- Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune questions the optimism surrounding the Bears headed into this season:
“Amid the optimism that is running wild for 2012, keep in mind the 7-3 mark through Week 11 wasn’t good enough for general manager Jerry Angelo to keep his job. Angelo wasn’t fired because of the backup quarterback mess — GMs make or break their futures with what they do with front-line players. Angelo was let go after President Ted Phillips (and likely Chairman George McCaskey) didn’t like how the Bears roster measured up against the Packers and Lions.
“’Ultimately, we look at our division and say we need to close that talent gap,’ Phillips said at the time of the firing.
“The NFC North champion Packers are coming off a 15-1 season and the Lions reached the playoffs for the first time in 12 years. So, you have to ask yourself if the Bears have closed that talent gap during the offseason under new GM Phil Emery?
“Two weeks from the start of camp, it looks like the Bears have added one starter to the depth chart in wide receiver Brandon Marshall. Could more new faces in the lineup emerge after training camp and preseason? Certainly. But after the trade for Marshall, free agency was largely about re-signing a host of the team’s own free agents while adding backups and help on special teams.”
- Having said that, bless ESPN’s NFC North blogger Kevin Seifert for so ably defending the Bears during his chat with fans last week. Though I kind of agree withe the Lions fans in that I think they may be the better team (its certainly close), I dislike the way that they take exception so strongly when ever someone disagrees with their views.
Dealing with these and other Lions fans has taught me the value of maturity that comes with having a team that competes most years. Bears fans as a rule will defend their team as well as anyone. But most won’t violently claim that you can’t be right if you don’t have them in the playoffs because its just part of the conversation year after year. Whether the Bears are going to be in the playoffs is almost always an issue. Its never been an issue until very recently with the Lions. They aren’t used to having people disagree with them because most of the time there hasn’t been anything to discuss. As a result, they get emotional and cry like babies.
- Biggs makes another good point:
“At 29, [Bears quarterback Jay] Cutler no longer can be regarded as a young gun. But he still has the capacity to improve. The needed help he has received should be a great aid. He has to utilize all of his targets and not be fixated on feeding the ball to [wide receiver Brandon] Marshall.
“Cutler has reduced his interceptions the past two seasons and there should be some natural concern that figure could rise if he gets too enamored with Marshall and the idea that if he just puts the ball close, the physical wideout will make a play for him. But no matter how you dissect it, the reunion of Cutler and Marshall should mean big things for what too often has been a punchless offense.”
Cutler did the same thing with former Bears tight end Greg Olsen his first year with the Bears. The result was ugly. Here’s hoping he spreads the ball around.
- Running back Matt Forte is optimistic that a long term deal will be reached by Monday. However, he wasn’t particularly forth coming about what he would do if that didn’t happen. Forte will have to play the season for the franchise number but doesn’t have to go to camp – or play at all – if he doesn’t want to sign it. From Sean Jensen at the Chicago Sun-Times:
“There was one awkward moment. [ESPN’s Adam] Schefter asked Forte what would happen if there was no deal by Monday.
“’I think we all know,’ Forte said.
“Schefter asked again, and Forte just shook his head.
“Schefter asked if Forte wouldn’t show up to training camp, and Forte again declined to answer.”
- Biggs addresses the running back situation. He elaborates upon Michael Bush’s characteristics:
“Bush can make a difference between the tackles and that could give the offense an added dimension. According to ESPN statistics, over the last two seasons Forte has had 50 rushes up the middle for 151 yards — a 3.02 average. Bush averaged nearly a yard better on runs up the middle the previous two seasons for the Raiders gaining 612 yards on 156 carries up the middle for a 3.92 average.
“But Bush doesn’t have the lateral quickness, moves and speed Forte possesses. Still, Bush will be a load to bring down in the open field and some thought he was the best back available in free agency.”
Probably most important, Bush won’t have Matt Forte’s vision. He’ll be a valuable second option, though.
Something else to keep an eye on in camp will be what the Bears do about the full back situation. Biggs explains:
“It will be interesting to see what happens with fullback Tyler Clutts, who carved out a niche after the Bears scooped him up from the Browns. He provided something the offense lacked but consider that historically [new Bears offensive coordinator Mike] Tice has not used a fullback.
“During his span as the Vikings head coach (2002-05), he employed a full-time fullback in just one season. Tice likes versatile tight ends who also can be used in the backfield and that was the Bears’ thinking in selecting Temple’s Evan Rodriguez in the fourth round of the draft. The Bears have also had tight end Draylen Ross working with running backs during positional drills throughout the offseason.
“So, Clutts likely will have to prove his value to stick around, especially if the Bears desire to keep four tight ends.”
Finally, Biggs summarizes:
“Bottom line: The offense will remain committed to the run. Despite [former offensive coordinator Mike] Martz‘s intentions, the Bears surpassed 2,000 yards rushing in 2011 and should use that figure as a benchmark once again. One thing Tice has done consistently wherever he has been is run the football.”
Let’s face it. Its a passing league. Mike Martz knew that. The Bears ran the ball pretty well and yet they failed to make the playoffs last year. That’s because they failed in the passing game, something Martz knew they had to push the limits on despite the lack of offensive line talent. If they fail in the passing game again, they aren’t going anywhere no matter what they do on the ground.
- So having covered the ground game, Biggs also addresses the situation in the air by discussing the wide receivers:
“The Bears have not had a 1,000-yard receiver since [Marty] Booker in 2002 (1,189), the longest active streak in the NFL. The 49ers are next as Terrell Owens‘ last 1,000-yard season for them was in 2003.
“So, those who criticize new general manager Phil Emery for not addressing the offensive line in the draft need to consider the pressing need that was there in the second round when the club traded up five slots to 45th overall to select Alshon Jeffery out of South Carolina.”
- Darin Gantt at profootballtalk.com on the reported profits in Green Bay:
“Thanks to a Super Bowl win followed by a 15-1 regular season, the Packers enjoyed record profits in the last year, according to a report in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.
“The Packers reported net income of $42.7 million last year, a jump of $25.6 million from the previous season.”
“The Packers are in a unique situation because they lack the debt many teams are saddled with, but any way you look it it, the numbers are astonishing.”
A 4% return on a 1 billion dollar investment is astonishing? Really? Most corporations would consider that to be a loss and consider selling the business and investing elsewhere.
- The Steelers’ Steve McLendon says he can play nose tackle even though he only weighs 280 pounds. Via Michael David Smith at profootballtalk.com:
“‘People may say I am not the classic nose tackle, but what is the classic nose tackle? Some nose tackles are big, some small,’ McLendon told Steelers.com. ‘If you look at Jay Ratliff for the Cowboys he is not a big nose tackle, but he plays very well. You look at Casey Hampton and he is a big nose tackle and plays well. I figure I will be in between. If I can move quick at nose and play strong at nose, it’s all going to work itself out for me.”
As is usually the case, it all depends on the scheme. Contrary to the “classic” way the 3-4 is played, the Cowboys have penetrating nose tackles where quickness takes precendence of bulk. Traditionally, the Steelers don’t play it this way. So if McLendon is going to succeed, I think they’re going to have to make some adjustments.
- Gantt suggests giving the Packers a call if you need wide receivers. Somehow I doubt the Bears would be able to take that route.
- Supposedly the new collective bargaining agreement was going to make negotiating with draft picks. So why hasn’t it? Seifert addresses the issue:
“All eight picks will get fully guaranteed contracts, and the specific numbers are dictated by slot and pretty much non-negotiable. But teams are trying to protect themselves if one of these picks is a bust.
“[ESPN business analyst Andrew] Brandt: ‘Teams want language in their contract … saying if they cut the player at some point, and he signs another contract, they are ‘offset’ the guarantee. So they cut a player. He signs for $1 million somewhere. That $1 million comes off what they owe.’
“Otherwise, the player would be able to double-dip: Earning the remainder of his guarantee from the original team and then whatever his new team is willing to pay him. In the example above, the offset clause would save the original team $1 million.”
- Concerns have been raised in Green Bay about backup QB Graham Harrell. Via Smith.
- And here we have Alabama’s idea of culture:
One Final Thought
Can you imagine what it would be like if Bears tickets were $30 instead of the actual $100-$175 range they actually are? Because that’s what they’re paying in Tampa Bay this season. Via Mike Florio at profootballtalk.com.