Aug 8, 2014; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler (6) looks to pass against the Philadelphia Eagles in the first quarter during a preseason game at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

Keep Your Enemies Close - Getting Ready for a Bears Beatdown with Bear Goggles On

As the Jacksonville Jaguars get ready for their 2nd preseason game on Thursday night, we thought it would be fun to engage in a little bit of friendly banter with our friends over at Bear Goggles On – the Chicago Bears affiliate of the FanSided network. Staff writer Mike Praser was kind enough to participate, and here’s a quick blurb about our guest before we continue:

I am a staff writer for Bear Goggles On and have been a diehard Bears fan ever since I went to my first Bears game over 15 years ago. I think of it as a hobby. My wife calls it an obsession. What is wrong with owning nine Bears jerseys? It’s not like I can wear the same one over and over again. Plus you need different sizes so you can wear them over sweatshirts in the fall, and winter coats in the winter. Yep, diehard…

Here’s a transcript of our e-mail exchange:

Daniel  (B&T): 

 I’ve been the editor of Black and Teal for over a year now, but I’ve been a diehard fan since the inaugural season in 1995. It’s been pretty rough over the past 5-6 years in Jacksonville, but I think things are finally starting to change for the better.

Mike (BGO): 

I just remember the 41 – 3 beat down the Bears gave the Jaguars back in 2012 and figured they only had one direction to go. What have the Jaguars done to give you hope that they are going to be better this year?  

Daniel  (B&T): 

To be fair, Blaine Gabbert was playing quarterback that game, so that barely counts as a win. We should do a little better on Thursday considering how we handled Josh McCown last week, and he played so much better than Jay Cutler did last season with the Bears. Transitive property right? 

Our defensive line is significantly improved from last season – the Bucs saw that first hand last week. And if the team comes to their senses and starts Blake Bortles over Chad Henne, this team is going to be competing for a playoff spot sooner rather than later. 
What about the Bears? Is this the year people figure out the offense is finally better than the defense?

Mike (BGO): 

It’s not like the Bears fought hard to keep Josh McCown this off season. He took his good fortune and followed the money. Who can blame the guy. I wouldn’t say that he played “so” much better than Jay Cutler did last season. Granted, Josh’s stats were better, but Jay had one of his best seasons as a quarterback last year. The key to the Bears offense is head coach Marc Trestman. He came to the Bears last year took an offense that was mediocre at best and turned it into the number 2 scoring offense in the NFL. Not too shabby for his first year. I don’t know about offense being better than defense. Last year the Bears defense was flat out horrible. I think there needs to be a balance. Look at how the Seahawks did it last year. They won it all with a great defense, a really good running game, and a quarterback that limited his mistakes. I think it can be done the opposite way with a really good offense and a defense that can stop the run and be serviceable. It all starts up front with the defensive line as all Bears fans know from last season. Last year Jacksonville wasn’t that good on total defense either, coming in tied at 27th with Atlanta. What improvements have they made this year and how do they expect to stop the towering trio of Alshon Jeffery, Brandon Marshall and Martellus Bennett?

Daniel  (B&T): 

The size of the receivers is definitely a concern, but head coach Gus Bradley has made a concerted effort to install the same kind of secondary he had in Seattle – guys with length and speed. He’s coached up guys without great pedigrees like Alan Ball and Dwayne Gratz, and this year will be a test to see how far they’ve come. 

The biggest thing that will help the secondary will be the improved play along the defensive line. Chris Clemons and Red Bryant should help solidify a front that was underwhelming last year outside of Sen’Derrick Marks. 
The Bears appear to be counting on some older guys like Jared Allen and Jay Ratliff to play a big role, and that would worry me. How are they gonna hold up this year?

Mike (BGO): 

With lots of rotation, the old guys should hold up just fine. The Bears biggest problem was defensive line depth last year. All of the starters went down with injuries and there were no quality lineman on the roster. They were pulling guys off the street and having them play defensive tackle. That is where Jeremiah Ratliff came into the equation. He became available when he was released by the Cowboys and it was a win win situation for the Bears. As soon as he was healthy, he was flashing signs of his old pro bowl self. If he can stay healthy, he will be a disruptive force on the defensive line. Jared Allen may be older, but he is still a great player. He is essentially an upgrade from Julius Peppers, who was not playing well last year at all. The Bears also signed Lamarr Houston to play defensive end. He can lineup as a tackle or end anywhere on the line. General Manager Phil Emery is doing a great job of mixing experience with youth in order to create a well balanced mix. What can you tell Bears fans about Mel Tucker? Is someone else’s garbage truly someone else’s treasure? From last year, we feel that garbage is garbage.

Daniel  (B&T): 

Mel Tucker was in a tough spot when he was the defensive coordinator here in Jax. He didn’t have a lot of talent to work with, and the offense just could not stay on the field. Tucker played it safe as far schemes and blitzes, and the fact that other teams were always ahead and trying to run the clock hid how poor the secondary he was. I don’t think he’s anything special as a coach, but he can do a decent job given some talent. 
Looking at the Bears’ running game, how many more years does Matt Forte have left? He had a lot of carries in college, and that usually doesn’t bode well for backs nearing 30. When does Ka’Deem Carey get in the mix?

Mike (BGO): 

So far in camp, Shaun Draughn has been the number two back on the depth chart, but that really doesn’t mean anything. General Manager Phil Emery drafted Ka’Deem Carey and I know he will “work” his way up the depth chart. As far as Matt Forte, he should have a few years left in the tank. He is one of those work out warriors who takes care of himself on and off the field. The Bears know when to pull him out of games and I am expecting Ka’Deem Carey to be the number two back when the home opener hits. Now that being said, I was un-impressed by the Bears running backs during the first preseason game. There was not one running back that stood out on the depth chart for me. I am hoping that they step their game up against the Jags. Speaking of running backs, do you miss Maurice Jones-Drew yet? I know that Jay Cutler and my fantasy team doesn’t miss that guy.

Daniel  (B&T): 

Maurice Jones-Drew was a shell of himself over the past 2 years and even going back to his career-year in 2011 when he led the NFL in rushing. He racked up all those yards thanks to a volume of carries, not because he had a ton of quality runs. By the 2013 season, MJD wasn’t anything more than a guy who could reliably get you 2-3 yards, sometimes more depending on the size of the hole. Toby Gerhart doesn’t bring game-breaking speed, but he is a younger guy with a lot of tread on his tires who can play on all 3 downs. He should be able to provide an upgraded version of what Jones-Drew brought to the table over the past few years. More importantly, MJD’s departure opens the door for young guys like Denard Robinson and Jordan Todman to make it onto the field. Robinson in particular is very intriguing because of his elite speed and ability to make people miss in space. 

So Jay Cutler, deservedly or maybe not, got that huge contract in the offseason and now he’s the unquestioned guy at quarterback for the foreseeable future. Do Bears’ fans really believe in him? Whether it’s nagging injuries, questions about his “attitude,” or his inconsistency on the field, something always seems to protrude as a dark mark on his seasons. Can he finally put together a year commensurate with his ability?

Mike (BGO): 

I think that Bears fans are more concerned with Jay Cutler’s health more than his “attitude” anymore. Jay had one of his best seasons statistically last year and I know I’m excited to see him play after being in the same offense for a year. It takes time to learn an NFL offense and the longer  players are in a system, the better they get. I think if you look around the league, Cutler received a very fair contract and you have to admit, Jaguars fans wouldn’t have minded seeing Jay Cutler under center if the Bears didn’t extend his contract. But luckily the Jaguars drafted Blake Bortles this year, so there is hope for Jacksonville.
Speaking of Bortles, I’m looking forward to seeing the Bears new defensive front wreck some havoc on the new rookie. A little “welcome to the NFL” moment or two Thursday night should help him prepare for the season. But honestly, as long as both teams walk away healthy, I could care less about the outcome of the game. This isn’t the regular season. This is preseason which is practice and tryouts for the second and third stringers. What is your prediction for Thursday night?

Daniel  (B&T): 

Like you said, the score is irrelevant, but I think the Jaguars are going to pull out the literal “win” so to speak. Chad Henne is going to play the entire first half, and as long as he isn’t a complete disaster, Bortles should come in and do some solid work in the second half to eke out the victory. Since none of that matters, I expect the teams’ defenses to play fairly well along the defensive line. Jay Cutler is going to be a good test for a fairly new look Jacksonville defense, but I think they’ll hold their own and not give Jay Cutler enough time to make those big plays. If he does have the time, the secondary doesn’t really have the size to match up with Marshall and Jeffery. It should be a good matchup, and it’s in primetime! 

 

- Daniel Lago

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Tags: Alshon Jeffery Blake Bortles Brandon Marshall Jacksonville Jaguars Jay Cutler Sen'Derrick Marks

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