BOURBONNAIS -- Quarterback Jay Cutler speaks for all Bears fans when he is asked about his team's defense and says: "I'm excited to see them this year to see what they can do."
It's assumed that coordinator Mel Tucker's crew will be better than the group that allowed more points last season (478) than any in franchise history. How much better will determine if the Bears make the playoffs and how well they'll do once they get there.
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No one is more eager for the new season to start than the defensive players and coaches who suffered through last season, when the Bears were the NFL's worst team against the run.
The Bears made enough personnel moves in the off-season to rebuild last year's injury-ravaged defense, and they look much improved on paper -- which means nothing.
"We're going to have to prove that every day and work at that every day," Tucker said. "This is a new season, and this is a new group of guys. The identity of this 2014 defense will be what we make it day in and day out, and we'll have to prove it on the field."
Enough talent for an entire defensive line was added in the off-season, including ends Jared Allen, Lamarr Houston, Willie Young and Trevor Scott. The draft brought tackles Ego Ferguson in the second round and Will Sutton in the third to join Jeremiah Ratliff, Stephen Paea and Nate Collins.
Injuries last year kept Collins and Ratliff out of 11 games each and sidelined Paea for three games. Linebackers Lance Briggs missed seven games, D.J. Williams eight. Cornerback Charles Tillman missed eight games and since-departed tackle Henry Melton missed 13.
"Last year was real rough," Briggs said. "Football season goes as it goes. But you get that off-season, then you start getting that itch, and you start dreaming about making plays. At that point you're just kind of looking forward."
Scott was with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last year, so he didn't have to witness firsthand the Bears' catastrophe. He confirms that Briggs and his other new teammates don't discuss it much.
"We really don't talk about that at all," Scott said. "We're living in the now, and that's the 2014 season."
Tucker is all in favor of correcting the mistakes from last year but not dwelling on them, instead looking to the future. "Right now it's just working to get better day after day," he said, "not so much looking back, but looking ahead."
For players like Collins, who was promoted to the starting lineup after the injury to Melton but played just two games before suffering his own season-ending knee injury, 2103 was gut-wrenching. He had to sit idly by, watching the disaster but powerless to do anything about it.
"You never want to see your brothers suffer," Collins said. "It's a team, we're a family, and you never want to see your team go downhill because of missing pieces. But this is a new year and hopefully things will get better and guys will stay healthy.
I just feel like last year for everybody is in the past. We want to get better, and we're going to. I feel it."
And now everyone is eager to see it.