If you’ve thought of this era of Bears football to be anything other than a complete rebuild, you’re kidding yourself. With the hiring of John Fox and Ryan Pace also came an understanding that this group would need time to turn the roster over. What’s going to happen if that turnover doesn’t result in wins?
It would be hard not to improve on the 6-10 record from a year ago, especially with the seemingly easy schedule the Bears have upcoming. However, it would be irresponsible for even the most preseason-dismissing football people to ignore the putrid output the Bears’ first team offense and defense has displayed thus far. Never mind the stat lines–last in points, 30th in total yards, 24th in points allowed, and 29th in yards allowed–just open your eyeballs and look upon the dysfunction.
Most of the scrutiny has centered around the offense. I can’t tell what Jay Cutler we’re going to get this year because he doesn’t even have time to make his first read, let alone his entire progression. That will get better when Kyle Long returns from injury, but then it will slowly get worse as his torn labrum continues to pull away from the joint every time he extends his arm. That injury doesn’t heal, it’s mostly about pain tolerance until he eventually needs surgery.
I also can’t get a read on the skill positions. Is Alshon going to stay healthy? This is his second “prove it” year, so what makes us think he’s going to fight through any injuries this time around? He’ll be good when healthy, but it doesn’t look like Cutler is going to have many other options. Kevin White was supposed to be the answer to the second option question, but he looks like more of a project than an NFL starter. With that, and a whole bunch of average guys at running back and tight end, how are the Bears going to score points this year?
Rest assured, the defense will be improved. Vic Fangio is getting his guys into the system, and his resume is just a list of success stories on the defensive side of the ball. That doesn’t mean that they’re going to shut down opponents, because if the quarterback gets enough time he’s going to carve up this terrible secondary. When Tracy Porter has to cover #1 wide receivers, he’s eventually going to get exposed. Not to mention Kyle Fuller hasn’t improved since his breakout game against a bad 49ers team two years ago. Oh, and he’s hurt.
Speaking of hurt, who isn’t? Fuller, Long, now Porter…this is life in the NFL. If you don’t have enough depth to cover for 30% of your team missing time, you’re not going to win. Every team goes through it, and it’s never an excuse when someone goes down. The Bears don’t have enough behind the starters to sustain success through injuries. That begs the question of why this roster hasn’t dramatically improved from a year ago.
It’s clear to this point that the Bears have regressed on offense, even if you’re just taking skill level on the field into account. You can argue that they need six new starters in order to start scoring points with the top offenses in the league. On defense is where the Bears can claim success. Their front seven should be very good (again, if injuries are avoided). The secondary leaves much to be desired, but I don’t expect new and better players at every position after only one season. They’re going to win games with their defense, which isn’t a terrible formula if you have the depth to back it up…which they don’t.
So let’s say the Bears go 6-10 once again against a seemingly terrible schedule. At what point do we question John Fox? At what point do we question the purging of Matt Forte and Martellus Bennett? If you’re questioning those things, then you’re questioning the leadership of Ryan Pace. Football is not baseball. In the NFL, if you’re doing things correctly you should see improvement year after year. There should be no regression. Let’s hope this preseason truly doesn’t mean anything.