At the end of the 2013 season, Chicago Bears fans could not have left on a more sour note. To this day, I can't get this image out of my head,Cobbs hauling in Rodgers' pass in the final minute of the last game of the season to give the Packers a win.
and I'm surprised that Chris Conte remains on the roster after literally giving Rodger's the opportunity to connect with Cobbs in the final minute of a game the Bears should have won; A game that would've secured the Bears a playoff spot!
However, even if the Bears had squeaked into the playoffs with a 9-7 record, I think any pragmatic Chicago fan would admit that there was little chance to no chance of playing into late January, specifically because of the defense, or lack thereof. Cutler and McCown managed to lead a pretty solid Bear's offense (haven't heard that in the last couple decades, right?) that was only outscored by 3 teams, but the defense still managed to give up points at a higher rate than a pair of Probowl wide receivers and running back were able to put on the board.
Now, this renovation of the Bear's offense can be largely credited to both Phil Emery and Marc Trestman's complete rebuilding off the offensive line (with the exception of Roberto Garza, who's frankly starting to look like a fossil out there...). Although the newcomers protecting Cutler still have plenty of room for improvement, the foundations of the offense are set.
This rebuilding mentality has now moved to the other side of the football; Emery and Trestman have wasted no time in applying the same renovation process to the next generation of Monsters. However, because of how bad this defense was last year, I do not anticipate them being rated high by any fantasy football expert, and I think will go undrafted, or drafted late in most fantasy leagues. Except I do see some promise in the future of the Chicago defense, and the acquisition of the Chicago Bear's D I think is an exceptional backup defense, that can be acquired after your fantasy draft for the following reasons:
1) An Updated D Line
Now it is no mystery where Trestman and Emery spent the bulk of their time improving one of the worst defenses in football last year. While it is true that they let veteran Julius Peppers go, they replaced him and then some with the acquisition of Jared Allen and Lamarr Houston in free agency, and also scooped up some decent rotational players in Willie Young and the former bear, Israel Idonije (although I must admit Idonije had a rather lackluster year in Detroit last year with a grand total of .5 sacks, hopefully he can turn it around).
Their draft choices were also D-line centric when selecting Ego Ferguson and Will Sutton in the 2nd and 3rd rounds. Emery received quite a bit of scrutiny after selecting Ego when more "promising" picks were available, but Ego's uncanny ability to take double teams in the middle might be exactly what the worst run stopping team in the NFL needs in a lineman; a big guy in the middle that can allow the linebackers to make a play in the backfield.
That being said, Ego definitely could be considered a work in project, but that's not a problem, because new coaches signed by the Bears, including the new defensive line coach, Paul Pasqualoni, are planning on taking this young big man under his wing.
2) An Updated Defensive Coaching Staff
Emery not only revamped the defensive line, but made sure that the men improving his new players were not recycled from last year's unsuccessful pass rush. Paul Pasqualoni, the defensive line coach, Clint Hurtt, the assistant defensive line coach, and Reggie Harring, the linebacker coach, are all new personnel signed by Emery in January of this year. Although the signing of these guys is obviously not as publicized, or frankly as important as the players on the field, the introduction of new plays and stunts to this pass rush is not the only thing that they are offering.
Defensive coordinator Mel Tucker has spoken openly that Chicago will no longer be confined to the Tampa-2 scheme. Pasqualoni and Herring have experience with the 4-3 and 3-4, so although Chicago might not be revolutionizing the defensive playbook, they are not letting the old way of doing things dictate their playing style. The amount of new players at there disposal combined with the new minds designing plays will definitely allow some healthy and much needed experimentation with the defense.
3) Open Competition For Starting Spots
The Bears have done an exceptional job of attempting to improve their d-line, unfortunately that's not the only hole in the Bears defense. There are some decent players in the secondary , both Jennings and Tillman can hold their own, and Briggs is still a notable linebacker, but the rest of the group can use some work. Now, Emery didn't neglect this part of his defense, his first round pick was another cornerback, Kyle Fuller . Although I must agree with most analysts that potentially this could have been better suited with a safety, regardless the Bears did luck out with a solid safety that was still around at the end of the 4th round, Brock Vereen.Brock Vereen after mini camp
Although this influx of players at several positions in the secondary might not look as impressive as the free agent signings accrued for the defensive line, they provide something that is essential to the Bear's defense in their rebuilding year, flexibility. All of these draftees, including several other low-profile free agent signings at these positions, give the Bears the opportunity to test many different defensive looks and schemes, this is especially powerful when Mel Tucker contributes to the conversation saying that positions are not safe. This comment should definitely strike a chord with last year's starters, giving them an extra incentive to improve, while also allowing newbies the opportunity to showcase some much needed flair for the defense. A final element to this defense is player movement, especially Shea McClellin's new move to linebacker, which adds an extra layer of experimentation and player versatility to the Bear's defense, and hopefully another promising blitzer off the edge.
At the end of the day the Bear's defense has a long way to go, this is very much a rebuilding year. A year that frankly can only improve from last year's train wreck. The Bear's playoff future was in their hands, and the defense gave it away to another team. That being said the pieces have been put in place, or at least have been shuffled in a way that hopefully the players and coaching staff can align properly, and develop a defense that can start to resemble these guys again.