From the moment Marc Trestman was named head coach of the Bears, it seems all eyes have been on Jay Cutler and the offense.
Very un-Bears like,
isn’t it? It’s probably
very naive, as well.
Ultimately, the success or failure of the Trestman regime almost certainly will be gauged by what he accomplishes with Cutler and the offense
In the beginning, it will be the defense that
dictates how competitive
this team can be, and how long the Trestman
honeymoon will last while we wait for the offense to arrive.
The irony of that is that in another extremely un-Bears-like way, they should be more concerned about the defense right now than the other side of the ball. There are a number of questions I’d love to see answers for in the second preseason game tonight.
If Julius Peppers, Lance Briggs and Charles
“Peanut” Tillman again can play to their Pro Bowl form, new defensive coordinator Mel Tucker has a great place to start. But Briggs will turn 33 in November, Peppers 34 in January and Tillman 33 in February.
So the end is near for the pillars of this unit that was fifth in total defense last season, third in points allowed and first in the NFL in takeaways. Does each have one more big year in him? I think there’s a good chance they do.
The problem is, by themselves, they are not enough, and the first order of business is to replace Brian Urlacher, Israel Indonije, Nick Roach and Kelvin Hayden in the starting lineup. For all of the players looking to fill those shoes, Tucker has a mantra he preaches to his guys regularly:
“Work to stay, work to play, work to get better each and every day.”
It starts with Corey Wootton and Shea McClellin, who have to be both the answer for the loss of Idonije and depth behind Peppers.
Wootton got off to a great start in camp, but has been nicked up and hopefully will get his
first game action against San Diego.
McClellin did double-duty against the Panthers at right and left end, and was less than impressive. He needs to show more against San Diego.
D.J. Williams and James Anderson were brought in to keep Urlacher and Roach’s spots warm until second- and fourth-round draft choices Jon Bostic and Khaseem Greene are ready to inherit them.
Though both Bostic and Greene flashed great potential in Carolina, they were either late getting where they needed to be or got lost on the way too often.
That is to be expected of rookies, but Williams’ nagging calf injury is making it look more and more likely Bostic could be the Week 1 starter in the middle, and Anderson has shown little to suggest letting Greene learn on the job couldn’t be a viable option.
But both rookies have to show significant gains in recognition from week to week over the next three exhibitions.
Hayden’s job appears to be Isaiah Frey’s to lose, unless the recently signed Derrick Martin can claim it, so keep a close eye on those two as well.
Finally, while expecting all of those players to perform as if they belong on a top-five defense is tough, it is the lack of depth on defense that is the most disconcerting. And the lack of playmakers behind the big three and perhaps Tim Jennings and Henry Melton.
Can Stephen Paea, Major Wright and Chris Conte take another step forward or have we seen all they have to offer?
Can Cornelius Washington, Zach Minter, Corvey Irvin, Kyle Moore, Brandon Hardin, C.J. Wilson, Demontre Hurst and a few more of the youngsters in camp make this team and then make a difference?
Some will have to for this defense to succeed, and it’s a lot to ask. Hopefully, we’ll start to get some answers against the Chargers.