I laughed out loud when I read Sean Jensen ‘s interpretation of this comment from Brian Urlacher for the Chicago Sun-Times:
“It’s getting cold outside and it’s been a long time since the Bears played a game, but the most discussed knee in Halas Hall should be just fine come Monday night against the Detroit Lions.
“‘It’s the same either way,’ said linebacker Brian Urlacher, who continues to work his way back after spraining the medial collateral and posterior cruciate ligaments in his left knee in the regular-season finale last year.”
“The biggest thing is that they tackle. And they tackle in space. Not tackle in a box. You have to tackle in space. And that takes great athleticism. You eliminate a lot of big plays by tackling in space. We’re very, very fortunate to have players of that caliber.”
“A primary focus for Webb this season has been improving his footwork, specifically his second step with his outside left foot. He had a tendency a year ago to step in the bucket and that created a more direct path to quarterback Jay Cutler. That led to hits, hurries, sacks and times when Webb simply had to lunge and grab. It’s something offensive line coach Tim Holt consistently is drilling into Webb.
“‘You get yourself in trouble when you turn at the line of scrimmage and give that defensive end a short corner to get to your guy,’ Webb said. ‘It’s a conscious effort when you’re tired, a conscious effort all the time.'”
“With all the talk about Henry Melton getting a contract extension, why is there no talk about one for the best player on the other side of the line, Lance Louis? Louis has been the most dependable, consistent offensive lineman this season by far and should be a cornerstone for the future. Agree? — Danny Jones, Iowa City, Iowa
“Good point Danny. Just because we have not heard any talk about extending Louis’ contract does not mean there hasn’t been any talk behind closed doors. And even if the Bears have not spoken with Louis’ agents about an extension, that does not mean they won’t prioritize re-signing him before he hits the open market. The thing about Louis is he is a developing, emerging player. So it might make sense for all parties to wait until after the season to best gauge his value to the team. But he clearly is not a player the Bears should allow to leave. They can’t afford to let a good offensive lineman walk after spending four years developing him.”
Bears running back Matt Forte makes a good point via Jensen:
“‘As you see in the last game when they played the Eagles, [the Lions] got constant penetration, and that kills the run game,’ Forte said. ‘So up front, we’re going to have to try to stop that. They do a lot of different run blitzes, so we’re going to have to do play-actions to try to calm that down.
“‘But it really just starts up front with not allowing penetration.'”
“Is there any chance the Bears will look at Minnesota to find ways to utilize Devin Hester the way the Vikings are using Percy Harvin or take some plays from Green Bay and their utilization of Randall Cobb? They all seem to have the same skill set but the Vikings and Green Bay seemed to have figured out how to use their dynamic players, and if they haven’t considered it can you please suggest they do so. Devin Hester taking direct snaps out of the backfield would be awesome. — Isaac Sykes, Woodbridge, Va.
“I’m sure the Bears have studied how the Vikings use Harvin and how the Packers use Cobb. These are three different players though. Harvin is much stronger and more difficult to tackle than Hester. Cobb has a better feel for the game than Hester. And Hester may be the fastest of the group. So you really can’t use Hester quite the way the Vikings use Harvin or the way the Packers use Cobb.”
“… If he is going up in the air and leaving the ground to make a catch, he’s going to have to pay for it. Guys have to rally to the ball and it’s not just one guy hitting him. … Put something on his mind that can distract him from catching the ball. Anything.”
“The splits of the wide receivers are a top priority when you break the huddle as a defensive back. Here, both Johnson (Z) and Nate Burleson (X) are aligning inside of the numbers with the ball at (or near) midfield. Studying the Lions offense, this should be an automatic alert to play for a vertical shot down the field.”
“‘Once the ball’s put down and it’s whistled ready for play, man, it’s another game, it’s a different game,’ Stafford said, downplaying any hatred between the teams. ‘The beauty of the NFL is every week is different, and you have to approach it that way.'”
Fortunately for the Bears the Lions never have. With a head coach like Jim Schwartz fueling the flames with fist pumps and emotional sideline demonstrations after wins like the one last week, the likelihood of a let down becomes considerably higher.
An already miserable Lions defensive backfield promises to be worse than usual as the Lions are down to three healthy corners for Monday Night’s matchup. Via Darin Gantt at profootballtalk.com.
An interesting point to look for today as the Jets play the Patriots. The Jets are concerned that officials are allowing the Patriots to substitute in their no huddle offense without allowing the defense time to do the same. By rule this is illegal. Via Mike Florio at profootballtalk.com
“Mike Nolan was known for running the 3-4 defense in Baltimore and before he was in Baltimore, he ran the over/under 4-3. He didn’t have that stout nose or the personnel to make it work in Atlanta so he switched to the wide “40” and lined (DEs Kroy) Biermann and (John) Abraham (and Ray Edwards) outside in a wide-seven (technique). If you look at their (defensive) tackles — (Jonathan) Babineaux, (Peria) Jerry and (Vance) Walker — none of them can play the nose. That is great coaching.”
I really don’t give a hoot about the Saints bounty scandal. But some people still do so… from Pompei, this time writing for the National Football Post:
“Everybody wins with the appointment of Paul Tagliabue to hear the appeals of the four players in the Saints’ bounty scandal. The Saints win because Tagliabue is not just an extension of Roger Goodell. And Goodell wins because he washes his hands of the mess while providing a credible arbiter.”
“There is a reason the Bears’ defense is as opportunistic as it is — when they snap the ball, count how many guys are looking at the ball. All 11 of them are keyed on it and ready to pounce. The linebackers are always zeroed in on it. They do a great job of pursuing. They don’t overcomplicate it.”
Sean Jensen at the Chicago Sun-Times quotes a scout on offensive tackle Gabe Carimi for the Bears Extra section:
“He just doesn’t look strong enough. Maybe part of that is the injury. He plays like he’s a 34-year-old.”
I would agree that Carimi hasn’t looked right and he’s been struggling. I don’t think its his strength so much as his quickness. He looks to me like he’s having a hard time keeping up with speed rushes to the outside. Like the scout, I suspect that the knee injury from last year hasn’t fully healed.
Mark Potash at the Chicago Sun-Times thinks Bears quarterback Jay Cutler should be calling his own plays. Offensive coordinator Mike Tice tried ot be patient as he answered the question:
“Asked why quarterbacks no longer call their own plays, Tice said, ‘Because they don’t sit in meetings on Monday and Tuesday night and put the game plan in.’ But without hesitating, he added, ‘We did have some no-huddle [against Jacksonville] where we gave Jay some really, really good chances to do ‘either/or,’ and I thought he did a great job with the no-huddle. It was the most extensive that we had. It was another drive that stalled when we had something going, but we’re going to do more of that. We like him managing the no-huddle.’”
Using the no huddle does, of course, make sense. But other than that, expecting modern quarterbacks in the heat of battle to call plays with longer term planning and goals in mind is too much to ask. Most Bear fans will remember that former Bears offensive coordinator John Shoop couldn’t even do it just while standing on the side lines.
Potash does make a good point that the way the play calling is handled now leads to delays.
“The complicated nature of play-calling in the NFL that prevents Cutler from calling his own plays also causes its own problems. Offensive coordinator Mike Tice, a first-year play-caller, relays his call to quarterbacks coach Jeremy Bates, who gives the play to Cutler. If it gets there too late, it’s a problem. How many times have we seen an irritated Cutler walking back to the sideline after calling timeout because the play clock was running down?”
Passing plays through the quarterback coach made sense when Mike Martz was the coordinator because he spent his time in the booth. But with Tice on the sidelines, this makes less sense. My suggestion for cutting out the middle man would be cutting out Bates.
Dan Pompei at the Chicago Tribune suggests adjustments for the season after the bye. Here are a couple that I was in particular agreement with:
“I would not suggest that Brandon Marshall has been thrown to too frequently, because throwing to him has almost always been a good thing.
“But other Bears — [Devin] Hester, Earl Bennett and Matt Forte especially — are going to have to do more than they have as receivers at various points of the season.”
Good teams (like the Packers) are going to find ways to take Marshall away. That’s when the other guys have to get open against single coverage.
“Up until last week, the Bears relied heavily on Cover-2. They broke out a little bit against the Jaguars in an attempt to get eight men in the box.
“For their defense to be all it can be, it will have to be able to play more than Cover-2. It will have to be able to keep offenses off balance by blitzing, mixing in man-to-man, single high, quarters and man free.
“Whether the Bears can be more diverse will depend on how cornerbacks Charles Tillman, Tim Jennings and D.J. Moore and safeties Major Wright and Chris Conte hold up when given assignments that may be a bit out of their comfort zone.”
This is critical. Every team in the league knows the cover two beaters. Bear fans have seen them so often we dream them in our sleep. It works well against bad teams (or good teams playing badly) because they fail to execute. Against a good team on its game, though, its not going to fly. Not only do the Bears need to diversify their coverages in those situations but they have to do a good job of disguising them as well.
“The Lions, over their last 16 games (not counting pre-season, or exhibition, as it used to be called) are a 6-10 team. Is that an accurate predictor of this season? Can it be worse or will they get better?–Stephen, Windsor, Ontario
“I really expected them to be better, honestly. They have a great young quarterback and maybe the best receiver in football. Their defense should be awesome, certainly not 26th in points allowed. Certainly I didn’t see the rise of the Vikings, either, so that explains one loss – but to lose to the Titans, who are struggling, too?
“It’s not going to get any easier with the Eagles this week in Philadelphia and then the Bears in Chicago. And they still have both games against the Packers, who will be equally desperate, Houston and Atlanta. Unless the defense starts producing some turnovers – they have zero interceptions – I don’t see how things improve much against a very tough schedule.”
Of course the Lions beat the Eagles so that’s step one. Watching that game last weekend was a slow form of torture, especially in the first half. You would be hard pressed to find two sloppier teams. The Eagles were constantly bitten by negative plays and turnovers. The Lions consistently failed to take advantage as they were constantly killing themselves with penalties and undisciplined play. Both teams are an incredible waste of talent.
The lack of discipline on the part of the Lions was particularly evident along the defensive line. They got a lot of pressure on Michael Vick and they look like they are every bit as good as they were last year if not better. But they were rushing the passer like a blind dog in a meat house with many personal fouls and offsides penalties.
Having said that, beware the Lions in the fourth quarter. They woke up and starting moving the ball literally right when the quarter began as if they were just edging up to the starting line before that. Quarterback Matthew Stafford, who was inconsistent despite being under very little pressure all afternoon, suddenly woke up and started finding wide receiver Calvin Johnson underneath. The next week against the Bears could be very interesting, particularly if the Lions somehow manage to clean up their act for such an important divisional game.
“There are two primary benefits to the Wide 9. One is it makes it difficult for offenses to run outside. But the real reason teams use it is it gives the defensive ends excellent angles to get to the quarterback.
“‘It puts the fear of God into the offensive tackles if you have guys like Jason Babin, Jared Allen, Tamba Hali, Cliff Avril, Kyle Vanden Bosch, Lawrence Jackson and Willie Young,” [Lions defensive coordinator Gunther] Cunningham told me. ‘All these guys were some of the top speed guys coming into the draft and when you align wide, the OTs have to double kick on pass protection to block the edge. The double kick went out a few years back and now everyone is straight line dropping in the pass, meaning the OTs are holding space to stop the three technique, so the DEs that are wide have a straight line to the 7 ½ yard spot for the QB’s five step drop.'”
“The knock on the Wide 9 is it can leave a defense vulnerable to the inside run. In order for the Wide 9 to work, a defense needs a solid Mike linebacker and a good strong safety, because those two players often are going to be responsible for the B, C and D gaps. That’s why the Lions went after Stephen Tulloch last year, and why the Eagles traded for DeMeco Ryans this year.”
“Can the officiating and broadcast crews keep up with Patriots when they play their accelerated no-huddle offense? If defenses are instructed to obstruct offense players after the whistle, will the refs call penalties?–Rufus T. Woodrow, New England
I’m sure the broadcast crews were struggling – there’s certainly no time to show replays – because I was struggling. I would look down to jot down a note about the previous play and I’d miss the next one. I can only imagine what the defenses must feel like. Good question about the defenses obstructing players to slow things down – I would guess the officials will keep a close eye on that. That’s not supposed to happen, but it certainly does. Also wonder, as the no-huddle spreads around the league, if you’ll see players faking injuries to stop the clock.”
“How would you list the N.F.L.’s top ten coaches?–Frankly32
“Do I really have to? This is a minefield. This is in no particular order, but here are a few: [Tom] Coughlin, [Bill] Belichick, both Harbaughs [John and Jim], [Mike] Tomlin, Sean Payton, Jeff Fisher, [Andy] Reid, Mike McCarthy, and then some mix of [Mike] Shanahan/Mike Smith/Gary Kubiak – Shanahan has had great success but that was a while ago and he hasn’t had a quarterback until now to be in the same league with Elway, and I want to see Atlanta and Houston make deep playoff runs before elevating Smith and/or Kubiak despite their recent regular-season success.”
I like Batista and she’s one of the reasons I read the Times. And she does say she doesn’t want to do it. But suggesting “some mix of Shanahan/Mike Smith/Gary Kubiak” over Lovie Smith?
Cole Schultz at Pro Football Focuspoints out something I’ve also noticed:
“The offensive line may be the common scapegoat in Chicago, but the interior only gave up one quarterback disruption (108 pass blocking snaps), compared with the three disruptions given up by halfbacks (15 pass blocking snaps).”
Practically speaking it really doesn’t matter who is messing up the protections. But the reality is that we should be talking a lot more about the aspects of that protection that have little to do with the offensive line. It’s been a team effort.
Dan Pompei at the Chicago Tribune gives us a little insight into new left guard Chilo Rachal:
“[Running back Michael] Bush got a little help from newcomer Chilo Rachal. He was promoted to the starting lineup at left guard last week to give the Bears a little more nasty, and he did that Sunday.
“‘Chilo brings that edge to the offensive line and he doesn’t take a lot of grief in there,’ quarterback Jay Cutler said of the former 49er. ‘He’s a big guy. He’s kind of a mauler and I feel comfortable with him in there.'”
“This was Chilo’s kind of party.
“‘A physical, nasty game,’ Rachal said. ‘The physicality of a game like this, I get a kick off that.'”
Joe Cowley at the Chicago Sun-Timesquotes Rachal on the Rams mouthy tendencies:
“‘They talk a lot, they talk a lot, extremely a lot,’ Bears starting left guard Chilo Rachal said of St. Louis’ defense. ‘And I feel like it’s unnecessary. Everyone is a competitor, and when you’re losing, I guess you feel like you need to talk mess, but I think it’s unnecessary.'”
“Cowboys outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware versus Bears left tackle J’Marcus Webb. Earlier this season Ware became the second-fastest defender to reach 100 sacks behind Reggie White. He is one of the NFL’s premier pass rushers. Webb has struggled against elite speed rushers. The Bears will have to give Webb plenty of help to neutralize Ware.”
Cowley thinks the usually boring Bears might be getting interesting. First Brandon Marshall appears to be in a feud with former NFL defensive tackle Warren Sapp after Sapp called him a “retard”. Marshall responds in two YouTube videos below:
“‘When I look at Warren Sapp, I can’t go to him and talk about finances because he filed for bankruptcy,’ Marshall said in the first of two online videos. ‘I can’t go to him and talk about my marriage because he filed for divorce. I can’t go to him and talk about being a great father when one day I have children because he’s not active in his children’s lives.
“‘So the lesson we should all learn here is, surround yourself with good people and be careful who you take counsel from.
“‘I’m not saying he’s been there on my side giving me counsel, but that’s not a guy that I can go to.'”
To no one’s surprise, Jay Cutler finally decided to fire back at D.J. Moore by saying he needed “a muzzle”. Because escalating such things in the media is what team leaders do.
Even Lovie Smith got testy with a reporter Monday:
“In his news conference, Smith was asked by a reporter about having bumpy offensive starts for several seasons, and when he thought he was interrupted, he said, ‘If you let me finish … I don’t need your help. Believe me, I don’t need your help.'”
I’ve given the cornerbacks their due credit before but, as Pompei points out, the safeties also deserve some credit for a solid start to the season. I thought this observation was interesting:
“In addition to making the play of the game on a pick-six, Major Wright tackled well. He came up and took down running back Daryl Richardson in the open field. Wright hasn’t always made the tackle in similar situations in the past.”
“‘I’ll tell you something that a player told me a long time ago. (Longtime offensive lineman) Pete Kendall said there is a point in your career where your body flies around and your mind doesn’t know what it is doing. And then it comes to a point where it levels off. And then eventually you reach a point where it goes the other direction, your mind knows it and your body is just trying to get there. I am not going to say he is at that point. Like I said, you will probably be able to tell better by the end of the season. But I have all the respect in the world for the guy. In my opinion, he is a first-ballot Hall of Famer. He’s a great player.'”
Biggs quotes Geno Hayes on his near block of a Rams punt in the endzone in the fourth quarter:
“During the course of the game you start learning more things, their calls, when they called a check I knew he was going to slide out. So, when he slid out, the wing went inside and it gave us off edge. Once you get in the game and you can hear certain things, you know what is going to happen.”
David Haugh at the Chicago Tribunetakes Jay Cutler to task for his spotty performance against the Rams. To my eye, Cutler’s mechanics haven’t been as good this year as they were last year. I wonder if there’s anyone on the staff who can coach him hard enough to correct them.
“Lost in the hysteria of the Seahawks’ 14-12 victory over the Packers on Monday night was the Packers’ recovery from an abominable start.
“Aaron Rodgers was under siege like Jay Cutler on the Bears’ worst night. He was sacked eight times in the first half but kept his composure and avoided disaster. He had no turnovers in the onslaught, and the Packers trailed only 7-0.
“It makes a difference. When Cutler was sacked nine times in the first half against the Giants in 2010, he was intercepted once, fumbled three times, lost one, had a 40.7 passer rating and left the game with a concussion. On Monday night, Rodgers was still standing with nary a turnover and a 90.6 passer rating (12-for-15, 86 yards). There’s a reason why he has thrown just one pick-six in 79 NFL games (2,468 attempts including the postseason).
“The Packers were on tilt but responded in the second half, allowing zero sacks. In 10 games in which Rodgers has been sacked five times or more, he has thrown 16 touchdown passes and nine interceptions with an average passer rating of 91.5.”
Former Bears linebacker Roosevelt Colvin isn’t a big Cutler fan. Biggs points out that he’s posted a number of verey negative tweets on the subject. Colvin gave this interesting response to a direct question about it from Biggs in which he also got a dig in on Mike Tice:
“‘I read body language a lot and a lot of the body language [Cutler] gives off, it seems like it doesn’t matter or if it matters it’s not my fault. You see the episode with the tackle last week, yelling at him because he messed up and the semi-bump with the shoulder. I just feel there are better ways to handle things.
“‘That’s not to say guys like Aaron Rodgers or Tom Brady or Eli Manning don’t get upset and yell at their players, but the dude did a decent job blocking one of the NFL’s best pass rushers. There was that one play where he got kind of caught up and didn’t block the guy correctly but you’ve got to lean on your offensive coordinator. Mike Tice has got to understand, ‘Hey, chip the guy instead of just letting the back run out in the flat.’ These are things that I came to understand in New England and made me feel like Bill Belichick is hands-down the best football coach in NFL history because of those types of things — it’s matchups. It’s all about matchups. You’ve got to make adjustments. If you see the guy is struggling, if you’re Jay Cutler go to the coach and say, ‘Hey, instead of letting the back release out right now, why don’t we take him out and chip Clay Matthews to give the dude a little help. That will buy me an extra two seconds to allow me to read the play and be more successful.’
“‘But you don’t see that. He gets a bad rap. You see him yelling at another guy and you see his head down. It’s upsetting. But, you know, he represents the state of Indiana so I continue to support him.”‘
“Ever since Mike Martz was jettisoned last year, Mike Tice was anointed and Jeremy Bates was brought in, the Bears have stated how their approaches would change to give Cutler the extra time he needs and to utilize some of his special traits. One such approach that the Bears have preached constantly was to employ designed QB rollouts. I have yet to see this used much. What happened to the Bears plans in this area? — Mike Otte, Duarte, Calif.
“The Bears used Cutler on rollouts three times against the Rams, Mike. That’s not very much. I agree with you they should be using rollouts more. When Cutler was in Denver, he was used in moving pockets much more frequently by Mike Shanahan, and he was very effective in those situations. I’ve been banging the drum on this topic since Cutler became a Bear. It makes sense not only because Cutler is good on the move, but also because the Bears have struggled to pass protect. For whatever reason, Bears offensive coordinators Tice, Martz and Ron Turner all have had other ideas. It’s possible rollouts will have a bigger place in game plans moving forward.”
“The Rams played a lot of press man coverage and also used some combination coverage to blanket Marshall. Press man is what the Bears can expect to see from the Cowboys and cornerbacks Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne.”
“Let’s talk about the offense: Do you think it will snap out of this funk? — @Pankster198, from Twitter
“Yes I do. The offense is too good to play the way it has in the last two games. Cutler goes in streaks, and he’s been in a bad one. I anticipate he’ll get on a hot one soon. The offense should be better later in the season if players stay healthy because offensive coordinator Mike Tice should understand the strengths and weaknesses of his players and plays better as time goes on, and new players should integrate more efficiently.”
But I’m sorry to say that I, myself, don’t think this Audible from Pro Football Weekly is far off the mark:
“I don’t know why there has been a love affair in the media with the Bears. The O-line sucks. The running backs are injury-prone. The receivers are overrated. The defense is old. That is not a good football team. And the quarterback (Jay Cutler) has such bad body language. He is very talented, but if they don’t sign him (to an extension), I don’t see anyone paying him a lot of money. Someone would pay him, but it would be a team like Kansas City or Miami, where a job is on the line and they have to win now. It would be a desperation move. When you break him down, he is not very good. He’s taken a step backward.”
Chicago Tribune editorial cartoonist Scott Stantispokes fun at the Bears victory over the Rams on Sunday.
I realize that I”m probably in the minority here but CBS’s insistence on showing the end of each ongoing noon game before taking you to your 3:15 game is very annoying. I don’t want to see flashes of games I haven’t been following just because they are coming to an end, even in over time. I want to see my new game from the beginning so I can judge the changes as it progresses.
Really touching Steve Sabol memorial commercial during the Bronco-Texans game (after they finally switched me to it). Great job on that.
“Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees and Tom Brady were outstanding in 2011. Rodgers broke the passer rating record, and Brees broke the passing yards record. Tom Brady also broke the passing yards record and finished second to Rodgers in Adjusted Net Yards per Attempt (ANY/A). The three quarterbacks were the clear class of the N.F.L., and the Patriots, the Packers and the Saints were the only teams to top 500 points, going a combined 41-7.
“But this year, all three quarterbacks are struggling. Together the teams are a combined 2-7 and barely resemble their 2011 versions. The Patriots are only fifth in the A.F.C. in scoring, while the Packers have outscored only three teams in the N.F.C. Brady ranks 10th in ANY/A so far this year, which is fantastic compared to the ugly spots Brees (23rd) and Rodgers (26th) occupy.”
“I think teams have begun to figure out the Lions. They are very aggressive up front. They get after it (defensively), but the Niners showed you can use it against them and trap the (heck) out of ’em. They are struggling on defense right now.”
If you watched what the Bears did on the offensive line against the Rams, it was exactly this kind of strategy and it worked like a charm in the first half. The Rams eventually adjusted but can the Lions? I have my doubts and even if they do it will take some bite out of the effectiveness of that defensive line.
“I especially enjoy your postgame grading columns. I think it would be great to join you as you review film to come up with the grades so fans could see more into the game than what we only see during the game. — Al Harris
Glad you like the Film Session, Al. If you joined me for one, you might be pretty bored though. It’s a long process that takes hours and hours. I watch most plays over and over and over, pausing, rewinding, playing, pausing, rewinding, playing. Caffeine usually is a prerequisite, especially after a night game!”
Having done this myself before, I can tell you he’s not kidding. It took me an average of 10 hours to completely breakdown a game (with many inaccuracies). In the end I concluded that it was impossible to have a job and do it. Fortunately for Pompei it is his job but I sincerely hope for the sake of his sanity that he’s faster and better than I was.
I suppose you know things had gotten bad when this happens. From Fred Mitchell at the Chicago Tribune:
“It was announced Tuesday that SportsBettingOnline.ag is granting all of its members a weekly “Replacement Refs Mulligan,” which can be used to refund any bet that lost because of a controversial call.
“’While we’re an online sportsbook, we’re sports fans first. And this NFL season is unbelievably painful to watch, mainly because of the incompetence of replacement refs,’ Dave Johnson, head oddsmaker at SportsBettingOnline.ag, said in a release. ‘We feel for sports bettors, so we’re giving every one of our members a Replacement Ref Mulligan that they can use once a week.'”
Despite the absence of running back Matt Forte I think you should expect the Bears to get off the bus running this week. The Rams apparently would agree. Jim Thomas at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch quotes linebacker James Laurinaitis:
“‘We have a lot of respect for their ability to run it,’ Laurinaitis said. ‘They’re going to come out running the ball. It’s fun to get back to kind of a normal offense this week. This first week (Detroit) it was a lot of spread-out throwing, and then last week (Washington) a lot of college stuff mixed in.'”
Here’s a surprise from Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune :
“Typically, teams that are rooted in the Cover-2 scheme like
the Bears do not invest heavily in cornerbacks, choosing to pour money
into the front seven. But one source said the Bears were involved with Cortland Finnegan until talks went above $9 million per season.”
I’ve claimed for a while that the Bears need corners who can play at least adequate man coverage. Apparently they agree.
“(Bears rookie DE Shea) McClellin is a high-(sic) effort guy. He has short arms and lacks explosiveness. There is a ceiling for guys like that. He is going to be like the kid in Washington last year (Ryan Kerrigan). He’ll start off playing hot, and as the year goes by, he’ll wear down and go quiet. That’s what happened to Kerrigan last year. All of a sudden his body is not fresh and all that hustle does not get as much. (McClellin) does not have enough in his body. Hustle guys wear down.”
“‘We talked about putting players in position to make plays,’ said Tice, the Bears’ first-year offensive coordinator. ‘We’ve got to do a better job of that, and we will. At the same time, it’s very important that you win the individual battles, and we didn’t win enough of those.'”
Translation: “Now that the [feces] has hit the fan, after a summer of talking about how it was all going to be OK because I was going to compensate for it with my scheme, I finally have come to the realization that we actually need talent to work with on the offensive line. My apologies to Mike Martz.”
“Everybody says great things about Mike Tice and his great coaching of the offensive line. Since he was hired three seasons ago our offensive line has been anything but great. It seems to me he’s not all that. What gives? Gary M., North Highlands, Calif.
“Trust me when I tell you Tice is an outstanding offensive line tutor. He gets the best out of his blockers. Sometimes, the best he gets out of them isn’t good enough.”
“The Bears aren’t waiting for the light to come on and stay on with [left tackle J’Marcus] Webb. Offensive coordinator Mike Tice made that clear when he was asked if his confidence in Webb has waned.
“‘We have seven players who suit up every week and those seven players all get reps with the ones,” Tice said. “And we’re going to try to make sure and make the proper decision of the five guys we’re going to put in there who can protect our quarterback and help us run the ball.’
“Translated, newcomer Jonathan Scott has been getting some work at left tackle with the starters. He was signed Sept. 10 and missed nearly all of training camp with the Lions because of a knee injury. It’s not an ideal situation, but when is it on the Bears’ line?”
“Offensive line coach Tim Holt dissected the tape from the meltdown in Green Bay and came to one simple conclusion about why Webb’s play declined from Week 1.
“‘He just has to use his hands better,’ Holt said. ‘He let (Matthews) get into him a little bit. If he gets his hands on people, he wins.'”
I think the problem goes well beyond that by now. Webb knows to use his hands and I’m sure he’s been coached heavily to do so. That fact that he isn’t doing it indicates that the problem is mental. The physical tools are there and he’s intelligent I’m sure. But He obviously doesn’t have the concentration to play consistently against good opponents for a full three hours ball game.
The Bears have to find another answer. It might not be this year but they’re going to have to do it if they want to comete at the top of the NFL. Becasue Webb’s not going to cut it.
“But [Webb’s] presence underlines a major problem for the Bears: When you
struggle with pass protection, it is difficult to rally from a deficit. The Bears
need to score early and often and play from a lead. [Bears quarterback Jay] Cutler is too careless with
the ball and the guys in front of him too shaky to pull off many comebacks.
“The Bears under coach Lovie Smith always have been front-runners, often
because they struggled at quarterback. Smith has a 51-10 record when
leading at halftime and a 13-42 mark when trailing. Since gunslinger Cutler’s
arrival they’re 19-4 and 5-18. Sounds like bad news for the Rams.”
“I am wondering if the answer to the Bears offensive line problem is to just ignore max protection and maybe do just the opposite. If they were in a max-attack-type offense I think Cutler would be able to find the open receiver and/or communicate with Brandon Marshall/Earl Bennett for hot reads. It seems too often when they only had two receivers in patterns Cutler was waiting too long for them to get open. Some of Cutler’s best games were when he has had options to throw to, he can slide or even jump up to get the ball out to the open man. What do you think? Grant M.
“I think what you suggest can be a part of the Bears offense, and it has been to a degree. But the Bears would not be able to make a living playing empty backfield with four or five wide receivers running routes. Part of the beauty of the Bears’ personnel and schemes is the offense is somewhat unpredictable. To beat a good defensive coordinator like Dom Capers, you need to be able to do a number of things well, and do them at times when he isn’t expecting you to do them. Playing the type of personnel groups and formations you suggest would make them highly predictable. It also would be a high risk approach. It would probably result in more big plays, but also more interceptions and more sacks.”
Sean Jensen at the Chicago Sun-Timesis saying that the Rams have a “suspect offensive line”. But I watched them last week and they looked OK to me. Admittedly they were at home but still, Soldier Field isn’t like the Super Dome in New Orleans.
Much of this disapproval of Jay Cutler from the media is new. But not from Pompei as he’s been pretty critical from the beginning. He contiunes that here:
“I must be the minority here, but I didn’t mind at all that Jay Cutler bumped J’Marcus Webb on the sidelines. I want my team leader to be fired up and get in guy’s faces. What bothered me about Cutler is how he crumbled after that, throwing up prayers and seemingly not able to adjust to the Packers defense. This seems to be a bigger indictment of lack of leadership, would you agree? Rik, Chicago
“True leadership isn’t about what you say. It’s about what you do. Show me a quarterback who gets the ball in the end zone, overcomes big odds and steps up in the clutch and I’ll show you a leader.”
True enough. But I think if you want to be a really good leader, it goes beyond that. Many people defend Cutler’s actions by saying something to the effect of “Sometimes you have to kick a few butts to get things done.” But is that what the Bears needed as a team at that point?
I would contend that a true team leader would have seen a struggling offense and, instead of yelling “Do better!” would have gotten everyone together, settled them down and guided them by telling them what to do. Instead, Cutler showed his frustration and made things worse. Instead of acting the part of a calming influence, a leader who had things under control and had confidence that the team would come back and do better, Cutler showed his lack of confidence in his teammates and cranked up fears of failure even higher.
Most of the time “leadership” requires the ability to step outside of yourself and give the group what they need to succeed rather than selfishly thinking of your own. Cutler will never be a true leader, no matter how well he performs on the field, because he’ll always lack the ability to do that. He’s far too self-centered.
What is constantly a shock to me no matter how often I see it, is how savagely Cutler is attacked whenever possible, not by fans and media, but by his peers and ex-peers. In his article on how to motivate people and whether being tough is always the way to go about it, I think Phil Rosenthal at the Chicago Tribune provides an answer to the question by quoting Bob Sutton, a Stanford University professor and author of “The No (A-word) Rule” and “Good Boss, Bad Boss.”:
“‘If you (act like a jerk) you’ve got to be really competent,’ Sutton said. ‘If you consistently leave people feeling demeaned and de-energized, that’s the point where enemies are lying in wait.'”
Or, as Steve Rosenbloom at the Chicago Tribunesuccinctly put it as he compared Cutler to Douglas Neidermeyer in the movie Animal House:
“Neidermeyer’s epilog in the movie was ‘killed by his own troops in Vietnam.'”
“Cutler’s defenders will point out, accurately, that he has not benefited from
system stability, Pro Bowl wide receivers and consistent pass protection —
especially consistent pass protection.
“But he isn’t the only quarterback who needs to spend some time in the
whirlpool on Mondays.
“Since 2009, [Green Bay quarterback Aaron] Rodgers has been sacked six times more than Cutler in
regular-season games. Ben Roethlisberger has been sacked 11 more, and his
rate of one sack per 12.2 dropbacks is higher than Cutler’s rate of 12.4.
“That has not prevented Roethlisberger from making it to a Pro Bowl and a
Super Bowl in that time span.”
Sometimes I think its a shame that even after acquiring Jay Cutler, the Bears’ quarterback situation is still a national joke. But… might as well role with it. From Sports Views:
“The whole idea is to get the defense moving laterally so the offensive linemen can throw cut blocks that drop big defensive linemen on their faces. Think Gilbert Brown in Super Bowl XXXII.”
“‘You have to be smart,’ [defensive line coach Mike] Trgovac said. ‘I faced this scheme several years in a row in Atlanta when I was at Carolina. They just look for that one guy to cut, that one weak link.
“‘That’s what we worked real hard on, make sure everybody stays in their gap. The more you fly off the ball the easier it is for them to cut you.'”
“One front office man said his team is fine with 5-10 corners as long as the player has long arms. Having long arms enable a cornerback to play taller than he is. ‘They can reach for balls downfield, reach for balls coming back and compete better for contested balls,’ [Seahawks general manager John] Schneider said.
“Long arms help a corner in press coverage too. It’s difficult for a short-armed corner to get a good jam and then turn and run because he has to get too close to the receiver.”
I know that Cam Newton is not Jay Cutler. But I think that having a Steve Smith around on the Bears might do him and the team a lot of good. From Joseph Person at the Charlotte Observer.
“That said, Sunday’s biggest headline from Foxboro was the ankle injury to Aaron Hernandez. The third-year tight end is out at least six weeks.”
“Take a look at this statistic from ESPN: “The Patriots used two tight ends on just 20 of 77 offensive plays (Sunday), averaging 3.0 yards per play with two tight ends on the field. The Patriots used two or more tight ends on all 66 plays in Week 1 against the Titans, averaging 5.9 yards per play. Since the start of the 2011 season, the Patriots lead the N.F.L. with 80.1 percent of their offensive plays (926 of 1149) involving at least two tight ends.”
“The Patriots can find a way to win without Hernandez, but it will require rewriting most of their playbook.”
“Kellen Winslow can give the Patriots some of the things Aaron Hernandez gives them, but not all of the things. Front office men who have evaluated Winslow recently say he has lost some speed and can’t get downfield the way he used to, or the way Hernandez can. But Winslow still has the ability to separate in a short area, as Hernandez does. If his knee holds up, Winslow can give Bill Belichick another chess piece.”
“If any OL coach says he needs more contact to coach better, I call b.s. Offensive linemen can go out in shorts. It all starts with mental prep — knowing who to block — and technique and footwork. It’s so funny though — you get three OL coaches and you can hear three different reasons for why their line is struggling, and usually, only one of them is right.”
“Indy’s final drive [last week] provided a perfect snapshot for where their rookie quarterback [Andrew Luck] is.”
“What was most revealing on the drive was when [Adam] Vinatieri trotted on the field. There were still 12 seconds left. And his field-goal attempt was a 53-yarder. If it had been, say, Peyton Manning under center – or any star veteran quarterback – the Colts almost certainly would have ran one, maybe two more plays near the sidelines in hopes of getting Vinatieri a few yards closer. But with no timeouts left, Coach Chuck Pagano decided not to push his Luck. That’s fine, it worked out. But let’s all realize that the Colts seem to believe their young quarterback still has a long way to go.”
“Colts’ ‘Suck For Luck’ Strategy Enters Second Season”
As someone who doesn’t usually get as upset as he used to when the Bears lose, my first thought as I laughed at this video was “Who does this guy think he’s screaming at.” Then I looked at the number of hits and I realized that its about 20,000 people. Someone must like it.
“Stephen A. Smith Thinking Son Is Finally Ready For The Sex Argument”
In light of the Buccaneers decision to maul the Giants as they were trying to run out the clock with a kneel down, The Sports Pickle gives us the NFL’s 25 most unwritten rules. This one was one of my favorites:
“5. Take as much HGH as you possibly can before the NFL starts testing for it.”
I thought this point from the Friday Buzz feature at The National Football Post was interesting:
“If Jon Gruden comes back to the NFL as many suspect, there might not be a long line of established personnel men wanting to work with him. Gruden frustrated people he worked with. He sometimes would set up workouts with players without consulting the front office and operated independently. His negativity also wore on co-workers.”
I always thought Jon Gruden was one of the best head coaches the NFL has seen in recent years. This comment explains a lot about why he’s no longer coaching. One of the worst faults you can have as the leader of a large organization of people is failure to communicate. You leave people in the dark in terms of what’s going on and they resent it. Even when it’s things you don’t think everyone needs to know, leave co-workers in the dark and they begin to wonder what else of a more important nature you didn’t tell them.
Gruden undoubtedly was a control freak who was used to getting his own way as a head coach. He was king of his domain. But when he was put in a situation where input from a large group of front office people was required, he failed to make the proper adjustments. Even for a coach as talented as Gruden, that’s death.
My first thought when I heard via Sean Jensen at the Chicago Sun-Times that running back Matt Fortegot a long-term deal done with the Bears was that it was well deserved and couldn’t have been given to a better guy. So I was surprised to read and hear so many people who didn’t like the way the team’s money was spent. Steve Rosenbloom at the Chicago Tribuneexpressed the typical view:
“Running back has become the most fungible position in the league. Running backs last about as long as Forte has already played. Running backs get hurt the way Forte did last season. Connect the dots, people.”
“However, talking on Chicago sports radio Monday afternoon, the one negative is the amount of money spent on a position that many believe has lost it’s value.
“‘It’s a passing league now,’ is what I heard yesterday. Don’t spend on backs and instead focus your money on the QB position and WRs/TEs that make plays down the field. Be a vertical offense. Put pressure on the secondary.”
I disagree with this view.
First, all players carry a certain degree of injury risk. Yes, its probably a bit worse for running backs but not that much worse. Every offensive player who carries the ball gets hit. At east running backs usually see it coming a brace for it.
Any way you slice it, Matt Forte is a very productive NFL player. An elite and versatile player. Those are the ones you keep because, no matter what anyone thinks, they don’t just grow on trees. If they did, Forte wouldn’t be the first one the Bears have really had since Thomas Jones.
Second, yes, its a passing league. We all know that. But as fan after fan after fan has pointed out in regards to the flaws of former offensive coordinator Mike Martz, you can’t pass in this league unless you run the ball occasionally. Even Martz’s most ardent defenders (e.g. me) would admit he had a tendency to forget the run occasionally. The minute pass rushers can load up and go after the quarterback without thought of stopping the run, offenses are in deep trouble. Especially offenses with a questionable line like the Bears.
You don’t think having a running back who can protect the passer is important for offensive success? You don’t think a running back who can catch the ball is of value in the passing game? Think again. Matt Forte is not just a good running back with vision. He’s an essential cog in the passing game as well.
No, I never had a doubt that the Bears were better off signing Forte long-term. The only question was what the money was going to be. We have the details from Vaughn McClure at the Chicago Tribune:
“Forte is due $9.8 million this season, including signing and roster bonuses. He would have made $7.74 million in ’12 under the franchise tag. His cap hit now for this season is $6.8 million. But Forte essentially would have made the same amount of guaranteed money had the Bears elected to franchise him two years in a row.”
The 4 year deal gives Forte $17.1 million guaranteed and $28.1 million overall (the maximum is $31.5 million with roster bonuses and incentives). This is probably lower than the $20 million guaranteed Forte was looking for. Its certainly lower than the money Baltimore running back Ray Rice got a short time later (five-year deal reportedly worth $40 million, including $24 million guaranteed).
Why did Forte accept less? One reason was very practical. As former NFL defensive end Marcellus Wiley explains in this video at ESPN, the Bears had a lot of leverage in this negotiation. Forte was bound to be franchised again next season. But the Ravens needed to free up the tag so they could apply it to quarterback Joe Flacco. That got Rice a better deal.
Still, Forte could have stayed home and played it for more money next year. But ultimately he understood what was important. Wide receiver Earl Bennett put it very well in an interview with Sirius NFL Radio (via Jensen):
“‘We know what type of value Matt has within our offense and what he brings,’ Bennett said. ‘It went longer than I expected. Matt’s a great player, and he’s one of those stand-up guys.’”
In terms of the important things, Matt Forte did everything right in this negotiation. He wasn’t holding out with two years left on his deal. He played out his contract and his obligation. He didn’t have to sign anything. He could have held out of training camp as a matter of principal and signed the taken the almost $8 million franchise contract (still a lot of money) right before the first game and not lost a dime of it.
But those would have been the actions of an angry and prideful man and that’s not Forte. Instead, he did what was best for the team, took the offer and settled down to play football. Forte got more than long-term security yesterday. He got long-term respect.
Did the Vikings play the Browns? Hard to tell. Tampa Bay may have been threatening to move into the pick. Trent Richardson was considered to be the best prospect in the draft by some analysts.
Why so many trades? It’s likely because there’s a rookie wage scale. Teams are a lot more likely to trade picks if they know it won’t cost them an arm and a leg in addition to draft picks.
I’m guessing that when Tampa Bay traded back to the seventh pick they thought that they were going to get Morris Claiborne. Then Jaguars took Justin Blackmon and the Rams were likely going to go to another need position. The Cowboys probably foiled the plan when they traded up to jump ahead of the Bucs. Mark Barron is fine but there wouldn’t have been a thing wrong with Stephon Gilmore in that slot, either.
The Eagles needed to trade ahead of the Rams at 14 because they would have grabbed Fletcher Cox in a heart beat. Nice work getting into the 12 spot by trading with Seattle.
Bruce Irvin at 15, Seattle? Really?
I was sure the Bears were going to go with left tackle Riley Reiff when he got past St. Louis. Instead they went with the defensive end.
I experienced some disquiet when I saw the Lions benefit from the Bears pass to take Reiff.
Quinton Coples fell but not too far to the Jets at 16. He’s going to be fascinating to watch. If he becomes a higher effort guy, he could be one of the best players from this draft.
The Patriots traded up twice in the first round? Who saw that coming? I can’t say it was a bad idea, though. Chandler Jones at 21 and Dont’a Hightower at 25 were both great pickups for their defense. I’m sure Houston would have nabbed Hightower at 26 and if not them, then Baltimore later in the round. Jones was a fast riser who might not have lasted long, either.
Shea McClellin does fit the Bears in a lot of ways. I thought the Bears might be scared off by the reported three concussions that McClellin sustained but perhaps they bought into McClellin’s denial that this was the case.
McClellin is apparently a high motor, high effort guy who I think most Bear fans are going to like. He has the reputation of being a tweener who many thought would be a better fit as a 3-4 linebacker. Assuming he plays end with the Bears, he won’t see as many double teams with Julius Peppers on the other side. He’ll probably need work against the run.
The Bears filled a need but was he the best player available? I have my doubts. There were a lot of high rated offensive linemen on the board that the Bears probably didn’t anticipate would be there. They used their offseason to set up to take a defensive linemen only to see Riley Reiff, David DeCastro, and Cordy Glenn fall to them. They recently signed guard Chico Rachal with the possible intention of moving Chris Williams back to tackle. I’m wondering if they might have handled their offseason differently had they known DeCastro and Reiff would be there.
Dan Pompei at the Chicago Tribunedescribes the kind of player the Bears need from this draft and one reason why new GM Phil Emery might be able to deliver him:
“But it is a young defender who can be a big piece of the team’s foundation, who is consistent from game to game and year to year and who almost always answers the bell. It is a playmaker who will be recognized as one of the best. It is an athlete who can transcend future scheme changes.”
“So how do the Bears go about finding players like [Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs]?
“Certainly, it isn’t easy. New general manager Phil Emery might have an idea though. He was on the Bears scouting staff in 2000 when Urlacher was drafted and in 2003 when Briggs was picked.”
From Rafael Vela at the Cowboys Nation blog we have a couple little blurbs about a players the Bears have been connected with:
“— The buzz meter on Bruce Irvin has gone still. The character concerns probably put him in the 3rd or 4th rounds now.”
“— Quinton Coples may fall into the 20s. The claim is that character concerns have teams uneasy. One source wondered if a team or teams in the teens were trying to spook their neighbors into passing on Coples, but this rumor came up more than once.”
On a similar note, ESPN’s NFC North blogger, Kevin Seifert, wonders if Quinton Coples will fall to the Bears in the same way that Nick Fairley fell to the Lions last year.
And Pompei’s sourcesrate both Whitney Mercilus and Courtney Upshaw ahead of Coples.
“He is the top-ranked end by many analysts and one of the most gifted players at any position. However, he could fall on draft day because teams question his love of the game. Some believe he was trying not to get hurt in 2011. Coples is highly inconsistent. When he wants to, he can dominate, but he doesn’t want to very often.”
Sean Jensen at the Chicago Sun-Timesweighs in on a player for the Bears that I havnen’t read much about, Nebraska DE Jared Crick.
“Kendall Wright, WR, Baylor: Trading for wide receiver Brandon Marshall could pay off huge for the Bears, but general manager Phil Emery knows that two clubs already grew tired enough of Marshall’s antics to trade the Pro Bowl receiver during his prime. As such, don’t disregard the fact that Chicago head coach Lovie Smith and wide receivers coach Darryl Drake took Wright out to dinner the evening before his impressive Pro Day workout. They did the same with another potential first round receiver, Georgia Tech’s Stephen Hill, prior to Pro Day.”
He has them passing on Coples as well as Cordy Glenn, who most analysts would say provides good value for this pick.
“Nick Perry, DE, Southern California: Even with the addition of receiver Brandon Marshall, the need at receiver still exists for Chicago, but it’s not nearly as great, giving the Bears some flexibility here. In order to maximize the abilities of Pro Bowler Julius Peppers (who recently turned 32), Chicago must add quality pass rushers around him to take some of the pressure off. Nick Perry led the Pac-12 in sacks last year (9.5) and had one of the best combine performances last week, recording top results in the bench press (35 reps), 40-yard dash (4.64), vertical jump (38.5) and broad jump (10’4). He isn’t the most physically imposing specimen, but Perry has NFL-level athleticism.”
Though this appears to be a definite possibility, most of the analysts I’ve read would consider this to be a bit of a reach, especially considering that the Bears would be passing on OT Riley Reiff. Brugler apparently doesn’t think much of Reiff. He has him rated lower than Jonathan Martin (who the Bears also pass on in this scenario). Every other mock draft I’ve seen has Reiff going well before the Bears pick.
I thought this article about Emery’s immersion in the Patriot way from Jensen provided some insight:
“When the Patriots stacked their draft board, [Bill] Belichick often would get frustrated because the game had changed, emphasizing and de-emphasizing different positions. The third cornerback, for example, could play 60 percent of the defensive snaps in a game.
“‘So the third corner is a starter in today’s game,’ [Kansas City GM Scott] Pioli said. ‘We were talking about guys who were third corners and weren’t given high-enough grades.’”
“‘It’s not anything that’s genius. It’s just trying to look at today’s league and understanding matching value versus just saying, ‘He’s a starting running back.’ ’ ”
David Haugh at the Chicago Tribune and I are of one mind on at least one reason why former GM Jerry Angelo was fired:
“Nothing can damage a GM’s credibility on draft day more than a botched phone call, which Jerry Angelo learned the hard way. The league voided a trade with the Ravens because the Bears’ phone miscommunication caused the deal to be called in late.
“The resulting furor from the Ravens marked the beginning of the end for Angelo, who, aside from once selecting Michael Haynes in the first round, never experienced a bigger draft-day embarrassment.”
Some might say the beginning of the end for Angelo was the check box fiasco early in his tenure as GM. Looking back on it, the botched phone call and the personal embarrassment it caused ownership may have been the end of the end. Here’s hoping that Emery can do a better job of avoiding such management issues.
Adam Schefter at ESPNreports that Matt Forte “is not signing anything until he has a long-term deal”. Via Josh Alper at profootballtalk.com.
Former NFL safety Matt Bowen, writing for the Chicago Tribune, thinks that the Forte contract stalemate is not a big deal. I can only agree. There was a time when I blasted Urlacher for not showing up to “voluntary” workouts in a contract dispute. But Urlacher is a team leader who was actually under contract and was looking for extra money. This is a totally different story.
“Now that Mike Martz is gone, does that mean that Nathan Enderle is no longer in the Bears plan? Wasn’t he drafted because he fit Martz’ scheme? Dave Mestdagh, Medicine Hat, Alberta
“I would say the chances of Enderle making the team are not as good as they would have been had Martz been around. But that doesn’t mean he’s a goner. Mike Tice’s quarterback profile probably isn’t that much different than Martz’. If Enderle takes a step forward and performs well in camp, a good chance exists he will stick around. If he bombs or stagnates, he’s gone.
“I’m not entirely sure the profile is the same. Campbell? I think Tice might like more athleticism.”
“Can you explain why the Bears refuse to give D.J. Moore a chance to play on the outside? It can’t be because of his height since he’s actually taller than Tim Jennings, the incumbent opposite Peanut. And I can’t imagine that Jennings is much faster than Moore, if at all. Plus, D.J. is a much bigger playmaker than Jennings, who drops many more potential interceptions than he holds on to. I’m afraid that Moore might leave when he becomes a free agent because Lovie [Smith] won’t let him spread his wings as a legit outside corner and not just a nickelback. Reggie Carolina, St. Paul, Minn.
“Good question. You can get by on the outside without ideal height, as Jennings does. You can get by on the outside without ideal speed, as Nathan Vasher did. But it’s difficult to get by on the outside without ideal height and ideal speed. A cornerback who is short and not particularly fast has no chance of matching up with a Calvin Johnson on the outside. That explains the Bears’ hesitation to try Moore outside. At the 2009 combine, Moore measured in at a shade below 5-9, and his best 40-yard dash time was a 4.56. Jennings, for comparison sake, measured in at a little below 5-8 at the 2006 combine, but he ran a 4.32 40-yard dash. Jennings is considerably faster. Moore, however, is exceptionally quick and athletic. And he’s exceptionally instinctive. He also has outstanding ball skills, which Jennings does not. All of that makes Moore uniquely qualified to play over the slot receiver. He was drafted for that role, and it’s probably what he always will do best.”
One of the free agents I had an eye on for the Bears was DE Andre Carter. Matt Williamson at ESPNtells us in a fan chat why he hasn’t been more popular.
“where will andre carter play next season?
“Matt Williamson (12:43 PM)
“His quad is still an issue apparently. He would be a great fit for the Bears. Has to go to a 4-3 team, but I was very impressed with Carter in NEng. Assuming he gets healthy quick, he will have a substantial market”
Vela explains why there may be plenty of defensive players available in the mid to late first round:
“Consider that three quarterbacks ([Andrew] Luck, [Robert] Griffin and [Ryan] Tannehill) could go in the top 10. If Trent Richardson, Justin Blackmon and [Michael] Floyd join them, that’s six skill position players. Add two offensive tackles, say Matt Kalil to Minnesota and perhaps Riley Reiff to Buffalo and you have eight offensive players up top. Only Morris Claiborne and another defender would go in the top 10. “
“One source said he’s heard that as many as six wide receivers could go in the 1st round. If this happened, it would affect Dallas’ 2nd round pick, and perhaps push some defensive options into that early 2nd.
“One intriguing rumor has Brandon Weeden making the 1st, with the Dolphins selecting him if they trade down and out of the 8th slot. A fourth 1st round QB would combine with a WR rush to push another defensive option to 45.”
It would appear that Vela isn’t the only one that heard that rumor. From Pompei:
“Brandon Weeden is starting to look like a key player in the draft. A good chance now exists the QB is going to be selected in the later stages of the first round, and it seems likely teams will try to jockey for position to get Weeden. If the Browns don’t select Tannehill early, they could take him with the 22nd pick. Or another team could try to jump the Browns by moving up from the early second round. The Browns also could try to move down in the late 20s to take Weeden.”
“After getting a surprisingly effective boost from low-profile O-line additions Paul McQuistan and Breno Giacomini last season, we hear the Seahawks are hoping for the same from free-agent pickup Frank Omiyale, who had worn out his welcome with the Bears but has the versatility that Seahawks assistant head coach/offensive line Tom Cable savors. ‘Omiyale was in Atlanta’s system when Cable was there, and they think a fresh start might help him,’ said one team source. ‘They got him for a real good price, and (ORT) James Carpenter’s return from knee surgery is still a big question mark.’”
No players who fall under restricted free agency got offers from other teams. The word “collusion” is being bandied about. Personally, I think the problem is simply that price of signing these players is too high. Its too cheap to sign them to higher grades of FA where more compensation is required and no one wants to both give up draft picks for these players and pay them to boot. Via Mike Florio at profootballtalk.com.
I thought this article on how GM’s run thier scouting departments from Jack Bechta at The National Football Post was fascinating:
“One of the biggest frustrations I hear from regional NFL scouts is how their opinion and their work gets minimized the closer we get to the draft. It’s not like this in every organization but it exists within several for sure.
“Area scouts spend months even years collecting data and intelligence on players in their region just to have it become under-appreciated in April. One NFC scout told me the other day that he ‘gets paid $85,000 to work and travel like a dog to get his opinion diluted by people with bigger titles and even bigger egos’. Another said, ‘I wrote 300 reports that will be referenced a few times and won’t get the attention they deserve’.”
“Instead of fine-tuning the draft boards in April, some scouting directors go through some last minute damage control. It usually comes when the head coach’s opinion varies greatly from the scouting staff. The HC may have watched just one game where he saw something that turned him off, or on about a player. And as Bill Parcells said to me once, ‘Sometimes it can just take one play to form an everlasting opinion, but coaches are more short term focused because of their desire to win now, emotional, and more influenced by what they’re eyes tell them.’ A former GM told me that it’s not uncommon to spend a few days on damage control because of a last minute opinion change by a Head Coach or even an owner.”
Hmmm. Ray Lewishas been subpoenaed to appear as a witness in former Cincinnati Bengals LB Nate Webster’s trial. Webster is accused of having sex with a 15 year old girl on multiple occasions. This could be worth keeping an eye on. Via Florio.
“Now that it’s been a few years, what do you think about the 3 day draft?
“Kevin Seifert (2:52 PM)
“I agree with Ted Thompson. I wish the first two days weren’t at night. I get why they are, but I’m a morning person in this job and would prefer not to see a team making its first-round pick at 11 p.m. Other than that, I’m fine with it and kind of glad it ends on a Saturday instead of Sunday.”
Its a long time between January and July. I miss the days when I could settle down in front of the TV for the draft and totally immerse myself in football for a weekend.
Todd McShay at ESPN has updated his mock draft and he gives a number of different scenarios to choose from:
“Chicago BearsRecord: 8-8 | Top needs: LT, CB, DE, LB, TE, DT, G, Stephon Gilmore*, CB, South Carolina
“Scenario 1: Gilmore could be a top-15 pick, and while he’s still developing in terms of instincts he has the size, athleticism and speed to become a No. 1 corner. And a team that will face Aaron Rodgers and Matthew Stafford four times a year has to be able to cover on the perimeter.
“Scenario 2: Upgrade at defensive end with Courtney Upshaw, who could add to the pass rush and bolster the run defense.
“Scenario 3: Address a need at left tackle with Ohio State’s Mike Adams or Stanford’s Jonathan Martin.
“Scenario 4: If Gilmore is off the board the Bears could choose to address their corner need with Alabama’s Dre Kirkpatrick or North Alabama’s Janoris Jenkins. There are character concerns with Jenkins, but he has more man-to-man cover skills than Kirkpatrick.”
“The weakest position remains offensive line — which is why I would use the Bears’ first-round pick to select athletic left tackle Jonathan Martin out of Stanford.
“Martin protected quarterback Andrew Luck’s blind side in 37 starts over three seasons before turning pro after his junior year. He needs to add strength and offensive coordinator Mike Tice would relish coaching the finesse out of Martin, but he exemplifies the technically-sound, high-character prospect the Bears like.”
The problem with the offensive tackles that are likely to be available to the Bears is that they are all high on potential but low on consistency. I don’t think this is the type of the player that GM Phil Emery is likely to look for.
If we look at the scenarios McShay describes and try to take a guess as to what direction Emery will go, we have to consider what he has said about how he will handle his job:
1. He’s emphasized that players need to show up on tape.
2. He’s said that the days where a player will be red shirted for a year while he develops are over. Emery subscribes to the New England system where rookies are expected to compete to start from day one.
3. He’s not afraid of players with off the field issues.
Taken together, I think we can safely guess that Emery is going to be looking for production in college above all else. And he’s probably going to be wary of one year wonders and workout warriors who have the physical tools but haven’t put it all together (i.e. Coples). That’s not to say he won’t take these players. But on balance they aren’t ideal fits based upon what little we know about his way of evaluating personnel.
“There’s a good chance Courtney Upshaw still will be on the board for the Bears when they pick in the 19th spot. Wouldn’t he be a much better selection coming from the Alabama program than Illinois’ Whitney Mercilus, who seems to be a one-year wonder? Dale Dombrowski, Grants, N.M.
“Scouts I have spoken with are split as to whether Upshaw or Mercilus is the better prospect, but I believe Mercilus is rated more highly by most teams. It’s true Upshaw had more production in 2010 than Mercilus, but Mercilus had way more production in 2011. Last season Mercilus had 7.5 more sacks and seven more forced fumbles than Upshaw. In fact, Mercilus nearly had as many sacks in 2011 as Upshaw had in his entire career (16 to 16.5), and he had three more forced fumbles. He also worked out better than Upshaw (4.68 40 yard dash to 4.76), and he has better intangibles. The Alabama program might be better than the Illinois program, but Mercilus is a better prospect in my eyes.”
Its not a black and white issue. Certainly by most reports, Mercilus is an immense talent. And he did produce for one year. Having said that, based upon what little we know about Emery, I’m guessing that he’s going to mildly disagree with Pompei here. Mercilus took three years to get to the point where he was productive at Illinois. On the other hand, Upshaw is exactly the kind of solid, productive player who can step right in that Emery is likely to value.
Its all guess work, of course, and unless Emery totally goes off the deep end few people are going to be disappointed any way he goes. But for what its worth I’d look at the characteristics above when figuring which available player the Bears will take when their turn comes.
“The question now is where Emery, who worked under Angelo, will differ and be an improvement over his predecessor.
“’Phil is going to have his own thoughts,’ [former Bears college scouting director, Greg] Gabriel said. ‘He is not going to get railroaded into doing something he doesn’t think is the right decision. Not a doubt in my mind. He’s very, very strong-minded.’”
You’ve got to wonder is that isn’t a back handed shot at Bears head coach Lovie Smith, who undoubtedly did talk former general manager Jerry Angelo into making some draft picks that he didn’t want to make.
“…the pace of this process is a strong indication of the place the new general manager will have in the Bears’ organization. This is clearly not a job that, when unfilled, leaves the organization unable to function. If the Bears intended this job to be the second-most powerful role in the franchise, just below that of Phillips, I imagine they would have moved with greater urgency. “
“The best way to describe the Bears’ next general manager, be it Emery or Licht, is that he will be the team’s top talent evaluator and will share in decisions with coach Lovie Smith and others. He will not be an all-powerful guru or a franchise-wide authority figure, at least not any time soon.”
I’m going to disagree with Seifert here. The Bears have made it pretty clear that Smith will report to Emery and I’m pretty sure Emery will actually be in charge. Probably the only real restriction is that Emery let Smith coach without interference, which Emery would be well advised to do anyway. Smith really is a good head coach and Emery may well be glad to have him next year. In any case, Emery will decide Lovie Smith’s fate after next season when it becomes more financially reasonable to fire him if necessary. Emery really is in charge.
Jon Greenberg at ESPNChicago.com also had an interesting take on the hiring of the new GM. Based upon this article (once again written before the decision was made) I’d say Greenberg isn’t all that happy with the final outcome:
“My biggest questions are: Do the Bears want someone with a new vision on how to change the organization while reveling in its history? Or do they want someone who will slide in, tidy up a few loose ends and keep the organization on track?
“I hope it’s the former.”
“This is a historic moment for the flagship franchise, and I hope, for the sake of the organization, the Bears take the plunge and hire Licht, who will bring fresh eyes and lessons learned in the years he spent with the most successful football franchise of the past decade.”
Greenberg might be right. But my inclination is to believe that this is an exaggeration. Emery was only with the Bears for two years under Angelo and he only worked with Smith for four moths. So its not like he’s necessarily going to be inclined to just walk in and be comfortable with a status quo that he was all that used to before he left.
One of the first things Emery is going to deal with is running back Matt Forte and his contract negotiations. From Pompei as he answers your questions:
“Could a new GM come in, look at the “mileage” on Forte and decide to trade him for much-needed picks? This seems to be an NFL trend recently. What is Forte worth in trade? Rick, Naperville
“The new GM would have to sign Forte first, then trade him, and I don’t believe this has much of a chance of happening. Running backs in general do not carry great trade value. Most of the time, a team would rather draft a younger back that pay a trade premium in order to acquire an older one, and then have to pay that older one a lucrative salary besides. There aren’t many good recent examples of a team trading a running back in his prime. In 2004, the Broncos traded Clinton Portis to the Redskins for cornerback Champ Bailey and a second-round pick. Last year, the Bills got a fourth-round pick for Marshawn Lynch. If I had to put a value on Forte in a trade, I’d guess he’d be worth a first-round pick. But his value could fluctuate up or down depending on the market, and the number of teams interested.”
I find it interesting that this fan wants to trade one of the few impact players the Bears have for draft picks. The whole purpose of the draft is to find guys like this through the shaky process of extrapolating college talent into the unknown. Once you do find them, you don’t trade them for for the privilege of making more hit or miss picks. You keep them and build on them.
“The Packers are not likely to stick with the status quo at outside linebacker as they did one year ago. Clay Matthews needs help. Outside linebackers coach Kevin Greene told me he never has seen a player get double and triple teamed as much as Matthews was this year. Matthews told me he had four blockers on him on a number of occasions—‘You get a tight end chipping you, a back coming off the edge, a tackle, and then a guard fanning your way,’ he said. The reason, obviously, is the Packers had no one else who could take advantage of singles. Dom Capers subsequently ended up dropping Matthews more and taking him out of what he does best—rushing the passer. Matthews still played at a very high level in 2011, but he needs a pass rush partner for the Packers to be a better defense.”
So the Packers need another pass rusher. Welcome to the club. Given that finding an elite pass rusher is a tough task in today’s NFL, I’ll suggest a simpler solution – teach your defense how to tackle. It can go an awfully long way towards solving a lot of problems.
“Miami is presently behind Cleveland and Washington in the race for Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III, which means it will likely take a king’s ransom (probably two first-round picks, and two second round picks AT LEAST) to move ahead of both teams to select the Heisman Trophy winner.”
“One of the reasons the Rams general manager search is moving slowly is the team is a little limited by the fact they aren’t offering control of the 53-man roster. As a result, other teams can block the Rams from hiring someone who is under contract, such as Lake Dawson. Two names we’re hearing are Mike Ackerly of the Titans and Rich Snead of the Raiders—both of whom have worked with Fisher.”
This problem should sound familiar to Bear fans. Its undoubtedly one of the reasons why they are having trouble finding a “passing game coordinator” who won’t be calling plays. Its true that nowadays teams seem to be perfectly fine with refusing to allow assistants to interview for promotions regardless of this fact. But I’m sure it makes the decision much easier.
“Moore has a ridiculously high quarterback rating in every quarter BUT the fourth quarter this season. During the fourth quarter, which is the most critical of the four, he’s got a 61.6 rating, and competing 56.5 percent of his passes. He’s throw four interceptions and two touchdowns during the fourth.”
“Sunday’s rally [against the 49ers] was Manning’s seventh fourth-quarter comeback of the season and his eighth game-winning drive — staggering numbers that are emblematic of the Giants’ penchant for playing close games. Earlier in the year, especially, it seemed the Giants went down to the final series every week; several players even joked about the ‘cardiac’ nature of the team’s play.”
“Defensive line—There was more talent at this position than any other. North Carolina’s Quinton Coples solidified himself as a top 10 pick and clearly was the class of the group. Two others who helped themselves and may have become solid first rounders were Alabama’s Courtney Upshaw and South Carolina’s Melvin Ingram, whose versatility makes him a fit for any kind of defense. Teams that use a three man front came away very impressed with Ta’amu Alameda of Washington. No way he gets out of round two. In one-on-one pass rush drills, Kendall Reyes of Connecticut showed surprising athleticism for his size.”
There’s no doubt that the concussion issue is a real problem in the NFL. But this fan suggests what I think is one of the most ridiculous proposed solutions to it as Judy Batista at The New York Timesanswers reader’s questions:
“On the topic of concussions: Has anyone to your knowledge compared the rate of concussions in football where they wear helmets to rugby where they don’t? I suspect helmets in football give players a false sense of security so they end up using their heads more as a weapon. Any thoughts?–SDE, Bow, N.H.”
“This is not an uncommon line of thinking on the subject. And I understand that line of thinking. But I don’t see getting rid of helmets – not when football players are as big and moving as fast as they do. I don’t want to think about the injuries that might occur when a receiver going over the middle for a catch collides with a defender coming at great speed to break up the catch – if neither is wearing a helmet. I don’t know if there are been studies comparing it to rugby. But there are also factors in the way the two sports are played that almost certainly impact number of concussions, too. The scariest hits in the N.F.L. seem to come when receivers and defenders collide at great speed while going for the ball, and while neither is looking to see what is about to hit them. Those kinds of plays simply don’t happen in other sports.”
“Back in the day, when I had the time and money, I used to wager on N.F.L. games.
“There was only one couch, Don Shula, who, when I bet, his value I could quantify. I added a point for the Don. His game planning skills gave me the courage to take the Fins against the ’85 Bears.
“How do you, Judy, quantify the value of a head coach? Consider that, after all, most N.F.L. players, have been football stars since Pop Warner. Really, at the very least, they’re all excellent football players.
“So, just how much does coaching matter? I think: More than in any other sport.
“And you? [ also…please relate to the obvious: Darth vs. Tom]–JP, Jersey City, N.J.”
“This is all you need to know about the role of coaching: The Patriots are going to the Super Bowl in a season in which Julian Edelman – a middling receiver – was deployed as a cornerback when the secondary was depleted. I’m not sure how many other coaches would have thought of that, but Bill Belichick did. He also has overhauled his offensive style multiple times in the Tom Brady years – obviously Brady deserves a ton of credit for being spectacular enough to make all those incarnations work so well – but this is not a coach who can only do one thing.”
“In the Baltimore-New England Game, when Brady does the QB keeper on fourth down, all he needed to do was break the plane of the goal line for the touchdown. However, when Flacco threw to Evans for the potential go ahead score in the final minute, it looked like Evans had the ball, got both feet down, and then the ball was knocked out by Moore. There was no video review to see if he had possession of the ball. Apparently he had to keep possession even after both feet were down, but why should that matter?–Seatant, New York City”
“The lack of a video replay was a big question after that play – but Mike Pereira, the former head of officials, was at the San Francisco game and watched the replay and said it was a clear drop and no need for replay. He didn’t make a move with the ball, he simply dropped it. In the case of a catch, it’s more than just breaking the plane – you have to actually hold on to the ball (think of that wacky Calvin Johnson play last year when he caught the ball and it looked for all the world like a touchdown catch and then the officials said he hadn’t held on). There’s a fine line. And to the officials’ eyes that was a drop by Lee Evans.”
The thing that bugged me about this wasn’t the call. It was the fact that the announcing team didn’t immediately address the issue by clarifying the rules and addressing the possibilities for viewers. Really a poor job on CBS’s part.
Next week’s game might prove interesting as the battle is engaged at the line of scrimmage. Giants defensive end Osi Umenyiora and Patriots left tackle Matt Lighthave fought twice before in previous match ups. From Gregg Rosenthal at profootballtalk.com:
“‘I don’t know what it is that he does, but it’s something that he’s doing that really gets under my skin,’ said Umenyiora on Friday via CSNNE.com. ‘Because I’m not that type of guy, you know what I mean? He’s probably the only person I’ve ever fought on a football field.’”
“‘There’s not a doubt in my mind that they rattled him. He started seeing things that weren’t even there,’ he said. ‘He’s human. He literally ducked down one time and there was no one there. Nobody was close to him. He thought he saw something and it wasn’t there. He literally ducked. We were literally like, ‘Did you see that? Is that really Tom Brady?’ He had been hit from his blindside earlier in the game.’”
I thouroughly enjoyed this article on the history of the Patriots franchise by Bill Pennington at The New York Times:
“How humble and bizarre were the Patriots’ beginnings?
“In one of their earliest games, a fan ran into the end zone to bat down an opponent’s last-play, game-tying touchdown pass attempt. The fan then retreated, vanishing into the crowd with a Patriots victory assured.
“In another game, the stands caught on fire, interrupting play as evacuating fans congregated at the 50-yard line. Several other Patriots games were delayed by power outages, impromptu snowball fights or referees who refused to take the field until they were paid. In one memorable pregame sequence, an ex-player was plucked from the stands to suit up, then made the tackle on the opening kickoff.”
Ravens center Matt Birkis considering retirement. From Florio. I suppose I don’t blame him. He was given the very difficult task of blocking Vince Wilfork last week and Wilfork ate his lunch. But in fairness, Wilfork is a load and there aren’t many centers in the game (if any) who can handle him without help as Birk was often asked to do.
I knew that there were some ridiculous prop bets out there. But some of these highlighted at Sports Illustrated are beyond even what I thought:
“Will Kelly Clarkson‘s bare belly be showing when she sings the National Anthem?
“Yes (only): 3/1”
“What color will Madonna’s hair be when she begins the Super Bowl Halftime show?
“Any other color: +250”
“Warner said while he’s been very impressed with Cutler, he’s still not convinced he can make the anticipation throws that were a staple in Martz’s ‘Greatest Show on Turf’ offense in St. Louis.
“‘‘He can’t let it go and trust his guys,’ Warner said. ‘Maybe it’s the guys he’s playing with. But as far as talent and being able to create plays, and as far as seeing something and throwing it, there’s no question he can be one of the best in the league.’”
Whatever else you say about Martz, he knew how to use different route combinations to get wide receivers open. When the quarterback could throw with anticipation to a spot and the scheme ran right, it could generate a lot of points with less than optimal talent.
“’I am tailoring what I am doing to what I’ve done, which is common sense,’ Tice said. ‘Why run it when they have one more guy than you can block? Why not throw it when you have free access and you have a guy who can beat single coverage?’”
“’If you’re going to take advantage of the box count and you’re going to get the ball to that guy with single coverage, you need a guy who is going to get open more than 90 percent of the time. We don’t have a guy who has stepped up, in my opinion, and shown us that ability. We either have to develop one who is in the building or we have to bring one in via the draft or free agency.”
And there lies the rub.
Even John Shoop could count guys in the box. The problem is that it gets a lot more complicated than this. The offense that Tice describes is going to be about match ups. That’s great when you have match ups with the defense that you can win. But what do you do when you don’t have any talent?
Tice isn’t going to be like Martz. He isn’t going to be able to use the X’s and O’s to make up for what the Bears roster lacks. He’s going to allow defenses to stack the box, put pressure on the quarterback and dictate the match ups that the Bears will usually be unable to win.
The Bears very likely could get a lot worse offensively before they get a lot better.
“So, the team needs to add at least two cornerbacks to the mix and probably three. If they can upgrade over what Jennings has given them the last two seasons, that would be a plus, especially when they run into the Green Bay Packers twice next season.”
“Former NFL scout Dave Razzano recently ranked his top general manager candidates in The Razz Report, and he listed Licht as No. 7.
“Wrote Razzano, ‘Both organized and thorough in his approach, the personable Licht has worked under some of the league’s more prominent names like Jimmy Johnson, Andy Reid and now Belichick, where he plays a big part in keeping the Pats on top of the AFC standings. Licht has played a strong role with three different teams now and will likely find himself on several GM short lists in the near future. His eye for talent and overall personnel skills are why Bill Belichick brought him back to New England after a short stint with the Arizona Cardinals.’”
“Here’s how former Tribune In the Wake of the News sports columnist Michael Holley described Emery in his book War Room:
“’He worked at the Naval Academy for seven years, so he’s not a career military man, although he does sound like one: His voice is clear and commanding. … He’s got an iPad in front of him with his notes as well as reports from the scouts. His recall is impressive. … You get the feeling the iPad isn’t always necessary due to his ability to give historical playbacks from memory.’”
“If the Bears hire Emery, he will have to be a good learner too. He doesn’t have much experience with the salary cap and contracts, pro personnel or sitting in an office.
“’That was the knock on Thomas Dimitroff, Jerry Reese, Ted Thompson, Trent Baalke and a number of guys who have become successful general managers,’ Kansas City general manager Scott Pioli said. ‘He runs the scouting staff, and that is quite a responsibility.’”
“But if the Bears franchise him not for the purpose of negotiations, but instead as their final decision on how to compensate him in 2012, there could be trouble.
“Forte [told ESPN Radio 1000]: “A lot of teams franchise guys so that they can get a deal done or negotiate a deal. It just depends on what the motive of that is.
“The franchise tag for running backs this offseason is expected to be a little less than $8 million. If it seems clear the Bears plan to pay him that salary, with no credible offer for an extension beyond the 2012 season, Forte implied he might not be in training camp on time.
“’I wouldn’t say holdout,’ he said, ‘but people probably wouldn’t know where I was.’”
Think the Bears are taking too much time to hire a general manager? You’ll want to see what Mike Silver at Yahoo sports has to say about the Raiders’ “search”. Apparently you’re not doing it right no matter how you handle it.
Omar Kelly at the South Florida Sun-Sentinel reports that Packers offensive coordinator Joe Philbinis the choice for head coach in Miami. Philbin Is an interesting choice. The Dolphins are looking for a proficient pass-oriented offense like the Packers. But one wonders how much head coach Mike McCarthy had to do with designing that offense and getting it to run. Philbin’s background is with the offensive line. That’s usually not the kind of person a big time passing offense comes from.
McCarthy might be a Packer but his comments to the Associated Pressindicate that he most certainly is not dumb. Much has been said about Packers quarterback Aaron Rogers not being quite as sharp as usual throwing to receivers who were dropping balls all over the field last weekend in their loss to the Giants. But McCarthy put his finger right on one of the major problems that went largely unappreciated:
“‘The tackling just was not there all year,’ McCarthy said in press conference to end the season, via the Associated Press. ‘Without getting into the specific statistics, we did not tackle well enough as a football team, from start to finish. It’s something that’s emphasized every single day in practice and something that [defensive coordinator] Dom [Capers] and I talked a lot about today.’”
“Success has its challenges, and one is replacing the inevitable brain drain that occurs as opponents try to replicate. This month, the Packers have lost a top front office talent in [Reggie] McKenzie and one of their top coaches in Philbin. The pressure is on the Packers to continue to develop qualified successors.”
“‘If you hit them in the mouth and you stand up to them, that’s the way you play it,’ Williams told the Baltimore Sun. ‘I think when you’re as good as they are, you get used to people kind of being intimidated. And I think when you show them that you’re not, it automatically makes them have to change the way they’re used to playing, and that automatically gives us an advantage.’”
“He’s right. Olsen caught three passes for 113 yards with a 58-yard touchdown in the 35-24 victory over the Seattle Seahawks in the divisional round. It was his second-to-last game in a Bears uniform as he was traded to the Carolina Panthers on the eve of training camp.”
“Trading Olsen didn’t help the Bears’ passing attack in 2011 but the moves made did augment the running game. It’s time to find a way for the tight ends to start helping the quarterback by doing more than chip blocking from time to time.”
If Greg Olsen wants to invite comparisons to the New England tight ends, he’s making a serious mistake. Teams are showing once again that the tight end can be a great weapon in the passing game. But you need more than Olsen, a glorified wide receiver who can be covered by a nickel back. I doubt the Bears regret a thing.
“The Bears cut DT Tommie Harris this offseason and needed to find a three-technique tackle to replace him. They filled their two most pressing needs with their first two picks, improving both lines. Paea possesses both strength and quickness and could help at either interior position for the Bears. He’s capable of manning the nose or playing in gaps, where he is more comfortable. Rod Marinelli should be able to light a fire underneath him.”
The Bears picked a guy in the second round who needs a fire lit underneath him?
ESPN‘s NFC North blogger Kevin Seiferttalks about the misconception amongst at least some NFL experts that Stephen Paea will be a run stuffing nose tackle in the Bears 4-3
“Today, you might laugh at the thought of putting John Randle, Warren Sapp and Stephen Paea in the same sentence. But we do so more to describe a mentality than assess his skill level. I would be worried if a second-round draft pick was hoping to become, say, the next Ted Washington or Tony Siragusa. All I’m saying is the Bears are hoping for — and need — more than run defense from the No. 53 overall pick of the draft.
Seifert is under valuing the nose guard position but the Bears are running a 4-3 not a 3-4 so he’s got a point.
“With the high amount of collisions required at the safety position in Lovie Smith‘s preferred defense, GM Jerry Angelo seemingly must address the position every year. There’s a chance Danieal Manning could depart, as well. Conte was a late riser who really impressed secondary coaches in the evaluation process. He plays like a poor man’s John Lynch and elevated on draft boards in a weak safety class.”
“Enderle is a big, smart stationary passer who too often over thinks the game. He has the mental capacity to handle all the demands of Mike Martz‘s complex offense. The key to Enderle’s development will be how much Martz can hone his instincts and teach him to cut it loose and trust what he sees.”
“If you think it’s too early to look into next year’s class, consider that NFL teams meet to share notes on 2012 senior prospects every year at this time. It’s the tipoff to the draft process starting anew, the initial gathering of information shared by scout services that aids in lining up travel schedules for scouts who return to college campuses beginning in August.”
Here’s what he said about the Bears 2012 “pick”:
“15. Chicago Bears: *Stephon Gilmore, CB, South Carolina
“Gilmore’s thin build belies a toughness and attitude that all cornerbacks need to succeed. Though no guarantee to be a first-round pick without a strong junior year, his upside warrants this projection.”
He doesn’t sound like a prototypical fit for the Bears defensive system but I’ll bag that pick when we come to it.
“Chicago committed 27 blown blocks that led to sacks or penalties, according to Football Outsiders’ Game Charting Project, the third-highest total in the league, but blown blocks tell only part of the story. The Bears ranked 30th in the league in adjusted line yards on runs up the middle last season, where [Olin] Kreutz and Garza do most of their dirty work. The FO game charters noted many instances of missed blocks by Garza that led to stuffed running plays, and even Kreutz whiffed on his fair share of blocks against quicker defenders.”
“Frank Omiyale could move from left to right tackle, allowing J’Marcus Webb (7.5 blown blocks last year) to move inside to challenge Garza.”
“‘There are very few people in the NFL who understand football techniques and schematically know the game as well as him,’ [former offensive line coach Harry] Hiestand said.
“A couple of years ago, Kreutz would have told you he had no desire to coach. Now, he says ‘we’ll see what happens.’ If the Bears can identify an heir apparent, he’d probably handle a mentoring role well.”
“Obviously, we gave up a lot of sacks but we were still able to get to the NFC Championship Game. We’re not too far off. We have to make improvements and get a couple more guys in there. We’ll see what happens.”
“Q: Where does Herman Johnson fit into the offensive line plans?”
“– Mike (Valparaiso, Ind.) ”
“A: At 6 foot 7, 360 pounds, Johnson definitely fits the mold of the humungous players coveted by offensive line coach Mike Tice… Johnson’s best shot at competing for a chance to contribute in 2011 is to report to the team (whenever they’re allowed to) in tip-top shape. The Bears have told me they’re not concerned about players reporting out of shape. But with a guy as big as Johnson, you’ve got to be at least a little worried.”
“Is there any way the Bears bring back Tommie Harris on a cheaper contract or incentives-laden contract? Tom C, Columbia, Mo.
“If you look at the history of the Jerry Angelo/Lovie Smith regime, when they turn the page on a player, they typically do not go back. They did it with Chris Harris, but he was a different case than most. I think we have seen the last of Tommie Harris in a Bears uniform.”
This is about the third time I’ve read a fan question revolving around this issue. I’m having a hard time understanding it. Tommie Harris had about as good a year as he’s going to have last year and it was very average. Its fairly well established that the three-technique tackle has to make that defense go. The Bears need an upgrade and Harris would just be taking up a roster spot without playing special teams.
“Some of these workouts are overrated. Unless they are done under the supervision of coaches, their value is limited. The primary benefits of these types of workouts are building camaraderie and working on timing between quarterbacks and receivers. These types of workouts are not going to decide who wins the Super Bowl. That being said, the Bears quarterbacks and receivers should have been working out together long ago. If they have not been (and I am not completely sure they have not been), it shows a void of leadership on the team.”
“It’s possible that some players are awaiting a ruling from the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis, which is determining whether NFL owners will get a permanent stay to keep the lockout in place. If that’s the case, the earliest teams would re-open for business is the end of June. You could expect more players to start organizing themselves if that comes to bear. We’ll keep you updated.”
“What scared me about (Washington’s) Jake Locker is that won-lost record. It was ugly. Look at the personnel at Stanford. It’s not great outside of Andrew Luck. Look at Jim Everett at Purdue. Look at Mississippi since Eli Manning left. If you are a great quarterback, no matter what you have on the line, at receiver and running back, I think you go 8-4, 7-5 and play in bowl games. How do you start four years and go 15-25?”
I think this is something that you could generally apply to all quarterbacks, pro and college. I’ve heard the excuse made numerous times that Jay Cutler lost so many games because he played at Vanderbilt. But I look at his body language and his leadership skills and I wonder. Does that really hold water?
Another Audible gives us insight into Andy Dalton you won’t find expressed anywhere on the record:
“When we interviewed (TCU QB) Andy Dalton, he said the accomplishment he was most proud of was gathering 750 kids to listen to his ministry every week, not winning the Rose Bowl. When we asked him how he is going to handle guys on the field when the bullets start flying and his teammates are yelling at him, he said the first thing he is going to do is pray about it. I couldn’t help but think, this might be the next Danny Wuerffel. If you are talking about (Dalton) going to be your starter, I would be nervous.”
“But executive vice president Stephen Jones wondered last month how the labor issues would affect their pursuit of these hidden gems.
“‘It will be different,’ he said. ‘We’ll see if it is a disadvantage.'”
“There is obvious reason for concern. Because of the lockout, all 32 teams will have more time to research the strengths and weaknesses of the undrafted rookies. Not much else is going on, after all. There are no mini-camps being conducted, no organized team activities to plan and no roster moves to be made.”
The Cowboys might be at a disadvantage in another way (along with almost everyone else). Eric Edholm at Pro Football Weekly says that six unnamed agents told him that they’d been contacted by teams about undrafted free agents (against the rules). In fact Missouri center Tim Barnes actually named the Bengals, Ravens, and Dolphins as having contacted him.
“‘It was almost like a normal year in terms of contact, a little less (phone contact) than normal maybe, only without the signed contracts at the end,’ one of the agents said.”
Edholm told WSCR last night that from the information he’s gathered it looks like as many as 10-12 teams may be involved.
“Williams told ace Texans reporter John McClain he played at 290 pounds last year. There is no prototype of an outside linebacker who weighed that much. The Texans have pointed to DeMarcus Ware as an outside linebacker Williams can be like. But Ware weighs about 30 pounds less.”
“Offenses will try to force Williams to drop. The Texans will counter by moving him to the other side of the formation. But that will mean another linebacker, likely [Brooks] Reed, will have to drop and cover a tight end or back. That’s not an appealing option for the Texans either.”
“’Our thought has been we have always been looking to make our program as effective as it can be,’ said the N.F.L. executive, who insisted that he not be named because he was not authorized to speak publicly about the matter. ‘There have been some things, H.G.H. is one of them, that the union has resisted,’ he added. ‘When we get to the point where there is not a party involved, maybe we should consider what we consider important to keep pace with science and trends.’
“’If we had some clarity of where this thing was going to end up,’ he said, the league ‘might have more clarity of what we would do.’
“George Atallah, the spokesman for the National Football League Players Association, said the group would have no comment.”
For those who aren’t reading between the lines, this is a negotiating tactic. The NFL knows full well the extent to which HGH is used in the league and how much it will impact the current players if they start to test for it. Careers based upon how well a person’s body responds to HGH would likely rapidly go down the tubes.
Alan Schawz at the New York Times takes an in depth look at the brain trauma discovered in almost every pro football player who has so far been examined:
“The set of 15 players tested by B.U. researchers to this point is far from a random sample of NFL retirees that could represent the wider population. Many of the players died under conditions that could be related to CTE: [Charlie] Waters and [Dave] Duerson by suicide, John Grimsley from a gun accident, Tom McHale from a drug overdose. Their families then donated their brains largely to seek an explanation for the mens’ behavior.
“‘There’s a tremendous selection bias, so you can’t make any conclusions about the incidence or prevalence of disease,’ said Dr. Ann McKee, the B.U. group’s lead neuropathologist and director of neuropathology at New England Veterans Administration Medical Centers.”