As we approach the start of the 2015 NFL season, we dive back into game previews with our sister blogs from around SB Nation. This week, the Green Bay Packers open up with a game against the rival Chicago Bears, which means APC sat down with noted Tom Brady courtroom sketch fan Kev H from Windy City Gridiron to preview the contest.
Make sure you head over to WCG to check out our answers to Kev's questions as well.
APC: What were your initial reactions to the hires of the new coaching staff and GM, and how have your feelings changed over the offseason as they have begun to put their mark on the Bears franchise?
By the time the Bears hired Fox, I was just happy that it was anyone but Marc Trestman. When Trestman was hired, I was generally ok with it, sometimes, you have to do something differently. Sometimes it turns out to be an abject failure. That was one of those times. To get a veteran coach who understood what it was like was a nice change of pace, though you'd have hoped his output was a little more inspiring.
That said, Fox has brought along a talented team of coordinators, and with a little bit of time, should be able to field a competitive unit. When Fox was hired, I joked with some friends, "Yeah, I'm excited to watch the Bears try to protect a 4 point lead and lose by 3."
Fox isn't an overly aggressive coach, but he won't usually go out and make decisions that will actively lose a team a game. There are some talented young players on the team, and that's what they'll need as the try to draft, build, and develop the team going forward. There are some that don't like his trend toward the secretive, but I prefer it to the "EVERY PRACTICE WAS AWESOME" mentality we got out of Trestman.
APC: Since Vic Fangio's 3-4 defense seemed a strange fit in Chicago to us Packers fans, given the personnel they had in place, can you explain to us why that defense will work in 2015?
I would love to explain to you why that defense will work in 2015. I honestly have no idea how it's going to turn out. The Bears had been built for the previous decade in the mold of undersized, fast, 4-3 players. None of the big defensive lineman that you want to eat up blocks, and not much in the way of linebacker talent.
Some things to keep an eye on while watching this Bears defense:
1. Can the NT figureout how to eat up a double block?
2. Shea McClellin, who many thought could be out the door as a failed Phil Emery 1st pick, has the trust of Fangio to be the field general in this 3-4 defense. Can he get guys into position?
3. How lost does the secondary look?
Much like any defense, the life and death of this team will be pressure on the quarterback. The talent level in the secondary isn't high enough to consistently make plays if someone can't rush the QB semi-consistently.
APC: What is actually happening with Kevin White, and who's at fault for the crazy situation with his injury?
White's injury is weird. By most accounts, he was fine at the combine, and then the stress fracture in OTAs. He then likely aggravated the stress fracture trying to come back. It didn't heal, and now he's looking at surgery.
It's hard to place too much blame, because there's so many variables in an injury like that. As I mentioned before, the suspicious behavior of the coaching staff in not really addressing the injury irked many of the Chicago media, but they're a fickle beast. I'd say that if anything, they could've probably come to the surgery conclusion earlier, and had him on a schedule that brought him back earlier in the season.
APC: With White out for the foreseeable future, which Bears rookie is poised to have the biggest impact on the 2015 squad?
I'd point to second round pick Eddie Goldman, probably. Particularly with veteran defensive lineman Jeremiah Ratliff suspended the first three games, Goldman is going to have a real chance to step up and show something at the nose tackle position.He suffered a concussion against the Bengals, but has been cleared for full practice this week and should be the starting NT for snap one against the Packers.
I also really like Cameron Meredith. He's an undrafted wide receiver who converted from quarterback. That transition happened at Illinois State (full disclosure: my alma mater. I'm probably a little biased), but he had a real chance to earn his roster spot in the preseason with Jeffery, WIlson, and White all not practicing. That's a hard transition to make, and even harder to make the 53 man of an NFL. While it may speak somewhat to the depth on the team, it's also a testament to the kid's hard work. I hope he sticks around.
APC: I have to ask at least one question about Jay Cutler, right? Is the switch in offense from Marc Trestman's philosophy to Adam Gase as OC going to be a benefit to Cutler as a QB?
I don't see how it couldn't be. The real knock on Jay Cutler has always been ball protection. Last year, you take away the fumbles, and he actually had a pretty good year:
Career high completion percentage
Career high TD total
Second highest career yardage
And yet he was benched by Trestman for a game, partially because of the ball security on fumbles, and also partially because Trestman seemingly was looking for a scapegoat.
The Gase/Fox offense will play to Cutler's strengths - we should see him rolling out more, and using the athleticism he does have. Additionally, the run game should return - the more balanced ratio will allow him to use that arm to get the ball downfield on play action, because teams won't auto-gear against the pass like they did last year. Both of these factors will help Cutler, because he's best when he doesn't have to win the game with his arm.
That said, once he does throw it, I'm not 100% sure who is going to catch it, but we'll figure that out later.
APC: Bonus - let's hear your prediction.
Homer prediction: 27-24, Bears, late field goal wins it.
Likely prediction: 31-17 Packers, because the defense won't stop much.
Our thanks go out to Kev and his colleagues over at Windy City Gridiron. Here's to a clean game, maybe some good turf at Soldier Field (yeah, right), and a fun Sunday.