Trestman, Emery are positioning Bears for a breakthrough
BY ADAM L. JAHNS Staff Reporter July 23, 2014 9:27PM
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Updated: August 25, 2014 5:55PM
BOURBONNAIS — Be as loud as you want around Bears coach Marc Trestman. He revels in the noise — a growing fervor for his team and its playoff hopes.
‘‘We recognize the community’s excitement around our football team,’’ Trestman said Wednesday as Bears players reported to Olivet Nazarene University for his second training camp. ‘‘We want the expectations. We have high expectations. Our players have said it. Our players feel it.’’
Similar to a year ago, Trestman and general manager Phil Emery sat side by side to deliver their state of the union before practices began. But unlike a year ago, their influence is now the only way of life. Long gone are the ways of Lovie Smith and the moves of Jerry Angelo.
Whether it was giving contract extensions to quarterback Jay Cutler, cornerback Tim Jennings and others or making impactful moves such as signing Pro Bowl defensive end Jared Allen, the 2014 Bears are all Emery. He now has three draft classes that make up a good portion of the team and, as he said, the Bears ‘‘have 43 new players on this roster that were not signed to contracts in any shape or form last fall.’’
‘‘I feel good about this camp,’’ Emery said. ‘‘Out of the three camps, I would say that this camp has the best competitive level among the roster from one to 90.’’
For Trestman, there isn’t a complex playbook to install or players to win over. Instead, he’s refining the playbook that guided the second highest scoring offense last season through ‘‘more study and research . . . at a highly detailed level.’’
It certainly helps that every offensive starter and coach returns this year. As a result, Trestman’s practices will change during camp in order for offensive reserves, especially the quarterbacks, to receive more work.
When asked how his former team, the Montreal Alouettes, evolved in his second season in charge, Trestman referenced the chance to fine-tune the playbook. The Alouettes won the Canadian Football League’s Grey Cup that season.
All of it fuels the optimism about the Bears’ playoff chances. But happy thoughts should only go so far. The Bears have only made the playoffs once in the last seven seasons. That’s not lost on Emery and Trestman.
‘‘We feel better on paper, just because we’ve got some perspective on what we had [last season] and what we have now,’’ Trestman said. ‘‘[But] we’ve got to turn paper into performance and excellence.’’
That’s especially true on defense after the Bears ranked second-worst in opponent scoring and last in sacks and against the run.
The fiercest competitions will occur on defense, where Emery said he feels better about the level of players competing for jobs and is comfortable with coaching changes made under defensive coordinator Mel Tucker.
The Bears are looking at keeping nine to 10 defensive linemen, Emery said. Lance Briggs is the only declared starter at linebacker, and the two safety spots are there for the taking.
Emery, meanwhile, has said more than once that he’d continue to scout players — including quarterbacks — who are available or will be.
As he refines the playbook, Trestman wants the offense to feel as if it’s starting over even though it clearly isn’t.
‘‘What we did is not necessarily indicative of where we’re going,’’ Trestman said. ‘‘It gives us an idea of what we can become.’’
If all goes to plan, that will be a playoff team.