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Five Critical Questions Facing the Chicago Bears

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Kim Kardashian recently attempted to “break the internet” with a risque photo of her buttocks. But if she really wanted to break the internet, she would have come up with a comprehensive list of all the questions facing the Chicago Bears in the upcoming season.

Alas, Kim didn’t have the time for that, and neither do we. While it may only represent the tip of the iceberg, all we can offer is five critical questions facing the Bears in the upcoming season as the franchise comes off one of the most humiliating seasons in its nine decades of existence.

Though training camp and preseason injuries could change the storyline, on paper Chicago will go to camp as the worst team in the NFC North by a sizable margin. Playoffs shouldn’t be the goal for any Bears fan so much as any sign of forward progress — can the Bears build from what they have, or will they have to tear it down even more?

Here are five questions that should help determine the answer to that big one.

How will the team respond to John Fox?

By the midway point of last season, Marc Trestman appeared to have as much respect from his team as Charlie Brown’s teachers have from the Peanuts gang.

With the amount of housecleaning done by new general manager Ryan Pace and a respected name in John Fox replacing Trestman, that does not figure to be the case this year, but these things are never possible to predict with complete accuracy.

One rarely hears about malcontents and laziness in a Fox locker room. His only season with a record worse than 7-9 was in 2010, when the Panthers were saddled with rookie Jimmy Clausen at quarterback and went 2-14.

Speaking of Clausen…

Will Adam Gase be the first successful Cutler Whisperer?

Everyone has been in love with Jay Cutler’s arm since his Vanderbilt days, but his mind just keeps creating so many damn problems.

It’s not that Cutler’s dumb. Far from it. He’s just always operated with the belief he can make every throw. And when things go wrong, his body language goes south. Many have tried, and failed, to enhance his throwing power and eliminate the often mind-boggling decisions.

Adam Gase is the latest to enter the fray. He certainly has the pedigree, coming straight from working with the best in the business in Peyton Manning. But in terms of personality, experience and talent, working with Manning is a different world than Cutler.

While the Bears are certainly married to Cutler for this year — he has a $16.5 million cap hit and takes up $29.5 million in dead cap space — if he is still struggling at season’s end, we may see them replicate last year’s decision to give Clausen a shot.

Bears fans better hope Gase has this guy figured out.

Will the move to a 3-4 improve a terrible defense?

Vic Fangio knows what he is doing. But will the personnel in his first year as Chicago’s defensive coordinator reflect that?

Last year marked the rock-bottom point in Bears defensive history when the team set franchise worsts for points allowed, rushing yards allowed and total points allowed. The absolute nadir came in back-to-back games against the Patriots and Packers in which the Bears became the first team to allow 50 points in consecutive contests since the 1923 Rochester Jeffersons.

The Bears thought they had a good piece for the 3-4 when they signed former 49er Ray McDonald, but his inablity to stop doing illegal things to women eliminated that possibility before he even played a down for the team.

Cornerback Kyle Fuller could be a star in the making, but outside of that the Bears defense has some significant question marks — which from a glass half-full perspective can be seen as opportunity aplenty for young players to make themselves known.

Does Jared Allen have anything left?

Hampered by a serious case of pneumonia that affected his playing weight, defensive end Jared Allen looked about the same age as his jersey number last year — 69. Can the move to outside linebacker in the 3-4 serve as his fountain of youth?

It certainly sounded like it after Chicago’s OTAs.

“My body feels fresher because I’m not banging every single day and putting my hands on a 300-plus pounder and banging heads and that kind of stuff,” Allen told ESPN Chicago. “I like it because it is testing my football IQ. I’ve always loved the game and have always been a student of the game. Sometimes it can get monotonous and you play the same thing over and over and see the same blocks over and over. You have to work really hard at not getting complacent with your technique.

“This is a totally different thought process for me and it’s really forcing me to study. I’m having fun with it. I know it’s just OTAs, but being out there and seeing the one-on-one matchups that I’ve been able to create and the rush angles I’ve been able to create, so it’s kind of broadening my perspective on football. For me it’s been a blast and I’m just excited to keep going.”

The Bears had little semblance of a pass rush last season, so if OLB Allen makes a major contribution Chicago may be able to compete in more games than expected.

Can Matt Forte be the workhorse again?

From a physical standpoint, it seems likely that Matt Forte is still capable of being one of the NFL’s most heavily utilized offensive players. Last year he had a career-high 102 receptions to go along with his 266 carries, which also marked the third straight season he has toted the ball more than 245 times.

But even though Forte is in excellent condition — he’s missed five games in seven seasons — one wonders how much longer he can keep it going as he hits age 30.

If previous John Fox teams are any indicator, Forte should be expecting a few more breathers this season even he is capable of being a workhorse.

“We’ve always been believers in kind of a one-two punch and rolling guys through there whether it’s the defensive line — a wave of those guys to stay fresh,” Fox said in May. “I’ve always had the approach — the same thing — with running backs.”

To that end, the Bears signed mighty mite Jacquizz Rogers from Atlanta, and the team apparently believes second-year back Ka’Deem Carey could still relieve Forte.

But if those guys fail to accomplish anything, look to Forte to again be carrying an unusally heavy load yet again. Hopefully he is still up to the task, though in an ideal world that won’t have to be tested.

What do you expect from the Bears? Discuss with Alex Hickey during his weekly NFL Chat on Wednesday at 7 p.m. EST.


About Alex Hickey

Alex Hickey

Alex Hickey can vividly recall most significant NFL events going back to Walter Payton's final game in 1987, including the ones that didn't make him cry. Since 2008, his full-time job has been covering college football, specifically McNeese State, for the Lake Charles (La.) American Press. Free time is spent informing, amusing or annoying you for Football Insiders.