Phil Emery has, seemingly, fixed a lot the past two off-seasons, primarily reconstructing the trenches on both sides of the ball.
With just over two weeks until his third Bears team checks into Bourbonnais, it won’t be long until we find out whether the new-look defensive line will have as great a turnaround impact as the offensive line a year ago.
Still, there’s only so much money to go around, and he can’t necessarily fix every glaring need. There’s still some concern about quality at the safety position, as well as who can join Lance Briggs in making an impact at linebacker, provided Briggs can pick up where he left off, pre-shoulder injury.
For the first time in what seems forever, the Bears appear to be going into this season with fewer concerns on offense than on defense. I’m not quite sure the last time I can remember that being the case, if ever, during my time following this franchise. And it’s warranted. Yet the injury bug will bite, and teams have to hope that when it does, those bites are ones from which they can easily recover. But an innocent inquiry this week about the depth at a handful of offensive positions lingers.
The conversation has continued and the answers vary almost equally about players the offense can least afford to lose. While Jay Cutler’s season-long health seems most vital to putting up the kind of numbers it delivered last year, it depends on the kind of magic people believe Marc Trestman can do with the backups, and how the system and playbook can ultimately provide a Band-Aid at the most important position on the field. There’s a faction out there that believe Trestman, Aaron Kromer and Matt Cavanaugh can get the same things out of Jordan Palmer or Jimmy Clausen that they did with a previously-unpopular Josh McCown prior to his 2013 performance.
Others think, despite the drafting of Ka'Deem Carey in the fourth round and the production he provided at Arizona, a long-term injury to Matt Forte would be most crippling to this fall’s offensive fortunes.
Almost as many people I’ve asked that question say 'no' – not Forte (because of Carey), not Cutler (because of what Trestman can quickly develop), but if either Brandon Marshall or Alshon Jeffery were to go down, they’re not certain Marquess Wilson can make the kind of quick impact Jeffery did last year, and aren’t impressed with the depth behind Wilson, the projected third receiver.
I also had a couple of people tell me that if everyone else remains healthy, it’s one thing, but the depth behind Martellus Bennett - in what he gives as both a receiver and blocker wrapped up in one package - would greatly hinder the offensive balance if he were to go down. I even had someone tell me that while Jermon Bushrod may not necessarily be considered among the league’s elite at left tackle, his consistent blind-side protection of Cutler would create a domino effect along the line if they were forced to turn to his serviceable backup in Eben Britton. Objectors countered that Kromer would somehow find a way continue to make it work, as Trestman did with McCown a year ago.
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It’s some interesting food for thought, even if it might cause some indigestion. Or it’s just senseless, doomsday concern – a bridge that doesn’t need to be crossed until necessary. I tend to agree. Most importantly, everyone just hopes it ends up, somehow, being a non-issue, during the brutal marathon of an NFL season.