I don't know if I've been more excited to get a Chicago Bears season started in such an unusual way that I am this year. It's exciting in that I have no idea what to expect.
New Head Coach Marc Trestman has completely overhauled this offense so it looks like a big boy, NFL offense. If the Bears had at least an average offense last year, it's not a stretch to say they could have won just one more game and made the playoffs. The question remains, however, if the team can effectively run this new offense. If it can, it could be a big year for the Bears. If they struggle with it, it could be a long season.
There is plenty to like about the 2013 Bears squad.
For starters, they are stocked with impact players in offense, defense and special teams. When you have that, you're off to a good start. On offense, the Bears still have Brandon Marshall and second-year receiver Alshon Jeffery who looks like he's ready to make a big leap in his game this season. Matt Forte has a real chance to put up outrageous numbers in this offense. The defense is still loaded with guys like Lance Briggs, Charles Tillman and Julius Peppers. I'm not sure they'll be able to score nine touchdowns off turnovers this season like last year, but it still will be a tough unit.
Trestman's system should be a better fit for this team that what we've seen in the past. Trestman has shown through camp that he prefers an up-tempo style. Burning two timeouts in the first quarter because a play can't get to quarterback Jay Cutler in time should be a thing of the past. Preaching to Cutler that he has to get rid of the ball quickly will keep him on his feet this season, which has been a problem since he got here. It also takes the pressure off the line on pass plays.
We are also looking at a team that had 10 wins last year, but still failed to make the playoffs. This is a blessing for Trestman, as teams generally hire new head coaches after a rotten season. Trestman is inheriting a team with a lot of talent, but one with some holes as well.
There's plenty about this team that makes me nervous, too.
Last season, the defense played out of its mind the first eight games, creating 16 turnovers. The second half of the season, it looked like the defense got old fast, and was especially burned by teams running the read option and pistol. This defense hasn't gotten a whole lot younger, so how it holds up for 16 games will be something to watch closely.
Starting one rookie on the offensive line is enough to make coaches and fans nervous, but it looks like the Bears are ready to load the right side of the o-line with rookies. Tackle Jordan Mills and guard Kyle Long will be making the start Sunday against the Cincinnati Bengals. When one rookie is on the line, he can look to the left and the right to get some help from a veteran. With two rookies on the right side, they don't have that option. Both Mills and Long earned those starting spots for a reason, but I expect them to make their rookie mistakes early and often.
Jay Cutler still has to prove he can win a game when the team needs him to. Since the Bears acquired him, Cutler has rarely won a game when the team was behind. It took the defense or special teams to score in order to stay in games when behind. He is certainly capable of doing it, but he needs to prove he can do it reliably.
Yes, the Bears won 10 games last season, but they had a fairly soft schedule. They benefitted by beating up teams like the Titans, Cardinals, Rams, Jaguars and Panthers. They still get the Detroit Lions twice on the schedule, but this year's is a lot more difficult, taking on the AFC North and NFC East.
I've looked at the schedule over and over again, and I honestly can say I won't be surprised if the Bears win 11 games this season. I won't be surprised if the Bears win just seven. It could be one of those nutty seasons where they look great one week and awful the next.
Either way, I'm not hopeful about Sunday's opener at home against the Bengals. It's going to be tough to get this shiny new offense rolling against Cincy's defense, especially when Mills and Long make their NFL debuts against that potent d-line.
However, Sunday is going to feel like Christmas morning. We've been hearing about Trestman and his offense for about seven months now, and I can wait to see the Bears take the wraps off the puppy and show us what it's about.
by Casey Moffitt