In a one-on-one interview with the Daily Herald during a break in training camp practices, Bears general manager Jerry Angelo expressed his optimism and concerns for the coming season, focusing on an offense that finished 30th in total offense last season.
Q. If this team is going to surpass last season's accomplishment of reaching the NFC championship game, how important is it for the offense to improve?
Angelo: It absolutely has to; it needs to do that. They know it, we know it, and there's no reason they can't do it. You have to be able to score points. We don't feel that there's any reason we are not going to be a lot better than we were last year and do the things we need to do on that side of the ball to be a contender.
We have a lot of good parts on offense. The offensive line is still a work in progress, but we like our linemen and the traits that they have, based on what we're going to ask them to do.
Q. Do you believe this offensive line will be better than last year's group?
Angelo: It's better, even though we have four players that presently are playing new positions. We at least have the benefit now of being the second year in the system. The players, even though they're in new positions, have that experience. So, collectively I feel much better about our situation compared to last year, when we had new players and a new system. I would take this every day of the week.
We're still a work in progress, obviously. Are we set in stone that these five guys (LT J'Marcus Webb, LG Chris Williams, C Roberto Garza, RG Lance Louis, RT Gabe Carimi) are going to be our starters on opening day? I hope so, but that still remains to be seen. We still have to see certain things with each of them in this preseason. It's just a matter of it coming together.
Q. It seems odd to ask this about a Mike Martz offense, but with the addition of a big power back in Marion Barber, an offensive line that is heavier than a year ago and an emphasis on using the tight ends primarily as blockers, is this going to be more of a running team this year?
Angelo: I think so. Our tight end position in terms of the profile has changed. We want bigger tight ends; our line is bigger. It doesn't necessarily say we're not going to throw the football -- you have to throw the football and throw it well -- it's just that we're able to do things better with our offensive line that we weren't able to do last year. The one thing you want to do is create that (run-pass) balance. When you have that balance, you can play-action and throw on first down, which is a great down to throw on, and you can get the ball downfield.
Our running game could set up a real good passing game as well. I feel that it all goes hand in hand. Mike Martz is a very good coach. He's got a great resume, and all great coaches that I've been around, they adapt. They can do anything they want, based on what they have. I feel Mike is very comfortable with our personnel, and we have the ability to create some different packages.
Q. Some people have the impression that players like backup quarterback Caleb Hanie and wide receiver Johnny Knox are in Mike Martz's doghouse because of the way they've been treated. Is that accurate?
Angelo: I think that doesn't represent Mike at all. Mike, like many coaches that I have been around, has ways of motivating players. He sets a high standard for all players, and well he should. Getting those players to meet those standards, that's the art of coaching.
If Mike feels that some players need a little extra motivation, sometimes he's going to give it to them, but Mike likes our players.
And they are our players. It's not like we can go back and reinvent our roster. The players on this roster, by and large, are the players that we need to have to win this year.
I see it more as Mike just doing what he has to do to get the best out of each and every one of the players.
Q. Do you have a preference as to the playing surface at Soldier Field?
Angelo: Everybody wants a really good surface each and every Sunday. It's more of a challenge here in Chicago because of our weather and especially because we have natural grass. I know (team president and CEO) Ted (Phillips) has looked hard into an artificial surface that may be in our future.
But we have all the confidence each and every week that that surface is going to be as good as it can be, and that's the bottom line. We do everything we can to present not only the best surface but the safest surface.
Q. Do you have a personal preference?
Angelo: I like a fast surface. We have a fast football team, so you want a fast surface ... I guess I'm telling you what I like. But we want a safe surface. Safety is first and everything else comes behind that.
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