The Bears have high expectations for the 2012 season, what with their most stacked offense weapons-wise that they've ever had, at least in the color-TV era. The defense is returning all the same guys from last season with a couple spots shuffled around but it's all for the better.
However, in the last week or so there seems to suddenly be cause for some concern. Defensive anchor Brian Urlacher's knee is much worse than the public was led to believe, the offensive line situation seems to be just as much of a mess as last season and then last week in meaningless game one, all facets of the team performed poorly.
So, is it time to temper our expectations for the 2012 season?In a word: No! Not even close.
Looking at the schedule most Bears fans see 11-12 wins, easy and it does look pretty promising. But recently there has been much cause for concern, but I would like to be some methadone for those Chicken Little Bears fans who are terrified about what's happening.
For one, the Bears can get by without Brian Urlacher, for a short while. We all know Urlacher is an integral part of the defense and that the Bears win more games with him than without him but I don't believe he is as important to the team as he used to be and that's because of the increased emphasis in the NFL on the offense.
The defense is being regulated out of the game. In the name of safety there are increases in penalties and suspensions related to defensive play and it's all for the better of course, but quarterback play and offense trumps defense in 2012. That fact means that Urlacher, while important, doesn't have to be anchoring the center of the defense for the Bears to succeed.
The success of the '12 team relies more on Cutler, Marshall, Forte and Co. than Tillman, Urlacher and Co. Frankly, at age 34, Urlacher isn't even the most important member of the defense anymore; it's Peppers. As long as the Bears can field Julius Peppers and Charles Tillman continues his high level of play, the Bears could survive short stretches without Urlacher. In fact, I think it's more important for Urlacher to be ready for Thursday Sept. 13 than Sept. 9 against the Colts.
There is more riding on the offense this season than the defense. Gone are the days of 2005 when Kyle Orton could muster 78 passing yards and the Bears could win 13-7 ball games. The Bears need to average around 30 points a game to win consistently. If the defense can keep opponents to around 21-25 points a game the Bears will be fine.
Now, about that offense; what about the line. I'm not going to lie, the offensive line is my biggest concern, bar none. However, we haven't seen what they are entirely made of yet. The first preseason game isn't a total indictment of the line.
No doubt, it should be monitored closely for the rest of the season, both pre- and regular. J'Marcus Webb is still terrible-looking and so Chris Spencer wasn't much better, but I am not sure we saw Mike Tice call all the protections and sack-saving type plays we'll see when the games matter. Watch closely tomorrow night and definitely next week against the Giants. I have a feeling we'll see a lot more chips from TEs and RBs, more two-TE sets and maybe even some of that H-back/FB stuff.
While there was a lot of concern coming out of last week's game, it's not enough to hit the panic button quite yet.
I won't be hitting the panic button until a week from Monday IF and only IF:
1) Urlacher has not restarted resuming some type of football activity AND
2) The Bears offensive line is still looking lost and under duress against both the Redskins and the Giants.
Only under BOTH of those conditions will I hit the panic button, but so far there is no reason to think the Bears can't win 10 games even without Urlacher and/or with J'Marcus Webb/Chris Williams at left tackle.