My main problem with what went on under Dick Jauron and John Shoop was the overwhelming lack of imagination in their play calling. A defense didn't have to be particularly observant to know well ahead of time what play would be run.
This year the offense is all over the field. There are deep passes, short passes, and solid running plays. Things seem to have opened up considerably and the offense is no longer predictable.
The biggest change so far is in David Terrell. I watched him with great interest when he played for Michigan. He seemed to be exactly the type of player who could spark this team. But once he joined the Bears, it was almost as if he faded away. We saw none of his dramatic end zone catches. David was a listless as I'd ever seen him.
This year, there is an emphasis on exactly the type of things that Terrell can do so well, and I think that he will thrive. We've already had a glimpse of that in his catch for a score (later called back) in the third pre season game. He's had flashes of greatness and if he can return to college form, it will be a very good year for the Bears.
The basis of a good offense is a strong quarterback with a good arm, spectacular catches by the receivers, and running backs who can find the holes. Rex Grossman has tremendous potential. I realize that last week's effort was hardly his best, but its all part of the learning curve. He's new, he's young, and he still has a lot to learn. I only see him getting significantly better with every game.
Thomas Jones has been a real find. What a great move by Jerry Angelo. This is a runner with excellent instincts who always seems to find a way through the defensive line. And I like the fact that he's going to the outside more often than not. Running through the middle as often happened with Anthony Thomas last year, was incredibly unproductive. Jones has the speed to go to the outside and get the first down.
Who else do I like on our offense?
Bernard Berrian is still an unknown but from what I've seen, he could be a valuable addition in the near future because of his sprinter type speed.
Daryl Jones had a strong performance last week on kick returns. Can he keep going when the regular season starts?
On to the offensive line, Rex Tucker's out again which has to be frustrating both to him and to the other members of the group. But younger players are stepping up and they've brought in some productive position players from other teams as well. Olin Kreutz of course is the crux of the OL. He's always been Pro Bowl quality. So is Ruben Brown. This group is getting stronger by the day and will only improve as the season progresses.
Yes, I realize that Grossman was sacked last week, but that's going to happen. It's very difficult to stop today's strong blitzing defenses. I think that you'll see less of that once the regular season starts. The players still need to refine their timing and get the system down cold. I see desire and enthusiasm in their play, which goes a long way toward achieving success.
The defense: impressive so far. They have a strong group of pass rushers and an excellent secondary. I like Lovie Smith's emphasis on weight control and agility.
Brian Urlacher will be back for the season opener. I like Adewale Ogunleye and think he will be a fine fit for Ron Rivera's group. The DE just signed from Oakland has good potential as well. The DL has speed and bulk and they want to get the sack, which is a huge change from Greg Blache's seeming lack of interest in the pass rush last season.
I am somewhat concerned about Urlacher's statement that he ‘plans to be the best defensive player in the league this year'. That's like putting a target on his back. You can be certain that quote will be on the wall in every locker room this fall. They'll be gunning for him. But perhaps that was his intention. If he's healthy, he'll be good no matter what's thrown at him.
What do I see ahead for the Bears this season? Maybe a few growing pains as the new players and first year coaches get accustomed to each other, but after that, this could be the foundation for a very strong team. Smith seems to be doing a wonderful job. The same goes for Rivera and Terry Shea. They've instilled a sense of enthusiasm and optimism in Halas Hall once more. I for one can't wait to see the results.