Alex Brown Is Not a Chicago Kind of Guy and Other Points of View


  • Though its been mentioned, I don’t think enough has been said about just how well the offensive line did on Saturday night.  John Mullin at puts some perspective on it:

“The grading out was perhaps even higher considering that film revealed that the Titans brought extra pressure on 48 percent of the snaps. The conclusion: The offensive line not only played better and longer than at any time this preseason, but also did it under pressure.

“‘That [blitz percentage] is almost every other play,’ [offensive line coach Mike] Tice said. ‘So that’s good for us because our identification was very clean throughout the game.’”

The line did a superb job of adjusting to the blitz.  The Titans aren’t the Packers but it appears that the line is gelling.

“The Chicago Bears’ front office makes it too easy for those who like to clown on its misadventures. In the past few months alone, we’ve seen a botched draft-day trade, a practice canceled because no one knew about the poor conditions at Soldier Field and a veteran running back bolt the practice facility after (mistakenly) believing he had been released.”

“You can go all the way back to 2002, when a paperwork error left the Bears unable to collect compensation for the potential loss of two restricted free agents, receiver D’Wayne Bates and linebacker Warrick Holdman.”

Seifert also gave GM Jerry Angelo some credit for building a Super Bowl team.  But even given that the continuous blundering is hard to overlook.

“One sign Harvey Unga will not be returning to #Bears: He doesn’t have a locker in the locker room. Remains excused for personal reasons.”


  • Former Bears head of college scouting Greg Gabriel, now with The National Football Post, writes a very nice article on what it means when a player is a “bust”:

“What is the primary reason a player busts? I’m going to say in most instances, he lacks football character. He lacks a passion for the game and the willingness to do all it takes to be great. If a player is playing for the money and not the love of the game he won’t succeed. The game is far too tough to be playing at a high level without passion.”

The entire article is recommended reading.

  • Michael Vick’s new deal continues to drive sports talk radio around the nation.  The Eagles aren’t known for making a lot of personnel mistakes but I’ll go on record and say this was a big one.  I don’t care if Vick is black.  I don’t care if he went to jail for dog fighting.  I don’t care if he makes exciting plays with his feet.  If you can’t accurately pass the ball consistently, I don’t even want you to be on my team, let alone to pay you $100 million for it.
  • The Sports Pickle assesses the impact that the loss of Peyton Manning would have on the Colts:

“[W]ithout him under center, the Colts have almost no chance of getting drubbed out of the playoffs”

“Helmet-less, pizza-carrying ‘Cocks QB knocked unconscious in moped wreck”

“To be honest, I never thought I’d ever have to string together those particular words in a headline, at least one that didn’t also involve the words ‘Stephen Garcia’, ‘nude’ and ‘half-finished six-pack of PBR’.”

One Final Thought

Mark Potash at the Chicago Sun-Times thinks former Bear Alex Brown would be a good fit for a return:

“Considering his familiarity with the Bears’ defense and the team’s need for depth at defensive end with Corey Wootton injured, Brown would seem to be a good fit. Nick Reed and rookies Mario Addison and Jake Laptad are behind Julius Peppers and Israel Idonije on the depth chart.”

I heard an Brown conversation about a month ago with WSCR’s Zack Zaidman where he finished the interview up by trashing Bear fans.  He talked about the lack of fan support in Chicago and about how much happier he was in New Orleans where fans would cheer for players regardless of performance.

The Bears are a tough team in a tough town.  If Brown doesn’t want to be in that environment then he’s better off not coming back.  I’m sure he can stay in New Orleans where the fans will cheer him for bringing water out to the players between quarters.


Bears Improve Where Needed in “Loss”

I must be insane.  I mean it.  I must be full goose bozo.  Because while Chicago burns over the performance of the Bears last night, in a fit of perversion I actually came out of it feeling pretty good.

Fans are burning up the phone lines at sports radio stations in Chicago with very legitimate complaints about last nights 41-13 drubbing at the hands of the New York Giants.  The defense was pretty awful, especially against the run and the tackling was poor.  Special teams were miserable and it was made worse because they are usually so good.  Coordinators around the league are targeting the Bears as the standard by which they are measured and they’re getting up for them, even in the preseason.

But having said all that I’m not particularly worried.  The defense and the special teams will be fine.  You can’t say that if you’re head coach Lovie Smith (and he didn’t).  But the bottom line is that these units have been a strength of the team for years and they almost certainly will be again this season.  That’s particularly true with what is by all accounts an improved defensive line, something my own eyes have confirmed so far.  In the first preseason game it was Henry Melton at defensive tackle who stood out.  Last night it was end Israel Idonije.

No, for me last night was mostly positive and the reason was because of what I saw in the offense.  The running game left something to be desired but they’ll run OK.  Where this team needed to improve was the passing game and I thought it looked as good as it ever has under offensive coordinator Mike Martz.

The first thing that they needed was improvement from the offensive line and they got it.  Lance Lewis looked 100% better.  J’Marcus Webb looked better.  Everyone else was solid.  The only caveat I’ll provide is that they saw mostly four man rushes with few blitzes.  But when the Giants did blitz, the offense picked it up or took care of it in other ways as they were supposed to.

In response to another chronic complaint of mine, I also add that I thought Devin Hester looked great.  I mean really good.

But my real praise goes out to Jay Cutler who to my eye had a wonderful game.  I have constantly complained about Cutler because he has a bad habit of not executing the offense in the passing game.  Instead of reading the defense, dropping back and throwing to a spot on time, more often than not Cutler looks to see if the man is open.  But not last night.  Last night Cutler threw with wonderful anticipation and accuracy.  He looked as good as I’ve ever seen him in a Bear uniform.

Yes, there are things that need to be cleaned up.  But for the Bears, it was much more important to show that they they can do the things they haven’t been able to do in the past.  The Bears showed every sign last night that they may be able to finally execute as an attacking offense, something they haven’t seen around here in years and years.  As Cutler put it himself:

“Obviously there’s some things to improve. We messed up a few plays, but I think overall we got better tonight.”

And, as we should all remember, that is the ultimate goal.

Caleb Hanie Struggling With More Than Just Interceptions

Brad Biggs and Vaughn McClure at the Chicago Tribune note that Caleb Hanie was taking the snaps as the number 2 quarterback yesterday after yielding to Nathan Enderle on Monday.  He threw three interceptions:

“‘It’s not going well,’ Hanie said of training camp. ‘It’s just middle of the road. I’m still getting timing back and rhythm back and all that stuff.'”

The interceptions are OK.  In fact, at this point you might even say they’re natural.  But they are indicative of how far Hanie is behind in terms of running the offense.

No Bear needed the offseason more than Hanie and no Bear was more hurt by the labor stoppage that prevented him from getting the work he needed.  Hanie was injured during the first preseason game last year and lost valuable time learning how to handle the offensive coordinator Mike Martz‘s offense.  As a result, when he took over for Jay Cutler and Todd Collins, he ran the team more like a rookie than a third year pro.  Fans like to give Hanie credit for moving the ball against the Packers in the final playoff game but rarely mention the two devestating interceptions he threw.

Clearly Hanie was out of his depth last season and needed some hard coaching.  It was also clear last Saturday in the first preseason game that not getting it in the offseason was a problem.  Once again, instead of reading the defense, dropping back and throwing the ball to a spot, Hanie ran the offense like a Chinese fire drill.  I think its safe to say that Martz would have rather Hanie had done what he was supposed to and thrown interceptions than what he actually did.  Martz allows some of that from Cutler because he has to.  But he’s not going to tolerate it from Hanie and his displeasure was evident in the way he distributed the reps Monday.

You can’t have the rookie Enderle as your backup right now and Martz knows that.  The shame of it is that in terms of running the offense the way its supposed to be run, Enderle’s not that far behind Hanie.  That’s really bad with a questionable offensive line and Atlanta, New Orleans and Green Bay lined up in order to start the season.  We better all hope that by some miracle Cutler survives completely healthy or that Hanie gets a lot better very quickly.

A Few Comments on Last Night’s “Game”

I usually don’t write up game comments about pre-season games.  But I did find some interesting points:

  1. No surprise, I thought the defensive line played well.  I was particularly happy with Henry Melton. I haven’t been on his band wagon but if he plays like that, I’m going to be a big fan.  Those 40 extra pounds he’s put on over his time as a Bear look good on him.
  2. Its too bad we didn’t get to see Corey Wootton.  He’s another player who hasn’t impressed me in the past but who coaches have been raving about.  It would be wonderful to see him come through, too.
  3. Vernon Gholston and Amobi Okoye might make significant contributions this year.  They weren’t much of a gamble and what I saw yesterday makes me think they might help.
  4. Like everyone else, I think the offensive line needs work.  Roberto Garza was a bright spot in that, as far as I could tell, he played well.  I thought Carimi did a credible job given it was his first game.  Chris William‘s performance was unremarkable which I see as a good thing.  But J’Marcus Webb at left tackle was everything I feared he’d be and Lance Louis looks like he’s on the way to losing his job again.
  5. Marion Barber runs very hard and did a good job. But yards aren’t everything.  He also looks heavy legged and I really do wonder if he’s got enough left.  Honestly, the way he’s running reminds me of Cedric Benson his last year with the Bears, making me wonder if those legs aren’t right after the injuries.
  6. Line problems aside, the offense still isn’t running right. It looks like last year. Not… smooth? His time was limited but I don’t think Jay Cutler‘s throwing to spots like he’s supposed to (again).  We also saw last night why offensive coordinator Mike Martz isn’t thrilled with Caleb Hanie as the primary backup.  He definitely didn’t look good when he was asked to sit in the pocket and throw a pass greater than 8 yards. He looked confused and was holding the ball too long. Not that he had that much time to hold it… In any case if what we saw last night is typical, it’s pretty obvious they’re going to have to run heavily again this year if they don’t improve the passing attack.
  7. The Bears were motioning Devin Hester into the slot (where he belongs).

Why Williams and Hester Are Ahead of Knox on the Depth Chart

Dan Pompei at the Chicago Tribune answers your questions:

“Why are the Bears starting Devin Hester and Roy Williams and benching Johnny Knox?… — Troy Oviedo, FL

“Hester is a better receiver than he gets credit for, and I think he’s still growing. He’s also probably been the most impressive receiver in Bears camp so far. Whenever I talk with opposing defensive coaches or pro scouts about the Bears offense, they consistently express concern about containing Hester. What I don’t get is the coaching staff anointing Williams a starter ahead of Knox. If Knox didn’t do anything to earn a starting job last year, Williams has done less to earn one this year. I understand Knox still is developing, but Knox had 430 more receiving yards than Williams last year, and his average per catch was 18.8 compared with 14.3 for Williams. It’s not like Williams has lit up camp, either.”

A few points here:

1)  Johnny Knox isn’t exactly being “benched”.  I’d say the Bears will be playing quite a lot in four wide receiver sets.  So it isn’t as if Knox is going to be spending entire games watching from the sideline.

2)  I’m wondering – and I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one – if Hester isn’t finally going to be playing more in the slot where many, most notably offensive coordinator Mike Martz, think he should be playing.  When Martz arrived in town one of the first things he said was that Hester would be great in the slot only to be almost immediately shot down by head coach Lovie Smith.

3)  Martz comments about Knox being given the job last year have little to do with Williams.  Whatever else you can say about Williams, he’s a veteran in the league who has shown he can compete.  I’ve got a suspicion that Knox’s stock is way down specifically because the job the Packers did on him.  They really beat him up off the line of scrimmage and the Bears are probably particularly concerned that it happened twice.  To be frank, while watching the games I thought the Packers took Knox’s spirit and he simply quit.  In any case he certainly didn’t fight for the ball the way anyone would have liked to see him do for much of the year.  We’ll get to see what he’s made of now that he’s competing for playing time.

The wide receivers should be very interesting to watch tonight.  As Brad Biggs, also at the Tribune, pointed out today, “If one free-agent addition hits it big, the Bears hope it’s Roy Williams.”  No matter what the organization maintains, they weren’t going to beat the Packers with the same group at the same positions as last year.

Loss of Kreutz Not a Sign of the Apocalypse and Other Points of View


‘‘It never benefits a player or a team for somebody to hold out,’’ Forte said. ‘‘But I kind of got my mind put at ease by Jerry. He said that a deal would get done. He assured us repeatedly that a deal would get done. Where I’m from and how I was raised, when someone gives you their word, it goes a long way.’’

Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune has a good comment on the Forte situation:

“Contract extensions are the trickiest of deals to do says Jerry Angelo.

“That’s because when a player is on the open market, the natural process sets a value for the player.”

This one is going to be worse than most.  Forte has gotten a fair bit of attention in the press and its upping his value, probably to a higher level than it should be, and Angelo knows it.  The agent is going to want more than Forte should probably get and its going to cause trouble.

“’He can play,’ former Cowboys receivers coach Ray Sherman told the Tribune.  ’He has a great work ethic and is smart. Tough. He has no fear. He’s a great special teams player. He probably was the best special teams player there, and he played very well at receiver too.’”

“Is it really an upgrade? I can’t call Williams a No.1 in the NFL (and I still view [Johnny] Knox as the top WR in Chicago), but the Bears get a player with a different skill set to add to their roster. If he can make some plays in [Mike] Martz’s offense, this will be an addition that pays off. Let’s see how if plays out in camp and during the regular season first.”

Williams tells Potash why Chicago was a good fit for him:

‘‘’To be back with [Mike] Martz and coach [Darryl] Drake is a blessing for me,’ said Williams, 29, who signed a one-year contract with the Bears after being released by the Dallas Cowboys. ‘To go to a system that I already know, that I’ve had success in — it was a pretty easy decision.’”

I heard a lot of snarky comments about the Bears claiming reclamation projects over the weekend.  But in nearly every case there was a reason why the Bears thought the players were a fit for them and would improve because of it.  They weren’t just picking up random failures.  It was a methodical approach.  For instance, Michael C. Wright at points out why Vernon Gholston might do better in Chicago than he did in New York:

“Gholston played linebacker in Rex Ryan’s 3-4 system when the coach took over the Jets in 2009, before moving back to defensive end in 2010, a position — because of the scheme — still a world apart from what he’d been used to in the Buckeyes’ 4-3 defense.”

Gholston and Amobi Okoye both weren’t fits for their respective defenses.  Williams is reunited with Martz.  There are reasons why these guys might rehabilitate their careers here.

“If the new guy replaces the old guy — the longest-tenured player who was beloved throughout the organization — then Spencer constantly will get compared to Kreutz.

“And, according to NFC West scouts, the styles couldn’t be more contrasting.

“Three of them said Spencer is bright, with one describing him as an ‘All-American kid.’ There’s also no denying that he’s big and athletic (6-3, 309 pounds). He also has shown himself to be tough, playing through injuries, oftentimes the shoulder. But he wasn’t considered a core leader in Seattle, and the Seahawks let him go, in part, because he didn’t have one trait that Kreutz had in spades: nastiness.”

“Offensive tackle J’Marcus Webb, a seventh-round draft pick in 2010 who became a starter as a rookie last season, is hoping to make even bigger strides this year.

‘‘’Definitely the Pro Bowl,’ Webb said.”


One Final Thought

Former Bears scouting director Greg Gabriel at the National Football Post explains that the  Bears needed to ignore the decline in play and resign Olin Kreutz for his leadership ability.  Most of us tend to agree, I think, but the emotional upheaval amongst members of the media yesterday bordered on ridiculous.  Biggs almost seemed to be going through the five stages of grief before our eyes on Twitter and even Angelo had to remind them that no one had died.

Sometimes things just don’t work out.  The likelihood is that the Bears are now a little better at the line of scrimmage and a little worse as a team.  We’re all sorry to see it but its not the end of the world.