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2014 NFL Preview: Chicago Bears

by Photo of Sam Cohen

CHARGED.fm talks to Jeff Hughes of Da Bears Blog about what to expect from the Bears in 2014.

2014 NFL Preview: Chicago Bears

In this article…

The Chicago Bears had a very good chance of making the playoffs last season, but a last-second touchdown by Aaron Rodgers in the last game of the season destroyed the Bears' playoff hopes. The 2013 Bears season can really be described in one word: injuries. A Chicago defense that had been a premier unit in recent years fell apart last season, as starters Henry Melton, D.J. Williams, Lance Briggs, and Charles Tillman all missed significant amounts of time with injuries.

While the defense struggled to stay healthy, the offense exploded. Head coach Marc Trestman was hired to replace Lovie Smith and Trestman, who is a quarterback guru, did not disappoint. Even though starter Jay Cutler missed a lot of time due a groin injury last season, he played very well when he was healthy and backup Josh McCown filled in admirably. Brandon Marshall had yet another great season while Alshon Jeffery exploded onto the scene, becoming one of the top receivers in the league.

This season, the Bears have much higher aspirations than 8-8. With the defense coming into camp almost fully healthy and the offense as scary as ever, the Bears are ready to compete in a tough NFC North. We had the chance to talk to talk to Jeff Hughes of Da Bears Blog about the upcoming season for Chicago.

After an injury-riddled 2013, what should we expect from Jay Cutler this season? Will Marc Trestman's offense help solidify him as a great starter in this league?

I think fans need to accept Jay Cutler is going to throw interceptions. Part of what makes him special is his belief he can fit the ball into spaces other quarterbacks would not even consider and the downside to that belief is turnovers.

Comfort in Trestman's offense, the weapons around him and finally a stable, talented offensive line will all contribute to this being by far the best year in Jay Cutler's career if he can remain on the field.

As we know, Cutler is one of the most injury-prone quarterbacks in the game. For this reason, having a good backup quarterback seems like a must in Chicago. How worried is the team about their backup quarterback situation now that Josh McCown is in Tampa Bay?

Well, fans were concerned about Josh McCown this time a year ago. Why wouldn't they be? All the word since his workout is both GM Phil Emery and Trestman like Jimmy Clausen quite a bit. I was hoping to see the club bring Kyle Orton back but it doesn't seem to be something they are interested in doing.

The Bears defense was among the worst in the NFL last season. The team signed Jared Allen, Jay Ratliff, and Lamarr Houston this offseason, but didn't do much to upgrade at linebacker or in the secondary. Are the Bears in for another long season on the defensive side?

A healthy Charles Tillman is a HUGE upgrade to the secondary as both he and Tim Jennings are only a year removed from being Pro Bowl corners. They drafted Kyle Fuller and Kelvin Hayden is healthy so they are set in the nickel.

They have no safeties. It is the most glaring flaw of the roster and I wouldn't look for it to be corrected until next spring.

People seem to forget what happened to their linebackers a year ago. They intended to start a veteran trio of Briggs, DJ Williams and James Anderson and bring along Bostic and Greene. But injuries to 2/3 of the corps forced them to start rookies who were not ready for game action. If Williams and Briggs stay healthy, providing stability in run support, look for Mel Tucker to maximize the athleticism and speed of Bostic and Shea McClellin both in space and in the pass rush.

Who do you think will be the two starting safeties be when the season begins?

Ryan Mundy and Brock Vereen if Chris Conte doesn't get healthy this summer.

The team used four of its first five picks on defensive players in the draft. All of these players will be asked to contribute this year. Which rookie do you believe will have the biggest impact in year one?

Kyle Fuller.

I expect Sutton and Ferguson will be productive but I'm hoping Ratliff and Collins stay healthy because I really like them as a duo. Fuller should beat out Hayden at the nickel and that means covering big tight ends and speedy inside guys and the Bears see plenty of both this season. This kid has a knack for finding the football and he'll be groomed by Peanut, the greatest turnover creator in NFL history. I see a few big plays coming from him early.

Which player do you believe has the best chance to break out this season?

I'm going to stir the fan pot a bit and say Shea McClellin.

Here's the deal with Shea: he was drafted into a position he was not suited to play. Fans knew this immediately and many of us knew he'd end up at linebacker. Lovie's ideal 4-3 defensive end was Alex Brown. He was disciplined against the run, handled his blockers and attacked the quarterback when he had opportunities.

McClellin is a better athlete than Brown. He's faster. And he displayed great instincts around the ball at Boise State. I think he's going to thrive in a system utilizing his talents as opposed to one trying to fit his skill sets into pre-sewn pockets.

What are your predictions for the Bears? Do you think they will be able to make it out of an extremely tough NFC North?

I think the defense will improve and they will win the North with somewhere in the 10-win vicinity. I don't think the defense will improve enough to get through a tough NFC playoff field but a division title and playoff win would be the type of step they need to take to solidify themselves as title contenders in 2015.

For more from Jeff Hughes, make sure to check out Da Bears Blog as well as DaBearsBlog on twitter.

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