For years, it's been no secret the missing ingredient to the Bears success has been the absence of a top-tier wide receiver. It seems the front office finally got the clue Bears fans were so desperately seeking.
Chicago made a huge splash this off-season by trading for Dolphins wide receiver Brandon Marshall, drafting South Carolina wide receiver Alshon Jeffery, signing former Raiders running back Michael Bush and locking up franchise running back Matt Forte to a 4-year deal worth around $8 million per year.
Yes, under new general manager Phil Emery's regime, the Bears front office got a clue.
Now that quarterback Jay Cutler finally got some new toys to play with, what will that mean for Chicago's offense heading into Training Camp this week, and the new year coming soon?
First and foremost, we must first understand how the Bears' plan to keep Cutler upright for a full season—something he's been unable to do since arriving in Chicago. Offensive coordinator Mike Tice plans on starting J'Marcus Webb, who struggled with protection last season, and Gabe Carimi, who played only a game and a half in the NFL before falling to a knee injury, at tackles. Roberto Garza will remain at center, while Edwin Williams, Chris Spencer, and Lance Louis will rotate at the guards. This is a makeshift offensive line that allowed 49 sacks last season, and ranked worst in the NFL in rushes up the middle (average just under 4 yards per carry when rushing up the middle). Unless Tice plans on rushing to the outside, that could be a big problem.
However, that's not my biggest concern, which lies in pass protection.
Now that the Bears have aerial weapons, Cutler will need time in the pocket to use them. Assuming Cutler has the time in the pocket, it's easy to imagine an efficient offense.
Cutler passed for 2,319 yards and 13 touchdowns before injuring his thumb against San Diego in Week 11—his highest per-game average since joining the Bears. Cutler passed for over 4,000 just once in his career, and that was in 2008 with the Denver Broncos when Cutler passed for 4,526 yards—1,265 of which were thrown to wide receiver Brandon Marshall.
In fact, Marshall joins the Bears with impressive stats as well. He's had over 1,000 yards receiving in each of the past five seasons, scoring 34 total touchdowns in his six seasons. However, Marshall's two highest-numbered receiving seasons came when Cutler was throwing him the ball.
Another commonplace between Marshall and Cutler? Quarterbacks coach Jeremy Bates, who was Cutler's former coach in Denver, as was named quarterbacks coach for the Bears this offseason.
Forte also got his money this offseason, providing for a distraction-free Training Camp, which will only give him more time to blossom with the offense. Forte will be a key part to the offense in both the passing and rushing game. And as if that wasn't enough, Chicago has another wide receiver in Jeffery, who's coming off of an impressive senior season, and Bush, who will be a viable third-down back in the Bears' system.
Let's not forget one more thing: Chicago still has Johnny Knox and Devin Hester, who can provide deep threats for Cuter.
All in all, this is the most complete Bears team I've ever seen at the skills positions. In a league where each of the last five Super Bowl champions passed the ball 60 percent of the time, Chicago finally seems to have boarded the plane.
Now, it's just a matter of how the system gels, and if Cutler can stay healthy.
Follow Marco on Twitter @Marco_Scola
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