Question No. 1: I was so happy to see you thinking out of the box and taking over play-calling duties on defense. With that being said, what kind of changes can we expect to see? For example, will there be less blitzing, more Cover 2, etc.?
Smith Says: First off, I believe in our defense. We haven't played our defense the way it should be played the last few years. It's as simple as that. As far as me changing up what I believe in, we're not going to do that. We're going to do what we believe in better. So I'm just going to leave it at that. It's not like we're going to all of a sudden become a team that blitzes 90 percent of the time.
JC's Take: Smith would never say so publicly because he and Bob Babich go back many years, but the head coach taking over play-calling duties is definitely a demotion for the defensive coordinator.
The Cover 2, at least in theory, is a bend-but-don't-break approach that usually doesn't feature a lot of blitzing, but in reality the Bears were one of the more blitz-happy teams in the NFL last season. This had a lot to do with the fact that the front four was unable to get consistent pressure on the quarterback, and those problems were amplified because Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs are not very good blitzers. Assuming new defensive line coach Rod Marinelli is as good as advertised and can get more out of Tommie Harris and Co. up front, I would expect the Monsters of the Midway to blitz less frequently than they did a year ago.
I'm also looking for Smith to call more classic Cover-2 coverage in the secondary, as Babich was forced to employ a lot of the extra-conservative Cover 3 in 2008 – again, mostly because enemy passers had too much time in the pocket.
Question No. 3: Will the acquisition of Jay Cutler change the Bears' offensive philosophy in terms of becoming more of a passing team because of Cutler's arm?
QB Jay Cutler
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
Smith Says: Absolutely not. We're a running football team. We feel like getting Jay Cutler will help us with our running game, No. 1. But when we have to pass, we have an All-Pro throwing the football to our receivers. No, it will not change our philosophy.
JC's Take: The Bears were not a running football this past season with Kyle Orton at the controls, so it makes even less sense for them to be a running football team with a world-class arm like Cutler's at their disposal.
When Smith repeats over and over again that this team "gets off the bus running the football," he's doing little more than playing CEO and saying the kinds of things old school fans want to hear about a franchise known for black-and-blue legends like Dick Butkus and Walter Payton. In reality, Smith's D employs a finesse approach, relying much more on speed and quickness than size and strength, and Ron Turner's scheme has always put more of a premium on throwing downfield than running between the tackles. It's just a fact, but Smith knows all too well who butters his bread in the Windy City: the mustachioed Grabowskis out there that believe Mike Ditka can beat up a hurricane – unless the hurricane was named Hurricane Ditka, of course.
Matt Forte is going to get his carries and will benefit greatly from defenses no longer being able to stack the box down after down, but Cutler is also going to air it out early and often because that's why GM Jerry Angelo got him in the first place.
Question No. 8: What are the chances of the Bears adding a veteran wide receiver before training camp?
Smith Says: First off, I like the current receiver group. If we didn't add anyone, we feel comfortable with Devin Hester in the No. 1 role and the rest of our receivers stepping up. So we're comfortable with that, but we always keep our options open. I know there are a couple of veteran receivers that are still available out there, and we'll continue to evaluate them.
JC's Take: Because speaking to the media about your players has a lot to do with massaging the sensitive egos of multi-millionaires, Smith is forced to tell you that he loves his receiving corps even though it's a glaring weakness.
There isn't anybody outside the city of Chicago who believes Hester is a No. 1 in this league, but he's the best this team has right now and will be thrust into that role again even if he's ill-suited to fill said role. Earl Bennett is being given first crack at starting opposite Hester with Rashied Davis returning to slot duties, although the long-range plan could be rookie Juaquin Iglesias lining up out wide and Bennett sliding inside as the No. 3 option. Smith is hoping that Cutler's mere presence will make all of his pass catchers better by association, and remember the tight end duo of Desmond Clark and Greg Olsen will be on the field a great deal once again – they can help hide what is a weak crop of wideouts.
If a veteran receiver was going to be brought in by the front office, it probably would have happened already so Cutler could have had a chance to work with him during the entire offseason program.
John Crist is the Publisher of Bear Report and a member of the Professional Football Writers of America. To read him every day, visit BearReport.com and become a Chicago Bears insider.