10) Hester Is Returning To What He Does Best
|Hester has 18 career special teams touchdowns.|
Finally, the 2013 season comes with the hopes that Hester will return to what has made his career special. He will be returning kicks and playing special teams. With 18 career special teams touchdowns, Hester should create something magical during the 2013 season.
9) Lovie Smith Will No Longer Be The Game Manager
The Seattle game in December of 2012 is a perfect example of why Bears fans should be excited that Lovie is not calling the shots during Bears' games in 2013. First, Lovie decided to go for it on a 4th and 1 when the Bears were up by seven and in field goal range. The play call was a Michael Bush run behind a line that had struggled all season. The Bears fail to make the play, and Seattle takes over on downs. Then, the Bears had a lead in the 4th quarter but gave up a ninety-seven yard drive that ended up in a touchdown to take the game into overtime (earlier field goal would have won the game and secured playoff birth). Heading into overtime, the Bears failed to adjust to the read option that rookie Russell Wilson was running, and the Bears give up an eighty yard drive to lose the game.
8) New Blood At Linebacker Position
It was hard for many Bear fans to see Urlacher retire. He was the face of the franchise for so many years. However, it was clear last year that Urlacher's time was coming to an end. Urlacher couldn't stay healthy with knee and hamstring injuries throughout the year. Also, his lack of speed made him look like a shadow of his former self.
With the importance of the Mike linebacker position in a 4-3 defense, it was clear that the Bears needed to invest in the linebacker position for the 2013 season. Hence, the Bears signed free agent D. J. Williams and drafted Jon Bostic. D.J. Williams comes to the Bears as a player seeking redemption after a troubled season in Denver last year. Williams is one season removed from amassing 90 tackles, 5 sacks, and 3 forced fumbles. The rookie Bostic comes to the Bears as a versatile, fast, and intelligent prospect that will be competing with Williams for the starting Mike position.
|Will Bostic replace Urlacher in the middle?|
Besides the additions at the Mike position, the Bears also added linebacker James Anderson through free agency and Khaseem Greene through the draft. Meanwhile, pro bowler Lance Briggs will now be calling the plays at the Will linebacker spot.
Looking at all of the changes at the linebacker spots for the 2013 season, it should be exciting to see what players emerge and to see if the new prospects can carry on the legacy of defensive dominance that has been the Bears' strength for so many years.
7) Mel Tucker's Defense
At first glance, it might seem like Mel Tucker was not a good selection for the Bears' 2013 Defensive Coordinator position. Tucker was the coordinator for a Jaguars' defense that was ranked 30th in yards allowed last season. However, a deeper look at the numbers reveals that Emery might have found a gem in hiring Tucker.
First, Tucker has experience coaching a 4-3 or a 3-4 defense. This allows the Bears to stay open and flexible in the future to create a defense that matches the players they have on their roster. Additionally, Tucker coached a Jaguars' defense that had a great deal of injuries last season. In fact, only a handful of the Jaguars' starters played all of the games last season.
Looking at the 2011 season where there weren't so many injuries to his unit, Tucker's defense was ranked sixth in yards allowed and 5th overall. Keeping in mind that Tucker is coming to coach a Bear team that has significantly more talent than the Jaguar teams Tucker has coached, there is reason to be excited about Mel Tucker's defense in 2013.
6) Shea Will Be On The Field
After being drafted 19th overall in the 2012 NFL Draft, Shea McClellin was used almost exclusively in passing situations last year. In addition, he was slowed down by a knee injury and a concussion.
Even with limited playing time last season, McClellin tied rookie sack leader Bruce Irvin in the area of quarterback hurries. Irvin had 18 hurries in 387 snaps, McClellin had 18 hurries in 299 snaps.
Looking forward to the 2013 season, McClellin has reportedly added 5 to 7 pounds of muscle to his frame. He also has been sharing 1st string reps with defensive end Corey Wooten in voluntary mini camps. With McClellin's high motor and prospects for more playing time, it will be intriguing to see how McClellin fairs in 2013.
5) Alshon Jeffery Is Poised For A Breakout Year
Jeffery started the 2012 season by busting right out of the gates with 80 yards receiving and a touchdown in his first regular season game as a pro. Throughout the season, he showed promise, but he was slowed down by injuries to his hand and knee along with inexperience.
|Jeffery has been working out with B. Marshall during the offseason.|
This offseason Jeffery has been working out with Brandon Marshall. Hopefully with coaching from one of the league's greatest receivers, Alshon will break out in 2013.
4) Martellus Bennett Is A Legitimate TE
Kellen Davis had one of the highest drop rates for receivers/tight ends with at least 20 catches last season. He was an abomination, and it was excruciatingly painful to see Davis miss so many key passes throughout the season.
The Bears GM Phil Emery said this offseason that the Bears needed to get better at attacking the middle of the field with their tight end play. This was definitely not going to occur with Davis at the tight end position. Thus, the Bears went after and successfully signed Martellus Bennett during free agency.
Martellus Bennett had 55 receptions, 626 yards, and 5 touchdowns last season. If Bennett had played for the Bears in 2012, Bennett would have had the second highest totals in each of these statistical categories. Considering that Brandon Marshall's 118 receptions accounted for over 40 percent of the Bears' receptions, Bennett will help to create a more dynamic and explosive offense in 2013.
3) Jay Cutler Is In A Contract Year
In a contract year last year, Joe Flacco delivered for the Baltimore Ravens with a Super Bowl win. He was rewarded with a 120 million dollar six year contract, which made him the highest paid NFL player at the time of the signing.
This year Jay Cutler is playing for his future. There is a lot of motivation for Cutler to excel in 2013. If he flames out in the 2013 season, Cutler might find himself hard pressed to get big money. However, if he takes the Bears deep into the playoffs, Cutler could find himself in line for a record sized deal.
In the past, Cutler has been criticized for his lack of desire and/or toughness. Cutler should put everything on the table in 2013.
2) Offensive Line Upgrades
Many Bear fans cringed after the 2012 NFL Draft and the 2012 free agency period because the Bears failed to improve their offensive line. The Bears paid dearly for not bolstering their offensive line last year. Jay Cutler was sacked 38 times during the 2012 season, which was the second highest total of his career.
During the offseason, the Bears have worked very hard in free agency and in the draft to improve their offensive line play. The Bears made a big splash during free agency by signing left tackle Jermon Bushrod to protect Jay Cutler's blind side. They also improved their guard position by signing guard Matt Slauson.
|The Bears are hoping Kyle Long can improve their line play.|
1) Trestman's NFL Reputation
The Bears new head coach Marc Trestman has received ringing endorsements from players and coaches such as Jerry Rice, Steve Young, Rich Gannon, Marv Levy, and Bud Grant. The most impressive endorsement, however, comes from the 2012 NFC champion head coach of the 49ers Jim Harbaugh.
Harbaugh recently was asked about Trestman. Harbaugh said that Trestman "taught me everything." He went on to say, "We still use his system of calling plays and the way he taught us those concepts and techniques. I've used [those] since I coached with the Raiders, the University of San Diego, Stanford, and the 49ers."
Considering that Harbaugh coached a 49ers' team to a Super Bowl in his second year as a head coach and that the team was 6-10 the year before he took over, his opinion carries a lot of weight. However, to hear that such a successful coach still uses a lot of Trestman's systems, suggests that the Bears have hit a "grand slam" as Harbaugh stated in signing Trestman to lead the Bears in 2013.
|Jim Harbaugh says Trestman hire is a "grand slam."|