They were disappointing, to say the least. Whether you want to say it was the fault of injuries, coaching or a combination of the two is up to you. But the fact of the matter is that the Bears have already committed to the coaching staff they have in place, a group that may have been finalized with the addition of Clint Hurtt and the subsequent firing of Michael Sinclair, last year's defensive line coach.
So Mel Tucker isn't going anywhere. All of the position coaches on defense will be new, and maybe that will lead to more success and growth from the young players, a factor that will be crucial for the Bears in the coming years. That strategy has already worked recently, as wide receivers coach Mike Groh has been lauded for his work in developing Alshon Jeffrey into the star that he became last season.
As youngsters like Jon Bostic, Khaseem Greene and Shea McClellin all underachieved last year, the Bears defense struggled. All three, and even Chris Conte and Major Wright for that matter, were seen as potential building blocks for Bears defenses for years to come entering next season. Now none appear to have a starting spot locked up entering next season, and Bostic and McClellin could be battling for the same position at OLB, which would constitute a position change for both.
So, does it really make sense for the Bears to continue getting younger on defense? After all, their offense is at the top of its game right now and appears to only be getting better. But the Bears, already up against the salary cap this offseason, will face a difficult decision next offseason as well when Brandon Marshall is due to hit free agency. It would seem to be a slam dunk to re-sign the All-Pro Marshall, but Jeffrey is due to hit free agency the following offseason as well, and he will surely command a substantial raise-either with Chicago or elsewhere.
The point is that the Bears window to win is now. Their offense is a juggernaut, and the defense can only improve after being the worst in the league last season. Blowing everything up, therefore, a year after injuries to six defensive starters last season, would be unwise.
The talent is there: DE Corey Wootton, forced to spend a lot of time inside last season due to injuries, had seven sacks in a situational role at DE in 2012 and appears to only be improving; DT Henry Melton is a former Pro Bowler and considered one of the best at his position in football; MLB D.J. WIlliams had 119 tackles the last time he played a full 16-game season; and CB Charles Tillman hasn't missed more than two games in a season since 2004. All four are free agents, and all four should return next season.
The Bears should still look to add younger players through the draft, as depth was a serious problem last season for them, and will also need to sign a veteran safety and possibly replace DE Julius Peppers, who could be released this offseason to save money.
But blowing it up speaks to Emery wanting to wash his hands of Lovie Smith and Jerry Angelo completely. Those two built a great defense in Chicago for nearly a decade, and many of those productive players remain in Chicago. Now, they all just have to stick around.
Billy Grayson is a Yahoo contributor from Chicago and diehard Chicago sports follower. He is currently studying Broadcast Journalism at the University of Missouri in Columbia.
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