Who Will Play Right Tackle for the Bears on Sunday? Don’t Rule out Charles Leno.

Bleacher Report contributor Dan Pompei had this to say about the Bears game against the Packers on Sunday:

54c2884cc2863_156178nNot only will I not be surprised in Leno plays, I won’t be surprised if he starts at right tackle. It has been widely assumed in the Chicago media that Kyle Long will be moving from guard to tackle with Vlad Ducasse or Patrick Omameh stepping in at guard. But the Bears depth chart on Tuesday still had Leno at tackle.

If the Bears thought that moving Long was going to be the best course of action, they would have made this move in May instead of waiting until the week of the Packer game. I’m not at all convinced that they’re going to make it now.

Bad Offensive Line Play in Seattle Promises a Problematic Matchup in St. Louis

Benjamin Hoffman at The New York Times is picking the Rams to beat the Seahawks on Sunday. He’s not alone. The Rams are a popular upset pick in part because the Rams have defeated the Seahawks in two of last three games played in St. Louis.

Hoffman gives a number of reasons for this pick, most particularly associated with apparent rouble handling their success in the offseason. Russell Wilson was front and center with his odd behaviour and his relationship with a pop singer. And, of course, there’s the Kam Chancellor‘s holdout.

But there’s one thing that Hoffman didn’t mention that is the major reason to doubt the Seahawks here. Their offensive line was absolutely putrid in the offseason, starting with trouble replacing center Max Unger, who was traded away in the offseason in a deal for Jimmy Graham. Football games are won and lost at the line of scrimmage.  Combine bad offensive line play with one of the best front sevens in the league and you have a recipe for a Seattle loss.

As all of the matchups in the NFC West typically are, this is going to be a rough, physical game that fans aren’t going to want to miss no matter who wins.

Forte Jerseys Burning Hot in Wisconsin. And Other Points of View.


  • Rich Campbell at the Chicago Tribune states categorically that the Bears defensive linemen will play one-gap. But I’m reasonably certain that it will depend upon who the player is (e.g. Eddie Goldman Vs. Will Sutton) and what defensive alignment they are in. It will be interesting to see how they handle it.
  • Campbell quotes defensive coordinator Vic Fangio on the defense’s lack of talent.

    “We’re going to have to make our own building blocks. We need to make the guys that we have here better.”

    I think that’s the way its done no matter how much talent you have. But it’s going to take some time.

  • Patrick Finley at the Chicago Sun-Times unleashes this zinger:

    “The early leader for Bears Quote of the Year came when outside linebacker Pernell McPhee was asked this week to describe Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers.

    “‘Hall of Fame,’ he said. ‘Two words.'”

  • I suggested on Friday that head coach John Fox was laying in the weeds by characterizing his top three wide receivers as “questionable” despite the fact that they practiced all week. But consider this via Finley. Broncos with a questionable tag appeared in games only 35 percent of the time last year under Fox. It does make you think.
  • Bears running back Matt Forte on the fact that his jersey, not Rogers’ is the best selling jersy in Wisconsin since the end of last season:

    “There must be a lot of Bears fans in Wisconsin. Either that, or they’re buying it to burn it or something. I don’t know.”


One Final Thought

I don’t usually shill for anything but I’m going to make an exception and recommend that readers support Hub Arkush at chicagofootball.com by becoming a Pro Member at the site. Hub is the former publisher of Pro Football Weekly, a magazine that went down with the dawn of the Internet age. He’s not always right and I often don’t agree with him but he’s usually willing to say things that other people aren’t willing to. We need more like him.

This is an informative site largely focused on the Bears. It also doesn’t hurt that its easy to navigate (though I could wish that as a paying customer I wouldn’t have to sell myself to Google to read some of the articles). It’s a good, reliable source for fans who want to go above and beyond in their understanding of what’s going on with the team.

Physical Ability or Veteran Savvy and Intelligence? Peyton Manning Pushes the Edge.

One of the more interesting things to keep an eye on tomorrow will be the performance of Peyton Manning once he hits the field for the Broncos. Chris Wessling at nfl.com takes an in depth look at the issues surrounding Manning’s age and arm strength here.

Doubts about Mannings arm strength have run rampant around the NFL. Albert Breer quoted a number of scouts and executives in his article on the same topic in January:

“From an AFC executive: ‘Saw a lack of velocity, declining arm strength. No juice or zip on throws. Shelf life.’

“One NFC scout said: ‘It’s sad watching him, even more sad how Denver treated one of the greatest. Arm looks shot, sad seeing him look like that, knowing how big a competitor he is.’

“An AFC scout: ‘Missed deep ball, routine throws were getting knocked down because he couldn’t drive the ball, timing was off. Never looked like he could get in a routine. He couldn’t dictate the game like normal because he just couldn’t make the throws that needed to be made.’

“And an NFC exec: ‘Terrible overthrows and incompletions. He may be hurt.'”

Lest you think only those who won’t put their name to the reports are saying these things, Wessling quotes NFL media analyst Brian Balldinger:

“‘When you watch some of these throws, you can’t believe it could possibly be the same guy,’ Baldinger said. ‘… You just (wonder) is it the arm, is it the new offense, is he thinking too much, is that possible? … those plays are lay-ups for Peyton Manning.'”

Peyton_Manning_Broncos_2012In fairness, some NFL veterans, including Manning’s own wide receivers, continue to defend Manning as a quarterback with plenty of zip on the ball. But recent video of the Broncos preseason games tells a different story. Manning can no longer drive the ball down the field and when he’s forced to make some of the tougher NFL throws, you could go get a beer from the fridge and come back and the ball still might not be there, yet.

OK. I could be exaggerating. Maybe.

To me the question is no longer about Manning’s arm. Anyone can see the difference now. The question is whether veteran savvy from one of the most intelligent and most prepared quarterbacks to ever play the game can compensate. Those who look at quarterbacks and favor intelligence over physical prowess will be rooting for Manning to overcome these deficiencies. But Manning is likely to severely test that tendency in anyone who watches.

Packers Have One Weak Point. Maybe.

Rob Demovsky at ESPN.com points out that the Packers have Matt Forte, Marshawn Lynch and Jamaal Charles their first three games. If their run defense isn’t improved, things could get ugly early.

The Packers have theoretically worked on getting better against the run all offseason but if they’ve accomplished it, it hasn’t been through upgrades in personnel. They’re getting B.J. Raji back after he was out all of last season with a torn biceps tendon. But they won’t have defensive ends Letroy Guion and Mike Daniels, both of whom are serving three game suspensions for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy.

The Packers do have one saving grace. They got considerably better against the run after they moved outside linebacker Clay Mathews inside, allowing only 86 yards per game. They’ll likely do that again.

Nevertheless, if the Packers have a weak point its their run defense. The Bears can only hope that they’ll be starting a miserable run of good rushing offense against them if they’re going to compete.

Aren’t the Bears Supposed to Be Hoarding Draft Picks?

Here’s another good question for Hub Arkush at chicagofootball.com, one that I also had:

“Why did the Bears trade a draft pick away [for TE Khari Lee]?”

“My understanding is it’s a sixth-round pick in 2017, not next year. To justify that pick, all he has to do is become a solid No. 2 and you can get two years of production out of him that you don’t get with that pick if you keep it.

“That’s why they did it.

“My analysis is they better be right and he better become at least a No. 2 tight end in the league. I can’t ever remember a team trading a sixth-round draft choice for a player who was an undrafted rookie free agent out of a D II (or whatever they call it these days) school.”

Who cares about production over the next two years?Khari Lee

I’ll take this farther than Hub. Lee better turn out to be more than a strictly blocking tight end, which is what he’s been characterized as. You can pick better ones than Lee up in the sixth or seventh round of any draft and nothing should tell you that more than the fact that Lee was undrafted.

Would Switching Jordan Mills to Guard Have Helped?

Hub Arkush at chicagofootball.com answers your questions:

Q: “Wouldn’t it have been worth a try to move [Jordan] Mills to right guard before releasing him?”

A: “I would have liked to have seen Mills get that chance because I think it is probably his natural position and he’s such a great kid it was hard not to pull for him. But the reality is Patrick Omahmeh is actually a better prospect at guard than either Mills or Vladimir Ducasse and the Bears did not have the luxury of keeping all three. At the end of the day, my guess is the Bears just didn’t see enough physicality out of Mills to suggest he is going to make it anywhere in the NFL.”

Moving Mills to guard wouldn’t have solved the major issue – lack of concentration. Mills simply made to many mistakes, his pre-snap penalties being the most evident of them. The guess here is that the current staff recognized that this wasn’t going to get better much earlier than the last staff did and that was the root of Mills’s demise.

The Key to Defending the Packers? Get to the Ball and Tackle.

Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune asks NFL scouts for a report on Packers wide receiver Davante Adams:

“‘He really came on at the end of the season,’ one scout said. ‘You look at him and he’s tall, real long and he has good change of direction for someone his size. He’s not an absolute burner, but he really fits what they do well in that hybrid West Coast system. He can run the curl and the fade and he’s pretty good in space. He has shown that he’s good at probably the most important thing in that Green Bay offense — what can you do in space? Yards after the catch. This guy will get explosive gains. He’ll turn a 5-yard catch into 15. He’ll turn 15 into a touchdown.'”

A couple thoughts on this report.

First notice what the scout does not emphasize – the ability to get separation. Adams doesn’t need that because quarterback Aaron Rogers has the ability to throw him open. It’s yet another reminder of why the Bears offense will always trail behind the Packers. It’s all about the quarterback. You can surround Jay Cutler with all of the talent in the world. Unless he learns to throw with anticipation to a receiver, the Bears will never be where they need to be.

Second its a reminder of the one thing the Bears must do really well on defense on Sunday. Tackle. That’s always true but its particularly true against the Packers. Defensive backs must be quick to the ball and must tackle immediately to limit yards after the catch. This is why Lovie Smith‘s teams always were competitive against the Packers. The cover two emphasize these very points and the Packers always had to work hard to get anywhere against it. Indeed, that’s how the cover two gained popularity. It was specifically designed to defeat the West Coast offense run so well by the San Fransisco 49ers in the 1980s. The Packers version is, of couse, more evolved. But the defense is still effective against it.

Unfortunately this isn’t defensive coordinator Vic Fangio‘s style. His defensive backs typically play more man coverage. This can work, as it did regularly against the Packers when Fangio coached the 49ers. Fangio’s defensive backs are also more physical, knocking receivers off their routes. And he disguises his defenses well, something Rogers apparently appreciates:

“‘He always had a lot of moving pieces, but they always seem to be very well prepared,’ Rodgers said Wednesday. ‘There weren’t any mental errors or breakdowns.'”

And there better not be Sunday, either. As Dan Wiederer at the Chicago Tribune emphasizes with this quote from Saints Hall of Fame linebacker Ricky Jackson, it’s not going to be easy:

“‘If he gets a team that has some good closers, he’s going to make some noise,’ Jackson said. ‘And if you ever give him a good secondary, he’s going to kill people.'”

If you give him a good secondary. The Packers passing offense was ranked 8th in the league last year. The Bears passing defense? 30th. And so far this years version looks worse to me. If the defensive backs are a step slow Sunday, as they were in all four preseason games, the Bears aren’t going to get it done.

In fairness, that’s probably true no matter what scheme they play. But its particularly true if Fangio relies on man coverage. Trying to deny receivers the ball in such a scheme is fine as long as players are in a position to make the tackle after a catch. Good fundamentals are going to be the key on Sunday. It will be interesting to see how Fangio and the rest of the Bears defense handle the situation.

Bears Veterans Trying to Instill Attitude, Confidence in the Rookies

Dan Wiederer at the Chicago Tribune points out that the play of the Bears rookies will be a key to how they do on Sunday, particularly on defense. But its this quote from 11 year veteran safety Antrel Rolle that I found to be most interesting:

“‘[Rookie safety Adrian Amos is] going to fly around and make plays,’ Rolle said. ‘He doesn’t shy away from anything. More importantly, he’s excited about this challenge. I tell him, man, for a rookie to come in and play Aaron Rodgers in Week 1 starting with the Bears, that’s huge. And I couldn’t be more happy for him.'”

Maintaining confidence is going to be important when Amos and the others take the field on Sunday. Rolle and the other Bears obviously know that and they’re obviously talking big in an effort to instill the right attitude and build the rookies up.

Rolle is right. This is a huge opportunity. But there is also a huge risk that players like Amos will be permanently damaged by a poor performance against perhaps the best offense in the league. There are already some signs that may have happened to second year cornerback Kyle Fuller following last year’s series of debacles as he faded late in the year. Here’s hoping all of the rookies are tough enough mentally to hang in through the inevitable ups and downs of the coming season, especially starting on Sunday.