Nov 4, 2013; Green Bay, WI, USA; Green Bay Packers quarterback Seneca Wallace (9) is chased by Chicago Bears defensive end Julius Peppers (90) and defensive end Shea McClellin (99) in the 2nd quarter at Lambeau Field. Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

Chicago Bears 2014 Breakout Candidates

Alshon Jeffery came from nowhere in 2013 for the Chicago Bears, posting a Pro Bowl campaign in his second season. Who follows his lead in 2014?

Jay Cutler

Yes, he’s been with the Chicago Bears a long time but nobody would say they’ve seen anything resembling a breakout year for Jay Cutler.  He has never thrown for more than 3,700 yards or 30 touchdowns in a Bear uniform.  However, with improved protection, coaching and weaponry around him Cutler has the best chance he’s ever had to showcase his unmistakable talent.  The key will be staying healthy.  If he can, those two marks should fall this year.

Marquess Wilson

By that same token a surge by Cutler would also life the ship of second-year receiver Marquess Wilson.  Like Jeffery before him he was a 6’4″ kid with speed and talent but had a rather nondescript rookie season.  So in order to improve he spent the off-season working with Jeffery and Brandon Marshall in Florida, adding strength and learning how to be a pro.  It’s still early, but source hint the improvement is already noticeable.  All that is left is taking it to the field.

Shea McClellin

In the mind of third-year man Shea McClellin, the shackles are finally off.  No longer is he imprisoned at defensive end where his lack of bulk and size were telling after two season of limited pass rush production.  Now the Chicago Bears coaches have moved him to strong side linebacker where his speed and athleticism are much bigger assets.  Having endured criticism for two years, McClellin worked very hard in the off-season to prepare.  He looked fluid and fast in practice thus far and his size is actually on the bigger side for a linebacker.  That bodes well provided he earns the starting job, and fans may be pleasantly surprised by the results.

Jon Bostic

Similar improvements were not necessarily expected from Jon Bostic, at least not at the position he’s vying for.  Last year the 2nd round rookie draft pick was forced to replace an injured D.J. Williams for most of the season.  Bostic made some flash plays but more often than not struggled with consistency.  Strangely it’s not a switch in positions that will help him, it’s a switch in schemes.  While the Bears will maintain their 4-3 alignment, tweaks by coordinator Mel Tucker will put the linebackers in more man-to-man type situations, very similar to what Bostic excelled at in college.  It’s already showing in his practice performances.

Chris Conte

For three years safety Chris Conte has either been dismissed as a non-entity or ridiculed as a villain for the Chicago Bears.  His lack of eye-popping impact plays befitting star safeties along with his struggles last season have led many to think he’s on his way out as a starter.  In truth it’s more likely he’s on course for a revival.  Conte is still just 25-years old and statistically had his best season as a pro in 2013.  With a vastly improved front seven in front of him, there should be ample more chances for him to make plays.  Being completely healthy will only help that process.

Dick's Sporting Goods presents "Hell Week":

Tags: Chicago Bears Chris Conte Jay Cutler Jon Bostic Marquess Wilson Shea McClellin

  • Tom Ward

    Is it too much to ask for all these to come true? Especially Jay, I am sick of all the haters for the statistically best QB in Bears history.

    • Erik Lambert

      If they all come true the Bears will make the playoffs. For Jay, it’s all about health now.

      • Tom Ward

        Oh I completely agree with that! Besides Jay ( I think I mentioned before ) I am really hoping for Shea and Bostic. Besides the fact it will make a Defense really strong it will make Emery’s drafts look much better.

        • Erik Lambert

          Emery could care less if his drafts look better. All he cares about is finding ways to win. If that means an undrafted free agent outplays a first round pick, so be it. Nothing matters more than the W.

  • Dale Holmgren

    I completely agree with all these points; barring injury, I would be surprised if the Bears DIDN’T make it to the Super Bowl. I love that Emery has definitively moved on from Melton and Earl Bennett. I love that he has not one, but two strong backups for Forte. I love that he has moved Shea to LB. The cornerback strength is pretty darn awesome. Yes, safety is still a bit of a question mark, but we have 3 new faces back there, so someone should be able to step up from that group. And, we get a monster punter that will be good for the next 12 years! Seriously, the only thing I’m concerned about is if Garza is too old.

    • Michael Rushton

      And even then, there’s an arguably better center already on the roster in Brian De la Puenta. That’s how far Emery has taken the Bears- there’s a Pro Bowl caliber center sitting on our roster as a backup interior linemen.