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Optimism Abounds As Marc Trestman Era Begins For Bears

By Benjy Lipsman in News on Sep 6, 2013 3:40PM

The Bears posted a 10-6 last season but missed the playoffs, which was enough for GM Phil Emery to pull the plug on Lovie Smith's tenure in Chicago. While Smith's Bears teams always showcased elite defenses, he was never able to engineer an offense capable of leading the team to Super Bowl glory.

Emery stunned everybody with his choice to replace Smith by naming a coach out of the CFL. Marc Trestman, an offensive guru and "quarterback whisperer" was hired to improve the offense, particularly quarterback Jay Cutler. If Trestman can do just that while maintaining the defense's play, big things could be in store for the Bears. But there are always a lot of questions when a new regime takes over.

The Bears' makeover wasn't limited to the sidelines. Superstar middle linebacker Brian Urlacher chose to retire after the Bears and other teams expressed little interest in retaining his services. He was the heart and soul of the Bears defense and one of the team's leader during his illustrious career. Who can step up to fill that void? Lance Briggs will take over Urlacher's play calling on defense, but can he lead on and off the field?

Key Departures:
Brian Urlacher - MLB
Nick Roach - OLB
Jason Campbell - QB
Gabe Carimi - OL
J'Marcus Webb - OL

Key Additions:
Jermon Bushrod - LT
Matt Slauson - OL
Martellus Bennett - TE
Kyle Long - OL
Jordan Mills - OL
D.J. Williams - LB
Jon Bostic - LB
James Anderson - LB

Emery and Trestman oversaw an offensive makeover in the offseason, but they also addressed the a lack of depth at linebacker. The offensive line continued to plague the Bears offense in 2012, even as the team upgraded elsewhere. Brandon Marshall proved to be the beast the Bears hoped for, catching 118 passes for 1,508 yards and 11 TDs. Matt Forte rushed for 1,094 yards and Michael Bush ran for 411 yards. But there was too little output from the rest of the offense and much of that resulted from the line's poor blocking. During the offseason, Emery focused on rebuilding the line through free agency and the draft. He signed Jermon Bushrod to anchor the line as the Bears new left tackle, and signed guards Matt Slauson and Eben Britton, as well as tight end Martellus Bennett. In the draft, the Bears spent their first round pick on Kyle Long and added Jordan Mills in the fifth round. Both rookies played their way into the starting line-up, while once key players like Gabe Carimi and J'Marcus Webb were dumped by the Bears. Only center Roberto Garza remains from last year's offensive line, and the retooling will be one of the keys to the Bears success in 2013.

On defense, the Bears saw the biggest change in the middle, with Urlacher's retirement and Nick Roach's departure in free agency. In their place will be James Anderson on the strong side and either D.J. Williams or Jon Bostic in the middle. A Williams injury during training camp opened a window for the rookie Bostic, and he made quite an impression during the pre-season. No matter who starts, we expect to see both on the field a lot. While the rest of the defense remains fairly in tact, it'll be hard for the Bears to play to the high levels it did last year on that side of the ball. The Bears defense scored nine touchdowns, most in the league since 1998. Cornerback Peanut Tillman led the league with 10 forced fumbles. Tim Jennings, the Bears other corner, picked off nine passes. Overall, the Bears had 44 takeaways in 2012 -- most in the NFL and nine more than than any other team in the NFC. But opportunistic plays like turnovers can be inconsistent even for great defenses.

As for the Bears offense, they remained fairly stable at the skill positions. The biggest questions focus on Jay Cutler and his ability to implement Trestman's offense. He'll again be throwing to Marshall, Alshon Jeffery, and Earl Bennett. Forte and Bush will again be running the ball. Martellus Bennett will provide a new weapon for Cutler to target, in addition to his blocking. It may take some time for the Bears offense to hit their stride under a new system, and the Bears certainly don't have an easy schedule. Those factors may counter the Bears improvements on the line.

So the Bears appear likely to end up around where they did last year record-wise and again end up on the bubble when it comes to the postseason. But there's also the potential for the Bears to be one of the surprise teams of 2013 if everything falls into place.

Week-by-Week Predictions:
Week 1: Cincinnati Bengals - W
Week 2: Minnesota Vikings - W
Week 3: @ Pittsburgh Steelers - L
Week 4 @ Detroit Lions - W
Week 5: New Orleans Saints - W
Week 6: New York Giants - L
Week 7: @ Washington Redskins - L
Week 8: BYE
Week 9: @ Green Bay Packers - L
Week 10: Detroit Lions - W
Week 11: Baltimore Ravens - L
Week 12: @ St. Louis Rams - W
Week 13: @ Minnesota Vikings - W
Week 14: Dallas Cowboys - L
Week 15: @ Cleveland Browns - W
Week 16: @ Philadelphia Eagles - W
Week 17: Green Bay Packers - W
Final Record: 10-6