Rick Casares, the burly Bear fullback, looks faster this year than he has in the last two. Halfback Willie Galimore is a beautiful runner to watch—elusive, fast and graceful. The Bear running, if it is given operating room by the Bear passing, is as good as any in the league.
The Bear defense is plotted by Clark Shaughnessy, one of the most ingenious coaches in football. His ideas are implemented by a talented and experienced crew in the defensive line and backfield. The Bear defense last year was stingier than the Colts', one of the league's best alltime defensive units. All-Pro Bill George leads the linebackers; the secondary includes J. C. Caroline, a ball hawk.
The improved Bear offense should be a big help to the hard-worked defenders. If your offensive team can't control the ball, the defensive unit spends quite a bit of time working. This was one of the league's two best units. They could be the best now.
The only real worry for George Halas is at quarterback. Between them, Brown, Bratkowski and/or Bukich may solve that problem. If they do, the Bears will be loaded with running and passing and great on defense. They finished in a tie for second last year, they'll finish a notch higher this year if the quarterback problem is solved. They may, like the Browns, take all the marbles, even with fair quarterbacking, but Halas will, as usual, continue to miss Bobby Layne. All in all, this is a better Bear, maybe good enough.
COACH: GEORGE WILSON
1958 RECORD: W 4, L 7, T 1, 5TH
1959 EXHIBITIONS: W 4, L 2, T 1
The Lions ruined their hopes for repeating their 1957 championship very early in 1958. They played the Chicago Bears in Dallas and lost 14 players. With no Bear game during the 1959 preseason skirmishes, the Lions look much better. Tobin Rote is as good a passer as there is in the league, more effective because he is the best running quarterback. Receivers Jim Doran, Jim Gibbons, Steve Junker, Dave Middleton and Hopalong Cassady are all good. The rebuilt Detroit offensive line gives Rote time to breathe now.
Keys to the Detroit rushing are the new line and a new fullback—Notre Dame's Nick Pietrosante, who looks like a pro natural. The new line opens holes for the Lion backs. That could be the whole difference between a deep second division and a high first-division finish.
Jack Christiansen is now coaching the 49er deep defenders. But the veteran pass defense corps, headed by Jim David, is still on hand. Linebackers, headed by Joe Schmidt, are tough, too; the Lion line is capable of putting pressure on any passer.
Joe Schmidt is a blocky, fair young man built on the lines of a grizzly bear, and one of the best linebackers in pro football. The Detroit defenders in the deep secondary are enthusiastic tacklers. The Detroit line is, like most pro lines, big and nearly immovable. Much of Detroit's sad sag was due to line play, but it was offensive line play. The defense is still solid.