NFL Stock Watch highlights who's up and who's down around the NFL each week. Questions, complaints or stock tips? Hit me on Twitter @WillBrinson. Today we focus on the Bears and their offensive resurgence.
Defense wins championships. Or at least the old wives' tale of a football adage will tell you that. In the NFL you need offense and you need enough of it to keep up with the Joneses. The Chicago Bears, as they showed on Monday night, have it in spades.
It's been a pretty consistent effort for the Bears throughout the season too. They're seventh in average yards per game, second in points per game and check in at fifth in Football Outsiders team offense rankings.
Marc Trestman deserves credit for fashioning this offense, but GM Phil Emery, hired in January of 2012, deserves credit for reworking the roster on the fly and turning Chicago into an impressive offensive power. The team that collapsed to 8-8 in 2011 -- and got Jerry Angelo fired -- is almost completely different than the one piling up points today.
Below we'll compare the two and note the changes that have occurred in the past two years.
For the purpose of this exercise, we'll ignore the Bears bad defense, especially since injuries have ravaged that side of the ball. I'd also argue that pumping resources into the defensive side of the ball doesn't yield the same return as offensive investments.
(Note: I used the Ourlads Bears depth chart from opening day 2011. If you're not using Ourlads, you should be.)
Before suffering an injury this year, Cutler was playing the best football of his Bears tenure.
Free agent in 2014
Included QB2 here because of the difference McCown's making. Hanie helped sink the Bears two years ago. McCown's sailing the ship. The return on investment he's providing is ridiculous.
1 year, $365K
Forte is still Forte. He's quite good. Signing running backs to big contracts is a questionable move but Forte's deal is reasonable given the huge percentage (32.6) of the Bears yards he accounts for.
Signed 4 year, $30M deal before 2012
Knox broke out in 2010 and broke down in 2011. The Bears traded for Marshall and he's been, surprisingly, a model citizen since. He's matured into one of the top receivers in the game.
$9.1 million for each of 2013 and 2014 left
Williams was 30 when he played for Chicago and in the final year of his career. Jeffery's career is taking off like a rocket strapped to a 747 this year. He's a ridiculous, physical complement to Marshall.
Rookie deal, makes $596K in 2013
Really just included because Bennett is such a maintstay in Chicago.
$1.25M in 2013
Davis caught all of 18 balls in 2011 in Mike Martz' offense. Bennett was thought to be the second option for Cutler this year. He's been fantastic -- 53 catches, 588 yards, 5 TDs -- only Jeffery's breakout has limited his exposure.
Signed 4-year, $20M deal before 2013
Bushrod isn't some franchise left tackle but he's a more than capable option. You could argue that his deal was a mistake by Emery, simply because of the cost-to-talent ratio. But he's an improvement over Webb who was unfairly thrown into the fire early in his career.
Signed 5-year, $36M deal before 2013.
Slauson's been a nice addition to the interior of the Bears line, especially considering how cheap he was. Just another example of churning the roster here.
The lone holdover from 2011, Garza's gone from being the best Bears offensive lineman to maybe being its worst. And he's still having a nice year.
Final year of extension, $2.4M in 2013
Long looked like a reach as a first-round pick but he's been a revelation as a young guard who can step in from the beginning and blossom into something much, much better.
4-year rookie contract for $8.3M + club option
Carimi, a 2011 first-round pick, was dumped to the Buccaneers when he didn't fit with the new regime. Plugging a effective-enough fifth-round pick on the right side for a full season? Yes please.
4-year rookie contract for $2.3M
That's a full-blown, offensive roster churn, folks. If Emery doesn't pull that off, the Bears would be in a bad, bad spot right now. Their defense wasn't sustainable because of age, turnovers and injury. The offense wasn't set up to succeed but is now.
The timing of the moves were actually something we didn't necessarily see coming right away. The Brandon Marshall trade was a bold, opening salvo and it's worked out beautifully. Jeffery looks like a steal and Martellus Bennett's a very nice value for his price. Pat Kirwan often refers to those three guys as "rebound receivers" -- acquiring tall, physical receiving talent changes what the offense can do.
It helps McCown as a quarterback and McCown helps the Bears by not being Hanie. The failure to have a capable backup on the roster burnt Chicago big time in 2011. The offensive line is almost completely reworked and while it's not necessarily a perfect compilation of players, there's a good blend of talent.
At the very least, they're not the sieve of a unit that routinely put Cutler on his back in previous years; Football Outsiders ranks them in Adjusted Sack Rate.
Rebuilding an offense on the fly isn't easy and it almost won't ever be perfect. But Emery crafted a unit -- and gave them a capable coach in Trestman -- in quick fashion and it's the reason the Bears are right in the mix for an NFC North title this season.