This might be the year the Cubs do the unthinkable … and play with a six-man starting rotation.
Baseball’s Opening Day is here and the timing couldn’t be better.
My NCAA Tournament bracket is busted and I have no dog in the fight to root for (SIU, UNC) or against (Duke, Steve Alford coached team). The NFL’s offseason has come to a lull, to the point where it’s news that the Raiders are trading for a back-up quarterback. The Blackhawks are carrying the torch for Chicago’s sports scene, while the Bulls are grinding along as they await the return of Derrick Rose or some sort of pixie dust that can transform one of the league’s worst offenses.
No matter how it goes down from here on out, baseball season — in Chicago and outside the city — should be interesting. MLB is about to undergo a renaissance led by quite the youth movement. Gone are the days of aging vets hanging on into their late 30s and early 40s, thanks in part to the miracles of modern medicine. Now, we’re about to hit an era led by a youth movement featuring a mix of established stars and up-and-comers who are about 25 or younger. I’ll try to highlight as many as I can in the following preview.
The favorite: The Los Angeles Angels were a popular choice to win the AL West last year and will likely be your favorite analyst’s choice to win it this year, too. The Angels won 89 games last year, which would have been enough to win the AL Central and probably negate most of the Miguel Cabrera/winning team/MVP narrative we read most of the offseason. They’ll likely be around that number again as they’ll attempt to rally around high-priced, yet, aging stars Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton, budding superstar Mike Trout and ace righty Jered Weaver.
The darkhorse: How do you follow up the Moneyball sequel? Who know? All I know is that the thrifty Oakland Athletics won the AL West in 2012 after losing 88 games in 2011. The A’s teamed young starting pitching with the ultimate home field advantage of playing 81 games at the Oakland Coliseum (50-31 at home) to overtake the Texas Rangers. Oakland will be an underdog again as it faces the same problems it faced last year as it will probably contend with two other 90-win teams with an offense that might not score enough runs.
Who to watch: Can Mike Trout avoid the dreaded sophomore slump? Trout lost out on MVP, largely because voters put a lot of stock into Miguel Cabrera’s Triple Crown season. By that logic alone, Trout should have won MVP because no player in MLB history had done what he did — as a rookie or as a long-time vet by hitting .306 with 30 HR, 83 RBI, 129 R, 49 SB … all while missing the entire month of April. He led the AL in runs, steals, OPS+ (171) & WAR. I’m curious to see if he can do it again.
The favorite: I guess Detroit can have nice things, considering its football and basketball teams suck the joy of life out of the city. Truth be told, the Tigers are one of baseball’s most fun teams to watch. Their offense is led by rotund sluggers Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder, while the pitching staff is anchored by flame-throwers Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer, not to mention the crafty righty Doug Fister and the underrated Anibal Sanchez. As long as Detroit can avoid another slow start, the division will be theirs for the taking.
The darkhorse: Is this the year for the Royals? “Meh.” But lots of people love them. They’ll be able to hit the ball around the yard with the likes of Billy Butler carrying the weight of the offense. James Shields should solidify the starting rotation. The darkhorse might ride on bounce back years from Eric Hosmer & Mike Moustakas.
What to watch: Can the White Sox repeat what they did for most of last summer? I have my doubts about the White Sox, and we’ll get into that in longform either today or tomorrow. Most of my concern comes with the fact that this team has too many guys who make too many outs. Tyler Flowers, Gordon Beckham, Alexei Ramirez don’t get on base enough and if that continues, they’ll have to play other worldy defense to make up for it. Dayan Viciedo, for all his power, still doesn’t draw enough walks and has been streaky in his time with the bigs. But if the White Sox’s arms can stay healthy, they’ve got a puncher’s chance at a playoff spot.
The favorite: If Evan Longoria can stay healthy, the Tampa Bay Rays will be the team to beat in 2013. TB is so pitching rich, it was able to jettison two quality starters and still have enough to give former Cub prospect Chris Archer some additional minor league seasoning. The Rays still have Joe Maddon pushing all the buttons and Andrew Friedman pulling all the strings behind the curtain, so they’ll be fine, even with budget restrictions.
The darkhorse: The Boston Red Sox underachieved last year, mainly because of injuries, but also because Bobby Valentine is a dope who was in over his head managing the Red Sox. I’m curious to see what Mike Napoli can do in 81 games at Fenway, considering his sample size is .306/.397/.710/1.107 in 19 games.
What to watch: I’ve got a personal rooting interest in the AL East with “Papa” Luis Rivera coaching third base for the Blue Jays this year. So, don’t mind me if I become very pro-Blue Jay in the next few years. Here’s hoping we can get a family member into the postseason … and maybe a promotion to a manager’s gig?
The favorite: Sources say Dodgers GM Ned Coletti spent this offseason bumping “C.R.E.A.M.” by Wu-Tang Clan and “Make It Rain” by Fat Joe during the team’s spending spree of 2012. Zack Greinke capped off a busy financial year for the Dodgers, who took on boatloads of cash while acquiring Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett, Hanley Ramirez and others. The pitching rich LA squad should compete for a title if Matt Kemp can replicate his 2011 year.
The darkhorse: Sincerest thank yous go out to the San Francisco Giants for putting an end to the #12in12 hashtag last October. SF is considered a darkhorse in my world mostly because GM Brian Sabean basically said “Let’s get the gang back together one more time!” this offseason and made minimal moves to improve the squad. Still, Matt Cain & Madison Bumgarner anchor the staff and Buster Posey carries the offense and that will be good enough for another 90-win campaign.
What to watch: Are the Diamondbacks crazy geniuses or just plain crazy? Arizona has jettisoned some really talented players in the offseason in the attempt to get scrappier and grindier than ever before. Experts say this team is a reflection of its manager, Kirk Gibson. I’d probably disagree, as I doubt there are 25 Kirk Gibson’s in that locker room. And we’ll just leave it at that.
The favorite: Credit Walt Jocketty for Dusty proofing this ball club. Sure, the memories of last year’s choke job still are still fresh. But the Reds are reloaded and primed to win the division again. Mat Latos proved that his pitching prowess wasn’t all in tossing the rawhide at Petco and I doubt Johnny Cueto’s year was a fluke. Oh, then there’s Aroldis Chapman throwing 103 MPH heaters out of the pen. Oh. And Joey Votto, who had more walks than strikeouts last year, comes back healthy, too.
The darkhorse: Grumble grumble grumble Cardinals grumble grumble something about pixie dust grumble grumble grumble. (Seriously though, the Cardinals won’t go away. Pretty sure we all learned that lesson the hard way, didn’t we? Thanks for nothing, Washington. STL is expected to be good. They lose out on Kyle Lohse and Chris Carpenter (good riddance), but gain a full year of Shelby Miller. The weak spot of the Cards might be their middle infield, where Pete Kozma and Daniel Descalso man shortstop and second, respectively. Can Matt Carpenter play a good enough defensive 2B or will he need his offense to make up for any defensive deficiencies? “We’ll see.”
What to watch for: We’ll get into the Cubs in long form in the same post we get into the White Sox with. And that will likely come either later today or tomorrow. (Hint: Probably tomorrow.) But this Cubs team is interesting. If Theo’s group can get some baseball magic of its own, it could be around .500, especially now that it has actual major league pitchers throwing instead of the rag tag group of untested minor league remains left behind by Jim Hendry. However, if the Cubs are that competitive this year, I fully expect President Theo Epstein to give GM Jed Hoyer the green light #LoseTodayToWinTomorrow #TheSequel to unload overachievers in an attempt to restock for the future.
The favorite: Stephen Strasburg. Bryce Harper. Ryan Zimmerman. And that’s just the beginning. The Nats should win this division and should be favorites to win the World Series. They’re loaded and the prime example of what happens when you allow #LoseTodayToWinTomorrow to build and stock your system with young, talented pieces.
The darkhorse: If the Phillies can create some offense, they’ll contend for a Wild Card spot. Can Ryan Howard and Chase Utley turn back the clock? Can Cliff Lee & Cole Hamels get enough games to Jonathan Papelbon in the ninth to make a run at this? We’ll see.
What to watch for: The Braves are playing without Chipper Jones for the first time since 1994. To replace what they’ve lost in Jones, the team brought in B.J. and Justin Upton to team with Jason Hayward in what might be baseball’s best outfield. More than that, the OF trio gives us an all-black outfield. There’s no secret that the number of African American baseball players has dwindled significantly in the last decade as most of the elite athletes tend to choose football and basketball over baseball. Here’s hoping that Hayward and the Uptons can influence the next great generation of black ball players.
AL: Angels, Tigers, Rays, Rangers (wild) & Athletics (wild)
NL: Dodgers, Reds, Nationals, Braves (wild) & Giants (wild)
ALCS: Tigers over Rays
NLCS: Nationals over Reds
World Series: Nationals over Tigers
MVP: Mike Trout, Joey Votto
Cy Young: Justin Verlander, Stephen Strasburg
Rookie of the Year: Wil Myers (TB), Julio Teheran (ATL)
Manager of the Year: Mike Sciocia (LAA), Bruce Bochy (SF)
Derrick Rose sure picked a good time to talk to the Chicago media about his medical/playing status. Bears free agency buzz has taken center stage, relegating Rose’s return to the backburner. Still, a Rose update shouldn’t be treated as such.
I know some people are sick of Rose Watch, but I can’t understand why. Rose’s return to the line-up is the one thing Bulls fans have left to watch in this season. After 63 games (with No. 64 slated for tonight at Sacramento) we know who the Bulls are and what they can (and cannot) do. All that’s left is to see what happens when Rose returns, and not just to see what Rose can do on a repaired ligament.
You want to see how productive a Rose-Belinelli tandem can be in the backcourt. While he lacks Kyle Korver’s 3-point marksmanship, Belinelli has played to my expectations and to what his averages have been the last few years.
Belinelli’s field goal percentage is down 1.1 percentage points from last year and 3.1 percentage points from the 43.7 percent mark he posted in his most productive year in 2010-11, the Bulls (and their fans) can take solace in Belinelli’s improvement at the free-throw line. Belinelli is shooting a career-best 84.2 percent from the charity stripe, an increase of 5.9 percentage points from last year and 4.2 percentage point increase compared to his previous three years.
You want to see if Joakim Noah can maintain his pace with Rose on the floor with him, right? Don’t you want to see whether or not Noah’s increased scoring production is a result of shots being available because Rose isn’t there to shoot or because everyone else is shooting at such a low clip, which is allowing for more offensive rebounds and second-chance opportunities. Noah’s shots per game and offensive rebound percentage has picked up this year. Though, I can’t explain the career-high 4.1 assists per game, considering this team’s shooting struggles.
I can’t help but wonder if Rose’s presence on the floor open space for more Belinelli shooting room. Belinelli’s shots per game is down to 8.3 after being at 10.4 in 2011-12. His career average is around 7.7 and his last three years is hovering in the 8s, so what you see is what you get from Belinelli.
You want to see if the bench would see a boost with Kirk Hinrich/Nate Robinson/Jimmy Butler anchoring the second unit. I’d be interested to see Robinson put in an environment where he plays at a position more fitting of his skills and tendencies (read: shooting guard) with Hinrich facilitating the second-string offense.
Also would be interesting to see if head coach Tom Thibodeau would play Rose and Robinson — the only two guys on the roster who can create their own shot — at the same time down the stretch.
While the headline clearly states all that’s left is Rose’s return, a simple moment of analysis allows you to realize that there are subplots lingering beneath the story. Hence, the story of Rose’s return is The Story until further notice.
Once in a while, my boss puts me on a stats research project & last night was one of those nights. With the Bulls’ offensive struggles at the forefront of the team’s recent skid, I made that my focus.
Sunday’s loss at Oklahoma City represented a tipping point. The Bulls were held to a season-low 29.1 percent shooting from the field, which is tied for a season-low by any NBA team. Coincidentally, the Thunder also held the Charlotte Bobcats to 29.1 percent shooting earlier in the year.
So, yesterday, I charted the 12 games in which the Bulls shot below 40 percent from the field. Interesting to note that they lost 10 of those 12, hence, my constant updates that feature my “you can’t win if you don’t score line.”
The Bulls are shooting 43.6 percent from the field this season, which is down down 1.6 percentage points from last year and 0.8 percentage points below league average. The team has shot below league average in 31 of their 56 games this year, below their season average in 24 games. It’s worth noting the Bulls ranked 12th in field goal percentage last year (45.2) percent and rank 26th this year.
Because Bulls fans really want to consider this team — as currently constructed — a contender, it’s also worth noting, the Heat have only had one game in which the team shot below the 40 percent mark. The Thunder have had two. Must be nice to have multiple players who could score the rock for your team.
Finally, the only contenders (teams ranked in the top 8 in the Eastern or Western Conference) who reached double figures in games shooting below 40 percent were the Bulls (12), Grizzlies (13), Bucks and Pacers (15 each).
Other teams who would be in the playoffs if they began today (thankfully, they don’t): Spurs (4), Nuggets (4), Clippers (5), Celtics (6), Hawks (7), Jazz (7), Warriors (8), Knicks (8), Nets (9) & Rockets (9).
Maybe none of this should come as a shock. The Bulls rank 28th among 30 teams in points per game (92.5) and have scored fewer than 90 points 20 times and are 4-16 in those contests.
Anyway, I thought it’d be interesting to share this with you guys as the Class 3 Killstorm comes through the Chicagoland area this evening.
Last year, I put together a list of things I wanted to do/places I wanted to visit and it helped shape my year. I figured that since it worked so well the first time (coupled with the fact that I hate making new years resolutions and believe bucket lists shouldn’t wait until your final few years) I had to do it again. I’m also convinced that sharing it with others will help me get these things don, for whatever that is worth.
I’m already sure 2013 is going to be jam packed with all sorts of ridiculousness. I’m slated to DJ three weddings, attend a fourth as a guest and be the best man for a fifth. Needless to say, I’ll be a busy man in 2013. Yet, I still want to get the following things done.
1. Somewhere warm for NYE 2013: Arguably the biggest long shot on the list, I’ve been inspired to get out of town for NYE 2013 for a handful of reasons, most of them having to do with how much I hate winter in Chicago. Also, part of me has been wanting to do something new for NYE for years. Yes, I realize going out can be a tad on the expensive side, but it’s not as if I (or my group of friends) goes out and does something nice often. Going out for NYE … or going somewhere warm in this case … appeals to me.
2. Kane County Cougars game: The Cubs made a savvy move by making the Kane County Cougars the team’s A-ball affiliate, leaving the Peoria Chiefs in their dust. Kane County is where the Cubs’ future stars will get their starts. Might as well get a glimpse of Jorge Soler & Albert Almora before they become household names.
3. See Kobe Bryant live: At Pacers, at United Center, at Milwaukee: I’ve been a huge Kobe Bryant fan since the day he entered the NBA. However, I’ve never seen him live. Bryant is now 34 years old & I’m fearful I’ll never get to see one of the all-time greats in the flesh. Bulls tickets can be a bit pricey, so I might make a road trip out of it. Seeing the Lakers at Milwaukee is probably the best option, considering I can make that trip overnight. However, seeing Bryant in Indianapolis is an option a co-worker suggested & said I should not pass up.
4. One Cubs/Brewers game in Milwaukee: It’s a tradition unlike any other. I have to do it, just on principle. The hard part will be finding time.
5. Cubs/Cardinals game in St. Louis: I’ve tossed this idea around with a friend & considering how busy I am until July, I’m thinking an August trip to Busch Stadium for baseball’s best rivalry for a weekend set could be in the cards.
6. See Justin Verlander pitch: For someone who isn’t fond of Detroit, the Tigers sure seem to have a handful of my favorite players. Miguel Cabrera is one of my favorite hitters to watch, and Prince Fielder is a fun dude. But I have yet to see Justin Verlander do work on the mound live and in the flesh. A trip to Comerica Park to see Verlander pitch would also knock off another stadium off the Luda Downs Ballpark Tour. This one might be more difficult than it seems as summer will prove to be awfully busy.
7. Eat at the following places suggested by Lou Uhler: Los Comales, Eppy’s Deli, Cheesie’s, Aloha Grill, Hop Haus, Burger Joint, Epic Burger, La Cocina, Phils Last Stand.
8. St. Louis trip in April: I’ve been promising Philly, Brian & Alexis that I’d make a trip to StL for about a year now … and it’d probably be a good idea to visit them before the June wedding. Thinking an April train trip could be affordable and allow me to visit take the Budweiser Brewery Tour, too.
9. Visit New Glarus Brewery in Wisconsin: Thanks in part to friends with good taste in beer, I’ve become hooked on Spotted Cow & Totally Naked, brewed in Wisconsin. I had planned on making a trip to the New Glarus brewery, but something popped up, then winter came. No excuses in 2013. I’ve got to make the trip.
10. SIU vs. Illinois (Aug. 31): The “Let’s get somebody fired!” Bowl pits Dale Lennon vs. Tim Beckman in what might be a loser leaves town match.
Is there something that should be on the list? Let me know & I’ll try to squeeze it in.
Honorable mentions: Go to as many summer festivals in Chicago as possible, take the Chicago pizza tour, make my own ice cream in the summer, see Mike Trout do Mike Trout things (Cubs game. Sox game. Don’t care.), become the subject of a Taylor Swift love/break-up song; West coast trip to Seattle; train trip to Carbondale; attend social media night at Wrigley (assuming they do that again this year)
Last time baseball fans saw Anibal Sanchez he was a hard-luck loser in Game 2 of the World Series when he allowed two runs in seven innings of work. He posted a 1.77 ERA in three starts (20.1 innings in the postseason). And at five years and $77.5 million, Sanchez looked like a steal and a sturdy building block in the Cubs rotation.
As for Edwin Jackson, he was last seen in relief for the Washington Nationals, fueling the St. Louis Cardinals’ rally in Game 5 of the NLDS.
In a world where perception is reality, it did not come as a surprise when Cubs fans (myself included) were not pleased when I saw the Cubs were jockeying for his services.
After settling for a 1-year deal worth $11 million with the Nats last year, Edwin Jackson turned in a decent year (10-11, 4.03 ERA, 1.218 WHIP in 31 starts) and cashed out to a four-year deal with the Cubs worth $52 million.
A head scratcher? Not really. Between the lack of major league caliber arms at any level of the organization’s minor league affiliates and their pursuit of Sanchez, it should come to no shock that the Cubs were willing to shell out money for starting pitching.
Seriously, guys. The Cubs’ pitching prospects are so far away from competing for a roster spot, the team had to go out and sign Jackson, Scott Baker, Scott Feldman and might potentially add Carlos Villanueva.
Thanks a lot, Jim Hendry.
Speaking of Hendry, the 4-year, $52 million kept popping out at me and I wasn’t sure why until I realized that is what he gave Ryan Dempster after his 17-6 in a career year in 2008. That reminder gave me a bit of a fresh look on Jackson’s deal and made me look harder at what the Cubs were getting into with this move.
Can Jackson — at ages 29, 30, 31 & 32 — be as good as Dempster was from 2009-12 when he performed at ages 32, 33, 34 & 35?
Maybe. And while I apologize for being unable to give a definitive yes or no, at least we have an idea what we should be looking for, right?
So, what exactly are we looking for out of Mr. Jackson?
From 2009-12, Dempster went 48-43 with a 3.94 ERA and an ERA+ of 106. He logged at least 200 innings in the first three years of the deal and would have done so in 2012 had it not been for some nagging injuries. Hey! It happens when you’re 35.
Dempster averaged 8.2 strikeouts-per-nine, carried a 2.54 K/BB ratio, a 1.322 WHIP,3.2 BB/9, 8.7 H/9 and 1.0 HR/9. (127 starts)
Edwin Jackson’s numbers over that span: 49-41, 3.98 ERA and an ERA+ of 106. Jackson logged at least 200 innings in 2009 and 2010, threw 199 2/3 innings in 2011 and 189 2/3 in 2012.
Jackson also posted a 1.329 WHIP, 9.0 H/9, 1.0 HR/9, 3.0 BB/9, 7.3 K/9 & 2.46 K/BB with the Tigers, Diamondbacks, White Sox, Cardinals and Nationals.
Over those four years, Dempster made 127 starts. Jackson toed the rubber 128 times.
Long story, short: Edwin Jackson is the new Ryan Dempster.
I can live with that.
Remember kids. When it comes to moves made by the Theo Epstein-Jed Hoyer regime, one must keep in mind the long-term goals of the club.
MLB’s collective bargaining agreement shut out many of the loopholes Epstein used in Boston to make the Red Sox a developmental machine. Capped spending internationally. New rules on compensatory picks. Hard slotting and penalties for paying over slot in the draft.
Maybe the next big thing is acquiring good, but not great players and flip them for long-term assets? Maybe in lieu of paying extra for draft picks, the new market inequity is paying for MLB players for young, but still developing assets.
All I know is that the Cubs plan for developing pitching needs some time. And Jackson is a placeholder for the aforementioned developing pitchers and should eat enough innings until the time is right.
Looks like I did myself a favor by not posting an Overreaction Monday blog after the Bears hung 41 points on the Colts last week.
The narrative was too easy.
New offensive coordinator plus weapons on the perimeter equals what happened Sunday.
Four days later, it narrative has changed to: “New year, same Bears.”
After two weeks, one thing is clear to me. The Bears aren’t as good as the team that lit up the Colts and they’re not as bad as the team that was out-coached, out-hustled, out-manned and out-played by the Packers on Thursday night.
You probably don’t want to hear it (and judging by my timeline, you’re too busy to hear it), but the truth is in the middle.
The Bears Defense Might Be Good Again
I’ll start with some positives in an attempt to soften the blow from Thursday night’s loss. Fair deal?
The Green Bay Packers only scored one offensive touchdown, a 26-yard strike from Aaron Rodgers to Donald Driver with 11:17 remaining in the fourth, which iced the game after a Cutler turnover.
Let’s go a bit deeper inside the Bears defensive effort.
Green Bay made three red zone trips and came away with only a field goal that came right before halftime. Though, in fairness, who knows what would have transpired had there been more time on the clock.
The Packers only converted 4-of-14 third down attempts on Thursday night. That’s impressive considering Green Bay ranked fourth in the NFL in successful third down conversion (48.5 percent) in 2011. Green Bay converted 10-of-22 third down attempts against the Bears in 2011′s two meetings, which checks in at 45 percent, which would have ranked 8 percentage points higher than the NFL average last season.
Seeing Green Bay successful on only 28.5 percent of third down attempts is a sign of progress for Chicago’s defense.
Last night, Rodgers had 37 pass attempts and was sacked five times. In 2011, Rodgers dropped back for 69 pass attempts and was sacked only twice.
Rodgers was good, but he wasn’t great. Efficient, but not spectacular. For the most part, the Bears did whatever the football equivalent is of keeping Albert Pujols or Mike Trout in the park. It’s only one game, but if the Bears defense can have repeat performances such as the one from tonight, they’ll be fine.
Oh no, Jay sucks again!
Jay Cutler picked a bad time to revert to the stereotypical flailing gunslinger everyone loves to hate.
Cutler completed 11-of-27 pass attempts for 126 yards, a 4.7 average, tossed four interceptions and had a 28.2 rating. So, where does that rank Cutler on the Wall of Shame?
The 28.2 rating is Cutler’s worse since posting a 46.7 rating in a Week 4 Bears win against Carolina on Oct. 2. You’ll have to go back to the NFC Conference title game loss to Green Bay to see a Cutler performance so horrid where he posted a 31.8 QB rating.
Cutler’s 40.7 completion percentage is his second lowest in his 43-game stint with the Bears, rivaled by only his performance against the Ravens in a 31-7 loss on December 20, 2009, when he completed 10-of-27 passes for 94 yards.
In reality, we’re talking about 29 game weeks that have come and gone since Cutler has been that tragically bad. But based on tonight’s (over)reaction, you’d think Cutler played like this week-in, week-out. He doesn’t. Bottom line is that Cutler isn’t as bad as you think he is and he isn’t as good as you think he is.
While it will be easy to ride Cutler hard for the 10 days between games, I’ll be more curious to see how he bounces back.
Last time Cutler had a multiple-interception game (October 23, 2011 in a 24-18 win vs. Tampa Bay), he followed it up by throwing two touchdowns and posting a 96.9 rating in a 30-24 win against the Eagles on November 7, 2011, which came after a bye week. It was the beginning of a stretch where Cutler led the Bears to a 3-0 mark in which he threw four touchdowns against one interception as he beat Philadelphia, Detroit and San Diego, who combined to finish 26-20 last season.
Cutler will need to conjure up whatever he did in those weeks if the Bears are serious about being postseason contenders in 2012.
“New coordinator, same Bears.”
I’m not sure whether or not to write “and shame on you if you don’t” or “it’s probably for the best” in the following statement, but here goes nothing.
If you follow me on Twitter, you’ll know I haven’t subscribed to the theory of losing Mike Martz’s play calls and replacing them with those of Mike Tice is the panacea to what ails the Bears’ offensive line. And Thursday night was proof of why I took a cautiously optimistic route in regard to Chicago’s new play caller.
Not to say Tice’s calls were the reason Cutler struggled. They weren’t. But to make Tice some sort of offensive line savior when he isn’t just didn’t sit right with me. Now we’re at a point where your offensive coordinator is your former offensive line guru and your offensive line still has major question marks. That’s not a great place to be after Week 2.
But I digress.
Cutler was sacked only twice in Week 1 vs. the Colts. That was nice. Indianapolis also played most of the game without Dwight Freeney. Even if they had Freeney, we’re talking about a Colts team coming off a 2-14 year and is transitioning into a new defense. They were ripe for the picking and the Bears did what they needed to do.
Fast forward to Thursday when Green Bay sacked Cutler seven times. It is the most sacks the Bears offensive line had given up in a Cutler start since the team’s Week 2 30-13 loss to New Orleans on Sept. 18, 2011.
The Bears made no significant upgrades to the offensive line in the offseason, which made me believe games like today were possible. And to be honest, they are likely to happen again. I guess that is what happens when you don’t make offensive line a priority in the draft and try to patch together an offensive line without using aforementioned high draft picks or high-salaried veterans.
A slice of humble pie is probably a good thing for the everyone at Halas Hall and I’ll be curious to see how this team handles its first adversity of the season.
Just know that the Bears aren’t as bad as the team that showed up in Green Bay. But be warned that they’re not as good as the team that opened up the season by running wild on the Colts.
Moving forward, the good news is that the Bears have 10 days to learn from Thursday’s fiasco and rebound against the St. Louis Rams. The bad news is that we have 10 days to overanalyze everything that happened in a loss to a division rival after being teased with offensive firepower in the season opener.
Long story, short: Two down, 14 to go.
In other words, “Keep Calm And Bear Down.”