The Chicago Bears newest toy, wide receiver Brandon Marshall gave 27,352 fans in attendance during Friday's Family Night at Soldier Field a taste of what he expects from this Bears team in the upcoming season. A Super Bowl. In his first public address Marshall threw the Chicago media and fans a bone with plenty of meat on it.
Marshall isn't the first to make such proclamations this season, he is just the most recent. However, what resonates with this statement is for the first time in what seems like the Bears entire existence, the offense appears to be much more dangerous than the defense.
- Alshon Jefferey rolls out for a pass from Darryl Drake
Chicago will enter this season boasting one of the most promising offensive collections in a long time. All-Pro running back Matt Forte is returning from a knee rehabilitation and a fat new contract extension, and the Bears signing perhaps the most decorated receiver in Halas history in Marshall. All while new general manager Phil Emery managed a respectable - albeit mildly controversial - draft.
Emery selected defensive end Shea McClellin of Boise St. instead of Whitney Mercilus, defensive end out of Illinois. McClellin has struggled early in camp, but his intangibles have been applauded by teammates and coaches alike. He also selected Alshon Jefferey from South Carolina, who many are already touting as mini-Marshall because of his great use of hands, big physical 6'3'' frame and the use of it when shielding the body while making catches at camp.
On the flip side, the defense is coming off one its defensive seasons statistically in years. The passing defense was among the league's worst while the rushing defense managed to stay among the NFL's Top 5. However, the defense is getting a little long in the tooth with cornerstone middle linebacker Brian Urlacher is entering his 13th season with the Bears, and will turn 35 next May. As well as Urlacher, five of the Bears returning defensive starters (Charles Tillman, Lance Briggs, Israel Idonije, Julius Peppers) will turn 32 or older this next season for Chicago.
The Bears secondary passing game is the biggest question mark on the defense heading into next season. Ranked 28th in the NFL last season, a committee of youth and inexperience seemed to be the Achilles of the Bears D. Returning to the team are Major Wright, Chris Conte and Craig Steltz, who all played at least a season under the Lovie Smith/Rod Marinelli Base 4-3 scheme. However, rookie Brandon Hardin has had high regards in some circles this training camp, so it should be exciting to see how each perform during the preseason.
Nevertheless, the Bears - and fans - have high expectations from the team this season. As the team brought in a new general manager and overhauled the offense in efforts of giving head coach Lovie Smith all the necessary weapons, there is also an increased amount of added pressure that Smith recognizes as stated early in training camp,
"When you take a little time off and you travel a little bit, you get a chance to talk to the Bears fans. And you get a chance to know everybody's expectations. But not everybody's ours -- that's the goal. I mean, most of you can tell me exactly what our three goals we have for our program as we start each year. But there is pressure and we like that."
What ever the case, this season is far unlike any in the history of the Bears organization. Where fans and experts are most curious to see a team who has predicated their identity on the opposite side of the ball except for a few flashes of offensive greatness, have an unmitigated ceiling offensively and could perhaps be the most dangerous in the NFL.