Work in Sports
Jauron making tracks toward quick turnaround
The Chicago Bears open their training camp at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville in Platteville, Wis., on July 20. Here are a few questions from Sports Illustrated's Dr. Z, followed by CNNSI.com's perspective on some of the issues facing the Bears this season. SI's season preview will post Aug. 23.
Dr. Z wants to know:
1.) Everyone raved about the Bears' dynamic passing attack, which ranked third in the NFL last year. Could this, perhaps, have been influenced by the fact that Chicago trailed at the half in 11 games?
2.) Is wideout Marcus Robinson ready to explode? (Better not stand too close to him.)
3.) Will the defense begin to catch up to Chicago's gee-whiz attack of '99?
4.) Do you somehow feel that coach Dick Jauron is on the right track, having boosted the offense last year and now the 29th-ranked defense by adding top draft pick Brian Urlacher and three solid starters via free agency?
The Bears can make the playoffs if ... Cade McNown continues to improve, but it may be 2001 before Da Bears make another postseason appearance. Realistically, Chicago may be the ninth-best team in the NFC, but it is closing the gap -- quickly. A good offensive nucleus is in place (McNown, running back Curtis Enis and receiver Marcus Robinson), and Brian Urlacher is being touted as the next Dick Butkus.
Pivotal games: Five NFC Central division games in the first eight weeks will go a long way toward measuring the 2000 Bears. The other three games before the team's Oct. 29 bye are against the New York Giants, New Orleans and Philadelphia. Should the Bears manage a 5-3 start, the second half of the schedule is much more conducive to a possible 10-win season, with the New York Jets, New England and San Francisco among the stretch-drive opponents.
On the hot seat: Marcus Robinson will be expected to at least match 1999's production [84 receptions, 1,400 yards and nine touchdowns]. However, if the Bears are to make an end-run toward the playoffs, third-year running back Curtis Enis will have breakthrough for his first 1,000-plus-yard season. The former first-round pick would have topped the plateau in '99, but he missed one game (287 carries, 916 yards and three touchdowns). If McNown & Co. are expected to contend, a running game is a must.
Up-and-comers: Third-year safety Tony Parrish had 87 tackles last season, second-most on the Chicago defense behind Barry Minter (99). Just as a point of reference, the two most highly touted safties in the NFC Central, Tampa Bay's John Lynch and LeRoy Butler of Green Bay, had 11 and 53 tackles, respectively, in their second seasons. And Lynch has yet to top 80 tackles during his seven-year career, while Butler had a career-high 82 tackles in 1995, his sixth season.