"Dozens of them...
Armed to the teeth...
I'm outnumbered, outgunned...
But the alley is crooked, dark, and very narrow---
They can't surround me.
"We now have the weapons," Emery said. "When I came in here our first press conference we talked a little bit about what are your thoughts, philosophies? That's what I saw about our roster, that we needed to develop weapons for Jay. And we feel good about where we're at in that progress."
We have weapons. Plural. This makes me so happy. Forte and Marshall are difference makers, big guns. We have a crop of new receivers, including a 2012 second round pick in Alshon Jeffery and free agents like Devin Thomas and Eric Weems, who I hope are hungry to make a difference. We have Bennett and Hester. We have Weems and Sanzenbacher. Maybe Johnny Knox can rejoin us by midseason... if we're lucky. Receivers will be pushed to succeed or they will be pushed out of the lineup or right off the team. We may actually employ tight ends like Kellen Davis, Matt Spaeth and Evan Rodriguez, effectively in an offense that works this year.
For the first time in years, I feel like the Chicago Bears are going to battle armed with the appropriate weapons, the appropriate swords. Assuming, of course, that Forte doesn't hold out.
Furthermore, we have great backups (Campbell, Bush, Costanzo) that can grind out the remainder of the season if we end up taking the same kind of season-ending injuries we had last year.
The question was simple and gets right to the heart of whether or not the Chicago Bears are Super Bowl contenders: Will the team's pass protection improve now that former offensive line coach Mike Tice was promoted to offensive coordinator?
Jay Cutler's response says it all.
First, he laughed. Then he said, "Hope so."
More than anyone, offensive lineman are protectors on the football field. It's a three word mantra: "Protect Your Quarterback"
The Chicago Bears offensive line struggled last year. I am firmly in the camp that the offensive line needs an overhaul, but I think circumstances will force their play to a higher plane. At least, that is what I fervently hope. I recently perused the offensive line's contractual situation.
I got this information from a site called spotrac.com (I'm sure that many of the better informed readers and participants in this site would know better than I if these are accurate):
Roberto Garza Guard 3 yr/$8,650,000 2013 2014
Gabe Carimi Tackle 4 yr/$7,056,000 2014 2015
J'Marcus Webb Tackle 4 yr/$1,851,000 2013 2014
Lance Louis Guard 4 yr/$1,792,000 2012 2013
Levi Horn Tackle 3 yr/$1,395,000 2013 2014
Ricky Henry Guard 3 yr/$1,395,000 2013 2014
Chilo Rachal Tackle 1 yr/$700,000 2012 2013
Mansfield Wrotto Guard 1 yr/$700,000 2012 2013
Reggie Stephens Tackle 1 yr/$540,000 2012 2013
Edwin Williams Center 3 yr/TBD 2013 2014
James Brown Tackle ??? ? ?
A.J. Greene Tackle ??? ? ?
Jordan Miller Tackle ??? ? ?
These guys have a lot of things going for them. They're coming up on contract years pretty quick. I hope that creates a sense of urgency on the offensive line. I've been critical of the line for quite a while. They have performed, year after year, at an average level at best. They've heard the criticism. They watched the draft. They know that their coaches and management kept faith with them and now they need to deliver on the field or they're out. Tice led them to this point. He developed them and led them to this decision point.
III. A Careful Choice of Where to Fight
I think Tice is staking his reputation on being able to turn around this offense by using mobility, adaptability and rythmn control. All three of these elements are polar opposites of Martz's rigidity, expectation of blind obedience and rock 'em sock 'em robot tempo. (How many delay of game penalties did we have while Martz was coordinator? It seemed like a lot to me...
Tice said he will use the same terminology that former offensive coordinator Mike Martz used, but that the Bears’ offense will look more like the offense that Tice ran as head coach of the Vikings from 2002 to 2005.
"I am tailoring what I am doing to what I’ve done, which is common sense," Tice said.
(One commentator said, "Translation: Our offense isn’t designed to eventually draw involuntary manslaughter charges against the offensive coordinator.")
It seems that the powers that be are going to use Cutler the way he was used in Denver when he first started out. I think it's a smart move and one that shows trust in the Leader of our Offense.
Tice has to keep Cutler happy by catering the offense to his strengths and not limiting him to pocket passing, as Martz did during the last two seasons. Ever since his Denver Broncos days, Cutler has been a strong passer outside of the pocket. He has shown the ability to make better decisions on the run.
"… To do that you have to have the ability to check at the line of scrimmage, you have to have the ability to have a short passing game. And then I'm a no-huddle guy and we don't have no huddle. … I want to be able to go no huddle and change the rhythm offensively."
Cutler has struggled with decision making and checking blitzes at the line of scrimmage. So why not speed the game up and make him think less? Going no huddle for Cutler follows the same philosophy as letting him make throws outside of the pocket—he reacts to the game instead of over-thinking it.
If Tice decides to go no huddle on offense, then defenses will not have time to dial up obscure blitzes and linemen stunts. No huddle forces the opposing defense to execute a more basic game plan, and Cutler could be more successful in this scenario.
I've had a theory for the last couple of years. New Coordinators, whether offensive or defensive, have an edge because of the relative lack of knowledge regarding their statistical tendencies. I have absolutely no evidence to back this up. It's just a feeling.
I think having Tice as our new offensive coordinator may very well be the perfect choice of where to fight. As the season rolls along, perhaps those tendencies can be found, but I think you need more data than one season and the fact that Tice will be giving Cutler audible control and the ability to go no-huddle obscures those tendencies even more.
My worry is whether or not our receivers can adjust to these last minute changes. They all need to be on the same change. Using the same terminology from last year gives me hope in this regard.
Anyway, I'm alot more hopeful after this free agency and draft than I was last year.
I got hope. We're going 12-4 next year. Playoff bound.