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The 2014 offseason was driven by GM Phil Emery's plot to upgrade Chicago's suddenly one-dimensional defense. By which I mean last year's defense was born of a dimension in which doctors unsuccessfully try to surgically remake people who can tackle running backs into either hideous cave monsters or Maxine Stuart.
Here's the good news, Bear fans: If the Chicago can give up fewer than 5.3 yards per carry this season, we're seeing tangible improvement.
Improvement akin to growing some hair back on the stub of your severed left hand, but I'm a glass is half full (of whiskey) kind of guy.
Let's examine the sweeping changes that are going to help the 2014 squad eclipse the crappy, crappy standard set by its injury riddled predecessor.
- The entire defensive line was replaced. Notable additions include Jared Allen, Lamarr Houston and a howitzer that a rural sheriff's office in Georgia was unloading for eleven hundred bucks on Craigslist*.
- Shea McClellin was converted from an undersized defensive end to a linebacker, soon to become a regular-sized cashier at the local XSport.
- The Bears drafted for need to fill the talent gap from within. This was accomplished by selecting two safeties, two defensive backs, three linebackers and four defensive linemen. Also, a pair of Brandon Marshalls were traded for the rights to punter Pat O'Donnell and former Nets star Keith Van Horn.
- Emery successfully petitioned the league to outlaw the use of left hands. Now that nearly every defensive play results in a penalty (back me up, anyone who watched a preseason game), the Bears don't look so bad.
- In a completely misguided interpretation of the Rams' seventh-round draft strategy (selecting openly gay defensive lineman Michael Sam because he was clearly the best talent available), the Bears signed free agent Marshall Teague, who is probably best known for his role in Road House (click here for butt joke). "I don't know if you can stop Eddie Lacy on your own," said Emery to a confused Mr. Teague, following last week's signing. "But you're sure going to make him think twice about running up the middle."
While the offseason was a complete success on the defensive side of the ball, the game's third and oft forgotten phase seems to have fallen by the wayside in recent years.
Poor tackling and whatever's worse than poor (impoverished?) blocking marred much of the first three preseason games.
In an effort to help the cause, I gassed up the windowless van and headed for Missouri.
Back Toub The Future
Hey, Dave! Funny meeting you here in your own driveway.
Just happened to be in the area, uh, pricing barbeque sauce at a Kansas City Costco . . . yup. At $475, you can't afford not to buy an oil drum full of K.C. Masterpiece. That's like 8 cents an ounce!
Listen, since I've got you. Me and the rest of northern Illinois were, y'know, kinda wondering if you wanted to grab a beer whenever, talk about old times . . . maybe see if you wanted to come back to the Windy City?
Look, I know getting bounced in the first round of the playoffs really crumbles your cookie, and lord know nobody does it better than the Chiefs**, but consider what we can offer you back here in Chicago.
Cheesy beef croissants, a fan base that fondly remembers Brendon Ayanbadejo*** and like, probably nine wins!
You know the Lions are just gonna piss one away in the last 85 seconds of Week 16. We're practically 10% of the way to the playoffs!
Are you telling me that the odds are any better that your precious Chief will go through the Broncos than the Bears' chances of getting through the Seahawks?
Oh, you did watch on Friday. About that . . . yeah.
Um, can you tell me if this rag smells weird to you? HEY! Come back!
I've been reminded regularly since Friday night's preseason loss to Seattle that the '85 squad went 0-4 in exhibition games, and 2010 squad produced four ugly losses.
With all due respect to the Lance Briggs sound bites on CLTV and my inner monologue, pipe down jerks! This was supposed to be a dress rehearsal for the regular season and you all showed up in a potato sack.
Even as a preseason affair, this game S-ed a major "D," and not in the way that I usually like it; behind Martyrs' with a the barback watching as he tries to throw out the trash during the winter while eating nachos and wearing a leather Starter baseball cap.
Clearly, the Bears are not playing on the same level as the defending champs at the moment, but that could change as the season moves on . . . (raise the inflection of your inner reading voice two octaves as your read this sentence)?
Similarly, I've not rounded my physics game into midseason form yet, but by November Neil deGrasse Tyson will be begging me to appear on Cosmos.
In any case, because I apparently hate the notion of accountability and my view of the world is driven entirely by my own unchecked Id (yes, the "I" is capitalized in my case), I blame the loss on Seattle's irresponsible practice of allowing a massive bird of prey onto the sidelines during games.
It's a good thing Garrett Wolfe isn't on the team any more. That thing would have probably snatched the little guy up and fed him to its chicks, along with the shrimp Po'Boy it heisted from Stephen Paea during halftime.
Here's an idea: Next time these guys visit Soldier Field, let's chain up a live Kodiak 15 yards away from the visitor's sideline and we'll just see how well the Seahawks perform.
Oh don't worry, Seattle. Our trainer, the frickin' Brawny Man, makes sure our new buddy "Barry" is fed lots of salmon just before kickoff. He won't get peckish for hours.
Just make sure your special teams unit doesn't have any honey flavored granola bars on their person by the third quarter.
Having a volume knob installed on my inner monologue just shot up to the top of my to-do list****.
So for those of you new to the column, allow me to give you a rundown of our format. Almost every week, I get drunk and start typing.
No wait, first I spend 30 minutes explaining the nuances of late '70s proto-metal and progressive rock to my wife.
Then, once my wife is asleep, or has walked to another part of the house while I was white-boarding the relationship between members of Dio's touring band and '80s Black Sabbath lineups (1.3 minutes later on average), I start typing.
I use a five-point scale to rate the level of excitement you should have for the upcoming game.
The type of weekly points awarded are typically based on drinks related to the upcoming match-up, like the rum-based Hurricane prior to a Saints match-up or a mix of gin and the sweat rung out of a homeless guy's dreadlocks when the Bears are playing Oakland.
This week, I'm prescribing four out of five pitchers of actual Kool-Aid . . . mixed with Polmos Spirytus Rektyfikowany.
The 192-proof Polish vodka that unapologetically screams "Yeah we made a submarine with a screen door. What of it?" and then headbutts you in the teeth every time you take a drink.
Trust me, you'll need a 17-week supply, because this season is going to have some incredible offensive plays, and some hair-pullingly epic special teams issues that we simply have not had to endure in this town.
So join me, whatever blonde that isn't Hank Williams III and Fox analyst/horrifying creature of the night Kenny Albert, for another season of pigskin we'll never forget/barely remember.
*Bears executives played it safe and made the exchange at a 7-Eleven.
**And nobody keeps more Chips Ahoy! stashed in a Gatorade cooler than Andy Reid.
***The man who gave us the only anagram for "Anyone Bend Red Banjo?" that is also a proper noun.
****Your Ford Focus can go another few months without a transmission, right honey?
Carl Mohrbacher is our man on the Kool-Aid. He welcomes your comments.