By Chris Emma-
LAKE FOREST (CBS) — Standing before the media Tuesday at Halas Hall, Bears quarterback Jay Cutler exuded confidence.
Every answer shone light on what the Bears’ potential is on offense. Cutler knows the table is set. Gone are the days of deficiencies and subsequent outbursts. This is his Chicago team.
“Anytime you are in an offense and have the same group of guys around you, it’s going to be more comfortable,” Cutler said. “It is for me, anyway. I like the group of guys we have in the locker room, understand what we’re doing offensively.”
It would be wrong to use Cutler’s demeanor as a measuring stick for anything, especially given how it’s been unfairly judged in the past. But take it with a grain of salt, for the quarterback is satisfied.
With playmakers all around the locker room, the Bears believe this could be a special year. Led by second-year coach and mastermind of the turnaround Marc Trestman, the offense has big potential.
“The sky’s the limit,” Pro Bowl receiver Alshon Jeffery said. “We’re just going to take it one day at a time. Our goal is to be the No. 1 offense in the NFL.”
The Bears had the league’s second-highest-scoring offense in 2013, but that didn’t translate to a playoff appearance. The team’s Achilles heel was its disastrous defense.
New personnel, changes to schemes and revived health from last fall puts the Bears’ defense in better shape. There has been progress in defensive coordinator Mel Tucker’s eyes.
“The defense is revealing itself every day,” Tucker said.
Position battles have bolstered the Bears on defense, coupled with key free-agent additions and potentially useful draft picks. The goal this preseason is to find a cohesiveness within the unit.
Through two preseason games, the Bears have been far from perfect on defense. They’ve surrendered 47 points and allowed an average of 376 yards of offense, but there have been positive signs, something spotted by the players and coaches in practice.
“It’s a constant up-and-down battle,” linebacker D.J. Williams said. “There are good days, bad days, medium days. You’re just trying to make sure you have more good days than bad days. As a defensive unit, we’ve gradually, progressively getting better.”
Added defensive end David Bass: “We’re satisfied that we won, but we still have a lot to work on.”
In reality, the results of preseason games don’t tell the story of a football team’s future. That comes in the film room, where each play and player are analyzed to their most extensive detail. The Bears see what has gone right and wrong thus far.
“We’ve had some success, we’ve done some things we wish we could take back,” tackle Jermon Bushrod said. “At the end of the day, you live and you learn from it.”
The process, as Trestman often says, is only now unfolding. Evaluations will continue for depth, and the starters will keep pushing for improvements. When it’s all done, and the Buffalo Bills arrive at Soldier Field on Sept. 7, the Bears hope to be a better football team after their efforts in preparation.
Believe it or not, the preseason is only halfway over.
“We’re just going to have to keep working hard,” Jeffery said. “And we’ll keep growing.”
Follow Chris on Twitter @CEmma670.