|« ESPN Tells the Tragic Story of "Benji"||Bulls Win Game, But Lose Hinrich »|
Bears Tue Oct 23 2012
Phil Emery is smiling today. No, not because the team he took over a mere nine months ago sits atop the NFC North with a 5-1 record. It's because the four highest profile additions he made have all been rousing successes.
There's his first round pick Shea McClellin. A lot of people questioned the selection at the time. Was he an 3-4 outside linebacker? Can he play with his hand on the ground as a 4-3 defensive end? The Bears weren't looking for an MVP in his rookie season. They simply wanted someone that could contribute to the defensive line rotation, and speed rush on third downs. McClellin pressured Lions QB Matt Stafford on a number of occasions last night, and scored a half of a sack among the three the Bears recorded.
Then there's Michael Bush. Matt Forte needed another contributing force in the run game so he could stay refreshed throughout. He also needed someone to get first downs on third and short situations, an area he struggled in mightily. Bush has delivered (political entendre alert!). He had 36 yards on six carries last night, and has given the Bears a new dimension to the running game the team hasn't seen since Cedric Benson was a pup. The $14 million deal has paid off in spades so far.
When Jay Cutler went down late in the first half after a vicious (but legal) throw down from Ndamukong Suh (worth 23 points in Scrabble in case anyone was wondering), nobody went into instant panic mode. Instead of an untested backup with little experience, Jason Campbell jogged onto the field like he had been there hundreds of times before - because he has.
And finally, there's Brandon Marshall. Enough can't be said about the impact he's had on this team. His leadership and charisma have wowed almost everyone in Chicago. You ask Bears fans what they know about Marshall, and they'll tell you he's a first class citizen. If he were running for political office in two weeks, he'd win in a landslide without needing to stuff the ballot boxes. The touchdowns help too. He's scored in each of the last three games, and has averaged a gaudy 14.5 yards per catch. Well worth the pair of third rounders Emery sent to Miami in return.
Don't forget about Alshon Jeffery either. The Bears second round pick was making an impact on offense before suffering a hand injury that will sideline him for a couple more weeks. He gets an incomplete grade thus far, but his name deserves mention.
Emery's next task: fix the turnstile tackles. J'Marcus Webb has gotten a bit better the past three weeks, but Gabe Carimi has regressed to a point where the Bears have to think about replacing him. He was called for holding twice, and gave up countless pressures on Cutler to go along with a couple of sacks. It may take another first round pick or an ultra-talented tight end to get it done (no, Kellen Davis doesn't qualify), but the Bears will pay almost anything to get it fixed at this point.
13-7 win over an arch rival. 5-1 record overall. Emery isn't the only one smiling in Chicago these days.