2015 bears

Better Than Expected?

Tuesday, September 15, 2015 Michael Shayler

The 2015 Chicago Bears entered Sunday's season opener vs their arch rival Green Bay Packers as one of the more complicated teams to analyze and accurately make a prediction on what the 2015 season has in store.

This is a season of transition for the franchise.

Fans have sat back and watched since 2007 as former General Managers Jerry Angelo and then Phil Emery spent the better part of those years trying to turn this team into an offensive juggernaut while not putting the same amount of effort to better the defensive side of the ball.

As the Bears offense failed to live up to expectations over that time, not making the defense better came around to haunt the franchise. The 2013 and 2014 seasons saw the Bears hit an all time low. The defense not only ranked statistically among the worst units in the entire National Football League but were arguably the worst defenses' in the team's illustrious history.

That's a huge statement considering you can arguably say that eight of the franchise's top 10 players throughout history played on the defensive side of ball

The days of the Brian Urlacher led "Monster's of the Midway" defense of recent history had quickly passed us by. The defense was losing its edge (playing an outdated Cover 2 defense during this age of the NFL didn't exactly help either). Offenses want to see the Bears defense on the schedule, when have you ever seen that?

Enter new GM Ryan Pace. At age 37, Pace is the youngest current GM in the NFL. He spent the past 14 seasons as a member of the New Orleans Saints front office. Pace is looking at his first opportunity to run a team but his experience with the Saints should prepare him for a success run with the Bears. Pace got a first hand look at what it takes to build a successful NFL franchise. Over his tenure with the Saints, he had involvement as the franchise went from one of the laughing stocks of the league, to consistent contender and eventual Super Bowl XLIV champions. That's quite the resume for someone,who from an age standpoint, is just beginning his career.

Pace's first order of business was hiring John Fox to become the new head coach after former offensive coordinator, whoops excuse me, i mean head coach Marc Trestman was relieved of his coaching duties following two sub-par seasons.

New Gm Ryan Pace (right) and Head Coach John Fox look to be a breath of fresh air for franchise.
Image courtesy of YouTube
 Fox is a defensive minded coach and perfect fit for organization. Fox has seen success as a head coach sporting a .569 winning percentage over his 14 seasons coach for the Carolina Panthers and more recently Denver Broncos. He has taken teams to the playoffs on seven different occasions, earning two Super Bowl appearances, losing a classic Super Bowl XXXVIII to the New England Patriots and a not so classic dismantling by the hands of Seattle's "Legion of Boom" defense in Super Bowl XLVIII.

Fox brought along Offensive Coordinator Adam Gase with him from Denver. Gase coached/learned under Peyton Manning the past two seasons and now has the task of finally becoming the coach that gets through to everyone in Chicago's favorite Quarterback Jay Cutler. If Week one is any indication, Matt Forte is more likely to be the main focal point of the Bears offense.
New Offensive Coordinator Adam Gase must figure out a way to get Cutler to perform up to expected standards.
image courtesy of dailyreadlist.com

The offense does have talent for Gase to work with. Other than Cutler and Forte, Emerging star Wide Receiver Alshon Jeffery takes over the reigns as the number one target with the departure of disgruntled WR Brandon Marshall to the New York Jets. Eddie Royal was signed to give the offense another established veteran target to go along with big boy tight end Martellus Bennett and young Marquese Wilson. The group could be even better if it wasn't for the injury sustained to 2015 first round pick (7th overall) WR Kevin White during training camp. White is scheduled to miss the first six to eight weeks after undergoing surgery to repair a stress fracture in his shin.

The biggest and most critical change for this team is what defensive coordinator Vic Fangio brings to the table. Fangio comes over from San Francisco where his defenses have ranked in the top five in both yards allowed and points allowed per game each of the past five seasons.
Vic Fangio looks to resurrect the Bears defense with his aggressive 3-4 scheme.
image courtesy of wgnradio.com
The defensive scheme he uses is unknown around Halas Hall. For the first time in team history the Bears present  a 3-4 defense. The 3-4 is pretty much the exact opposite of the soft Cover 2 the Bears have displayed over the past 10 seasons. However it could be compared to the "46" defense the Bears made famous during the 15-1 1986 season where the team would eventually win Super Bowl XX and to this day that defense is still talked about as being the greatest defense in NFL history.

The 3-4 is a complicated defense to master but when executed correctly, it can create nightmares for opposing offenses. The key to this defensive scheme is creating a rush on the outside edges hoping to free up inside linebackers to roam in space looking to make plays.

The team signed Pernell Mcphee to use on the outside edge as he has experience playing in the Baltimore Ravens similar 3-4 defense. As with the offense, Fangio does have some pieces to work with especially in linebacking core which is probably most the important group for a 3-4 defense.

 Mcphee joins returning prized 2014 free agent signing Lamarr Houston, Willie Young and Jared Allen to make up the outside rush rotation. Shea Mcclellin starts as an inside linebacker for first time after starting his career playing on the outside and will be joined on the inside by second year linebacker Christian Jones.

With the 3-4 looking to create pressure, a lot of man/press coverage is called up on for the secondary. In comes safety Antrel Rolle who may end up being the best signing for the Bears as they have severely lacked talent at the safety position since the days of Mike Brown. Rolle is one of the better coverage safeties in the league and only helps with the defensive transition. Team also added depth at corner with the additions of Alan Ball, Sherrick Mcmanis and former Super Bowl MVP from Pace's days with Saints, Tracey Porter.

First Impressions:

Obviously it's impossible to judge what the outcome of an entire season will be based off the first game but the showing of the team against Green Bay did help shed some light. Even in a losing effort, the way this team competed vs Aaron Rodgers and the Packers high powered offense gave off the impression that maybe this season won't go as bad as originally thought.

The most pleasing surprise was how quickly this defense seemed to have adapted to the new scheme. The linebacking core had a good showing and the secondary did a good job in playing the Packer's receivers tight and not allowing much space for yards after the catch to be gained.

In what should come as no surprise, the offense struggled to get into the end zone and Robbie Gould was relied heavily upon as he became the team's all-time leader in made field goals with 246 after three more Sunday.  Matt Forte racked up 166 total yards and scored one of the two team touchdowns. John Fox has let it be known that no one's spot is guaranteed which one can only guess implies that if Cutler can't get this team in end zone on a consistent basis they will try and find someone who can.
John Fox will not hesitate to replace Cutler if his struggles continue.
image courtesy of elkharttruth.com
After week 1, the outlook for this Bears team is a little brighter than originally expected. This coaching staff has seemingly already gotten through to this team. This season may actually turn out to be similar to expectations in the (non 2013/2014) recent past. The defense will keep us in the game while the offense has fans alike biting their nails hoping the offense doesn't yet again trot Robbie Gould onto the field for a 40 yard field goal.
The team may be relying on Matt Forte more than ever after his Week 1 performance.
image courtesy of wgnradio.com
This is not a team run by Marc Trestman and Mel Tucker anymore. They were a high school coaching staff compared to the experience that John Fox, Adam Gase and Vic Fangio bring to the organization.

With the new young GM showing he means business by the coaching staff he assembled, and taking into account the overlooked free agent signings made during the offseason, the Bears may be in line to be a surprise team this season. Even after week one's lose, a 10-6 record is very obtainable for this team if everyone * cough Cutler cough* can do their jobs. Even in the worst case scenerio this team should go 8-8. I could be right about the record or i could be very very wrong, there is just something in this Bears team that bares resemblance to that of another current Chicago team that is seeing success when not expected.

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