Anybody who watched the Chicago Bears last season saw a team that got pushed around much too often. Early signs paint a different picture for 2014.
Lamarr Houston and Jared Allen setting a different tone
It takes talent to win in the NFL. That is the simplest fact of all. However, to beat the best teams it takes talent and toughness. Not just a toughness to endure pain, but a toughness in the face of an overwhelming situation. For the Bears, particularly the defense, they were manhandled a lot in 2013. Mediocre teams played good against them, good teams played great against them and great teams made them look like they belonged on a high school field. More than the injuries and age, the Bears lacked tone-setters. It didn’t take long into the OTA practices for the coming season to see that had changed. It occurred when defensive ends Jared Allen and Lamarr Houston, two of the Chicago Bears biggest free agent pickups in March, got into a scuffle with right tackle Jordan Mills and tight end Martellus Bennett. Tiffs between players in practice is nothing new, but the fact it happened so early clearly was less about personal beefs and more about the defense sending the offense a message. After all the Bears offense was captain of the ship last year, ranking top ten in nearly every category. Allen and Houston told them that nothing was coming easy against this new defense, not from them or the rest of the NFL.
Martellus Bennett and Jordan Mills response just as important
On top of that, while it might not seem like it, the response given out by Martellus Bennett and Jordan Mills during the scuffle is equally important. For all their success last season, too many times the Chicago Bears offense got pushed around by more physical teams. Some prime examples include New Orleans, Detroit, St. Louis and Philadelphia. In those instances the Bears seemed passive and a bit soft of mind and body. It led to the kind of sacks, hits, penalties and turnovers they normally avoided. Could practicing against a depleted defense last season have had a hand in that? Possibly. What is certain now is that there will be no cruise control for Jay Cutler and company this year. Allen, Houston and the rest of the defense are on a mission to restore their reputation. If that means humiliating their own offense, they don’t a problem with it. The fact that Bennett and Mills have a problem with it is a good thing, and should serve the team well when they run into the top dogs of the NFC during the season.