Greg Gabriel released his 2014 Chicago Bears team preview over on the National Football Post this weekend, and while it doesn't necessarily say much that we didn't already know or talk about, it does open up a couple of questions for me. So I thought I'd take the time to answer my own questions.
Have the Bears done enough to win if Jay Cutler goes down?
What the Bears have at backup quarterback is largely unproven, but more than who the backup quarterback is, I think the capability of the team to win with a backup quarterback rides on the defensive improvements the Bears made.
Josh McCown played brilliantly last year, but that's far and away an outlier to typical backup quarterback play in the NFL. In games that McCown's Bears won last year, the defense gave up 20, 20, and 28 points. The games the team lost when he played yielded 45, 21, 42, 23, and 54; the defense was well beyond decimated by those points, and it's hard to win games giving up 23 points, let alone 40 or 50.
If the improvements to the defense - namely, three veteran additions at defensive end, two drafted rookies at defensive tackle, and competition at linebacker - can keep scores in that low-20s range and out of the 30s, 40s and 50s, things become a lot more manageable for that backup option, whether it be David Fales or Jordan Palmer.
How much playing time do Ego Ferguson and Will Sutton get?
That's a second and third round draft pick, and you like those guys to get some decent playing time, but Ego's a bit developmental at this point, and Sutton probably sits behind Jeremiah Ratliff (and Lamarr Houston on passing downs) for now. They'll rotate in, but if either has consistent playing time early over Stephen Paea or Ratliff, either something's gone amazingly right or horribly wrong.
If Jon Bostic beats Shea McClellin at strong-side, is McClellin a failed pick?
It's not a bad thing if Bostic beats McClellin. Both are high draft picks, McClellin is being moved to a new position, and both do different things. I'd like to see Bostic in normal packages and McClellin come in to rush the passer on third downs - but I'd also like to see more pass-rush situations be created.
I keep highlighting run defense (and that includes McClellin's inability to hold up against the run) because if you can't create second and long and third and long by stopping the run, no, your pass-rushers (and players intended to rush the passer) aren't going to be able to get after the passer when it becomes quick and easy conversions on second and short or third and short.
If Bostic can develop better reads and instincts and make some of those stops to keep offenses in long situations, and McClellin can use his speed to get sacks in those situations, things will work out for the defense. In that sense, it won't be a disappointment - but that has to happen. I'm not going to sit here and say McClellin's been great - you want more out of that first round pick and the Bears just haven't gotten that.
Do Tillman's statements mean anything?
Probably not. Tillman's at the end of his career, and maybe he'd have liked to close out with Lovie in Tampa; however, during his career, he's been nothing short of a consummate professional. And taking a one-year deal from the Bears means he's a Bear for another year. In the end, he chose to come back to the Bears.
What questions do you have about the 2014 Bears as we head through July into training camp?