Two weeks from Sunday, the Bears will kick off their regular season against the Cincinnati Bengals. Sports editor Jon Styf and columnist Tom Musick discuss:
Musick: I recently completed my fantasy football draft, and I did not select any Bears players. Tell me what this means.
Styf: I’ve been working on a theory lately, after watching the Bears look awful against the Chargers, that maybe last year’s 10-6 finish wasn’t a disappointment. Maybe that was Lovie getting the most out of what he had. This year, outside of an improved offensive line, I don’t see this as a better team. I see more of the same, or maybe even worse. So yeah, since there aren’t any players outside Matt Forte, Brandon Marshall and maybe Martellus Bennett that I’d own in a fantasy league, maybe that’s a sign that a bad year is upon us.
Musick: Would you draft Jay Cutler as a fantasy backup? I think I would. He already had been drafted, though, so I got stuck with Alex Smith. Anyway, you might be right about your Bears theory. But if I were to play devil’s advocate, I’d say that the Bears are at least as good on defense as they were a year ago, and they should be better on offense thanks to Jermon Bushrod, Kyle Long, Martellus Bennett, and most of all Marky Marc Trestman.
Styf: I just don’t see how they are at least as good on defense. Jon Bostic can put a hit on someone, but he’s not ready to be any NFL team’s effective middle linebacker yet. The secondary is a year older, which at this point in their lives doesn’t mean a year better. And the defensive line, what’s better about it?
Musick: It has a Cornelius (as in Cornelius Washington, rookie defensive end). I think everything is better with a Cornelius. Besides that, Bostic already has flashed some skills and will only improve with experience. Corey Wootton and Shea McClellin could team up for 10 to 15 sacks combined, while Julius Peppers should be good for double digits as usual. And if my fantasy league included individual defensive players, I definitely would target Charles Tillman and Tim Jennings.
Styf: The only way Wootton and McClellin combine for 10 to 15 sacks is if Wootton has 8 to 13 of them. The one guy you mentioned who continues to be on the upswing is Jennings. He’s good, really good. And we know how hard he works because of the strides he made from 2011 to 2012. Besides that, it’s a good defense and not a great one. They caught all the breaks last season, making a lot of them on their own obviously. But I just can’t see it all coming together like that again.
Musick: If what you are saying is true, then most of us probably took Lovie Smith for granted. Regardless, his biggest undoing was failing to hire the right offensive coordinator. Maybe that person doesn’t exist as long as Cutler is the quarterback, or maybe Cutler has been waiting all of his life for the tag team of Trestman and Aaron Kromer.
Styf: The best part is that the guy Cutler so desperately wanted to get away from, Josh McDaniels, might have been the person he needed the most. Until now, when the tables have turned. Because Cutler needs Marc Trestman more than Trestman needs him.