Bears general manager Phil Emery entered the offseason with a specific goal: making the Monsters of the Midway frightening once again.
The franchise records set by Chicago’s offense in 2013 under new head coach Marc Trestman went for naught as the Bears missed the playoffs primarily because of ineptitude on the other side of the football. The Bears forced a league-high 11 turnovers in the first three games, then fell apart defensively as injuries mounted and weaknesses at some positions were exposed. The front four struggled so badly that Chicago fielded the NFL’s worst run defense and tied with Jacksonville for the fewest sacks with 31.
Emery didn’t try using a band-aid to fix the problem. Instead, he applied a giant pad of gauze.
The Bears added three veteran defensive ends in free agency (LaMarr Houston, Jared Allen and Willie Young) while using second-day draft picks on defensive tackles Ego Ferguson and Will Sutton. Shea McClellin — a 2012 first-round bust so far as an end — was converted into a pass-rushing outside linebacker. The secondary received a youth infusion with the drafting of Virginia Tech cornerback Kyle Fuller (first round) and University of Minnesota safety Brock Vereen (fourth).
The scary part for defensive coordinator Mel Tucker: Even all this may not be enough as Chicago still has major question marks at middle linebacker and both safety spots.
Fortunately for the Bears, there is enough offensive firepower to outscore the opposition and reach the playoffs for the first time since the 2010 season if quarterback Jay Cutler stays healthy.
Of course with Cutler, that’s a big if. He has missed 12 games the past three seasons because of injuries. The Bears also enter the preseason with arguably the NFL’s shakiest backup situation as Jordan Palmer and Jimmy Clausen battle for the spot.
A better defense, though, would help mitigate Cutler’s loss if he is sidelined once again.â