What do the Chicago Bears need to do to take the next step?
It seems like each of the last two years, the Bears have started out as one of the best teams in the league, definite contenders in the NFC, only to flame out before the season ends. I think this could be the year where the Bears take that next step. Even though the departure of Brian Urlacher could hurt from a leadership standpoint, the Bears have some big time playmakers both offensively and defensively that can propel them to the top of the NFC North and back into the playoffs.
Jay Cutler will be a huge part of the Success of this team, but it will be the play of the guys in the trenches that determines the Bears’ fate this year. The offensive line looks improved on paper, and the defensive line has some young playmakers to surround Julius Peppers and put pressure on the quarterback.
Here are three players–one from each of the last three drafts–that could have breakout seasons in 2013.
Third year — Stephen Paea, DT
I was a big fan of Stephen Paea coming out of Oregon State, and I think the big, strong defensive tackle is finally ready to take the next step. He is slated to take one of the Bears’ starting defensive tackle spots in 2013, and he could be primed for something big. He played in 15 games last season with 24 tackles and 2.5 sacks, mainly taking up space for the Bears.
I think he offers a little bit more in the pass rush department. He will command a double team, but his athleticism and strength will allow him to more consistently penetrate in the backfield and open up plays for other guys as well as cleaning up for himself.
Paea is capable of being a disruptive pass rusher and run stuffer for the Bears’ defensive line, and I think the former second round pick is ready to bust out.