The Chicago Bears kick of their official 2010 mandatory mini-camp this weekend. The Bears are a team with more questions than answers across the roster and personnel groups. This is the year of desperation and it begins the official march towards success or doom with a win or be fired mentality.
This mentality needs to permeate throughout the entire franchise from top to bottom, not only in the case of the coaching staff and the front office but the 53-man roster as well. The entire franchise should change after the 2010 season if the Bears don't show major improvement. Given the personnel on hand the likelihood that any member of the defense who best fits into the Cover-2 scheme would be looking for a job in 2011 is extremely great.
The changes on the roster would be huge if the Bears fail to reach the post-season a complete and total overall would be in order with perhaps not a single player on the roster safe from trade or out right release.
Playing with fear may not be the best way to approach the 2010 season, but it may be the only realistic way to approach the season given the one year plan.
What is also apparent is that the Bears coaching staff is approaching this season with that mentality and is getting their players geared up for the season with two a day practices for this mini-camp. Rather than stringing the camp out over four days the Bears are cutting the days in half but forcing two practices upon the roster in each day. From mini-camp the Bears will go directly into their organized team activities (OTAs) which will lead them straight into training camp in late July.
For now we focus on what subtle obvious things we'd like to see from the 2010 Chicago Bears as we head into mini-camp.
The most obvious thing we'd like to see is Tommie Harris participate in all four practices at full speed and full capacity. The subject of Harris' health has been beat to death time and time again and if anyone needs to be the player that exemplifies the introduction from above it's Tommie Harris. That would be the best possible news out of mini-camp Tommie Harris two practices each day for two days. No I don't expect him to ever be 100-percent but I'd like to hear that he's healthy enough to be participating in all practices. No excuses anymore just get out there and play with your teammates and act like you want to be here.
Can we see something from the strong side linebacker spot? There were subtle signs from Pisa Tinoisamoa last year during the pre-season, but that isn't saying much. Caleb Hanie looked good in the pre-season as did Lance Louis so that doesn't really mean anything. Yes the Bears' strength is their LB corps, but the strong side has been a weak spot for quite a long time, hopefully we'll see a pulse on that side of the line.
Okay we've heard all the hype and hope around Devin Aromashodu and now it's time for him to show that he can be a number one wide receiver. D.A. has all the tools, the speed the hands the big play ability and the size now he needs to separate himself from the pack and emerge as the guy. Bears fans would find less and less to whine about if D.A. were able to step up and be the guy. This will obviously take more than just mini-camp but we'd like to see consistency right out of the gate.
Zack Bowman needs to step up and be the best CB on the team period. Charles Tillman doesn't have much left in the tank, thank him for his heart his effort and his never quit attitude. Tillman however is injury prone and is 29-years-old and his physical style of play doesn't bode well for him sticking around for a very long career or playing at a very high level without his body wearing down. Too many times last season Tillman was exposed in one on one coverage against the best receivers in the game. To state that it is pertinent for Bowman to take his game to another level may be an absolute understatement. He needs to establish himself as the man in the secondary to provide not only consistent play but also as a leader in the secondary.
Who is going to be the pass rusher opposite Julius Peppers? Mark Anderson, Israel Idonije, or Corey Wootton? One of these three needs to come out and establish himself as the legitimate starter and pass rushing threat opposite Peppers. Otherwise teams are going to simply key on Peppers much the same way the Bears keyed on Jared Allen during their Monday night win over the Vikes from last year and slow him down wear him down and take him out of his game. Someone needs to show some speed and an ability to get to the passer to take the heat off of Peppers and to likely help make up for any problems that Tommie Harris might have.
Offensive line depth is far from settled and we already have major concerns regarding the LG spot. The LG spot is beating a dead horse, so who steps up and provides the hope for the future for the offensive line? Let's be honest counting on a seventh round draft pick ANY seventh round draft pick to provide depth or to even make the roster is stupid. Lance Louis is the exception to the rule and not the norm. Frankly there is no guarantee Louis remains on the team after the pre-season anyway. Shaffer is older and his game is declining, he may be a good back up for one more year or he could prove to be disastrous, he did get cut from the Browns because of a lack of consistency for their team. So who can we count on? We won't know until the pads go on but I'd like to see something out of someone a flicker of small hope perhaps.
These little battles make up the crux of what we'd like to see start to emerge from now heading into OTAs. There are the obvious concerns, Forte and the running game, Urlacher's health, Jay Cutler and Mike Martz in the new offense etc etc. But there is so much more to this team on so many different levels that we can't possibly address them all. This is a small sliver of what type of progress we'd like to see, hopefully the 2010 Bears can surprise us all.