Teams don’t win in the NFL without taking a few gambles each year. What are the big ones the Chicago Bears have made for 2014?
It was assumed early in the off-season and has gained traction every week that second-year receiver Marquess Wilson was a shoe-in to take over the third slot on the depth chart behind Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery. This is undoubtedly a risk considering Wilson only has two catches in his pro career so far. Chicago is banking that at 6’3″ with great physical athleticism that his hard work during the summer with Marshall and Jeffery will translate to the field.
Shea McClellin at linebacker
The defensive end experiment never got off the ground for 2012 first round pick Shea McClellin. Injuries and a lack of size really worked against him, leaving some to think he’s a bust. However, management and coaches agreed in order to salvage and perhaps still save the young defender, it was best to move him from end to linebacker. McClellin has speed and athleticism for the position and his ability to blitz from a standing position would be beneficial there. It remains to be seen if he can read and react the way he’ll have to in order to thrive.
Keeping Mel Tucker
There is no getting around facts in the NFL. The Chicago Bears fielded the 30th ranked defense in 2013 and were dead last in sacks and stopping the run. Responsibility for that has to go at the feet of coordinator Mel Tucker, which is why his job was on the line when the off-season began. Instead of removing him however, head coach Marc Trestman instead elected to make changes to his staff, adding more experience and giving Tucker more control over the scheme. The pass was given primarily due to the horrendous injuries the defense suffered, something Tucker could not control. Whether that was the right call will show in how the new defense performs.
The health of Jay Cutler
Anytime a team knows it has a proven backup at quarterback, the consensus feeling is to hang on to him at almost any cost. Chicago wished it could’ve done that with Josh McCown after the incredible run he had last season in relief of starter Jay Cutler. Instead the 35-year old took a bigger deal to start for Tampa Bay. The fact they were willing to let him go signals the Bears are ready to risk the stability of their offense on the health of Cutler, which has been shaky the past couple seasons. If he makes it through, the potential of the offense and the rest of the team skyrockets. If he doesn’t, the backup situation is not nearly as comforting as a year ago.
Taking Kyle Fuller in favor of a safety
One of the NFL draft questions that will be evaluated and scrutinized all season for the Chicago Bears is when GM Phil Emery chose to acquire Virginia Tech cornerback Kyle Fuller. While nobody questions Fuller’s ability, it was the fact the team went with him instead of one of the top two safeties Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Calvin Pryor, both of whom were available. Safety has remained a rough spot for the Bears defense for years. May represented a great chance for them to fix it, but instead Emery favored gaining depth and future stability at corner with Fuller. How things play out in 2014 will determine if he made the right call.