Bears Busts And Breakouts In 2013
The good news for some Chicago Bears players is, they will have opportunity for fresh starts under new coaches in new systems. The not-so-good news for others: Their roles will change, not all of them welcomed necessarily.
Here are some of the candidates to surprise and disappoint in the debut season of head coach Marc Trestman and his staff:
Breakout: Jay Cutler. Aaron Kromer is his third offensive coordinator in four seasons with the team, hardly the kind of stability that makes for success. That being said, Kromer and Trestman are well-versed at the position and may be able to get more out of the QB and those around him. If this turns out to be his free-agent season, the 29-year-old will have even more motivation to step forward in the pocket.
Bust: Robbie Gould. The veteran showed signs of slippage last season, when his 78 percent conversion rate from outside 29 yards was the worst of his career. He also experienced his first significant injury, a strained left calf muscle that sidelined him for three games late in the season. He'll turn 32 in December.
Breakout: Alshon Jeffery. The offense is desperate for a second option – Brandon Marshall can't catch every ball, can he? – and the former second rounder is as good a candidate as any right now. Maybe his three receptions of 30-plus yards in the final four weeks were a hint of things to come.
Bust: Tim Jennings. He picked off nine passes en route to the Pro Bowl last season, two more than the previous six combined. Was he a one-year wonder? The list of 5-foot-8 cornerbacks who have sustained success late in their careers is a very short one.
Breakout: Shea McClellin. Defense coordinator Mel Tucker likes what he sees of the Boise State product on film. The question is where he fits best at this point. As a rookie, the former fifth rounder played defensive end, where he struggled against larger lineman at times, but his athleticism couldn't be ignored. Expect him to get a look at linebacker in the preseason and settle into a swing role before long.
Bust: J'Marcus Webb. Some insist the tackle will develop into a seventh-round steal eventually. Most consider him to be the poster child for what ails the beleaguered o-line – everyone from Cutler to fans to media called him out last season. Marijuana charges that were later dropped did nothing to improve his image in the off-season.
Breakout: Stephen Paea. The 24-year-old defensive tackle didn't play football until his final year of high school, which makes him a late starter of sorts. Another year of experience and improved techniques could put him position to follow tag-team partner Henry Melton on the breakthrough list.
Bust: Julius Peppers. No longer a difference-maker on a weekly basis, the 33-year-old will be hard-pressed to live up to his $12.9 million base salary. He totaled 11.5 sacks last season, but his one forced fumble and two passed defended were the fewest in his Hall of Fame career. A reduced role could enhance his effectivness in the long term.
Breakout: Evan Rodriguez. He touched the ball only four times as a rookie fullback last season but could flourish under Kromer and Trestman, who like to get larger, more agile types involved in the pass game. The former fourth-rounder fancies himself as another Aaron Hernandez – both have similar size and speed (4.55 in the 40) – and he could get an opportunity to prove it shortly. Which leads to . . .
Busts: Kellen Davis and Matt Spaeth: The emphasis on athleticism at the tight end position doesn't bode well for the veteran holdovers, at least one of whom may be gone before the the start of the regular season.