Tag:Lance Briggs
Posted on: September 6, 2011 11:35 am

My Key's to the 2011 Season

I guess before I begin, it makes sense to define what successful is to me. Last year, I would have said a winning record would be successful and a playoff spot would have been icing on the cake. If you would have told me that the Bears would finish second overall in the NFC, and win the division, and be playing for the NFC Championship, I probably would have told you to take a reality pill or 2 and call me in the morning.

It goes to show you anything can happen in the NFL. A few years back, the Bengals, like the Bears were picked to finish last in the division. They surprised everyone. Last year, the Cowboys were supposed to easily cruise to the NFCE division title. They finished last. Last year the Packers were supposed to easily win the division. Yet, they barely lucked into the playoffs with help from other teams losing and an untimely Mike Martz heave-a-thon.

So this year, I would say 10 wins for this team would be successful. Anything less is just hitting around expectations. Most analysts have them finishing at or below .500. Most have them finishing behind the Lions. Clark Judge (who picked them to finish last in the division in 2010) has them finishing behind the Lions as well. So I’m saying 10 and 6 would be a good season. Of course, a SB win would be incredible...

In no particular order:

#1 – Stay healthy.

The Bears did have some injuries last year. But most were short term and low impact. Cutler, Briggs, Pisa, Wright, and Chris Williams all missed games. The key was that the injuries were relatively spread out, and only the Briggs injury seemed to impact the team as a whole.

#2 – Red Zone offense success

In a word, we were pathetic. Especially in goal line situations. In fact, we went 0-12 in goal line situations to start the season. We've looked less than stellar so far in pre-season. But, we’ve kept a full back on the roster and added Speath. We've also grown on the line (averaging about 20 lbs per player more). But the biggest add is Barber. I think Martz needs to mix it up from the 20, but when we get to the goal we need to punch the defense in the face.

#3 - Rookies, rejects and Free Agent’s step up…

If you haven’t been keeping up to date on the Bears roster moves, get ready for a new-look team. Gone are some of the perennial players like Olin Kreutz, Desmond Clark, Greg Olsen, Tommie Harris, Marcus Harrison, Pisa Tinoisomoa, Rashied Davis, Garrett Wolfe, Brad Maynard, and Danieal Manning. In their place, we have 19 new faces… Nineteen! That’s turnover of 36% of our 53 man roster in one year.

Some guys are expected to be special teamers. Some are expected to compete for starting positions. Some are expected to see a ton of playing time, in critical situations. All are expected to contribute immediately.

Here are your new Chicago Bears:

  1. Gabe Carimi – OT – 1st draft pick. Our new starting RT. He’s looked very impressive in pre-season.
  2. Kyle Adams – TE – Probably won’t see much time other than special teams
  3. Mario Addison – DE - I really like this kid. So does Lovie…
  4. Marion Barber – RB – Expected to immediately solve short yardage. I think he can do way more.
  5. Chris Conte – S- Rookie safety. He’ll see lots of time on special teams.
  6. Roy Williams – WR – Our new #1… ugh…
  7. Winston Venable – S – No one can deny that this kid can hit… Will see a lot of time on ST’s.
  8. Chris Spencer – C – playing the role of back-up for now. Most think he will be starting in a few weeks.
  9. Matt Spaeth – TE - I believe he has potential to be out biggest pick-up. He is (so far) everything we hoped Manu would be.
  10. Adam Podlesh – P -I wasn’t super impressed with his leg in pre-season. But, he can’t be weaker than Maynard, can he?
  11. Nick Reed – DE - A guy with a non-stop motor. I really liked this kid. Probably gets moved to the practice squad when Corey Wootton comes back though.
  12. Stephen Paea – DT – Our #2 draft pick. Adds depth at this point, but still haven’t seen much from him.
  13. Amobi Okoye DT – One of my favorite pickups. I may be wrong, but I think he has ALL of the Bears pre-season sacks…
  14. Brandon Meriweather – S – A back-to-back pro-bowler. I hope he lives up to where he was drafted. If he does, what an awesome steal.
  15. Sam Hurd – WR – Big tall targte. Looked good out there. Will play a lot of special teams.
  16. Nathan Enderle – QB – 5th round draft. If he is on the field, we are in serious trouble…
  17. Dom DeCicco – LB – Played Safety in college. Can he really bulk up and make an impact at MLB?
  18. Dane Sanzenbacher - WR - Outshined pretty much all receivers in pre-season.
  19. Will Ta’ufo’ou – FB – Was on the practice squad last year so not new to team. But not only is he new to 53 man roster, he also brings back a position we did not have last year.

#4 - Time for this offense to click.

Pre-season records are meaningless. But the pre-season eye test and stats are not. Coaches are looking at everything and just about every stat other than W/L in preseason. Cutler has played about 4 quarters this pre-season. All came against our opponents first team defenses. I'd give Cutler an A. He has put up 350 yards averaging 8 yards per pass. He’s looked poised, quick, and confident in this offense.

As important, the offense as a whole has done very well overall. We have owned the TOP in all 4 games (averaging almost 34 minutes). This success is directly linked to our ability to covert 3rd downs (40%) and in general, keep the ball moving – with 93 first downs total. And before you start in on the “it’s just pre-season” noise, know we held opponents to just 55 total first downs on about 33%.

The point is, this offense is showing signs of maturing. It could really click. And if it does, it’s going to be a fun ride.

#5 – Offensive line MUST play better than 2010.

Quite possibly the most important key... But, let’s not beat this dead horse to death. I'll be quick. We sucked in 2010. 53 sacks. The line is probably the main reason we did not go to the SB. We’re much bigger up front, but younger. I keep saying, if we can average 2 or less sacks per game, we will be in playoffs. One thing is for sure, we look like we have a pretty solid short yardage group here.

#6 – Vets have to play like Vets.

We have a lot of new talent. But the Vets are going to be expected to shine. Brian Urlacher, Charles Tillman, Chris Harris, Lance Briggs, Julius Peppers, Jay Cutler, Matt Forte, Devin Hester, Israel Idonije, Earl Bennett. We need these guys to play like they can and not the way the “experts” think they will. Lovie needs to keep this team motivated and hungry. Last year, we beat the Packers, Cowboys and Lions to start the season. If we can start the season out the way we did last year, (We have the Falcons, Saints and Packers) look for the Bears bandwagon to fill up quickly again.

Thoughts, questions, corrections, bitching, etc.. are all welcome.

Go Bears!
Posted on: April 22, 2010 1:45 pm
Edited on: April 24, 2010 12:16 pm

My top 6 Keys to the 2010 Season (Part1):

While it’s easy to play the “I told you so” game after the season is over, it’s a little more difficult to pin-point prior to the season. 

I’ll be the first to admit, I was pretty excited about Jay Cutler coming to Chicago. For years, all we had been hearing (I’m taking a shot at the media) was how the team was “lacking just one thing: a QB.” And now we had one…

I was able to easily gloss over all the safety issues we had with one quick comment:  “With Jay Cutler running the offense, we will not lead the league in 3 and outs, thereby making our defense better…”

How completely wrong I was. I think it’s important to note that in 3 of the 4 blow-outs last year,  (Vikings G1, Bengals, and Cardinals) Jay Cutler had about as much to do with losing as my 84 year old neighbor who for some reason likes to walk around outside in his boxers, black socks and sandals.

With that, I want to lay out my top 3 “No Brainers” to winning in 2010 (Part 1), and my 3 “Not so Obvious Keys to winning.” (Part 2)

Top 3  “No Brainers”

#1)  Brian Urlacher must play at pro-bowl caliber.
So, yea, this seems like a no brainer. But, the truth is I have seen a ton of people on these boards saying that Lance Briggs is the Bears best defensive player. And, while I would maybe agree that he has been “playing the best statistically at his position” for the last few seasons,  there is no way in the world he is the team’s best defensive player.  And he’s certainly not the most important player on D.

The Middle Line Backer position is far and away the most important player on the defense in the Cover 2.  Other than calling out offensive sets and positioning the D to handle,  Urlacher must be able to shed the lead block and stop the rush between the tackles, and also fill a gap when the ball is run outside the Tackles.  But more importantly, he needs to be fast enough and smart enough to know when it’s play action, and get back into coverage and plug the Middle deep hole. Urlacher does this better than ANY MLB I have ever seen.

However, he was hurt in 2007, and recovering from neck surgery in 2008. We all know what happened in 2009. The last time you can say he played great was 2006. We need a healthy and charged Urlacher. We need him at 2006 levels.

#2)  Tommie Harris must be a force. 
What I would love is by game 3 or 4 in 2010, we have not heard one comment like these (actual):

“This guy gets a fat contract and ever since then has just acted like a big baby !! what a punk!! Just shut up and play ball!! Gees..”
“Tommie Harris is a joke and a waste of space. ANYBODY we put in there instead of him is an upgrade.  My mother could play better.”
“Harris is the biggest disapointement ever.”
“I’d trade Tommie for a 7th rounder and a box of doughnuts right now”

I chose the word “force” specifically because I honestly don’t think he HAS to play at 2006 pre-leg-ripped-in-half levels. But he does need to be at least as good as he looked in the win over the Vikings. In that game he had a measly 3 tackles and 0 sacks. But, what is not being told in the stats is the pressure he was getting up the middle and how the Vikings had to double team him most of the second half. With wild cards at the other DT position and RDE, Harris needs to be the other guy people worry about besides Julius Peppers. If both of these guys can pull constant double teams, create havoc, and disrupt the QB, we should see our secondary play much better and be able to take advantage of a lot of bad passes.

#3 Mike Martz and Cutler MUST meld.
It has been taken now as “fact” that Mike Martz teams throw a lot of interceptions. It is also taken as fact that Cutler throws more INT’s than TD’s. Well, I want to dispel both of these” facts”. They are exaggerations started by fans of teams who lost both guys. AKA Jilted Lovers.

For starters: in 1999, Kurt Warner threw 41 TD’s to 13 INTs under Martz. In 2000, Warner and Trent Green combined for 5500 yards (5500 yards!!!), and a 36 to 22 TD to INT ratio.  In 2001, Warner threw for 4800 yards and a 36 to 22 TD to INT ratio. My point:  That’s 113 TD’s to 57 INTS over 3 years with Martz. A smart QB in Martz’ system can have a 2 to 1 TD to INT Ratio.  Even Marc Bulger  posted a 95 to 59 TD to INT ratio under Martz’ system.

Cutler has throw 81 TD’s versus 63 INT’s over his career. That’s a plus 19. Not great, but considering 26 of those INT’s came last year, I think we can surely look through the B.S. and see potential.

Martz QB’s over the last 10 years have averaged almost 4500 yards per year and about 280 per game.  Cutler has average 3900 per year (excluding his 1st year when he only played in 5 games)  and 245 yards per game. 

I could honestly deal with a 4500 36/18 year from Cutler, I'd kill for a 5500 41/13 year…

(Little known fact about Mike Martz: In 1998 he was the QB coach for the Redskins and helped a little known QB who was selected 222 overall in the 8th round, named Trent Green to a 3500 yard 23 TD, 11 INT season in 14 Games.)

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