I know it seems pretty silly to talk about what I'm looking forward to about the NFL season when the number one answer this year is "having a football season," but yes, a few things I'm looking for in the coming football season. Follow me after the jump, then tell me what you're looking for!
1) The talk turns to how good the team is, and not how bad the field is.
We know how bad the field is. The Bears know how bad the field is. The other teams know how bad the field is. The only people the shoddiness of Soldier Field's turf seems to have caught by surprise is the media and fans of other teams. Adapting to the conditions is part of football, whether it's the weather, the wind, or that three-foot-deep divot DeSean Jackson's cleat just turned up. And I think Tillman just fell down again...
What got lost in the shuffle is the Bears were an 11-win team last season, not because the field made other teams fall down, but because in their home games, they can play to their field. It's no different than complaining a team like Atlanta can take advantage of their dome-turf.
2) A rookie first round tackle plays tackle instead of having back surgery
I know, taking a shot at a guy having back surgery isn't necessarily cool, but it's a relief to actually have a tackle who's going to play tackle in his first season, and let's face it, I'm excited to see what Gabe Carimi can do. I'm not expecting him to be Orlando Pace (the one who in his prime was a multiple-All Pro and probably HOFer, and not whatever clone we got), but if he can give us a step up on Omiyale or Webb from last year, the Bears should give Cutler and Forte a fighting chance.
3) Can Jay Cutler improve on last season?
Uh, yeah. I didn't mean the question like that. Last season, Jay could barely get a pass off without meeting a Giants' defensive player. And when the team actually started getting off the bus passing it off to Forte, Cutler's game took a downturn, as the Bears only broke 200 yards passing three times in the last nine games. I'm happy to see the Bears run the ball, but when Cutler gets an opportunity, he needs to... nah, I can't make the toughness jokes. He needs to perform better.
4) Conversely, can the defense improve on last season?
For as good as the Bears defense was allowing points (4th in the league), the Bears gave up over 5000 yards. Good for top 10, but 400 more yards than the Bears got on offense. And while the Bears gave up only 28 TDs on the season, 14 of those came on the ground, good for 20th. Stephen Paea can go a long way towards shoring up that goal-line defense.
5) How good can the Martzfense be with the Bears?
This goes beyond "Check the 1999/2000 seasons, moron!" Game one of last season saw the Bears hit 463 total yards. Granted, against the Lions, and granted that at no other time did the team break 400 in the regular season. Against the Seahawks in the playoffs, the Bears hit 437 yards. So the question has to be asked... The Bears are capable of those numbers, so what's getting in their way? In the Detroit game it was fumbles and the entire rest of the season was the Bears' Oh-Crap-Line. One of those has been partially addressed with Gabe Carimi, and the team having had a season to solidify gives reason for hope. That leaves turnovers, which with the fumbles in game one is a question of preparation for being able to take a hit, and Jay's 10 on sacks, which should go down with the better O-Line... It goes back to the line, if they play well, the offense will spark.
That's my blathering, Bears fans. What are you looking for next football season?