Can one athlete make all the difference for a team on one side of the ball?
When Devin Hester was at the top of his game returning kicks and punts for touchdowns, one would have to argue, no doubt, one player can affect a game, a season, at least his teammates.
Aaron Rodgers came on the scene with a confidence from preparedness that was able to lift the same team that had become kind of stagnant under Favre to this ludicrous #1 ranking they currently enjoy. Not to mention how painfully average the Vikings could be without one Brett Favre. I know everyone will point to the record they had under Travaris Jackson or that they think they may have with Sage Rosenfelds but be serious with yourself on that.
Even back when Jordan retired the first time, they still had Pippen, Horace and many others in place, yet they struggled to remain mediocre.
When Mike returned, they picked up where they left off.
Even with Lance Briggs and so many talented defenders, the 2009 Bears defense was bad and thats under the supervision of such defensive names as Lovie and Marinelli.
Even with speedsters like Hester, Knox, Aromashadu and others, the 2009 Bears offense was awful and that with the addition of a future hall of fame left tackle and a long-awaited, promising, young signal caller.
By week eight, I believe more than just the fans were left scratching their head, looking for answers. Think these were different problems yielding these results? Consider what a veteran leader does on any team on either side of the ball. They can recognize what a team is trying to do and implement schemes and get people in position to make plays.
Whether from the Safety position or center, line-backer or quarter back, someone has to know whats going on through play recognition and get their teammates out of base packages and so on.
So many times last season the Bears' defense allowed a receiver to go in motion or just line up somewhere that no one was able to get, when the ball snapped, in time to make a play. I understand you try to mix up coverage schemes or confuse teams, but on third and 6 or 7 with a dangerous guy in the slot or behind center, it usually means someone misread or didn't read what was going on.
During the latter part of the season, Cutler began to realize what he had and how to use them in Ron Turner's scheme. Its much simpler for an offense to recognize what the defense is doing and adjust appropriately. With Cutler able to draw on what he's learned of his receivers since his short time in Chicago, he will not have many of the growing pains that was an interception for every positive drive scenario like last year.
At least not for those same reasons, namely receiver rapport.
The Chicago Bears without Brian Urlacher has been just what you expect from the Colts without Manning. By now everyone knows that Urlacher can be just as animated as Peyton Manning as he gets his defense into position.
Another similarity is that when a play is needed they can just make the play and usually do.
I don't know how side line to side line Mr. Urlacher still plays, but I guess I better not question that unless this falls into his hands. He recently said he doesn't know if the Bears missed him while he was gone but he said he sure missed them. One thing is beyond a doubt. They miss him when he's not on the field. Without him they allow opposing offenses to dictate the game.
This could be a huge year for Chicago. Not just the hoisting of the Stanley cup and acquisition of LBJ, but the Bears could click on all cylinders. In a sport that has 22 players in the game, it may be hard to fathom how one player can impact the game other than situationally, until you realize its still only one ball. The year The Bus Jerome Bettis retired, he personally appeared to take away what looked like a Bears victory and ultimately the Bears season just because the Steelers kept giving him the ball and he kept stumbling 4-6 yards all the way to the goal line, if memory serves me.
This season still hinges on a few key factors.
It appears all hopes for actually upgrading the offensive line have been abandoned and instead the upgrade at O-line coach will kick in and work some magic there. This is crucial not only to allow Cutler a second or two, but for the backs to be effective enough to make passing the ball a viable option. With no running game, most of the passing plays are anticipated by the defense and success is doubtful.
Also, will Jay Cutler allow the system to work or will he be a QB that tries to force too many things.
Then there's the complexity of the new offense that has been noted in every discussion about Martz's playbook.
These guys are professionals, though, and its their job to spend the time to get it down. The issue here is the growing pains of learning a new offense. Hopefully they'll be able to use it effectively when pre-season ends. It took Jordan and Pippen time to work together when Phil first implemented the triangle. Its only natural to have people out of place and geting penalties and all that. The important thing is to control the frustrations and keep pushing and trusting your guys.
As long as Jay Cutler has a good relationship with his offense and coaches through turmoil, they will be good.
I have no doubt the Bears defense will be a top 10 defense barring any significant setbacks. They have too many playmakers at too many positions with something to prove. Many will say Tommie Harris' better days are behind him, and that Urlacher and players like Mark Anderson have lost a step. I've read lists of top corners and line backers that don't include Peanut Tillman or Lance Briggs. People are saying Zach Bowman can't cover.....wait, the evidence may show that he needs some work with that but the Bears will have a much better defense this season.
No coach game planning for a Bears match up is saying any of these things, although one can hope. At full strength, this defense has no weakness except maybe an argument for somewhere at safety. Even that will be much improved with Urlacher's and Chris Harris' ability to recognize plays and read quarterbacks.
I'd have to say the Chicago Bears have done a pretty good job of assembling talent. Players still have to play. Injuries, egos, and attitudes derail teams. Comradery, commitment, and Captains bring teams together. There is no better glue for a team than good ole fashion W's. If they lose, it will be harder to keep the boat afloat. The good news is this D can score some TD's for them if not just put them right there to punch it in.
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