There will be those that would say, not while Aaron Rodgers exists in the same division, those that would say not while Cutler is at the helm of the offense, and those that would say the Bears are known to disappoint year after year. While these may be truths that would have passed prior to the 2013 season, they won’t fly under the new regime in Chicago. Emery has put pieces together, and hopefully fixed the defensive woes of 2013. The window for this team is open, and with the offense finally gaining some consistency year, over year, for the first time in three years. The Bears are primed and ready to be crowned kings of the NFC North once again. As the draft comes into focus, and the Bears roster begins to mold in front of us, it’s time to look at the current Bears roster that will ultimately attempt to challenge Green Bay in 2014.
It’s going to be up to Cutler to take advantage of this consistency in terms of scheme. If Cutler can continue his ascension in play from last year, then the Bears will be just as, if not more potent an offense. With Cutler firmly seated as the starter for the next three years, fans need to hope that Cutler’s greatest asset will be his coach and play caller, Marc Trestman. After meeting Joe DeCamillis on a plane ride home from Jacksonville, he explained to me, Trestman and Cutler are in constant communication. Texting, talking on the phone, or meeting for dinner, the two are locked at the hip. It is proof that both of these men are determined to build a relationship on and off the field. This relationship between head coach and quarterback is something that greatly lacked for Cutler since being brought to Chicago in 2009.
Cutler needs to get off to faster starts. He has a propensity to take time to find a good rhythm. It will be important that Chicago finds ways to build a rhythm early on, and maintain it until the final play of each game. Allowing Cutler’s confidence to grow and mature in this system will make him better. However, his biggest area of concern is, and will continue to be, his tunnel vision for Brandon Marshall. Distribution is the key for this offense. Making the defense pick its poison will ultimately open up windows all over the field for Cutler. Alshon Jeffery is a capable number one receiver, but paired with Marshall they pose an insurmountable challenge. If Marquees Wilson can make strides at the number three (slot) spot, the Bears have something special in the receiving department.
Although Cutler is the leader, his supporting cast will need to be just as reliable as last year in order for the quarterback to reach his ultimate potential. Martellus Bennett was just as responsible as the rest of the receiving core for keeping the gears of the offense moving. Truly the biggest factor will be how much better the offensive line can be. Fielding two rookies on the right side of the line was a risk that really paid off (literally and figuratively). Right tackle Jordan Mills (5th round pick), and right guard Kyle Long (1st round pick) have a lot of room before they hit the proverbial talent ceiling. With substantial growth year after year, it stands to reason that the Bears line is only setup to get better, and harder to penetrate. Keeping Cutler upright will continue to be Marc Trestman’s first goal, and with good reason. With Cutler, Trestman knows he has a quarterback that is capable of escaping the pocket, and being deceptive with his feet. Giving him time to make those moves, and decisions will make Cutler lethal. That lethality only comes when he is on his feet and well protected.
With Forte being the final cog that keeps this machine moving. defenses are going to have to look at the aforementioned players, and then say to themselves, (with a big sigh) “and then there’s Forte.” He is undoubtedly one of the most complete backs in the NFL. Forte can run, Forte can catch, Forte can block, he can literally do it all. He is not the fastest back in the league, but he surely is one of the most complete backs in the business. He challenges you from so many different angles that it’s difficult for a defense to not have him covered at all times. Forte doesn’t just simply draw coverage, he demands it.
The remaining question then becomes, how do the Bears compare with Green Bay, the obvious crown holder for the NFC North. Comparing quarterbacks is obvious points in favor of Green Bay. However looking at the supporting cast things immediately swing in favor of the navy and orange crew. The Packers have issues at offensive line, and while theirs seems to be deteriorating, the Bears line is on the upswing. The Packers surrendered 45 total sacks to the Bears 30, a +15 differential, which proves that the Bears have a more solidified line. This includes a +14 differential between years, a great improvement thanks to line guru Aaron Kromer and Phil Emery’s revamped line strategy. Looking back to running backs, Forte had only five more carries than Eddie Lacy, yet managed to gain an extra 161 yards rushing. Where Forte really shines is receiving out of the backfield, compared to the Packers Eddie Lacy, Forte had 39 more receptions for another 292 more yards than Lacy’s 257 yards. Comparing tight ends almost isn’t fair since Jermichael Finley was injured during the year, while Andrew Quarless had 32 receptions for 312 yards. Bennett’s 65 receptions for 759 yards far outdid anyone on the Packers squad.
Finally receiving, this is where one would expect the Packers to dominate the Bears, as the Packers offense is considered air superiority. Between the two number one receivers on each respective team, Marshall had +15 receptions over Jordy Nelson, while accumulating nineteen less yards, but had four more touchdowns. Marshall accumulated more points for the Bears than Nelson did for the Packers, which swings this one in the Bears favor. However digging deeper into the depth chart splits the two teams further apart. comparing Alshon Jeffery to the Packer’s number two, James Jones doesn’t bode well for Green Bay. Jeffery had accumulated 30 more receptions and gained a massive 604 more yards, including 4 more touchdowns. It stands to reason that with these impressive numbers the Bears absolutely could overtake the Packers if the offense can continue to grow as it did last year. If the Bears rectify the defense, the Packers should be watching over their shoulders, as it appears that the Bears have breached the talent gap on offense.