By now I hope all of you have had a good laugh at my expense. My 10-6 prediction for the upcoming season seems a bit optimistic to even those wearing rose-colored glasses.
Don’t get me wrong, I have been just as disappointed in the Bears’ preseason play as all of you, and I am equally concerned.
The defense didn’t produce much of a pass rush and couldn’t get off the field on third downs. The offensive line allowed 19 sacks, and quarterback Jay Cutler was on the run constantly. Even the always reliable special teams were horrible.
But all is not lost. Let me explain.
Things will improve starting this week as the Bears begin game-planning specifically for opponents. Through the preseason, there was no true strategy.
Offensively, Mike Martz called plays with no regard to what defense the Bears were seeing. When left offensive tackle Chris Williams struggled, he was left to solve his problems without any help.
After all, the preseason is the time to work out the kinks, isn’t it? Do you really think Martz won’t help his tackles with a tight end or a running back if Cutler starts taking a beating?
If the heat keeps coming, I expect to see Cutler rolling outside the pocket. Draws, screens, bootlegs, you’ll see it all as Martz tries to protect his most valuable asset.
Taking shots downfield also will alleviate the pressure. Let’s not be naive about the fact that every NFL defensive coordinator watched the Bears struggle to protect their quarterbacks in the preseason.
Opponents will blitz early and often; their cornerbacks will play bump-and-run on the edge until Cutler’s young receivers prove they can beat the jam at the line.
One Johnny Knox 50-yard touchdown reception and the pressure eases. Having healthy running backs in Matt Forte and the versatile Chester Taylor also will help bring balance to this offense.
As for the defense, it’s more about health and less about game planning.
I’m banking on better health and better play from their stars. Defensive tackle Tommie Harris needs to be on the field for defensive end Julius Peppers to make a difference.
Middle linebacker Brian Urlacher will return to Pro Bowl form, and Lance Briggs will continue to be the best weak-side linebacker that most people don’t know about.
Safety Major Wright should grow up quick, and cornerbacks Zackary Bowman and Charles Tillman will play in all 16 games.
On special teams, the preseason play of Dave Toub’s guys was hideous. I’m not concerned. Long snapper Patrick Mannelly, punter Brad Maynard and placekicker Robbie Gould are better than solid, and Knox, Manning and Devin Hester are an explosive trio of returners.
It will get better, enough so that the Bears should beat Detroit at Soldier Field.
It won’t be a cakewalk, as these Lions no longer are a gimme, but they’re not ready for prime time, either. A 1-0 start won’t signal that all is well for the Bears.
A trip to Big D to face the Cowboys in Week 2 shapes up as a disaster waiting to happen. But I’ll come up with an excuse before then to try to make you believe.
Waddle’s pick: Bears 27, Lions 20
• Tom Waddle appears from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Mondays through Fridays on the “Waddle and Silvy Show” on WMVP AM-1000. He writes a weekly column on the Bears for the Northwest Herald.