Chicago adds Peppers, several veteran coaches in its ‘must-win’ season

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Dan Pompei
Friday, July 30, 2010
— Itís easy to get swept up in July euphoria. The sky is so blue. The fruit is plentiful, crisp and sweet. The grass is green and the trees are full. Most of us arenít so Vitamin D-deficient.

And no one has hit anyone in months.

So maybe Iím caught up a little in this feel-good time of year. But as the players are packing their pillows and gadgets for training camp, I like what I see in this Bears team. In fact, I feel better about this Bears teamís makeup than Iíve felt about any Bears team in recent memory.

In hindsight, the 2006 NFC champion Bears were better on paper than this team is today. But this team has the potential to be better than that team.

The reason is this team has two potential difference-makers in Jay Cutler and Julius Peppers who werenít around in 2006, and another, Devin Hester, who is in a different role.

Cutler, Peppers and maybe even Hester have the abilities to take over games in ways their predecessors in 2006 did not. Whether or not they will is another issue.

Cutler, of course, has to click with new offensive coordinator Mike Martz after trying to retrain his brain all offseason. He needs to become a more consistent player, a less emotional player and a smarter player than he was a year ago. It sure would help if he became a more mature leader. But anyone who canít find hope when watching him is a complete pessimist.

Peppers easily is the most gifted pass rusher this franchise has had since Richard Dent. But his history says he may be an inconsistent player who is dominant only in spurts. Even if heís dominant only some of the time, he should help this team a lot.

As for Hester, itís not a stretch to think he could have a 1,200-yard season in his third year as a full-time wide receiver. As a receiver, Hester is like a 14-year old who is about to hit his big growth spurt. Playing in an offense that appears to fit him well and should offer him more opportunities than ever, Hester can hit newheights.

Of course, ďunrealized potentialĒ could be the subtitle for the Bears highlight film from many of their 89 seasons. And it could be for this team too.

What should prevent that, at least in theory, is this staff of assistants. Itís easily the best coach Lovie Smith has had, and one of the best in team history.

Martz is a Super Bowl winning game-planner and play-caller and is a proven developer of talent. Dave Toub clearly is in the upper echelon of special teams coaches. Rod Marinelli has not been a defensive coordinator, but the former head coach is widely regarded as one of the best defensive line coaches in the league.

Mike Tice, also a former head coach, has a history of making offensive linemen betteróhe has helped five of them get to 10 Pro Bowls. New tight ends coach Mike DeBord is a 28-year coaching veteran who once was named assistant coach of the year at Michigan. Darryl Drake, who is well respected for his teaching skills, has coached wide receivers for 24 years. And Jon Hoke has been developing defensive backs or coordinating defenses for 27 seasons with a passionate style.

So these Bears should be fine with Xís and Oís. They still could use a few more Jimmys and Joes though. There are some questions, especially on the offensive line and in the defensive backfield. They need some young players to come on.

When you look at almost every team on paper, however, you will find some potential holes.

What should concern the Bears most is their division. The NFC North looks like the strongest in the NFC, and one of the strongest in football along with the AFC East and AFC North.

But as much as I like what I see on the Bears, I like what I see on the Packers and Vikings even more. Both of those teams are more established and arenít counting on as many ďifs.Ē

What I think that tells us is itís going to be a very interesting football season in the Midwest. There is no way it canít be.

Last updated: 2:14 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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