There really is no telling what awaits the Chicago Bears in 2014 but one thing is for sure. A few surprises might be waiting. Here are some possibilities.
Brian De La Puente overtakes Roberto Garza at center
They talk about loyal soldiers in regards to certain players in every sport. Roberto Garza has been that for the Chicago Bears since he arrived via Atlanta in 2005. After quietly keeping the right guard spot stable for years, he accepted the transition to center where he continued his steady dependability. However, at age 35 there is just no telling how much he has left. Meanwhile the Bears added Brian De La Puente to the roster who started for the New Orleans Saints at center for three seasons. He’s six years younger than Garza so he has more tread on the tires. Depending on how things go in camp and the preseason, De La Puente has a chance to trot the old warhorse to the bench.
Shea McClellin has more sacks as linebacker than defensive end
Wouldn’t it be the ultimate irony? In 2012, the Bears drafted Shea McClellin out of Boise State with the intent of making him a defensive end. This was despite warning that he was a much better fit as a linebacker. Still, they went ahead with their plan. In two years since being drafted McClellin has posted 2.5 and 4 sacks respectively. That and his terrible run defense prompted Chicago to do what was originally suggested and move him to linebacker. There his speed and athleticism are much more of an asset, although there is no plan to stop sending him after the quarterback, this time as a blitzer. If Mel Tucker continues to call plays aggressively and McClellin finds his comfort zone, fans might be surprised when the third-year player notches more sacks than either of his previous two seasons.
Chris Conte retains starting job
Major Wright is already gone and by all accounts it seems Chris Conte is dead in the water. The fourth-year safety ended his 2013 season with that ugly busted coverage against Green Bay and, if that weren’t bad enough, was forced to undergo shoulder surgery in the off-season. His rehab was set at four to five months, leaving his job at free safety wide open for somebody to come in and take before he could even get back on the field. There is certainly more competition than last year with the additions of free agent M.D. Jennings and rookie Brock Vereen. However, once the dust has settled the Chicago Bears coaches will feel good about giving Conte another chance in hopes an improved defenses around him makes his play better.
Jay Cutler completes season with 12 interceptions or fewer
Marc Trestman values decision-making and accuracy above anything else in his offense. Those two qualities were in short supply most of the time Jay Cutler has been starting quarterback for the Chicago Bears. In seasons he has played at least 15 games he has never had fewer than 14 interceptions. There is little incentive for fans to believe that will change, but the same might not be true for Cutler himself. At age 31 he is now a seasoned quarterback. He enters the second year in the same offense for the first time since 2011, a fact that often breeds confidence and familiarity. On top of that his offensive protection and weaponry is among the best he’s had as a pro. Put all that together and not only should he have a productive season, but also an efficient one to the tune of 12 or fewer interceptions.