How much can change?

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How much can change?

One of the strongest points GM Phil Emery made this week was that the new head coach would need to be someone capable of working with talent in place, at least for a year. The assumption was that he was referring to the defense, not going to a 3-4 built around wide-bodies when the roster is built for speed and a 4-3.

(Four of the top five scoring defenses and four of the top six yardage units are 4-3s so why change that anyway?)

More intriguing, however, given that the biggest single reason for the coaching change was the offense, is what might be done on that side of the ball.

Jay Cutler chafed under Ron Turners iteration of the West Coast system. He eventually soured on Mike Martzs more vertical system. And Mike Tices approach allowed Cutler to play catch with Brandon Marshall but nothing else really worked.

Next?

As long as we score points and have balance, Emery told CSNChicago.com. Looking at all of the rankings, Green Bay wins because of the guy they have on the trigger Aaron Rodgers, and theyre 66-percent pass. That works for them.

What I want is a candidate who convinces me on whats going to work for us.

Could the Bears adapt their offensive personnel, for instance, to the scheme of someone like Houstons Rick Dennison, who used zone blocking under Alex Gibbs in Denver (with Cutler as his quarterback) and Houston?

RELATED: Temper the enthusiasm for Lovie successor

Using Houston as the template, the Bears may be too big (i.e., not quick enough) to fit a zone-blocking mold. The Texans biggest lineman is Pro Bowl left tackle Duane Brown at 320; JMarcus Webb is 333. Houston center Chris Myers is 290; Roberto Garza is 310. Right guard Lance Louis is 320 (although very mobile); Houstons guards are 307and 303.

If Emery and the new coach want to make changes, are the free agents there? ESPN draft maven Mel Kiper posits that there are five tackles worth first-round picks in the draft. One should be there at No. 20, but a fit for a new scheme?
Ego-lite

One thing conspicuous in its absence during Phil Emerys Q&A session on Tuesday was ego. Emery has strong ideas and perspectives, which doesnt remotely guarantee that hiring someone with no head coaching experience will be the right move.

But Plato once remarked, the surest way to lose truth is to believe that one already wholly possess it (and no, he didnt say it to me; I read it). I was less impressed with Emerys supposed candor than how little puffy-chesting he did. If you think you have all the answers, thats the surest sign that you dont, and Emery tend toward the self-effacing rather than self-important.

What that suggests is that he has a clear notion of what works and what doesnt, things like who makes roster calls. And if a candidate can convince Emery of an approach head coach as his own offensive coordinator, for instance Emery may not agree but hell listen.

Did he really say that?

Keep a casual on how relations go between the defense and certain members of the Bears offense. Not because of the way 2012 played out; members of the defense blame themselves for letting Seattle go on those last two drives, for instance.

But Phil Emery was very explicit about the two main reasons for firing Lovie Smith: One was failing to make the playoffs and the second, related directly to that, was the failure to resolve problems on offense.

So the defense loses two men held in the highest regard both professionally and personally Smith and Rod Marinelli because the guys on the other side of the ball couldnt get it done.

Yet there was Jay Cutler on Monday being sorry Smith was out but also suggesting that, Change isnt always a bad thing. Sometimes, it can be good.

He probably shouldnt try selling that at the other end of the locker room anytime soon. And if change can be a good thing, with Cutler having gone through four coordinators in five years and a gaggle of quarterback coaches (three in Chicago alone, including a second spin with Jeremy Bates), then

Bears training camp preview: Three burning questions for the offensive line

Bears training camp preview: Three burning questions for the offensive line

With training camp starting next week, CSN Chicago’s Chris Boden and JJ Stankevitz are looking at three burning questions for each of the Bears’ position groups heading into Bourbonnais. Friday's unit: the offensive line. 

1. Will Kyle Long and Josh Sitton flip spots, and will it be effective?

One of the more intriguing storylines to come out of the Bears’ offseason program was the possibility of a Kyle Long-Josh Sitton guard swap, with Long moving from right to left and Sitton to left to right. The prevailing wisdom is that Long’s athleticism would be better suited for the pulls needed at left guard, while Sitton has made Pro Bowls at both positions. But is it prudent for the Bears to make this switch with Long still recovering from November ankle surgery and some nasty complications that came after it? He’s shown he’s skilled enough to already make one position switch on the offensive line (from right tackle to right guard), so there’s no reason to doubt he couldn’t handle another so long as he’s healthy. We’ll see where he is next week. 

“You want flexibility,” coach John Fox said. “You don’t want as much flexibility as we had to use a year ago because we had to play so many guys due to injury. But we’re messing around with (Sitton) and Kyle both playing opposite sides, whether one’s on the left, one’s on the right. We’ll get those looks in camp, we got plenty of time.”

2. Can Charles Leno Jr. capitalize on a contract year?

Leno has been a pleasant surprise given the low expectations usually set for seventh-round picks. He started every game in 2016, checking off an important box for John Fox — reliability. Whether Leno can be more than a reliable player at left tackle, though, remains to be seen (if the Bears thought he were, wouldn’t they have signed him to an extension by now?). He has one more training camp and 16 games to prove he’s worthy of a deal to be the Bears (or someone else’s) left tackle of the future. Otherwise, the Bears may look to a 2018 draft class rich in tackles led by Texas’ Connor Williams and Notre Dame’s Mike McGlinchey. 

“I know if I take care of my business out here, everything else will take care of itself,” Leno said. 

3. Will Hroniss Grasu survive the roster crunch?

A year ago, Grasu was coming off a promising rookie season and was in line to be the Bears’ starting center. But the Oregon product tore his ACL in August, and Cody Whitehair thrived after a last-minute move from guard to center. If the Bears keep eight offensive lineman this year, Grasu could be squeezed out: Leno, Long, Whitehair, Sitton and Bobby Massie are the likely starters, with Eric Kush and Tom Compton filling reserve roles. That leaves one spot, either for fifth-round guard Jordan Morgan or Grasu. The Bears could try to stash Morgan, who played his college ball at Division-II Kutztown, on the practice squad and keep Grasu. But Grasu doesn’t have flexibility to play another position besides center, which could hurt his case. 

Bears training camp preview: 3 burning questions for tight ends

Bears training camp preview: 3 burning questions for tight ends

With training camp starting next week, CSN Chicago’s Chris Boden and JJ Stankevitz are looking at three burning questions for each of the Bears’ position groups heading into Bourbonnais. Thursday's unit: the tight ends.

1. Will Zach Miller make the 53-man roster?

Miller didn’t play a single down from 2012-14, and has missed seven games in two seasons with the Bears, but he’s been productive when on the field: 110 targets, 81 receptions, 925 yards and nine touchdowns. But the Bears signed Dion Sims to an $18 million contract and then drafted Adam Shaheen in the second round of the draft, moves that seemingly put Miller in a precarious position heading into Bourbonnais. Not helping Miller’s case is the Lisfranc fracture he suffered last November, which kept him sidelined through OTAs and veteran minicamp in May and June. He’d be a valuable player for the Bears to keep around, but at the same time, training camp could be a perfect storm for Miller to be among the cuts.

“They’re going to cutting it close for training camp,” coach John Fox said of Miller (and Danny Trevathan) in June. “But right now they’re right on target and that’s kind of what we expected all offseason.”

2. What can we expect from Adam Shaheen?

Shaheen was among the bright spots during May and June, hardly looking like someone who played his college ball at Division II Ashland while going against NFL defenders. But those were just shorts-and-helmets practices without any contact, so it’d be premature to project anything about Shaheen off of them. The real test for Shaheen will be when he puts the pads on in Bourbonnais and gets his first experience with the physicality of the NFL after a few years of being head and shoulders — literally — above his competition in college. It’s unlikely Shaheen will live up to his “Baby Gronk” hype in Year 1, but if he handles training camp well, he could be a valuable red zone asset for Mike Glennon as a rookie. 

“You don’t know until you put the pads on,” Shaheen said. “That’s what I’m excited for.”

3. How productive can this unit be?

Between Sims — who had a career high four touchdowns last year with the Miami Dolphins — and Shaheen, the Bears have two new, big targets for an offense that tied for 24th in the NFL with 19 passing touchdowns a year ago. If Miller sticks around, this group would have enviable depth. But even if he doesn’t, the Bears liked what they saw from Brown last year (16 receptions, 124 yards, 1 TD in six games). There are fewer questions about the tight ends heading into training camp than the receivers, and it wouldn’t be surprising if Glennon leans on this unit, especially early in the season.