Few teams have taken on such a major shift in philosophy this offseason than the Chicago Bears. The motto in the town for decades has been to run the football, have a dominating defense and control the clock.
This all changed the moment the Bears traded for former Denver QB Jay Cutler. Cutler is a Pro Bowl QB who has thrown for over 4,000 yards each of his last two seasons in the league. The weather should not be much of a factor for Cutler, as he had to play in Denver which has plenty of snow and wind like he'll face in Chicago.
The Bears last year were led at QB by former Purdue standout Kyle Orton. Orton won a hotly contested battle with former Bears QB Rex Grossman in the preseason last year. Orton is a good decision maker and limits his turnovers, something Grossman did in bunches.
Orton's weakness though was lack of arm strength to get the ball downfield. The Bears' best receiver was to be their converted kick returner, Devin Hester, who is among the fastest men in the NFL.
However, the Bears never capitalized on that speed, as Orton did not have the foot speed to evade pass rushers, nor did he have the arm to hit on the deep pass.
Offensive coordinator Ron Turner had to rely on the short passing game, many times having Orton check down to his running back Matt Forte, who led the Bears in receptions last season. Also, Forte carried the ball 316 times last season, and the fatigue on Forte started to show at the end of last season.
This season, with a quarterback that can elude the pass rush with his quick feet, and a guy who has a tremendously accurate deep throwing arm, Ron Turner should be able to call more fly pattern for Hester, as well as utilize the speed of their top draft pick two season ago, tight end Greg Olsen.
Olsen will be the prime beneficiary of the new offense. Olsen is a lightning fast tight end that few linebackers can keep up with in coverage. With a QB now who can get him the ball in space, Olsen should be able to have his best season yet.
The offensive side of the ball is not the only place of change for Chicago. Head Coach Lovie Smith has decided to put defensive coordinator Bob Babich back as head of the linebackers, and Smith will take over the defensive playcalling.
One of Smith's first moves was hiring former Lions head coach Rod Marinelli to be the defensive line coach. At first glance, one would wonder how an 0-16 coach would be hired for anything.
However, upon further inspection, Marinelli was in charge on the Tampa Bay defensive line when it was dominating the league with Simeon Rice and Warren Sapp.
Marinelli has guys to work with. Adewale Ogunleye, Mark Anderson and Tommie Harris have all had double digit sack seasons. The issue with the Bears last year is no team blitzed more than the Bears, and this was due to lack of line pressure. Marinelli's schemes should change that.
Also, whereas former coordinator Babich brought up linebackers Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs up to the line to give a blitz look, Smith will likely apply more pressure from the front four and from his safeties.
When Smith was coordinator in St. Louis, he would constantly put his safeties, like Adam Archuleta, in the box to provide run support and QB pressure. He likely will do the same, as he would rather his two Pro Bowl linebackers roam the field and create turnovers.
If the Bears are able to create pressure on the QB without relying on linebacker blitzes, and the offense can generate points via the deep passing game, the Chicago Bears have a real chance to reach the NFC playoffs.