Keys to Please: Crucial Factors That Will Decide the Chicago Bears' 2010 Season
Following an up-and-down training camp, pre-season, and off-season, the Chicago Bears look forward to trotting onto Soldier Field on Sunday afternoon versus the youthful Detroit Lions. Criticism has been abundant for Lovie Smith and Jerry Angelo, as questionable moves have put the couple's hot-seat under even more fire.
After scrutiny, Angelo and the Bears have constructed a fairly good few months of improvement. Julius Peppers and former Monster of the Midway Chris Harris have been added to the squad, just to name two. Is it enough to alter Jerry Angelo and Lovie Smith's status, though?
Well, enjoy the undefeated record while it lasts, stock up on plenty of beer for the Bears' season and please feel free to give your opinion on the slideshow. Bear Down!
Just 365 days ago, Chicago began a season where their trademark defense failed to produce, ranking 23rd against the run, 13th versus passing, and 17th overall. While decent numbers, the aforementioned rankings are not near the Bears' tradition of stellar defense.
Brian Urlacher has returned, and is supposedly firing on all cylinders. Urlacher is clearly the emotional leader of the defense, with Chris Harris added in support.
Julius Peppers has sparked Chicago in a multitude of ways, but will not be able to help without a few tweaks.
The Cover-Two has succeeded with Lovie Smith, but needs to be fine-tuned. Blitz packages should be in effect, as the typical linebacker rushes are becoming old. A distinct way of blitzing needs to be composed in order for a winning record.
In conclusion, the main problem with the defense is intensity. An athlete needs to step up in order to bring back the smashmouth swagger of the old Chicago Bears.
Along with intensity, the Bears have lacked consistency when it comes to offensive terms. Shaky to say the least, Jay Cutler and company had spurts of brilliance with horrible games versus adequate defenses.
Matt Forte, the sensational rookie in 2008, had an abysmal year in '09. Johnny Knox looks to make a breakout year as a number two, with Devin Hester making plays as the number one. The combination of Devin Aromashodu and Earl Bennett in the slot is destined to thrive, with Greg Olsen as Cutler's favorite target.
The addition of Brandon Manumaleuna will prove to be an important piece of any success in 2010 as a proven blocker on the edge. Manumaleuna's ability to double team with a tackle will continue to help the offensive line.
Mainly, the offensive line has been the focus of attack lately, as their play has suffered mightily since 2009.
However, the lineup of (from left to right) Chris Williams, Roberto Garza, Olin Kreutz, Lance Louis, and Frank Omiyale has potential to succeed, but not for long.
Garza and Kreutz are in their final years of decent play. Omiyale is the one to watch for in '10, though, as his debut with Chicago was not a pretty one.
A new secondary may be in store for the Bears.
In the current depth chart, Danieal Manning has been listed as a strong safety while Chris Harris is a free safety.
In my opinion, this may be a success to add to Chicago's short or long list of pros and cons of '10.
Chris Harris has always been a run support, hard hitting safety in Carolina and Chicago. However, does he posses the speed and athleticism in order to become a needed play-maker in the secondary. Major Wright has been plagued with injuries in his short pro stint, and may need some time to recover.
Wright's maturity level has been a proven asset to go along with his leadership and intense playing style. Athletically, the Florida product has surpassed Harris and will continue to shine. Wright at free safety and Harris at strong safety is the best bet, but Manning is faster and more gifted than both of the two.
Manning lacks physicality, however, but continues to make tackles and has potential to be a ball-hawk. Depending on Manning's play, a new face may be in at safety for the Chicago Bears yet again.
At the cornerback position, the Bears have more depth than given. Veteran Charles Tillman is a consistent leader at corner, with young Zackary Bowman creating turnovers. Corey Graham and Tim Jennings round out the cornerback depth chart to compose a relevant spot.
Oh, how things become familiar so quickly...
We all know how a single player can change a front so quickly. The loss of Brian Urlacher proved costly for Chicago in 2009, but continues to have nagging injuries with Lance Briggs. If Urlacher and Briggs are out, the Bears are basically done.
The bottom line is apparent.
Injuries have begun to haunt the key players in Chicago's defense. The opposite side of the ball has been more fortunate, luckily, and is better off than the defense at the moment.
If injuries are not imminent for the Monster of the Midway, then the season should play out better than worse.
A Change of Identity
With new staff in place, new faces in town, and new hope alive, the Chicago Bears need to gain one valuable aspect; an identity.
Pass or run? Blitz or sit back in coverage?
Mike Martz and Rod Marinelli are in town now. Marinelli is a pass-rushing specialist, and will hopefully create better opportunities for turnovers. Martz, on the other hand, likes to pass. That being said, Martz is smart enough to mix things up.
Jay Cutler's new best friend will constantly create packages of plays for certain players, opposed to having constant starters. Each player will have their strengths exploited and will have different roles. A rotation will be in effect opposed to locks at positions.
In the past, the Bears have used the run and thrown deep on a constant basis. Now, an efficiency system will be in places along with, hopefully, a blitzing defense who has gives new looks.
If Chicago continues to give the same looks as the past three years of mediocrity, a long season will be imminent.