Chicago Bears 2014-15 Team Preview
The Chicago Bears haven’t made the playoffs since 2010, but this could be their opportunity with an improved and reconstructed defense. The defensive line features entirely new faces; and half of the secondary is gone, too.
The Bears still have a lot of question marks in the defense though, and pass rushing has been ineffective.
The offense is one of the more powerful in the league, but it isn’t enough to overpower every opponent through the postseason. Defensive improvement is an absolute must.
Odds to win Superbowl: 14/1
Odds to win NFC: 15/2
Odds to win NFC North: +275
Betting Futures from Bovada
The Bears used a version of the West Coast attack offensively last season influenced by the passing attacks of Aaron Kromer. It was very unpredictable with a lot of different formations and both backs and wideouts combining for catches. The Bears set a team record for net yardage (6,109) and net passing yardage (4,281).
Jay Cutler’s health is crucial. He showed the offensive acumen to run Trestman’s offense last year, but took too many hits and it wasn’t the offensive line’s problem. Cutler is holding onto the ball for too long, and he needs to make quicker decisions. For all the praise Cutler receives, he’s little more than the third best QB in the division behind both Aaron Rodgers and Matt Stafford.
Part of the reason may be because he wants Brandon Marshall to reach a deep part in slant routes, but that isn’t worth sacrificing plays for. He trusted Alshon Jeffery and Martellus Bennett more towards the end of last season, which bodes well for the offense. Trestman has to be largely credited for Cutler’s improvement, but a lot of it came from Cutler himself.
Matt Forte is closing in on the wall for a running back. He’s now coming up on 29 years of age. He’s benefitted from Trestman’s offense, which has opened up the field and allowed him to take less wear and tear on his body. He finished second in the NFL in rushing yards last season (1,339) and he’s reached at least 1,400 yards from the line of scrimmage in the last six seasons. Fourth round selection Ka’Deem Carey of Arizona will be the short yardage back. He’s not lightning quick, but he reads the field well and makes sound decisions. He’ll complement Forte well.
The offensive line did a poor job of short yardage blocking, and that really hindered the Bears in the red zone. It may have been the offense’s only weakness, but it is a crucial one to shore up. The OL lacks depth, while the Bears have questionable options at RT and center.
Offense won’t be a problem for Trestman this season. It’s on the other end of the ball that the Bears have a lot of reason for concern.
Defensive coordinator Mel Tucker had talent last season. The pass rushing group is among the best, yet his play calling really didn’t do it any justice. He’s been coordinator of six different teams and has never once had one of his defenses finish higher than 25th in the league in sacks. He’s going to try again with a one-gap zone defense, but if he strikes out this time, it may be the end of his career.
Jared Allen is a solid addition, but a short term answer only since he’s 32 years old. He has had double digits in sacks every year since 2005, but this may be the first year he falls under that plateau. Lamarr Houston is at the other end of the line, and he’ll help a lot with stopping the run. He’s also not a great pass rusher, though, and the Bears desperately need one. Willie Young fills that role, but he can’t defend the run.
The run defense was good with D.J. Williams healthy. Through the first six weeks, he kept the run defense ranked 12th in the NFL. Following his torn pectoral muscle, the Bears plummeted to third-worst in the NFL within just four weeks. Jonathan Bostic will need to be ready sooner than later for the Bears. The Bears, though, are counting on Lance Briggs and Williams staying healthy, because both Bostic and Shea McClellin aren’t the best of options as backups.
The secondary is bound to be far improved. Pro Bowlers Tim Jennings and Charles Tillman in addition to first round pick Kyle Fuller of Virginia Tech gives the Bears three very solid options in the secondary. Tillman is probably the best CB in Chicago Bears history and is great at knocking the ball loose to cause fumbles.
He’s due to begin declining at 33 years of age, but still likely has at least a few more productive seasons due to his high football I.Q. Fuller will play in the nickel defense early on. While the CBs are very sound, the Bears are hoping that Brock Vereen is able and ready to play safety. He was taken in the fourth round of the draft. Chris Conte is horrible, but will see a lot of time. The safety position is almost so bad it negates having three great corners. In fact, it does.
All the things which made the Chicago Bears one of the better special teams in the league have disappeared from the roster. Gone is Devin Hester, Patrick Mannelly and Adam Podlesh are departed. The return spot will be fought for between Weems, Ford, Hixon, Morgan and Chris Williams. The coverage units should be good, though. Robbie Gould is the one thing that remains from the great special teams, as he’s one of the best kickers in NFL history.
The Bears are relying on a lot of older players, and thus it’s more likely that some of them get injured. The issue is that the Bears don’t have enough depth for that to happen. The pass rushing has been horrible under every team that Tucker has directed, and that probably won’t change miraculously this season, either.
The offense is one of the best in the league, but the defense is horrible enough to entirely undo everything good that Cutler and the West Coast offense produce. The Bears are long shots to win the division despite being the second best in the NFC North. Bovada’s futures odds display the disparity accurately.