Predicting 5 Problem Spots for the Chicago Bears in 2013
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Chicago Bears general manager Phil Emery was a busy man this offseason.
He brought in a new coaching staff, spent some money on the offense, said goodbye to some key veterans and brought in a ton of new faces on the roster.
Like it or not, this is his blueprint of how the Chicago Bears should look—a team that wants to start fast on offense and look relatively similar on defense. The Bears will focus on protecting their quarterback and give other teams a more athletic look on defense.
Where are the Bears' problem spots? Here are five areas the team could struggle in next season.
Depth and Production at Wide Receiver
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As it stands, Alshon Jeffery and Earl Bennett are second and third on the Bears' wide receiver depth chart.
Last season, both players were sporadic at best and it still has to be somewhat of a concern going into next season.
Jeffery has been working out with Brandon Marshall and should take a step forward this year. The only problem is that when a player had only 24 receptions for 367 yards and three touchdowns last year, taking a step forward won't be that big.
Bennett has turned into an enigma. He had solid seasons in 2009 and 2010, but since then, has struggled. The Bears really need him to step up and be a consistent slot receiver to take the pressure off of Marshall, Jeffery and Martellus Bennett.
Injuries are a concern for both players. Bennett has had a history of them with the Bears and Jeffery went through two fairly significant ones that kept him off the field most of the time.
Health is paramount for both players. After that, they need to prove they can be relied upon weekly and not just every three games.
Who's the Backup Quarterback?
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Will the Bears actually go into the season with Josh McCown and Matt Blanchard has their backups to Jay Cutler?
Should they choose to do so, that could be a problem.
You never want to think Cutler can go down with an injury, but the fact is that he's only played a full 16-game season in three of his seven seasons in the NFL.
In the tightly contested NFC North, one game can make or break the season. The Bears missed the playoffs last year byone game and can't get into a mindset of just letting one go because they don't have a viable backup.
Jason Campbell wasn't terrible in his stint with the team, but did nothing to prove he was the long-term answer either. He was outshined by a young rookie on Monday Night Football named Colin Kaepernick who went on to lead the Niners to the Super Bowl.
Kaepernick was on fire that night so that's no knock on Campbell, but it still shows there's a huge dropoff from Cutler to the next guy. Should it be McCown and Blanchard, it will be an even bigger dropoff.
Yes, McCown came on strong at the end of 2011, but even Caleb Hanie looked good at one point.
Hopefully, Marc Trestman's offense and expertise can help both players and, hopefully, Cutler stays healthy to make this a moot point.
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New Bears defensive coordinator Mel Tucker has a very difficult job on his hands.
He has to get a defense filled with veterans and rookies to come together under new tutelage.
The Bears' defense was successful in the past largely due to the leadership of Brian Urlacher and Rod Marinelli. Those leaders created a culture predicated on teamwork and attacking the football.
Early on, you have to wonder if that will carry on under Tucker. First he has to get veterans like Julius Peppers, Lance Briggs and Charles Tillman to be the leaders of his philosophy.
When you have the veterans on board, then you focus on the young guys. Jon Bostic, Cornelius Washington and Khaseem Greene cannot get lost in the shuffle and have to believe from Day 1.
Factor in new veterans like D.J. Williams and James Anderson and you have a tall task for Tucker. There's no denying he can do it, but how long will it take?
It could be well into the regular season before this defense finds its groove.
Can the Secondary Match Up?
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Everybody knows this is a passing league and when you look at the Bears' schedule for the season, you know the aerial assaults from the opposition will be on full display.
Last season, Charles Tillman and Tim Jennings were beyond brilliant, but even they will tell you that will be tough to duplicate. The defense, as a whole last year, was good against the pass, but here comes some offenses that will test that out.
On the schedule this year is New Orleans, Cincinnati, Washington, Baltimore, New York Giants and Philadelphia in addition to the usual suspects of Green Bay and Detroit. All these teams can spread you out and fire the football all over the field.
In order for the Bears to duplicate their success from last year, creating turnovers will still have to be the focal point. It won't hurt for players like Kelvin Hayden and Brandon Hardin to really help Tillman, Jennings and the rest of the secondary.
A good pass rush always helps a secondary too so let's not take any pressure off of Julius Peppers, Henry Melton and the defensive line. It's just going to be very hard to repeat the plus-20 in the turnover department from a season ago.
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Incoming special teams coach Joe DeCamillis is good at his job and has a ton of experience, but don't discount just how brilliant Dave Toub was in Chicago.
For the last eight seasons, the Bears were ranked in the top three as a special teams unit in the league. Toub's units took top honors in 2006 and 2007.
It was under Toub where Devin Hester had his most electric moments, Robbie Gould became as reliable as anybody and a variety of discarded cornerbacks, linebackers and other misfits were making huge impacts on special teams.
You can argue during the Lovie Smith era that it was special teams and not defense that was the most consistent phase on the team.
Chicago will expect and demand a ton from the third phase and it will be tough for them to answer the call.