Biggs published on July 6, 2009 6:10 AM.

26 days to Camp: Breaking down the action at defensive end was the previous entry in this blog.

24 days to Camp: Forte, Jones give Bears strong backfield is the next entry in this blog.

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