A New Hope

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Free agency is the proving ground for any team on the edge, where next season either consists of playoff contention, mediocrity or utter failure. Teams on the cusp prove to be in the most need, as they desperately cling to the hopes of this next season being the one with the most promise. Any team can become an immediate challenger and teams in the rebuilding stages can find the talent to give their fan base just a glimmer of hope.

The Bears, as of last year, were a team beginning a comprehensive rebuild. The defense proved ineffectual, being molested numerous times by mediocre quarterbacks and offenses that couldn’t hold up to most high school squads, but it wasn’t without promise. Defensive Coordinator Vic Fangio seemed to have found a way to slow down Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers, who stumbled over Eddie Lacy’s fat body (JK he’s in great shape). Other instances proved the inferiority of a young defense, as in a bitter defeat at home to a Blaine Gabbert (yeah… the same guy from Jacksonville) led San Francisco team, who devolved to lesser stages of rebuilding, reaching the point of self destruction.

Still, there was promise. For the first time in years, I finally saw a young accumulation of talent, which I haven’t seen since Brian Urlacher, Alex Brown and Mike Brown. It took a few years to get the talent together, but within these passed few years we’ve seen the Chicago Bears defense getting older. It seemed that the departure of Lance Briggs was the final nail in the coffin to a defense assembled by former coach Lovie Smith in what saw us reach the Super Bowl… but we won’t discuss that any further. This was the first year that I saw a youthful revolution on defense and while it was still in its infancy, it brought with it a certain promise. The linebacker core, with Pernell McPhee and Sam Acho came together in the newly implemented 3-4 defense under new defensive coordinator Vic Fangio and Head Coach John Fox. Young talent became the promise for this next season with the emergence of Kyle Fuller, Eddie Goldman and Adrian Amos. No matter how desperate the season became, with severe losses to a horrible offense in San Francisco down to a failure of epic proportions against an ineffectual Redskins team, there were still signs of hope. A late-game victory against the Packers was the shining moment of the season, with turnovers and veteran corner Tracy Porter picking off Aaron Rodgers to ruin an otherwise wonderful ‘Brett Favre Night’… truly a beautiful way to celebrate thanksgiving.

If only the season could’ve ended there… It seemed to be the season that would never end, until it did… then came free agency. In a season that saw our defense depleted and replenished by names that seemed destined to fade into obscurity, there seemed within the usual void of free agency a chance to redeem the mistakes of the past. For all I can remember, the Bears have always depended on a steady defensive line to allow brute, imposing linebackers to do their job, slaughtering wide receivers and punishing would-be running backs who dared to enter the open lane and claim two or three yards. Now, the league has changed. The benefit of a bruising defense isn’t what it used to be in the time of the ‘Super Bowl Shuffle’. A defense has to be fast, while still establishing the tone of the game and slamming their fists against the advance of the ever-expanding cache of weapons on offense. The 3-4 defense, if it is to succeed, is dependent on a sturdy core of agile linebackers to establish the tone for the rest of the defense. Pernell McPhee was the beginning. In order to strengthen the core of their defense, the bears signed Danny Trevathan, a young, fast, versatile linebacker. That gives them a young assemblage of talent in the middle of their defense. They continued their advance by signing Akiem Hicks, a defensive lineman, who played in New Orleans and then The Evil Empire last year. Along with the other young talent, it could prove the right combination to make the 3-4 in Chicago a worthwhile endeavor.

The advance has begun and I doubt it ends with the coming draft. There’s plenty of young talent to fill a desperate need for any team. While offense always seems a desperate plight for the Bears, I do see the linebacker position to be of the utmost concern, if only to assemble the 3-4 in the fastest, most efficient manner. A strong corner or safety would also be beneficial, but given the assemblage of young talent, a speedy, aggressive linebacker could be enough to establish the defense at the height of the league. The Bears can hope that Myles Jack out of UCLA will fall to them, but in order to be certain to get him they might have to trade up, making the bargain unlikely. Some seem to think the Bears will go with offensive assistance, filling the ginormous shoes of Matt Forte. It seems highly unlikely, if only for the sake of seeing what Jeremy Langford and Ka’deem Carey can do. The offensive line is coming together nicely this off season, with Bobby Massie, Manny Ramirez and Ted Larsen fulfilling Kyle Long’s wish list.

Jay Cutler… I feel no need to address. We’ve all been waiting for years in hopes of the great ‘payday’ of this young talent. Now, he’s not young and for all the ‘progress’ he made under Adam Gase he still managed to commit the same atrocities against Bear’s fans as he has for years. I believe it a ‘do-or-die’ situation by this point, meaning if he does he does and if he doesn’t… well… the time is ripe for a new talent to lead our progressing offense. I’ll assume that with a later pick the position will be addressed, though I imagine they’ll waste no more than a fifth round pick, most likely sixth.

Otherwise, the new year seems quite bright for our young, maturing squad. Let us never forget that no matter how dark the season became in a devastating fall to the Lions over a ridiculous ‘catch’ or a year of struggle for the usually perfect Robbie Gould, there is the growth and continued progress of our young squad, something we haven’t had in years. Never forget, at least for my amusement, that through it all, in the very least, week 9 on Monday Night… we made Philip Rivers cry. Sure, that’s something that happens often, but… well, it gets funnier every time.