I was pleased to be joined by Dane from Windy City Gridiron, our Chicago Bears affiliate, to preview Thursday's game. Enjoy!
Chris: "The Bears brought in Mike Martz as the team's offensive coordinator this offseason. This preseason, has the offense shown any sign of improvement in terms of playcalling?"
Dane: "We haven't seen too much "Martz-type" playcalling yet in the first three preseason games, mostly due to trying to get the OL settled, as well as trying to develop a good rhythm between Cutler and the Gang. No doubt that installing the Martz offense is very complex, so using the preseason to stick with the basics is not surprising."
Chris: "I've never been a fan of Jay Cutler, and I think the media is partially to blame for that because they used to hype him as being an elite quarterback when he had yet to officially break that barrier. Are Bears fans supporting Cutler as their quarterback, or are they wishing they had someone else under center?"
Dane: "Jay Cutler has all of the physical tools, as well as the football intelligence, to be a truly elite QB in the NFL. People love to look at Cutler's demeanor and form an opinion of his capabilities based on that, but that's not very logical. What we seem to have right now is a gifted QB with a poor OL... not a very good combination. He has plenty of time to develop (remember, he's still young), as long as we can keep him off his back. The Chicago fanbase is still very supportive of Jay, but recognize that other things will have to change to see him have success."
Chris: "It seems like it's been awhile since the Bears' defense has been dominant. With Brian Urlacher returning and Julius Peppers arriving, what are the expectations for the defense as a whole this year (i.e. average, elite, poor)?"
Dane: "Great question. We recently had a discussion on WCG about the keys to our defense becoming dominant again. The upside is that we've got the talent to get there. The downside is that our success largely hinges on one or two players. All eyes will be on Urlacher and Peppers, but Tommie Harris may end up being the guy that matters the most. Our entire defense is based on the ability to A) rush the passer, and B) to have a disruptive 3-technique DT in the middle.
Look at it this way: If Tommie Harris can be truly dominant in the middle (he is supposedly 100% healthy for the first time in a few years), he will draw double teams. If he draws the double team, Peppers is freed up 1-on-1. If the pass rush is there, our LBs can cover underneath, and our DBs can do their jobs a whole lot better. BUT, if Tommie doesn't dominate, Peppers gets the double team, and the pass rush is limited. We do not have the talent in our secondary to sustain coverage downfield."
Chris: "Tell us about an underrated player on the Bears that might make the Bears' 53-man roster but Browns fans might not know about?"
Dane: "He's not underrated to Bears fans, but most teams do not know about the awesomeness of Tim Shaw. He's a backup linebacker who was an absolute beast on kickoff and punt coverages last season. A true tackling machine, and definitely someone to watch when he's on the field. Honorable mention: LB Brian Iwuh. He spent his first 4 seasons in Jacksonville as a backup, and was signed in Chicago this May. He's had a great offseason, and has the potential to be every bit as disruptive as Tim Shaw."
Dane: "Completetey biased, with the refusal to be objective: #23 is the man."
Once again, I'd like to thank Dane for taking the time to answer this questions.