Four Downs: New Bears identity?
The faces of the franchise, linebacker Brian Urlacher and Lovie Smith, a former defensive coordinator, are gone now, replaced by quarterback Jay Cutler and Trestman, whose biggest focus on game day is calling plays. Although the defense still has plenty of familiar names in Tillman, Briggs and Peppers and familiar early results (see three forced turnovers in Week 1), has the Bears' calling card transitioned to offense under their new head coach?
Our panel weighs in on that and more:
Fact or Fiction: The Bears' identity has shifted from a defensive team to an offensive one.
Jeff Dickerson: Fiction. Just because the offense came to life in the second half to score a pair of touchdowns in Week 1 doesn't mean the Bears are an offensive juggernaut. The name of the game for the Bears is still defense. There are several areas the Bears need to correct on defense in Week 2 (pass rush, tackling, busted coverages), but the defense still forced three turnovers and held the Bengals to 21 points. Maybe down the line the Bears can talk about their offense being on the same level as the defense, but to anoint the offense as the calling card of the team after one week is premature, and kind of disrespectful to the Bears defenders that have made so many outstanding contributions to the franchise over the years.
Jon Greenberg: Fact. By hiring Trestman, the spotlight is naturally on the offense. Cutler and Brandon Marshall are the biggest names on the team and given that Lance Briggs and Peanut Tillman are older, Jay and Brandon represent the faces of the franchise. You will start seeing more and more resources devoted to the offense. Look at the offseason additions. The big money was spent on linemen and tight end Martellus Bennett. That's a good thing, because you need to have a dynamic offense to succeed in this league. Just don't let the defense lapse.
Fact or Fiction: Matt Forte will make a serious run at a 1,000-yard rushing, 1,000-yard receiving season in Marc Trestman's offense.
Jeff Dickerson: Fiction. Forte is a Pro Bowl-caliber player, but 2,000 all-purpose yards is a bit high. A good mark for Forte to shoot for would be 1,600 all-purpose yards. That sounds more reasonable. Forte got a little banged up (nothing serious) against the Bengals and finished with 91 all-purpose yards. Forte would have to average 127 all-purpose yards per game for the next 15 games to reach the 2,000 mark plateau. It's possible, sure, but if the Bears spead the ball around to all their other weapons, I'm not sure Forte touches the ball enough times to put up those kind of statistics.
Jon Greenberg: Fiction. I think Forte will eclipse 1,000 yards rushing, but I don't believe he'll get too close to 1,000 receiving. I'm guessing he'll finish somewhere around the 750 yards range. Forte split out wide some last Sunday and even caught a nice downfield pass from Cutler, but I just don't think he'll get enough targets with Marshall, Alshon Jeffery and Martellus Bennett going downfield.
Fact or Fiction: Adrian Peterson will rush for 150-plus yards against the Bears on Sunday.
Jeff Dickerson: Fiction. Peterson likely breaks 100 yards, but I would bet against him having an epic day against the Bears' defense. Why? Well, Christian Ponder isn't a very good quarterback. The Bears know this. The Vikings know this. So Peterson is going to be the focal point of the Minnesota offense, no surprise there. But without the threat of a vertical passing game, the Bears defenders should be good enough to at least keep Peterson from running up and down the field all afternoon, as long as the tackling is sound. That's the best a team can hope for. You're never going to entirely stop Adrian Peterson. It's impossible. But if the Bears can limit the damage, and force Ponder to beat them, Trestman has a wonderful opportunity to win his first two games as an NFL head coach.
Jon Greenberg: Fiction. I think Peterson will get around 100 yards, but I don't see him going for 150. I think we're going to see an inspired performance from the defensive line after last week's sluggish start, which will limit Peterson's space. I'm interested to see how James Anderson and D.J. Williams perform against Peterson, and if Jon Bostic gets a few snaps. The talk at Halas Hall on Wednesday was all about gang-tackling the big back. If the Bears stay disciplined, they win.
Fact or Fiction: Even though the Bears will be more aggressive offensively under Trestman, Jay Cutler will make fewer mistakes this season.
Jeff Dickerson: Fiction. Can't make that assumption based off just one week. Cutler had an excellent performance in Week 1, and if he consistently plays at that level, the Bears are in great shape. But it's too early to tell. Cutler is still prone to making bad decisions. Remember, he lit up the Colts last season in Week 1 with 333 passing yards, two touchdowns and one interception. The next week in Green Bay he tossed four picks and posted a quarterback rating of 28.2. Here's hoping that history doesn't repeat itself for Cutler and the Bears, but you never know. That's why they play the game. If we all knew what was going to happen every week, nobody would watch the games.
Jon Greenberg: Fact. An interception isn't always a mistake necessarily, and Cutler will throw his share, probably between 16-24. I think we're going to see Cutler be more disciplined, because he's more trusting in the offensive plan. He has more of a stake in it, which is weird to say, but true. I've never been a big believer in Cutler, but I'm optimistic this season will showcase his ability and limit his downside.