The Chicago Bears have made some very practical moves that should significantly improve the team. Their discreet work has been done on both the offensive and defensive side of the ball. The moves that have been made, though not the sexiest, may prove to be the key elements in the success of the upcoming season. The Bears' current sore thumb is the defense. The Bears defense has struggled to put pressure on opposing quarterbacks and the Bears are giving up way too many passing yards as a result. The puzzling part of this dilemma is that the Bears have had virtually the same defense since their last Super Bowl appearance. Like I said earlier though, the Bears have taken many steps to fix the deficiencies on both sides of the ball.
One of the things that I think has significantly hurt the Bears was the loss of Defensive Coordinator Ron Rivera. After the Bears lost the Super Bowl, Ron packed his bags for San Diego and the Chargers. Ron played for the Bears, so you know his heart was there. The reason Ron left was due to philosophical differences with Head Coach Lovie Smith. Following the departure of Ron, Lovie promoted his buddy Bob Babich from linebackers coach to DC. The Bears have suffered ever since. Bob's lame play-calling made the Bears look like a shell of what they used to be. Now, Bob has been relieved of his play-calling duties and Lovie is going to personally run the show. I think this is a make or break season for Lovie, which is why he is going to be so hands on this year. Hopefully, better play-calling can help the Bears defense revert to the dominant force they once were.
After a crushing 0-16 season as the head coach of the Detroit Lions, Rod Marinelli was relieved of his coaching duties. This gave the Bears the ability to pick up a great defensive line coach and put an expert into their most needed category. This may single-handedly be thing that has the largest impact, but will be the least noticed. After being very productive in the past, the whole defensive line has been lacking awfully. Rod was the coach of big name defensive linemen Warren Sapp and Simeon Rice, both of whom played for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The two linemen give the credit of their success to the coaching of Rod. Also, Warren Sapp has been mentoring Bears Defensive Tackle Tommie Harris during the offseason. Tommie Harris is the most important player for the Bears defensive line and entire defense to be successful in the pass rush. Look for better play from him this year.
The Bears always seem to get steals in the later rounds of the draft. They drafted Jarron Gilbert in the third round. He is expected to make an immediate contribution to the defensive line. He is versatile enough to play tackle and defensive end. Gilbert led the nation in tackles for loss at the collegiate level last season. The Bears also drafted project player Henry Melton, who was a running back that converted to a defensive end half way through his college tenure. Both of these picks show they see a need to bolster the defensive line. To bolster the offensive line, the Bears drafted 305-pound TE Lance Louis, as he was used often as a blocker in college due to his size. They also picked wide receivers Juaquin Iglesias, Johhnie Knox and Derek Kinder as well as LB Marcus Freeman and CB D.J. Moore. Out of the last six, the players I think have a chance to take the field as rookies are Iglesias, Knox (special teams), and maybe Louis (as a sixth blocker). D.J. Moore could be a surprise too. But with the picks the Bears took, I think they all were very good late picks. Both the offensive and defensive line were addressed in some form.
The Bears offensive line has been nothing to brag about. With the retirement of John Tait and the loss of John St. Clair to the Cleveland Browns, the Bears had a gaping hole staring them in the face. They got right to work signing Pro Bowler Orlando Pace to play left tackle and Veteran Kevin Shaffer to push draft pick Chris Williams. Kevin Shaffer is actually an upgrade on John St. Clair, and was released from the Cleveland Browns due to salary cap issues. Shaffer is also good enough to start if Chris Williams gets hurt or does not meet expectations. Lastly, they signed unproven offensive lineman Frank Omiyale to bolster the line. Omiyale has played limited time for the Carolina Panthers. The Bears also bolstered their strong side linebacker positon by signing Pisa Tinoisamoa, who has lead the St. Louis Rams in tackles in four out of the last six years. Another overlooked move was the re-signing of Israel Idonije, who has stepped up on many key occasions.
So, even though the Bears have not signed a big name wide receiver, they seem to be lacking at safety. They have done a great deal behind the scenes to pave the way for many successful seasons to come. The offensive and defensive line have seemed to take priority this year, as they should. With an improved offensive line, think about what Matt Forte can do, especially with a passing threat to compliment him this year. With the strengthening of the defensive line, the secondary and linebackers will immediately look much better because they are not making up for weakness in the line.