The 5 keys to the Bears’ season
BY HUB ARKUSH Shaw Media September 5, 2013 8:50PM
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Updated: October 7, 2013 1:29PM
So you want me to tell you the keys to the Bears’ 2013 season?
With so much that’s new, and too much that’s old on this team, we could fill a book.
1. Can Marc Trestman take an aging group of veterans, plug in rookies and key youngsters to almost every unit and install and execute his offense that, when compared to what the vets had before, will be like asking them to learn a new language practically overnight?
The classic excuse made for quarterback Jay Cutler’s failure to produce relative to his unquestioned natural abilities is that in his first four years in Chicago, he had three different offenses and three different coordinators.
Welcome No. 4. Why will this be different?
If Cutler blocks out everything but Trestman, and does exactly what he’s told, this just might succeed hugely. If he becomes distracted, frustrated, impatient, arrogant or any of the other states of mind he has been accused of inhabiting before, look out below.
2. The offensive line is being celebrated almost universally around Chicago for its four new starters, including the two rookies — Kyle Long and Jordan Mills — on the right side. If the line can make a leap from one of the worst units in the league over the last three seasons to just average, 2013 can be a ton of fun.
If it can’t, none of what Trestman will try to do will work.
Newer is not always better. Clearly, this group is more talented than it has been in years with the additions of Jermon Bushrod and Long. But sometimes talent isn’t enough, and what we’ve actually seen is snippets of these guys against the Chargers and Raiders, who have two of the worst defensive lines in the league.
Take a pill, everybody. There is good cause to hope for the best, but the jury is still way out on this one. This is not only a huge key to this season, but to the future under Trestman and general manager Phil Emery.
3. If you are more worried about the defense than the offense, you are completely justified. Julius Peppers, Lance Briggs and Charles Tillman are the keys to the success of this unit, and, quite simply, they are old by NFL standards and looking right up the road at ancient.
None of the three appears in danger of dropping even a half-step, and they can’t if the Bears are to contend.
Argue all you want about the physical contributions Brian Urlacher was still able to bring to the table, his contributions as a coach on the field and leader by example cannot be replaced. Israel Idonije was easily the second-best defensive lineman on the team. Nick Roach was solid in his spot and Urlacher’s, when necessary, and Kelvin Hayden at least knew what he was doing as the nickel back.
Regardless of how you replace all of that, it represents so much that your All-Pros have to be All-Pros for the defense to succeed. If they are, you can get away with Corey Wootton, Shea McClellin, Jon Bostic or D.J. Williams, James Anderson and Isaiah Frey being at least average and, hopefully, a little better.
4. Can Trestman own the room? I’m not offering opinions here, guys. I’m asking the key questions. The early returns on Trestman are promising, and I’m impressed by what I’ve seen.
But the reason his hiring was such a surprise around the league and even a tad controversial in some circles is that this guy’s a different kind of cat, and not what any of us are used to in an NFL coach.
Because of his pleasant personality and professorial approach, we have no idea how it will wear or work when the time comes for him to get tough with someone, and it will happen. If he has to rally the troops or try to win one for the Gipper, will the players be listening, and, if they are, will it be with a straight face?
I’m beginning to believe he can do it, but there’s still a lot of highway between here and there.
5. Can the pure talent on this roster match up to the other heavyweight contenders in San Francisco, Seattle, Atlanta and, most important, Green Bay, and what if somebody gets hurt?
There are stars at the skill positions who should allow the Bears to match up with the big guys, but if even one of them gets nicked, is there depth anywhere on this roster? On the face of it, you have to say no.
Every team in the NFL prays for good health. For the Bears, it’s a must if they’re to contend.
Hub Arkush covers the Bears for Shaw Media and HubArkush.com. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.