Answers aren’t yet available for the biggest questions surrounding the Chicago Bears. So what are the most probable answers heading into 2014?
Chris Conte retains the starting free safety job
Nearly every Bears fan across the globe would love nothing better than to see former starting free safety Chris Conte ride out the remainder of his contract on the bench. Such is his reality after an ugly end to last season that saw him give up a long touchdown on a blown coverage to Green Bay, handing them the division title. It’s an understandable reaction considering how arduous 2013 was for him. However, facts are facts. The Bears made some interesting additions to the safety spot in former Packer M.D. Jennings and rookie Brock Vereen, but neither inspire much confidence. Jennings has a worse stat line than Conte does and Vereen is a 4th round pick. Also something to note is that in the midst of the bashing, Conte has actually bettered his stats every year. His 90 tackles and three interceptions last season were both career bests and he also accomplished that playing behind arguably the worst front seven in Chicago Bears history. With a bolstered defensive line up front and better depth at linebacker, Conte has a chance to get over last year, and he should. He will be the starter in 2014.
Jon Bostic beats out Shea McClellin for last linebacker job
Most opinions centering around the competition at linebacker flow the same way. Two of the three spots should be locked up before the preseason with Lance Briggs at his customary weak side position and veteran D.J. Williams in the middle, where he played well last year before getting hurt. That just leaves the strong side spot, and the two favorites to battle for it are second-year man Jon Bostic and converted defensive end Shea McClellin. Hopes are high that McClellin will thrive shifting to a more natural position. Unfortunately he might not take to it quickly enough to beat out Bostic, who has the speed and athleticism along with a thirst for hitting. Unless McClellin can make impact plays sooner than later, he may be relegated to top reserve.
Matt Forte and Ka’Deem Carey combine for over 2,000 yards
For all the talk about the Chicago Bears receiving corps, which is understandable given its newfound talent and fame, the real source of production for the offense will come from their running game. Matt Forte was a one-man show for the team in 2013, earning his second Pro Bowl and finishing with over 1,300 yards rushing. This he accomplished in a brand new system with four new starters on the offensive line, including two rookie. Could it get even better? All five starters up front are back, creating valuable continuity where it’s required for success. The offense is entering it’s second year which will also add to the smoothing out process. On top of that, Forte will have help. Rookie 4th round pick Ka’Deem Carey has already turned heads at camp and expects to have a role in the offense. If things play out as they should and defenses focus on the Bears passing attack, it will create loads of open lanes for Forte and Carey to hit. Don’t be surprised if the two combine for over 2,000 yards rushing.
Jordan Palmer plays at least one game
One of the popular myths of being a strong-armed quarterback is that the game comes easy to them. While that is true in some aspects, history also shows football can be awfully tough on those who can’t learn to control their baser urges. In simpler terms, strong-armed quarterbacks believe if they hold the ball long enough a window will open down the field for them to fit the ball through. Sometimes it works, others it leads to a lot of sacks and a lot of hits. That has been the reality of Jay Cutler since he joined the Bears. For every big play he creates with that gifted arm of his, the trust he places in it, as well as his toughness has gotten him hit numerous times. This in turn has led to injuries. Cutler has missed a game every year dating back to 2010 due to the punishment he takes. This trend shows no signs of stopping, which means it’s almost a virtual guarantee that Jordan Palmer could get his first start as a pro at some point this season.