Quick Note – Jay Cutler Seems to Be Making Significant Progress. So Far.

I thought the following quote from the Chicago Tribune was significant in terms of quarterback Jay Cutler‘s growth within the new offense:

“On if Brandon Marshall was the primary target on the touchdown pass:

“’We kind of went across the field there. We wanted to get Martellus [Bennett] down the middle again, but they covered that up. We had kind of had a check down to Alshon [Jeffrey] in the left flat and they
covered that up. He was kind of the third late read there. It was just a click late, but he still made a great catch.’”

My fear has been (and still is) that when Cutler is under pressure in the pocket, he’s going to simply throw the ball up for Brandon Marshall, the only receiver he really trusted last year. This play initially did nothing to alleviate that fear. What I think is significant is that Cutler didn’t do what I thought he did. He went through his progression in the face of a blitz and found Marshall as the third read.

I won’t say that I’m completely convinced that Cutler isn’t going to devolve into what we saw last year when he’s trapped in the pocket under pressure and things generally aren’t going well. Not yet. But this seems to me to be significant progress and I’ve got a lot more hope today than I had Saturday.

Quick Point: Matt Forte May Be the Man to Watch Today

Matt Bowen at the Chicago Tribune describes how the Bears might use the short passing game to move the ball today.

chi-positional-breakdown-20130907

Forte’s alignment

“[Head coach Marc] Trestman gave us a small sample of [Matt] Forte‘s role in the Bears’ new playbook throughout exhibitions by aligning the running back in multiple positions. That allows the Bears to remove Forte from the core formation and create inside matchups versus both zone and man defenses. Here, Forte will run the backside slant and target the hole between the Will (W) and Mike (M) linebackers. This is another quick read for Cutler on a high-percentage middle of the field throw that could produce an explosive gain once Forte gets past the second level.”

Good point. Many of us saw former offensive coordinator Mike Martz try some of the same things with Forte with some success. Forte’s role won’t be strictly as a screen receiver or as a dump off option here. He’ll be an integral part of creating defensive mismatches, frequently being lined up opposite linebackers (assuming the Bears show they can run the ball).

One other point that’s worth noting here. The classic West Coast offense is all about the short passing game as described, for example, here. The reason why the cover two defense was so successful at stopping it is because few teams found they could execute with the consistency needed to work their way down the field in small chunks of yardage without making mistakes. One holding penalty or one bad dropped pass can put the offense in a hole it can’t get out of and you’re punting. That will be the Bears challenge this season, starting today.

All Gabe Carimi Needs is Time and Other Points of View

Bears

“‘He’s ready. He’s paid his dues,’ Manning told Tom Kensler of the Denver Post. ‘Mike’s a good leader. He’s got some good coaches that have been mentors to him, different coaches that he’s worked with in the NFL that I think he’s incorporated some of their leadership philosophies and his own philosophy.'”

“‘I tell you, he’s a worker,’ Manning said of the 40-year-old McCoy. ‘We spend a lot of hours together — early mornings, late nights — trying to get our game plan in place. There is no substitute for work ethic, and Mike certainly has that. In my opinion, he deserves a shot at one of these head coaching jobs.'”

But its Denver left guard Zan Beatles who probably said what Emery wants to hear. Via Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune:

“He’s really a guy that can set his ego aside and really mold something around the guys that he has. Obviously, he has done a good job of that the last couple years being as different as these offenses have been. He’s willing to listen and take input and stuff like that.”

McCoy. himself, confirms this with a quote via Dan Pompei at the Chicago Tribune:

“‘I learned from Dan Henning a long time ago that if the quarterback doesn’t like something, or he can’t do it, you eliminate that from the game plan. Same with the running game. If there are schemes up front that our offensive line runs better, why try to force feed something else? I always say I don’t care what we want to do, but what can our players do well? That’s where it all starts.'”

“Call [former Packers head coach Mike] Holmgren in Arizona. Find out if the guy who tamed Brett Favre and made him a winner can do the same with the Bears’ version of the early foolish and stubborn Favre.

Jay Cutler has been compared to Favre in terms of physical talent and gunslinger mentality. Favre, of course, learned. Cutler, so far, has appeared unfazed by coaching. I don’t know if he thinks coaching is beneath him, but it certainly has eluded him.”

“Holmgren made the playoffs seven straight years in Green Bay. He made the playoffs five straight years in Seattle. He has coached 24 postseason games, winning nine in Green Bay and four in Seattle. By comparison, The Bears have won four playoff games since Mike Ditka.

“Oh, and don’t forget one Super Bowl and two NFC titles.

“If Cutler can’t respect that and develop under a coach whose resume includes Favre, Joe Montana, Steve Young and Matt Hasselbeck, then it probably wouldn’t be the fault of the coach. Connect the dots, people. Anyone too dumb to learn from a coach who is that accomplished also is too dumb to quarterback the Bears.”

Oo the other hand we have this from Pompei:

“As for Holmgren, he was a special coach in his prime. Whether he still would be one at the age of 65 and after four years away from coaching would have to be determined.”

“Quarterback Josh McCown, a 10-year veteran who has worked with Cutler, Bates and Mike Martz, said it was easy to see the chemistry between Bates and Cutler.

“‘No question,’ McCown said. ‘They have great chemistry, and that’s a credit to [Bates]. He understands what he wants to get accomplished but also players are all individuals, and we’re all different. He knows one guy has to be taught differently than the next guy and so on and so forth. He’s willing to do anything it takes to get the message taught.

“‘Jay responds to [Bates’] teaching style.'”

Cutler’s mechanics generally were considered to have taken a step back this year. He certainly was more inconsistent.

“Cutler has not proven he deserves to be paid like one of the elite quarterbacks in the National Football League in my opinion, but he probably thinks he has. So it might be difficult to reach agreement with him on a long term commitment at this point. If I were in charge of the Bears’ roster, I would probably let him play out the last year of his deal in 2013. If he plays well, they can pay him then. If he plays OK and they don’t have a better option, they can franchise him. If he plays poorly, they can let him walk.”

“[Carimi] can’t be judged on his 2012 season for a couple of reasons. The first is he came into the season after knee surgery and was affected by it, especially early. As his knee came around, it became apparent that both his lower body strength and confidence had suffered. He never did get comfortable. What Carimi needs is time — time to rebuild his physical and mental strength. My bet is he ends up being a very good right tackle in the NFL.”

“Now what becomes important is, do I feel like Shea’s got the motor, the athletic ability, the savvy to be a good starting player in the NFL? Yes, I do.”

What he doesn’t have is the size. It will be interesting to see what happens to his body in the offseason.

Elsewhere

“If Jones makes a change at coach, here’s how we think it will happen. He’ll line up a successor quietly before firing [head coach Jason] Garrett, like Jones did when he lured Bill Parcells to Dallas while Dave Campo was still the coach.

“The name to watch continues to be Jon Gruden. As mentioned on Monday’s Pro Football Talk, Jones was spotted a few weeks ago in Tampa, where Gruden lives.

“If not Gruden, Mike Holmgren remains a possibility.”

  • Jay Gruden, Jon’s brother, has been speculated to be a candidate for a number of job. He’s coaching Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton and is apparently doing a pretty good job. Via Vaughn McClure at the Chicago Tribune:

“‘Andy’s a quarterback who makes all the throws and stays alive,’ [Houston safety Danieal] Manning said. ‘And he’s smart, so there’s not much disguising you can really do to him. Last year we were able to disguise a little bit. This year, he’s picking up all the disguises.'”

“The biggest decision Capers has to make is whether to leave Woodson at safety full time or continue to move him into a slot corner position when he goes to the nickel or dime scheme.

“[Casey] Hayward has proved to be an outstanding slot corner with a team-leading six interceptions, and it would be a mistake [not] to use of his cover skills.

“In addition, Woodson hasn’t tackled anybody in 2½ months and [defensive coordinator Dom] Capers probably doesn’t want him constantly at the line of scrimmage in the slot position prepared to take on running back Adrian Peterson. So, he could just keep him at safety and let Hayward play the slot.”

“Running back James Starks (knee) probably won’t play against the Vikings, but he has been helping the cause.

“Starks has lined up as Peterson with the scout team a good portion of the week, hoping to give the defense a reasonable look at what to expect. This is the first step in Starks getting back on the field, but he’ll need the Packers to win to have a shot at playing again this season.”

The only way Starks is really going to help is if he can get them to improve their fundamentals and tackle better. Because from what I saw last week, that is the major problem.

“Some NFL executives have questioned whether or not Chip Kelly’s style of offense will play in the pros. Kelly, however, has been putting this message out through back channels: He would not run the same offense he runs at Oregon if hired by an NFL team. Instead, he would run a pro style offense, but with a faster tempo than most and with a good dose of no huddle. The NFL model for Kelly might be similar to what the Patriots run. Also in question is the way he makes his practices grueling. One NFL front office man said Kelly would have to lighten up the practice pace, especially later in the week, or he would have no players left by the middle of the season.”

Kelly is rumored to basically already have the Cleveland job.

    • Todd Haley might be a little smarter than I would have given him credit for. From Josh Alper at profootballtalk.com
  • On a related note, the fact that former Eagles head coach Andy Reid has been hired by Kansas City isn’t going to stop me from posting this from profootballmock.com:


  • Most of the time, having a coaching search with a wide variety of candidates is considered to be a good thing. But the Eagles head coaching search might a little TOO broad. From The Sports Pickle.
  • Rex Ryan has an unusual tatoo. I’m’ surprised that she isn’t wearing Sanchez’s shoes. From the New York Daily News.

Columnist Gary Meyers comments:

“The tattoo does make sense in one regard. In expressing last week that the Jets are the only team he wants to coach, Ryan said, ‘Let’s face it. I wear Jets stuff every single day, every day.’

“Clearly, he was not kidding.”

 

One Final Thought

And The Sports Pickle brings us this video under the headline “Drunk Packers’ Fan Cheers, Dies”:

Fumbling the Snap And Other Points of View

Bears

  • From Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune, Devin Hester did his best not to point the finger after the game Sunday when it came to who was to blame for the interception to him from quarterback Jay Cutler. Wide receivers coach Darryl Drake has no such scupples:

“‘If Devin was wrong, Jay would have said it, or Devin would have said it,’ Drake said. ‘He wouldn’t have hid it.'”

Time for head coach Lovie Smith to pulls Drake aside and tell him to keep it all in the locker room. Heaven forbid someone should give the fans any information, especially when its something critical of Cutler.

“Does Jay Cutler make most of his passes off of his back foot? And if so, is it due mainly to pressure from the defense, or is it his throwing mechanics? Rex Grossman took a lot of grief as a Bear for passing off the back foot. Looks like Cutler also passes off the back foot, but he can still throw hard and get the ball where he wants it to be. Would Cutler’s passing improve if he threw more off the front foot? — Robert, Homewood

“A lot of times Cutler throws off his back foot because of pressure. Sometimes he does it because of poor form. I have talked with Bears quarterbacks coach Jeremy Bates about this, and he does not think it’s a problem. In fact, he thinks Cutler’s ability to throw from different angles and body positions is one of his strengths. Certainly, Cutler gets amazing velocity on passes sometimes when he is throwing with nothing but arm. So while this is a plus for Cutler, I also think he could be more accurate if he threw with more consistent technique.”

I would, of course, agree with this. But like a lot of things with Cutler, you take what you get and yo live with it. Its evident that he’s never going to have great mechanics in the same way its evident that he’ll ever be able to throw with anticipation. He’s not the most coachable quarterback. I’m sure that mentally he learns fast and well. But its now evident that physically you live with what you’ve got.

 

“With Chris Conte and Major Wright showing improvement this season, what are the chances of Brandon Hardin being moved back to his natural CB position? With Charles Tillman aging and Tim Jennings being undersized and fragile, the Bears could use a big corner. Or is he too slow to play CB at this level? — George Mckeown, Phoenix

“Speed is not the issue. If Hardin lined up at cornerback for the Bears, he might be the fastest player at the position. He ran a 4.43 40-yard-dash pre-draft. I think the issue would be whether or not he is athletic enough to play cornerback. Hardin might be too stiff to be able to flip his hips, run and change directions with quicker wide receivers. Some even wonder if he might be too stiff to excel at the safety position. But just because the Bears have two promising safeties does not mean they could not use another. You know how this team goes through safeties historically. If Hardin can play, he’ll get his chances at the safety position.”

 

  • Potash makes the unique argument that Lovie Smith needs to get fired for his own good. Somehow I doubt Smith would see it that way.

“I think teams make a mistake when they lock into hiring one specific kind of coach. You have to be open-minded when you enter a hiring process. The objective is to find the best man who can lead an entire organization, not the best offensive mind. The NFL has seen a lot of offensive wizards come down the pike who have made terrible head coaches. Just being able to run an offense well does not quality a coach to run a whole team. That being said, I think it’s always preferable to hire a head coach with an offensive background, if all things are equal. The reason is it’s difficult to find good offensive coordinators, and if you can find one and he does a good job, he’ll probably leave to be a head coach before long.”

Point well taken. But if you are going to hire a defensive head coach you’d better be absolutely sure he can consistently attract and hire good offensive coordinators who can coach quarterbacks. Because you’ll get nowhere without them.

The more I think about it, the more I think the Packers Tom Clements may be the man for the job. I like the idea of hiring Bruce Arians, who was Peyton Manning‘s first quarterback coach, from Indianapolis as well. Both men would fit the bill.

 

Cardinals

“With a skilled quarterback, the Cardinals could be a legitimate team in an improving NFC West. They’re sunk until they get that guy, and rookie sixth-round pick Ryan Lindley really doesn’t give them a chance. Lindley is completing only 51.1 percent of his passes. With a mixed look of zone coverages, the Bears should be able to come away with multiple takeaways. Unfortunately for the Cardinals and the other quarterback-poor franchises, this draft doesn’t offer much in the way of hope.”

  • I understand that Lindley hasn’t earned much respect. But I’d just as soon the Bears were a little more circumspect in their comments about him. The last time they got caught trash talking the Packers made them eat the ball.

“Winners of their first four games, the Cardinals dropped nine in a row before awakening from their slumber Sunday with a 38-10 thumping of the wildly underachieving Lions.

“But one positive for the Cardinals has been their secondary, particularly cornerback Patrick Peterson.

“The Cardinals’ pass defense has limited opposing quarterbacks to a combined passer rating of 68.0 this season, the lowest in the NFL.”

  • Biggs points to a couple match ups to keep an eye on in the Cardinals matchup. One is rookie Patrick Peterson against the Bears special teams. He’s an outstanding punt returner. In addition, defensive end Julius Peppers is up against a rookie left tackle, Nate Potter.
  • Fred Mitchell at the Chicago Tribune bemoans the loss of the Bears-Cardinals rivalry dating back to when both teams were in Chicago. It means nothing to Chicago now but as someone who is spending Christmas with relatives in St. Louis I’m thanking the gods that the Beas are playing them this week. Because the Cardinals were in St. Louis for many years and because many local fans picked up the Bears when they left for Arizona, the game is being televised as the most interesting match up in the St. Louis area. Hopefully the Rams’ noon game doesn’t go into overtime and I see the whole thing.

 

Elsewhere

“Q. You interviewed about 20 coaches, many of whom have won the Super Bowl. What is a common trait?

“A. They are all extremely competitive and some of them are ultra-paranoid about being outworked by the coach they are facing on Sunday. Andy Reid sleeps in his office most nights during the season. He goes to bed at 1 a.m. and starts his day at 4:30 a.m. Even with all the money the coaches make and the fame that comes with holding one of these 32 prestigious positions, they make this job much harder than it needs to be.”

“Browns: whatever is left in the fridge in Mike Holmgren‘s old office”

  • Also from The Spots Pickle, I wonder what took commissioner Roger Goodell so long to suggest this?


 


  • I understand that everyone, including Carson Palmer, has to make a living but I just don’t think you could pay me enough money to do this one. Via The Sports Pickle:



One Final Thought

This video is from 2009 but the Bengals still aren’t getting the snap count right. I blame Mike Tice. Happy holidays, everyone:

 

Not the Most Likable Bunch and Other Points of View

Bears

“‘Uh, the route I ran was the route I was supposed to run. It was just …’ Hester said, pausing. ‘We just weren’t on the same page.'”

I’m not to thrilled with that statement. Cutler’s been covering for Hester all year. I think he could have handled that answer better.

“‘You know, I keep getting something in my neck. I just told Jason Campbell to be ready, because I don’t know what’s going to happen.'”

“On getting the team back on track:

“‘Basically, (we need to) stop making mistakes we’ve been making the past five/six weeks. When we have a chance to get a first down and its third and medium – third and short – don’t get penalties. Backing us up makes it harder to get a first down. When we’re on the goal line, (we need to score) seven points, instead of three. (We need to) stop doing turnovers. Basically, we’ve been shooting ourselves in the foot every time we move the ball the last six/seven weeks.'”

 

 

“On his third offensive coordinator in four seasons and fourth overall, it’s fair to wonder if the team will ever get that side of the ball right under [head coach Lovie] Smith. It’s also worth wondering if chairman of the board George McCaskey will play a central role in end-of-season decisions. It may come down to candid discussions about whether Smith and his staff or a flawed roster are more to blame for a painful free fall.”

Hopefully, they’ll correctly conclude that its both. I’m still waiting to see if Smith can motivate this team and if they’re still listening to him. They lost to a definitively better team Sunday. They should beat the Cardinals. For me, a lot will come down to the Lions game. To be honest, I don’t have much hope that Smith will rally this team to a decent performance. As Bob LeGere at the Daily Herald put it:

“Dead men walking.

“That’s what the Bears looked like as they left the field Sunday following their fifth loss in six games overall and their sixth straight loss to the Packers, who clinched the NFC North title with a 21-13 victory at Soldier Field.”

  • There’s a lot of truth in this Audible from Pro Football Weekly:

“The Bears went from 7-1 to out of the playoffs and there is plenty of blame for everybody. They need a total housecleaning, including (team president) Ted Phillips. It’s two years in a row it fell apart like this. It runs a lot deeper than just the head coach.”

“Maybe Emery’s greatest mistake thus far is a common one in the NFL. He tried to add to the Bears depth by signing backup players. Despite some big money going to Campbell and Michael Bush, the only real starter brought in was Brandon Marshall via trade.

“The way to do it is to sign starters, improve the roster from the top down and wind up with former starters as backups. That’s what real depth is in the NFL.”

 

Cardinals

  • Tell me this column from Paola Boivin at the Arizona Replublic doesn’t sound very familiar:

“Something is askew in the personnel hierarchy.

“How do you go two years without drafting an offensive lineman and five years without taking one above the fifth round?

“How do you allow a quarterback carousel to spin so out of control that merely watching it requires an air-sickness bag?

“It is not about money with the Cardinals anymore.

“It is not even that much about coaching.

“It is about talent evaluation.”

“The Cardinals have a gifted defense, one that leads the NFL in interceptions. They could be battling for a playoff spot if they had even an average offensive attack. A stellar defense can mask a lot of wounds.

“But no one imagined these wounds would be so deep and the organization’s bones would be so broken.”

  • How emotional was the Cardinals’ victory over the Lions last week? According to Kent Somers at the Arizona Republic veteran safety Adrian Wilson actually wept.

There are no guarantees, of course. But I’ll bet my hat this team is going to let down badly against the Bears this Sunday.

 

Elsewhere

  • Does Packer’s kicker Mason Crosby have incriminating pictures of head coach Mike McCarthy? Becasue that’s the only explanation I can think of for this.
  • Biggs quotes a national scout on Manti Te’o, who some believe might be available for the Bears to draft as a middle linbacker.

“‘The kid is a productive player,’ the scout said. ‘Is he better than some of the other guys that came out the last couple years? A couple of them. He’s in the mix to be a mid-round pick. He does what you ask. He is a three-down linebacker. There are not many times you get a chance to get a three-down linebacker. When you do, you better draft them in the first round. Does (Brian) Urlacher ever come off the field? Does (Lance) Briggs ever come off the field? There you go.

“‘When you get a three-down backer you have added value. I never would have drafted (Brandon) Spikes in the first round. I would have drafted him in the second round because he is not a three-down linebacker. People may say he can’t run and this and that. I saw that. He plays on the third downs. He must be able to run a little bit or he wouldn’t be playing on third downs. Listen, between now and the draft people are going to poke holes in every player. That’s just the way it is.'”

  • RGIII and Kirk Cousins are singing duets, also on profootballmock.com.

 

One Final Thought

I haven’t paid much attention to Brian Urlacher’s stupid comments about the fans Sunday night. But I thought the take of Rick Morrissey at the Chicago Sun-Times was interesting:

“So before we jump all over Urlacher, let’s understand that he’s a product of the professional environment he was brought up in here. Sunday’s comments simply open the window to that environment a little wider.

“The franchise’s paranoid attitude has been there all along. And friendliness? Well, Colin Montgomerie has nothing on the Bears.

“In his nine years as coach, Smith couldn’t have been more dismissive of the media. He has never cared that, by doing so, he was also deeming fans as unworthy of his valuable time and deep well of football knowledge. He has made a career out of saying nothing — not out of having nothing to say, but out of sheer disregard for his audience.

“He’s not alone.

Phil Emery rarely talks with the media. He is the general manager of an NFL team. Amazing.

Virginia McCaskey, the owner of the team, makes herself available to reporters about as often as white smoke wafts from the Sistine Chapel.

“You can count on one or two fingers the times chairman George McCaskey, her son, has sat down with the media as a group this year.”

First of all I’m going to let the McCaskeys off the hook. They’re mostly just trying to stay out of the way, something I appreciate. I wouldn’t mind hearing more from them but not if its going to interfere with the football people doing their jobs.

And franky I don’t want to hear from Emery, yet, either. I want to hear from him after the season when decisions need to be made about coaching staff and personnel but right now I think letting Smith run the team is the right thing to do. You don’t need the players hearing multiple voices during the season.

But the rest? That’s a different story. In particular, Lovie Smith has revealed so little of himself in the nine years that he’s been here that few fans are really going to miss him if he goes. He’s had a great deal more success than, for instance, Dick Jauron, and he’s a better head coach. But I was a lot sorrier to see Jauron go than I will be Smith whenever that happens. The players apparently love Smith, as Urlacher’s comments indicate. But from a fan perspective he’s a hard man to like. Perhaps it’s something for the people associated with the franchise to think about.

Some Phil Emery Guess Work and Other Points of View

Bears

  • Dan Pompei at the Chicago Tribune describes 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 sources rate 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-Times weighs in on a player for the Bears that I havnen’t read much about, Nebraska DE Jared Crick.
  • Mark Potash at the Chicago Sun-Times talks Whitney Mercilus with NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock:

”But I think that’s only real downside, is can he be stout enough at the point of attack down the road to justify being a first-round pick?”

“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 ESPN reports 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.
  • Pompei answers this good question:

“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.”

Elsewhere

  • One of the free agents I had an eye on for the Bears was DE Andre CarterMatt Williamson at ESPN tells us in a fan chat why he hasn’t been more popular.

“Joe (uk)
“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.’”

  • I think as highly of the Lions talent as anyone.  But if their fans really believe that they are going to go 15-1 then they are setting themselves up for some major disappointment.  From Tim Twentyman at detroitlions.com.
  • 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.
  • Former Bears front office man Tim Ruskell takes Joe Fortenbaugh at The National Football Post through the anatomy of a draft day trade.
  • 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.”

“Jason (Texas)
“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.

One Final Thought

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.”

Figuring out what kind of scenario the Bears will actually follow is always a challenge but praticularly this year with a new general manager.  Haugh thinks the Bears should go offensive tackle in the first round:

“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.

The kind of choice that Emery is likely to be facing is illustrated perfectly in this question to Pompei:

“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 Real Fight and Other Points of View

Bears

  • It was a surprise to me when Mike Florio at profootballtalk.com included Lovie Smith in the “Possibly Fired” coaches category. Florio says he wouldn’t be but, to say the least, I’d be shocked.
  • Dan Pompei at The National Football Post writes about a deep 2012 inside linebacker class.  The Bears have to be at least considering doing something here.  Their linebacker depth is putrid and, though he’s still playing at a high level, Brian Urlacher isn’t getting any younger.  These guys don’t always gradually decline.  They often crash and the Bears should be prepared.
  • I’m guessing that Tim Jennings earned an offseason offer from the Bears. From the Tribune:

“Q: How important was it for you personally, going into a free agency?.
“It was definitely positive. Every guy stepped up in the last game like that. For me to come up there and make a few plays with the guys, it’s a plus for me. I enjoyed it.”

I’d say that the failure of Zack Bowman to show what he needed to against the Packers didn’t hurt Jennings’ status, either. Bowman is almost certainly gone they’ll want Jennings as insurance against the success of whatever option they take to replace him.

Elsewhere

The Lions are trying to extend the contract of Cliff Avril. The team may regret waiting until late in the season to try to lock up the defensive end, who has 11 sacks and six forced fumbles. His value has skyrocketed through the course of the season. At 25, Avril is just starting to come into his own. ‘He is an elite, playmaking pass rusher who is going to get better,’ Avril’s agent Brian Mackler told me. One way or another, the Lions are not likely to let Avril hit the open market. The franchise tag for defensive ends this year is expected to be in the vicinity of $10.5 million, and that remains a viable option if the two sides can’t come to an agreement on a long term deal.

I don’t doubt that Avril has benefited from the attention Ndamukong Suh gets.  But if he can benefit in the same way from playing with Peppers, I’m all for it.

“Managing the blitz: Entering Sunday’s game, no NFL quarterback had been blitzed on a lower percentage of his dropbacks (23.7) than the Lions’ Matthew Stafford. That makes sense, considering the number of skilled Lions pass-catchers who are left in favorable coverage against a blitz. But the Saints love to blitz under defensive coordinator Greg Williams, making for an interesting fulcrum point in this matchup. It’s worth noting that Sunday, the Packers blitzed Stafford 34.4 percent of the time and dramatically limited his production on those plays. According to ESPN Stats & Information, Stafford completed nine of his 21 passes against the blitz for 154 yards and an interception Sunday. Against the Packers’ standard pass rush, Stafford completed 27 of 38 passes for 366 yards, five touchdowns and one interception.”

“The first [Bears touchdown Sunday] was a blown coverage on the 22-yard touchdown pass to Roy Williams in the second quarter. Vikings safeties Jamarca Sanford and Mistral Raymond failed to pick up Williams, who ran uncovered into the end zone. The safeties were left looking at one another.

“‘I saw it three plays before that, they blew the coverage,’ Williams said. ‘We ran the same set and they did it again.'”

  • The Chicago press aren’t the only ones who have begun the process of trying to figure out how to fix an organization. The Minnesota presses also now getting into full gear. Tom Pelissaro at 1500ESPN.com starts by speculating about the overhaul of the coaching staff.

“The wild card is Mike Singletary, a longtime friend of [Leslie] Frazier‘s who was viewed as a coordinator candidate when he joined the team as assistant head coach/linebackers coach in January, less than a month after the San Francisco 49ers fired him as head coach.

“Concerns about Singletary’s strategic acumen followed him to Minnesota, and his approach to preparation has raised red flags. According to two sources, Singletary has left assistant Jeff Imamura in charge of some position meetings, skipped all of the Vikings’ meetings the night before last month’s game at Detroit to attend a wedding and has occupied himself much of the season with side projects instead of the next opponent.

“That all makes it far more likely Frazier will try to engineer a soft exit for Singletary than promote him into a coordinator position for which many experienced candidates could be available. But their close personal relationship complicates the issue.”

Pelissaro also has thoughts about what should happen at the top:

“Vice president of player personnel Rick Spielman has been the Wilfs’ guide on football matters for years, so giving him final say over (and accountability for) the roster wouldn’t be a total shock.”

But I tend to agree with Tom Powers at the Pioneer Press:

“The team needs one voice – and not the voice of Rick Spielman, who suffered season-long laryngitis, refusing to comment on the mess he helped to create.”

  • Jared Allen on what he would have done if he’d broken the NFL sack record Sunday. Via Seifert:

“‘I probably would have thrown my helmet into the crowd,’ Allen said, ‘jumped up, ran up, kissed my wife and my baby in the suite, walked into the locker room and quit. No, I might have done some turf angels. Probably would have cried. [The Chicago Bears] probably would have gotten a first down — a 15-yard penalty on me. I probably would have taken my shoulder pads off. So probably a good thing I didn’t get it, right?'”

I’ve said this before and I’ll no doubt say it again. Allen is impossible not to like.

“Jackson’s solution for all the problems: More Hue Jackson.

“‘I’m going take a stronger hand in this whole team, this whole organization,’ Jackson said. ‘There ain’t no way that I’m going to feel like I feel today a year from now, I promise you that. There’s no question. Defensively, offensively and special teams. I aint feeling like this no more. This is a joke. . . . Yeah, I’m going to take a hand in everything that goes on here.'”

  • I’m not the biggest fan but even I was surprised at this Audible from Pro Football Weekly. I wonder what’s behind it:

“Cincinnati has a quarterback. They have a great receiver. The defense is playing their (butts) off. The one piece they have to think about replacing is Cedric Benson.”

“Most Times Sacked in a Season: 76 — David Carr, Texans, 2002

“No attempted murder charges were ever brought against Carr’s offensive line. A true black mark on the criminal justice system.”

One Final Thought

Pompei attributes the Bears victory Sunday to a large extent to finally getting some luck that had been missing the previous five games. He’s right but I’d attribute it more to a few other things. Over the previous five games:

Turnovers: 14
Penalties: 31
Broken coverages and other assorted bone headed mental errors: No stat available. Fortunately.

Every game has an opponent. But these are the real enemy.

Ndamukong Suh’s Performance Doesn’t Match Big Mouth and Other Points of View

Bears

  • John Mullin at CSN Chicago also makes the point that the key to slowing down the Eagles will be to stop the run.   I would add that the key will be not just to stop the run but to do it without bringing an eighth man down in the box.  Its tough enough to sep a balanced offense like the Eagles.  Once you put a defensive back into the run defense you compromise the pass coverage and allow Michael Vick to utilize those weapons more effectively.
  • In Philadelphia they apparently think the offensive line is going to be the difference as explained simply in a cartoon form that every Bear fan can understand:

“Midway through the season, how do you see the 2012 draft for the Bears? Are they going to take another offensive lineman or do they trust the young group to improve? Without knowing much about J.T. Thomas, the linebacker position looks old and without much depth. Are they going to take a linebacker who can compete from Day One? Or is it going to be defensive line? Henry Melton is more down than up and Matt Toeaina and Israel Idonije, while stable, aren’t producing much. — Mortensen, Denmark

“A lot can change between now and next April, but if the draft were to be held tomorrow, I’d say you pretty much hit it on the head. The Bears would have to be most concerned with drafting a young, building-block offensive lineman (maybe a center/guard), another pass-rushing defensive lineman (an end would be preferable to a tackle) and a linebacker who can be groomed to eventually replace Urlacher or Lance Briggs, who, don’t forget, wants to be traded after the season. The Bears also could look at cornerbacks and wide receivers.”

I would also say that this fan nailed it.  But the truth is that, like last year, the Bears could go in almost any direction in the draft and no one would argue it based upon need.  The only set positions are quarterback and running back and the running back part depends upon just how stubborn Matt Forte is ready to be.  The Bears might take a back to prepare for his eventual departure even if they can use the franchise tag for a couple years, yet.

“It was a rapid fall from grace for Harris, I will grant you that. But a few things were working against him. The Bears had two young safeties they wanted to play. Harris was in the last year of his contract. And he had played poorly this year. At 29, Harris looks slower than he did at 28. It’s not unusual for safeties to start to deteriorate quickly and at a young age. Their bodies take a lot of abuse. It’s possible Harris hasn’t been completely healthy and that he’ll get some of his burst back. I’ve talked with some people with the Lions who are excited about having him. But for the Bears, it was time to move on. I understand their perspective.”

  • Brian Urlacher continues to cry over the new rules.  Its worked so well so far, why stop now?  Via Michael David Smith at profootballtalk.com.
  • I honestly thought left offensive tackle J’Marcus Webb was playing OK.  But offensive line coach Mike Tice felt the need to tell Mark Potash at the Chicago Sun-Times that he has been battling injuries.  I suppose the braces are obvious but it’s not something Bears players and coaches are generally allowed to talk to the press about.
  • Offensive coordinator Mike Martz on receiver Earl Bennett.   Via Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune.

“What Earl has that people don’t realize until they play him is that he has real speed,” Martz said. “He made so many key plays in key situations for us last year. I call him Mr. Third Down almost. It’s almost a foregone conclusion you throw him the ball it’s going to be a completion. It’s good to have him back.”

“Fortunately, though, Jerry Angelo now has a chance to prove to the league that the Bears take care of their players. If they want to get more guys like Forte to come to Chicago, then Angelo needs to show everyone that talent doesn’t go to waste in the Windy City. He needs to make a statement with Forte’s contract. And it needs to be the right statement. Because this isn’t about business anymore—it’s about respect.”

  • But Steve Rosenbloom at the Chicago Tribune doesn’t:

Jerry Angelo’s Bears have done enough dumb things through the years. Angelo’s Bears will continue to make mistakes.

But this time, Angelo has it right. Angelo is playing it smart. Maybe that’s why some Bears fans are so mad and have started a website to get Forte paid: They’re not used to seeing Angelo do things right.

“What Melton admitted noticing was a possible difference from his speed of play from last year, when he was a reserve coming in with a high motor and high impact, and this year, his first as an NFL starter.

“It may have been the difference between the way a starter works in baseball, planning to go seven innings or more, vs. the way a closer operates, in abruptly but firing all-out from the moment of entering the game.

“’Your mindset doesn’t change,’ Melton self-analyzed, ‘but when you look at the film, it does look like sometimes you’re not sprinting as hard as you were, when you’re getting in limited snaps.'”

  • Much has been made of Smith’s apparent decision to single out Melton for his play.  But I’ve got a feeling that he’s not the only one hearing it from the head coach.  When Biggs sought out Smith for comment on Anthony Adams‘ problems with gout, Smith shrugged it off and said Adams “needs to play better”.  Smith obviously expects more from the defensive line than he’s getting.
  • Eagles special teams coordinator Bobby April on Bears special teams coordinator Dave Toub via Biggs:

“You know, just the culture is that those guys don’t get recognized, those special teams coaches don’t get recognized like somebody else. You know, whoever, ‘They have a really good year on offense and this guy’s one of the greatest coaches in the league (and) he should be a head coach. Why isn’t he?’ (I think) Toub should have that consideration I think because that’s what he’s done.”

I could not agree more.  If I were hiring a head coach in this league, Toub would be near the top of my list.

“I can see why some people don’t like Tim Tebow because he’s so in your face about his faith,” said Cutler. “But I’m not an evangelical Satanist. Have I tried to win a few teammates over with pregame sacrifices? Sure. From time to time. But I don’t push anyone. I just try to live my life as miserable as possible and hope that darkness consumes those around me. And if not, well, they’ll burn in hell alongside me one day anyway, so what does it matter?”

Elsewhere

“Only one win away from clinching the NFC West!”

“Peterson has gained a higher percentage of his total yards (57.3) after first contact than any other NFL running back. That speaks both to his relentless running style and the relative lack of room his offensive line has afforded him.”

This stat more than any other tells me that Peterson is the best pure running back in the NFL and it tells you why he’s the first choice of most NFL experts.  A running back should be judged by the yards he makes on his own.  No one does that better than Peterson.

“Stafford has thrown an NFL-high 256 passes out of the shotgun formation. That’s 85.6 percent of his total attempts and a clear illustration of how the Lions have shifted to a spread offense. Even so, the Lions have still been effective in play-action. They’re averaging about one touchdown for every 7.5 play-action passes (seven touchdowns in 53 attempts).”

“Defensive tackle—Ndamukong Suh, Lions. Lots of good ones to choose from, including Geno Atkins, Marcell Dareus, Jay Ratliff and Richard Seymour. But none of them impacts games as much as Suh.”

Many writers, most notably Don Banks at Sports Illustrated, think Suh is under-achieving.

One Final Thought

Speaking of Suh, Warren Sapp thinks he needs to shut up.  (Via Biggs at The National Football Post.)

“We’re talking about taking credit for a quarterback that you didn’t sack, you didn’t take to the ground. His offensive lineman stepped on him. Remind me, didn’t Atlanta win this game?

“I’m really trying to find the karma. The quarterback missed two plays, come back in and torched you for the rest of the game … and you don’t get him on the ground, and now it’s karma?

“Why are you prancing all the way to the commissioner’s office and you almost ripped somebody’s helmet off? Are you kidding me? You don’t know that’s against the rules? That’s a wasted trip. … He almost ripped Jake Delhomme’s head off. That doesn’t make any sense.”

Pompei, who is apparently a Suh fan. had this to say on the matter:

“Warren Sapp telling Ndamukong Suh to shut up is like Kim Kardashian telling one of her sisters to stop seeking the limelight.”

That doesn’t mean he’s not right.

I couldn’t agree more with every word that Sapp said.  Never have I seen a team waste so much national good will going into a season like the Lions have.  Too many members of the team have gone over the edge from competitive to mouthy (and in Suh’s case – whiney) jerk over the course of the season.  I couldn’t tell you exactly why but I can say that the personality of the team often reflects the personality of the coaching staff, most the head coach and, in this case, the defensive coordinator.

Will the Bears Players Organize Offseason Workouts? And Other Points of View.

Bears

“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 Seifert talks 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.”

and of fifth rounder Nathan Enderle:

“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.

  • The Lions, Cowboys, Saints and Jets players are all working out on their own together. Will the Bears?  To answer that question, I’ll just say this.  The Saints have Drew Brees. The Bears have Jay Cutler.


Pompei basically answers the question the same way I did but in professional news publication language rather than the blogger language of hatred and vitriol:

“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.”

Having said that, ESPN NFC North blogger Kevin Seifert has an alternative thought:

“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?

Elsewhere

“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.”

“The Vikings long have been connected with Redskins QB Donovan McNabb, who could be traded or released, and we hear there’s still a decent chance that the Vikings could get involved with him.”

  • Jared Allen thinks he’s going to get 17 sacks in 2011 to put him over a hundred for his career. Allen is nothing if not entertaining.


“’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.”

One Final Thought

For all that its universally acknowledged that the Bears had a good draft, thier free agency needs look an awful lot like the pre-draft ones. Via Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune.