Regal Radio and WARR.com returns with the second wave of our Chicago Bears season preview (catch the first wave here).
Doing it a little more serious this time as we try to take a fresh look at some specific players and elements of this coming season that will play less than obvious roles in the team’s success, but in the end they could be as important as any current Pro Bowler or highly disputed quarterback.
Providing our two lists this time around are Regal Radio co-founder and host Sean Terry, who not surprisingly breaks down the boundaries regarding actual Beardom to mention a former Bear as well as uncontrollable intangibles in his list of things that could ruin the upcoming season. But first, check our newest contributor, DeMario Phipps-Smith — a talented young journalist and former sports editor at the Daily Egyptian (Carbondale — the Evanston of Southern Illinois) — with his list of Bears that could be pleasant surprises. — ed.
5 Bears Who Will Surprise You
The Chicago Bears have a coveted cache of both accomplished veterans and talented young guys. Most of the team’s off-season was spent addressing needs on the defensive side, which was a shallow and underachieving group last season. We know what to expect from the offense but the team’s defensive additions must produce this year. Still, there’s room for new stars to appear on both sides of the ball.
The good news for McClellin is that he nearly doubled his sack production from his rookie year to his sophomore year. However, a jump from 2.5 sacks to 4 isn’t the most impressive leap. With the depth around him and a new position he’s apparently getting used to, McClellin will be able to play more consistently as a linebacker than he did as a lineman. Can he make the most of his athletic abilities in the additional space he’ll have to make plays? This guy has all the measurables needed to succeed, he just needs to remain confident and consistent.
There are much expectations for any running back in Chicago, even if he’s a rookie and projects for third string. Carey is the scat-back of the Bears’ dreams, he can make third downs for the opposition into a nightmare but he’ll have to develop his pass protection skills if he wants to cut into Matt Forte’s snaps. Don’t be surprise if Carey gets kickoff and punt return duties as well, which is saying a lot because Eric Weems is an already established specialist in that area.
If this year’s fourth round draft pick turns out to be anything like his brother, Shane, then the Bears have a sleeper-stud at safety on their hands. Vereen can play most positions in the secondary, so he’ll be a huge improvement from where the Bears where last season in the defensive backfield. Expect the Chicago corners to take more risks with Vereen helping ball-hawk in the secondary.
With the addition of the former Jaguar and Buc, Chicago has a second quality tight end to pair with Martellus Bennett. As defenses start using more exotic packages, look for the Bears to sneak Miller into the lineup, he can block and catch well but he has a unique frame that allows him to position himself where only he has an opportunity to catch the ball – like how Cowboys mainstay Jason Witten often snags balls.
For his size, it is a little surprising that Young only has six sacks in his four-year career. On the other hand, he did have to play in Detroit behind a defensive line that featured Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley. Young has good speed and explosive power, but his production is questionable. If the Bears allow him to pin his ears back and charge for the quarterback, the team will reap great benefits. If not, well, he’ll at least look flashy on the field.
— DeMario Phipps-Smith
5 Bears Who Could Ruin The Season
Easily the most appropriate target for potential Bears season-ruiner.
With his fair share of dust-ups and hooligan-like antics dating back to OTAs, cresting recently with his incident with Kyle Fuller, it’s clear the normally affable Bennett is in a grimier place these days. Flippant and nonchalant remarks make for excellent media fodder but it doesn’t do much to help a Bears team built to win now.
More importantly, this Bears team is in the midst of a Trestman-coined “transformational process,” calling for equality and humility. Coach-speak aside, I agree with Trestman’s approach since mutual respect is the easiest way to build up a roster in a focused, distraction-free environment.
That said, every Chicago champion in recent history has had its share of extroverted personalities — the Bulls had Rodman, the White Sox had Carl Everett… Here’s hoping Marty B becomes the next in a line of Chicago champions who in spite of needing an occasional screw-tightening manages to fall in line as the team as a whole reaches their goals.
Long Snapper du jour
Really? Why do I go to this oh-so unglamorous part of the Bears roster?
Many would overlook the long snapper position, I’m sure, no one notices the long snapper even exists until he screws up.
Patrick Mannelly did a great job of normally not being seen while becoming the longest tenured Bear in team history (17 seasons), he functioned as a staple of consistency and excellence for the franchise throughout his career, so much so that fans and broadcasters regularly acknowledged his first and last names, he wasn’t just “the snapper.”
Well, Mannelly’s retired now and after a training camp full of attrition, the Bears have named Brandon Hartson the starter at the position.
“My job’s definitely not set in stone. There’s people on the street every single day that want my job,” Hartson says to the Sun-Times…seems like dude is a little nervous to me. Lets hope he can hold his head or some unknown Grabowski just may take his gig and pretty soon we’ll have to pay more attention than we’d like to this preferably anonymous position.
Chicago Park District/Bears Grounds Crew
Any committment to win doesn’t just involve with coaches and players — it includes, and maybe begins with, quality facilities.
Over the past several years, the Bears have been oft-criticized by players and journalists alike for the poor quality of the playing field at Soldier Field.
During these recent years, watching November and December Bears home games has been more like watching grown men carrousel around on a giant, green slip n’ slide. Like a cranberry marsh by the lake, the turf at Soldier Field has been a possible cause of some devastating knee injuries for guys in the trenches, hurting the cause for the home team as much as opponents.
No matter what size screw-ins guys use on their cleats, getting a good push at the snap has seemed to allude the Bears for some time now on either of their front lines. For a newly constructed defense, especially with the front four, getting consistent push will be the most important step in reestablishing a dominant defense.
Maybe the Bears should have trusty White Sox groundskeeper Roger Bossard on speed dial.
Hey, they don’t have to all be current Bears.
Besides, sizing up present greatness requires acknowledging the past. In the case of the Bears, a dip in revisionist history may very well bring them full circle this season in the form of a San Francisco 49ers squad that is led by a former Bears great (sort of) in Harbaugh, still leading things for this NFC West contender.
Super Bowls are hard to come by in consecutive years, and last year’s Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks are the 49ers biggest rivals, making San Fran among the most watched teams in the league and as well one of its most favorited to win the NFC. A team that has been on the brink of winning it each of the last 3 seasons has matured and may have been hardened by being on the receiving end of Richard Sherman’s wrath. Assuming health as a non-factor, the 49ers should be a hungry bunch who at the very least should be prime for a Super Bowl return.
That means all roads travel thru the west coast if we are to feel like 1985 all over again and Week 2’s trip for the Bears to the newly opened Levi Stadium will be among the team’s biggest challenges of the year, it could say all we need to say very early about how much celebrating Chicago is going to do deep into the winter.
All of the lights have never scared Kanye, but his hometown football team has not grasped being in the spotlight as well.
Looks like the Vegas odds makers and NFL scheduling committee were in cahoots this year as the Bears will be among the most featured teams in prime time this season with five games scheduled for Sunday, Monday and Thursday nights. While the prime-time slots are a good look for Saturday night partiers and Sunday morning church-goers alike, the truth of the matter is football players are creatures of habit who’s normal preparation readies them for Sunday afternoon games, not Thursday night games.
NFL players routinely talk about the importance of recovery following the car-wreck known as an NFL game. That said, short weeks for football players are like disasters waiting to happen as players miss out on much-needed mid-week R&R. With several night games on the schedule this year, the Bears will have to preserve themselves well through the schedule and hope more than a little bit of luck falls their way.
— Sean “Pharoah” Terry
Follow Regal Radio on Twitter @regalradio1 and on Facebook under Regal Radio; Follow DeMario on Twitter @DemarioPSmith and Sean on Twitter @craftbeersochi.