Over the course of the last 100 years and change, the city of Chicago has gotten used to seeing its professional sports franchises predicate themselves on defense.
In 2005, the White Sox pitching staff dominated throughout the postseason and the led the Southsiders to their first World Series title in 88 years. The Chicago Bulls won six titles in the 90s by suffocating opponents defensively with length and athleticism on the perimeter and shear will on the interior (and some dude named Michael Jordan). Then, of course, in 1985, the Chicago Bears fielded the most intimidating 11-man defensive unit in the history of the NFL and we embraced them by absorbing them as part of this city's DNA.
The entire Bears franchise, as a whole, is now going into its 95th year of existence and they've almost exclusively identified themselves as a defensive bunch--the "Monsters of the Midway." Yet, as Marc Trestman kicks off his second year at the helm, it's what the Bears are doing offensively that may make this team postseason worthy for just the second time in the past eight years.
Trestman and the Chicago Bears hit the sprawling fields of Olivet Nazarene last week to kick off their second summer of Chicago Bears Training Camp in Bourbonnais, donning the pads for the first time Sunday. This Friday, I'll be making the 45-minute trek from my Southwest suburban apartment to get a firsthand look--my third year making the trip as a sanctioned member of the media.
And despite a slew of defensive additions that should make one of the NFL's worst units of 2013 serviceable this fall, my focus--even having grown up in this unquestionably defensive-minded metroplex--will be on how continuity and 11 returning starters could make an already prolific offense even more dangerous in 2014.
I want to see how Jay Cutler's progressions streamline in the second year of Marc Trestman's system. I want to see how a young, talented right side of the offensive line progresses in their sophomore year as professionals. I want to see how a more comprehensive knowledge of an offense can make eight other already talented veteran starters and all their backups better than they've ever been.
I want to see if a very good unit can become a championship unit.
Defensive improvement will ultimately have an influence over the fate of the 2014 Chicago Bears, as well, but if Mel Tucker and his unit can even make even slight progress back towards mediocrity, this offense should be capable of carrying this team into the postseason. If they can make that step from prolific to consistently prolific, this may be a team that actually contends for a championship.
That's something that takes getting used to after basically 100 years of what I like to call "Bob-ball"--mustard-covered, 14-10 heavyweight title fights that used to, but no longer, characterize the NFC North--but talent is something we should all be able to embrace.
The Chicago Blackhawks gave the Bears the blueprint, building a roster full of young, skilled players and proving over the course of the last five years that the talent is sustainable if managed properly.
Phil Emery has proven himself similarly crafty with navigating dicey salary cap situations as the Blackhawks' Stan Bowman, finding ways to manipulate contracts that allowed him to resign Jay Cutler while still getting Lamarr Houston and Jared Allen to treat what ailed last year's defense.
The 'Hawks success proves that we'll embrace a more finesse approach if it yields a winner.
Right now, the entire experiment is contingent on growth, and that's why Year Two is so critical for Marc Trestman and this Chicago Bears offense. That's why, even with the myriad of defensive additions that should excite you, we should all be focused on the other side of the ball.
Yes, football is a game that requires contributions from the entirety of your 53-man roster, but Phil Emery and Marc Trestman have made it clear with their actions that it'll be the offense that this version of the Chicago Bears identifies themselves by.
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