With the Eagles and Bears scheduled to face off on Friday night, I reached out to our friends over at Windy City Gridiron. Kev H kindly took the time to answer my questions.
Let's take a look at the answers.
1) Jay Cutler received a big contract extension this offseason. How do Bears fans feel about him?
Oh, good, you started with the easiest question first.
In general, I'd say that most fans support Jay, unless they're the kind that also thinks the Bears should be running the ball 80 times and that it would be so much better if we got Singletary to coach instead of this Trestman guy. He's definitely polarizing, but there are some signs he's becoming the leader you would want a starting quarterback to be. He's traveled in the offseason with Coach Trestman to discuss positive locker room atmospheres with the league, he made offseason trips with many players on the offense to bond and work together, and he's contributing to the success of the players behind him on the depth chart, as well as getting in time with the #2s and #3s in camp.
Bears fans are still itchy for big wins, though, and that's the place he hasn't been able to deliver on yet. The injury bug has hit him hard. After a knee injury in the NFCCG, a freak thumb injury one season, and then rushing back from a groin injury last year, he hasn't been in that position. A trip in the postseason would do wonders for those naysayers, though. (That whole Josh McCown being lights out thing didn't help him, either.)
2) The Eagles shredded Chicago's defense in that Week 16 matchup last season where Philly won 54-11. The Bears have made some moves in the offseason to address that unit. What kind of improvement do you expect for the Bears on that side of the ball?
I had been trying to forget that, but thank you. I do, however, expect a lot of improvement. In 2013, Phil Emery overhauled the offense, bringing in players like Jermon Bushrod, Matt Slauson, Kyle Long, Jordan Mills, and Martellus Bennett, with the thinking that the defense was good enough, and the offense needed to get up to speed. Then the defense became completely broken, and we had 2nd and 3rd string guys starting on the defensive line, and rookie Jon Bostic starting at MLB. Finally, the safeties, Conte and Wright, put the sprinkles on the turd cake that was the Bears defense last year.
With new players like Lamarr Houston, Willie Young, Ego Ferguson, Will Sutton, Kyle Fuller, Ryan Mundy, Brock Vereen, and Adrian Wilson, there should hopefully be enough plug and play to get the defense to at least decent, if not good. They're supposedly going to be playing a little less of the Tampa 2, and maybe have a mixture of one-gap/two-gap looks to help hide some of those open running lanes. If they could get themselves up to at least a top 20-23 ish, I think they make a strong push towards the playoffs. If you look, over half of the playoff teams (7) last year were ranked 19th or below in yards given up per game. It's a point-scoring league now.
3) If you could steal one player off the Eagles' roster, who are you taking?
It's hard not to instinctively say LeSean McCoy, but if for some reason you wouldn't let me after making such a nice offer, I'd look at some of those guys on the defensive line, particularly Vinny Curry. I like what I saw of him in the rare times I saw him.
4) Despite a seemingly awkward fit on the roster, the Eagles don't seem to be in a hurry when it comes to parting ways with outside linebacker Brandon Graham. Many have suggested that Graham would be better suited for a 4-3 defense and should be traded away. Some Eagles fans have even suggested Philadelphia should swap Graham to the Bears in return for former first round pick Shea McClellin, who they feel could be a better fit as a 3-4 outside linebacker. Would the Bears have any interest in that?
I doubt the Bears would, because they seem pretty intent on trying to make Shea fit into the SLB slot. I, on the other hand, will go ahead and say yes, I probably would. Shea has the speed, but it's a matter of whether he'll be able to learn the position. I think Graham would have the instincts to be able to step in and play for this defense right away, and each might benefit from the change of scenery.
Looping back to what you actually asked, I do not think the Bears would, simply because that's Emery's first first round pick, and I think he is determined to make it stick.
5) Where would you rank the Bears in the NFC hierarchy? Compared to the Eagles: better, worse, same?
On paper, I think the Bears have the ability to be a top 6 team, based on the offense of last year, and the fact that a defense can't get much worse. They were in most of their games last year, and would likely have been the NFCN champs if not for the absolute collapse of defensive responsibility in week 17.
Compared to the Eagles? I think both teams are actually very similar, even when they're not. We're looking at two 2nd year coaches, known for their offense, who are taking teams that had defense that gave up a lot of yards and trying to improve that. With it being PW1, I am hesitant to say better or worse, but I wouldn't be surprised of these teams were meeting in the playoffs in January.
Bonus: Score prediction? It's only preseason but hey, why not.
17-20, Eagles. This is so that I can spend a week moderating "Sky is falling" comments.