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Lovie's Last Stand?

July 20, 2010 - Ron Deuter
With 2010 NFL training camps set to open, I am anxious to see how things develop for the Chicago Bears. Last year a national sports writer picked the Bears to be in the Super Bowl. I joked at the time that a pick of the Bears in the Super Bowl would probably put a jinx on the season and result in something like a 7-9 record. And what happened? Brian Urlacher suffered a season-ending injury in the first game, Jay Cutler had his worst pro season, and the Bears finished 7-9.

I’m going to wait a few more weeks before making any record predictions on this season. But I am cautiously hopeful for a turn-around and return to the playoffs. While a number of question marks surround this team, there is good reason to be optimistic.

I’m really excited to see what the Bears offense is going to look like under Mike Martz. A big problem last year was the offensive line, and it looks to be improved, if for no other reason than guys are healthier. Center Olin Kreutz is said to be in better health than he’s been a few seasons along with the Bears top pick from a few seasons ago in tackle Chris Williams.

If the line can protect, how can you not like the chances for the Bears to put up some big numbers this season? Chester Taylor has been added to the backfield to compliment or even challenge Matt Forte, who himself has to be ready to bust out of a sophomore slump. And despite what others might think of the Bears receiving corps, Martz had referred to them as the strength of the team.

Defensively, the Bears added the biggest free agent of the year in defensive end Julius Peppers. Urlacher is healthy. Lance Briggs, Tommie Harris, Hunter Hillenmeyer and Charles Tillman are all back. Questions do remain in the secondary, where the Bears used two draft picks, but I have to think a healthy Bears defense still has the ability to control ball games.

With the offense almost certain to score more points under Martz, the defense will end up being the determining factor in whether the Bears find themselves up by two or three touchdowns in most games or locked in high-scoring, who-gets-the-ball-last type of games. If it’s the latter, start worrying. Lovie Smith has a history of questionable tactics and costly decisions in those types of situations.

Bears camp opens July 30.


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