The bad news is those of us in the northern United States now begin the long descent into winter. As much as I truly do enjoy freezing cold Bears games, I despise six to eight straight months of dreary weather. However, the great news is that in 48 hours my crew will be departing to see the opening of the Chicago Bears’ 94th season, my 35th as a Bears fan, and 34th as a regular game attendee. Here are five thoughts on this opening day for the 2013 Chicago Bears:
The time is here to finally see the real version of Marc Trestman’s Chicago Bears, not the watered-down preseason version. I go on record as saying I really liked the choice of Trestman. I was forced to be OK with the hiring of Dick Jauron and Lovie Smith–we have no choice but to buy in to some degree–but those search processes were so screwed up that we almost knew something was going to go wrong. With Trestman, Phil Emery was decisive. It was certainly an out of the box hire, but he knew this was the guy he wanted and executed. I personally had forgotten about Trestman for most of the last 10 years, but I certainly remember when he was a hot offensive assistant on the sidelines of some very successful offensive teams (San Francisco, Oakland). I am very excited to see the Bears finally have an even match between their offense and their opponent’s defense. When the Bears have a third-and-long against Cincinnati, think about when Chicago employed the Tice’s, Martz’s and Shoop’s of the world and their chances then versus now. Martz’s offense couldn’t be executed without Hall of Famers on the offensive line, Shoop would play for better position to punt, and I really question Tice’s abilities. Now the Bears finally have an offensive coach with real ideas. I think.
Casual Bears fans have been asking me “so how good are the Bengals?” We’re going to find out for sure on Sunday, obviously. But I tell them Cincinnati has been on the cusp for a long time, but they still haven’t made it past a playoff game or two. Andy Dalton was a fortuitous pick at quarterback in 2012; he and receiver A.J. Green are a dynamic combination. We’ll see the playmaking tight end the Bears’ passed on, Tyler Eifert, on Sunday as well. On defense, I keep hearing how the Bengals have the best defensive line in football, but to be honest I have no personal idea how good they are. The Bengals being in the AFC, I don’t pay a lot of attention to them. We’ve been hearing all week about how three-technique defensive tackle Geno Atkins is the best lineman in football. Atkins was a fourth-round pick in the 2010 draft-I love to see guys emerge that were there for the taking that nobody else noticed.
Speaking of Cincinnati’s dominant defensive line-here’s one positive thought for the Bears. Think about this. A year ago, the Bears would have been blocking these guys with Gabe Carimi, Lance Louis, J’Marcus Webb and Chris Spencer. Isn’t it heartening to know that this year we have Jermon Bushrod, Matt Slauson, Kyle Long and Jordan Mills (in addition to incumbent center Roberto Garza) defending Jay Cutler? For sure there could be some rough stretches for the young guys especially, but I’m eager to see how they do.
Something I was thinking this morning-there have been plenty of storylines on the 2013 Chicago Bears. One that I’m thinking about that hasn’t received much attention is how critical the play of safeties Major Wright and Chris Conte will be. The Bears have not invested a significant draft pick in the secondary as a whole since Charles Tillman was drafted in the second round ten years ago. Wright and Conte were both third-round picks, and to date GM Phil Emery’s most egregious error was drafting third-round safety Brandon Hardin in 2012, who is already history. Both Wright and Conte have a history with injuries, and the depth chart looks very scary with only Craig Steltz and Anthony Walters as backups. Wright in particular has become a solid if unspectacular strong safety since he stabilized a position that had been a revolving door under Jerry Angelo and Lovie Smith. Conte has been a playmaker and hard hitter as well. These two must stay healthy and play at least an adequate level for the Bears to sustain success on defense.
I don’t think I’ve made a Bears season prediction since 2008, and then only one time. I was going to try to do it this morning. I can’t. I went through the schedule, and in my mind, all I could do was think IF Jay Cutler stays healthy and controls his wild side, IF the offensive line pans out, IF receivers don’t drop passes, IF Matt Forte stays healthy, IF the aging defense doesn’t begin to break down, I see W, W, W, W, W, W and that doesn’t make sense. Some things are going to go wrong when we don’t expect it. So I’ll just say IF some of those things go well this Sunday, the Bears will win their fourth straight opening day.