On Public Ownership of NFL Teams and Other Points of View

Bears

  • Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune talks to Carolina cornerback Captain Munnerlyn about last week’s final drive. Since the Bears have gotten much good press for coming through in the clutch there, I thought the comments about the poor Carolina defense were revealing:

“I asked Munnerlyn if the Panthers were sitting in a Cover-2 shell.

“‘I wish it was Cover-2,’ he said. ‘We played a Cover-4 look. They kind of ran double slants on my side and forced me to squeeze No. 2 and … (outside cornerback Josh Norman) can’t play that. You tell a guy to jump that and if he jumps that and Brandon Marshall does a double move, it’s a touchdown. We’ve just got to do better. Even though Coach gave us that call, we’ve got to execute. We tried and we fell short.'”

“‘They were playing one coverage and we just kept hitting them and hitting them and hitting them,’ [Bears quarterback Jay] Cutler said. ‘That’s pretty much it.’

“Said Panthers coach Ron Rivera: ‘In the last couple of plays, we tried getting into one of our Cover-2s, and we didn’t get off in time and Cutler completed the throws.'”

“Cutler’s throws might not have been as impressive as his leadership late in the game. More than anything, it is leadership that wins games like this one.

“Asked what was different on the last drive, receiver Brandon Marshall said, ‘Cutler.’

He recalled watching Justin Medlock kick a field goal with 2:27 remaining that put the Panthers up by two points.

“‘I’m sitting here shaking, a little bit of the cold weather, a little bit nervous,’ Marshall said. ‘And (Cutler) just starts smiling. … It just put me at ease right away. The guys feel that vibe and they play off it. So Jay definitely led that whole drive and made us pick up our game.'”

Its nice to hear this and I’d like to believe it. But it would be nice if just once I heard it from someone other than Marshall who is really Cutler’s cheerleader lately.

“On if he feels he could have avoided some of the sacks:

“’I always feel like I can avoid them. Didn’t move as well as I thought I wanted to. I need to take a look at the film and see where the holes were. I kept asking JB (Jeremy Bates) and J-Cam (Jason Campbell) if I was staying in there too long or what the deal is. We just have to take a look at offensive film and talk to the offensive line to see their take on it and fix it on Tuesday.'”

I heard the complait that Cutler was holding the ball too long several times from fans. In my view this frequently was not the case. Cutler was dropping back, his first read wasn’t there and the Panthers defense was on him. They came at him from all sides and there was nowhere to go. That’s a protection and coverage issue not a quarterback issue.

If Cutler had a fault in those plays it was in not pulling the ball down and not protecting it better in giving up two fumbles. It fairly evident that he doesn’t often give up on plays even when he really should.

  • How good has Marshall been? I’d totally forgotten about this chronic issue he’s had throughout his career. Via Pompei:

“When I asked Brandon Marshall during training camp about how reliable his hands were, given the number of drops he had in his career, he said, “It won’t be a problem.”

“He was right.”

I got pretty tired of reading articles this week about Jay Cutler (both positive and negative). I’m pretty much at the point of skipping them. But as worried as I was and am about Marshall off the field, this one from Pompei praising him was definitely warranted. You just couldn’t ask for anything more from a player through the first half of the season.

  • Mark Potash at the Chicago Sun-Times thinks the Bears need to develop develop a better screen game. They certainly haven’t run it very well lately.

“The Chicago Bears–that good, or the beneficiary of soft scheduling to start the year?–AC, Fox Point, Wis.

“The defense is for real, without question. All those turnovers (14 interceptions, five returned for touchdowns) are not an accident. We will probably get a better read soon on how much the schedule has helped them because in November they have back-to-back games against Houston and at San Francisco, which have two terrific defenses themselves.”

Titans

“‘Gap control is essential, but there’s going to be a free hitter that has to tackle,’ Marinelli said. ‘We usually funnel the ball to a certain area, and guys have to make tackles in space. That’s tough because he can make you miss. And if we’re not hustling, it can be a big play.'”

  • I thought this quote from D.J. Moore via Sean Jensen at the Chicago Sun-Times was interesting. He’s got a point.

“[Titans quarterback Matt] Hasselbeck noted that the Bears have been great at generating turnovers but suggested that Charles Tillman and Tim Jennings are ‘jumping routes.’

“Not so, Bears cornerback D.J. Moore said.

“‘I don’t think he understands what he’s saying when he says they’re jumping routes because they’re really not,’ Moore said. ‘If you jump routes, you’re going to be sitting on the bench.

“‘That’s pretty much 100 percent. You just play your technique, and if [the quarterback] happens to make a mistake, and I’m playing my technique, then I have a chance to make a play.'”

Elsewhere

“The problem that I am seeing across the league is that there are not enough good football people in positions of power. Look at the GMs now — how many have cap backgrounds? There are a lot of smart people in front offices — a lot of team owners and presidents didn’t get where they are without earning it. But you better have some good football people to sort through decisions. Head coaches have their own job to do. They need a strong support structure.”

I’ve heard that Phillips is getting more involved with running the organization. That’s fine and you could argue that its called for given the poor job former GM Jerry Angelo did in terms of administration and management. But I hope Phillips never forgets who the football people are or never makes the mistake of making his decisions based upon anything but their judgment.

  • As frustrating as Jay Cutler’s almost oblivious attitude and the resulting poor leadership he shows can be, all Bear fans should remember the alternative as highlighted in this Audible from Pro Football Weekly:

“‘The fan base in Cleveland is going to go nuts if they cannot find a quarterback. What you have with Brandon Weeden and Colt McCoy is a serviceable No. 2 and a good No. 3. There’s not a starting quarterback on the roster. That’s the first piece that needs to be fixed. They have to get their quarterback.'”

One Final Thought

This was an interesting thought from Batista:

“The 1 percent (N.F.L. owners) are keen to allow only the 3 percent (Green Bay) to own their own team. When will the time of the 97 percent arrive? In New Orleans we, the State of Louisiana and therefore the citizens of Louisiana, give and give to Tom Benson. He cuts deal after deal with the state, taking more and more of our money. By nature of the deals we, the people, basically own the team, but do not have our name(s) over the door. Allowing only the Green Bay Packers to have this arrangement is wrong in so many ways when the fans and citizens pay for the tickets, stadiums and anything else the 1 percent can dream. Asking you to get out the crystal ball– when and where is the lawsuit filed to right this wrong and get the 97 percent in on the action?–Hebert, New Orleans

“Have never heard a clamor for this, to be honest. I wouldn’t hold your breath. But also keep this in mind: the “public owners” of the Green Bay Packers buy shares to give money to the team. There are no dividends paid and they get no say in how the team is run. They are essentially giving the team their money for an honorary title. To think that somehow a team would be run by a committee of citizens is unrealistic.”

Though I have to say that the Saints rooters are incredibly and willfully blind when it comes to the culpability of people like Sean Payton in the bounty scandal (i.e. typical fans), I will give them this: they are stuck with one of the lowest class owners in sports. So, unrealistic as the suggestion might be, I sympathize completely with tenor of this question.

 

The Bears Show that Good Defense Is Not that Complicated and Other Points of View

Bears

  • 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.”

  • Mark Potash at the Chicago Sun-Times quotes Rod Marinelli on safeties Chris Conte and Major Wright:

“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.”

  • I’m not entirely where this comment from Benjamin Hoffman‘s preview of the Bears-Lions matchup for The New York Times comes from but I thought it was worth noting.

“Chemistry is supposed to be vitally important in football. The Bears seem to prove that false each week. The team’s offense and defense appear to hate each other and yet the Bears keep winning.”

Lions

“… 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.

Elsewhere

  • 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
  • We have a good Audible from Pro Football Weekly:

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’s 4 total passengers on my flight n I just farted. That’s a quick game of ‘Who-Dunnit’, lets see if they catch me

“— Jared Odrick (@JaredOdrick98) October 19, 2012”

One Final Thought

And finally, we have one more revealing quote from Pro Football Weekly‘s Audibles section:

“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.”

Gabe Carimi Is Not Quite Back Up to Snuff and Other Points of View

Bears

  • 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.

“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.

  • Potash can’t let go of the idea that Shea McClellin belongs at linebacker.
  • 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.

Lions

“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.
  • Pompei, this time writing for The National Football Post writes about the “Wide 9” defensive philosophy where the defensive ends in a 4-3 sceme line up far to the outside. The Lions play it and the Vikings dabble in it.

“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.”

Elsewhere

“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

A.
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?

One Final Thought

I realize that this is only high school football but it really is amazing.

Some Perspective on “The Replacements” and Other Points of View

Bears

  • Cole Schultz at Pro Football Focus points 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-Times quotes 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.”

“‘That’s expected,’ Peppers said. ‘That’s nothing to be patting anybody on the back about. We should be playing like that.'”

“‘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 Tribune takes 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.
  • The staff at the Chicago Sun-Times give us this perceptive comment:

“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 Stantis pokes fun at the Bears victory over the Rams on Sunday.

Elsewhere

  • 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.

From Chase Stuart at The New York Times:

“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 thought this Audible signaled good things for the Bears:

“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.


One Final Thought

I confess that I didn’t even read most of the coverage of the emotional upheaval generated by the Packers-Seahawks game. But it did appear to be becoming dangerous. Like most fans, I was just trying to quietly ride out the referee labor stoppage and enjoy the games as they are. But maybe – just maybe – things really had gotten out of hand. Links from The Onion and The Sports Pickle.

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.'”

 

Stuff Chicago Bears Fans Say and Other Points of View

Bears

  • A “positive” Steve Rosenbloom at the Chicago Tribune puts the Bears win yesterday in perspective:

“Sure, Mr. Negative might complain about the Bears’ getting only two field goals off four turnovers, and he should gripe about a lack of production on first down. Third down, too.

“On the other side of the ball, Mr. Negative could crab about some bad coverage of Reggie Wayne, and he would scream about an inconsistent pass rush and yelp about the defense getting shredded on 77- and 80-yard drives.

“Yeah, Mr. Negative could find things to carp about in a game against the league’s worst team last season that started a rookie quarterback. But it’s likely there will be time enough for that.

“Perhaps as soon as Thursday night in Green Bay.”

  • David Haugh at the Chicago Tribune relays a request from QB Jay Cutler to fans near the end zone:

“‘Please, please, please, let’s tone it down a little bit when we’re down on the 20,’ Cutler said. ‘You’re more than welcome to yell, scream, do whatever you want to do after the score. But, please, let’s quiet the stadium down and save it for after the score. Thank you.”‘

  • Dan Pompei at the Chicago Tribune thinks the Packers may try to cover Marshall with Charles Woodson on nickel downs.
  • Joe Cowley at the Chicago Sun-Times says that RB Matt Forte is not happy about being taken out in short yardage situations.

“‘It’s been happening my whole career here, so I don’t know,’ Forte said when asked about not finishing drives. ‘That’s the coordinator’s call.'”

It’s rare when the Bears have so many impact plays on defense — three sacks, four takeaways and four tackles for loss — and Urlacher isn’t in on any of them. When Colts quarterback Andrew Luck lauded the defense after the game, Urlacher got fourth billing — behind Lance Briggs, Julius Peppers and Henry Melton.

As well he should have been. Its not easy to just step in and start playing at game speed without any practice. Urlacher was rusty and probably will continue to be so for a while.

  • Potash and Sean Jensen at the Chicago Sun-Times quote Israel Idonije on the Bears moving their defensive ends around on third down:

“‘We didn’t want to give them the same look, and that’s important moving forward,’ Idonije said. ‘We were kind of locked into our plan, and when we changed it, it started to break things wide open for us. When we changed up, there were a couple of things we were really able to take advantage of. It’s a chess match.'”

OLB—Ernie Sims, Spencer Adkins. Sims might be better than he looked last year with the Colts. This is another thin position, which explains Adkins’ presence.

ILB—E.J. Henderson. He is 32-years old and has quite an injury history, but he played pretty well last year for the Vikings. He probably would have signed by now if he would have been willing to accept less money.

Players signed after opening weekend aren’t guaranteed a 17 week paycheck.

  • And as a bonus, I think we’ve heard a few of these before:

Elsewhere

  • The Redskins looked so bad when they played the Bears in the preseason. With or without the Saints coaches, for the Redskins to beat a team like that, the improvement must have been just short of miraculous. I’m sure Robert Griffin III was a big part of it but there must have been a lot of much better play from more than just him.
  • Despite all the talk about the Lions being more disciplined, I’ve got to think they were looking past the Rams to their Sunday night game with the San Francisco 49ers this week. They barely slipped by. Recall the infamous handshake after the 49ers matchup last season.
  • I notice that the Packers are using wide receiver Randall Cobb as a running back. I’ve got to figure that’s partly to compensate for the fact that new running back Cedric Benson is so poor catching the ball our of the backfield.
  • Doubt about the officials led to a lot of criticism Sunday, some of it fair but much of it really unfair. As FOX color man Troy Aikman explained, the lack of confidence led everyone to question every call and see what they wanted to see rather than what was.
  • The 49ers’ Aldon Smith is a monster. This is going to be a tough team to beat this year.
  • I love the way that that Jermichael Finley limped all over the field begging for a personal foul call from the officials after the 49ers’ Perrish Cox stepped on his foot then, all of the sudden was more than healthy enough to catch a touchdown pass on the next play. Finley got the call despite the fact that he initiated the confrontation.
  • My assumption is that having to do HBO’s Hard Knock would be a nightmare for any head coach, particularly a first time one like the Dolphin’s Joe Philbin. So I thought the perspective on it that he relayed to Pompei, this time writing for the National Football Post, was interesting.
  • I can’t help it. I love Bart Scott. Via Josh Alper at profootballtalk.com.
  • I’m going to guess that this article was written before Sunday Night’s game. From The Onion.

One Final Thought

Pompei apparently liked a new book with quotes from Tim Tebow:

“In Tebow Time: Insights on Winning form Football’s Rising Star, we get a good glimpse of what makes Tebow tick.”

Here is one of several interesting quotes he put in the article:

“My parents made sure I always understood that being good at something doesn’t make you better than anyone else. I can play football, but anyone I meet can do something better than me.”

On the other hand we have this from Toni Monkovic at The New York Times:

Scientific studies have suggested that if you shielded yourself from Tebow saturation coverage, you might have saved a 5-point drop in your IQ.

 

Taking the Crap Out and Other Points of View

Bears

  • Joe Cowley at the Chicago Sun-Times quotes wide receiver Brandon Marshall as he describes how Jay Cutler has improved as a quarterback since the days they were together with the Broncos:

‘‘Now, Jay knows how to manipulate defenses with snap count, body language and hand signals, so it’s exciting to see him work.’’

  • David Haugh at the Chicago Tribune gives his opinion on the competition at left tackle:

“The Bears preach patience with [J'Marcus] Webb. But I wonder if someone so consumed with being popular — the self-appointed head of “JWebb Nation,'' also posted a video of him ordering fast food — understands all it takes to become proven in the NFL. Those concerns made it all the more curious when Lovie Smith made it clear that Webb had won the job before the first exhibition game. Why not let a real competition play out?

“While Webb's ceiling might be higher than [Chris] Williams', it means nothing to a Bears team built to win now if the 24-year-old cannot figure out how to reach it sooner than later. I would lean toward starting Williams, a serious veteran whose best might not approach Webb's but whose worst should kill fewer drives too.”

Haugh has a point. Even worse, I would suggest that Webb, in his third year, has no future with the team at all if he hasn't lost most of his incosistency by now. The fact that he quickly managed to jump offsides in the first preseason game after, I'm sure, being beaten to death with criticism from Tice over such things all offseason, makes me very much wonder if there's any chance he has.

Jeff Otah and Chad Clifton probably aren't healthy enough. Marcus McNeill retired. Kareem McKenzie is out there, but is he really better than what the Bears have?”

  • On a related note, I want to thank Pompei for suggesting something I’ve been say ing for a long time. The fact that Mike Martz is gone is not necessarily going to mean the offensive line (or by extension the offense) is going to be better:

“'You have to protect your offensive line,' Bears coach Lovie Smith said. 'To me, very few tackles can handle a good defensive end one on one. So you have to protect them, there is no way around it. Especially on the road, in a dome, you have to give your linemen help. Giving them help can be running the football too. We have a plan.'

“'What few people remember is the Bears had a plan last year too. Despite Mike Martz's reputation, he gave the offensive line help in many circumstances.

“Despite that, the line was not good enough last year.”

“Special teams coordinator Dave Toub said in some cases on kickoffs, [Eric] Weems' straight-forward return style will benefit the Bears more than Hester's elusiveness.

“'With what we do, we do a lot of doubles teams, and we want to run right at the double team.'''

  • There is one thing that seems to be evident from the preseason games we've seen. From Pompei:

“Players [Cutler] is throwing to are capable of getting yards after the catch. Only five teams in the NFL had fewer yards after the catch last year than the Bears, according to STATS. That should not be the case this year.”

“The Redskins didn't have success covering Rodriguez with a linebacker (he beat Bryan Kehl for a 14-yard gain) or a safety (Jordan Bernstine struggled to stay with him on a 19-yard reception).”

  • Before you get too excited about the performance of the defensive linelast Saturday, the Redskins offensive line was missing three starters. From Mark Maske at the Washington Post.
  • Yeah, this sounds more like it. From The Onion.
  • And so does this via SportsViews:

Elsewhere

“From his first pass attempt at Soldier Field, Griffin had the look of an overwhelmed newcomer. Throughout a shaky 26-play performance, Griffin held the ball too long, absorbed unnecessary hits and failed in his first responsibility: Ball security.”

On one of the first plays from scrimmage he dropped back and his first read wasn’t there. No one was near him but he immediately started running. You’re going to get that for a while with this guy.

“Paul said he was encouraged by the in-game adjustments he was able to make. On the missed pass from Griffin, Paul said he was running full-speed and wasn’t able to turn all the way around to snag the pass that was slightly behind him. Later in the game, however, he was running the same route when Cousins threw to him, and his timing was better so he was able to turn fully and make the catch and then pick up yards after the catch.”

  • The Seattle Seahawks have apparently come to grips with what everyone in the NFC North already knewTarvaris Jackson can’t play quarterback. Jackson says he’s willing to take a pay cut to facilitate a trade but I’m not sure there’s anything else out there for him. Certainly nothing that’s going to improve his situation much over what it already is in Seattle.
  • Via Josh Alper at profootballtalk.com we have this quote that might as well also be about Brian Urlacher (assuming he makes it back for Week 1 of the season at all):

“Said Saints coach Joe Vitt of CB Patrick Robinson’s play in his return from a shoulder injury, 'Listen, I don’t care who you are or how many years you’ve played in the league, playing this game isn’t like riding a bike. You learn to ride a bike when you’re three years old. You can ride one when you’re 80 if you can get on it. You have to be fine-tuned to play this game at a high level. It’s a game of angles and timing. You have to be in sync. Patrick was a little rusty early in the game last night missing some tackles, but that’s why we play these games and that’s why we practice every day.'”

  • Think the Bears are the only ones with trouble at offensive tackle? Think again. From Zach Schonbrun at The New York Times:

“[Jets right tack Wayne] Hunter seemed like a pinwheel in the wind when he was matched against the Giants’ pressure.”

One Final Thought

Ugh. From The Sports Pickle:

 

Tim Tebow’s Favorite Target and Other Points of View

Bears

  • Mark Potash at the Chicago Sun-Times reports that Shea McClellin is getting first team reps with the nickel defense. The nickel defense is on the field almost half the time. Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune goes on to point out that putitng McClellin at end in passing situations allows them to put Israel Idonije at tackle.
  • Potash thinks they should hold Brian Urlacher out until the Lions game in October.
  • Steve Rosenbloom at the Chicago Tribune and I see eye to eye:

“Brian Urlacher’s injury gets all the attention, but [defensive tackle Stephen] Paea and his injury expose two problems: The depth at defensive tackle is questionable, and more importantly, the talent at that spot has not proven to be game-changing consistently.”

I had high hopes for Paea this year. He might still come through but this is the kind of early setback that tends to have ramifications that last into the season.

“But it’s practice. You got to do it,” he told Fox. “I think just the shock of being out there so long and doing so many movements like that was too much for my knee.”

The longer practices are a result of the collective bargaining agreement limiting the number of days a team can practice and how much contact there can be. So if Urlacher is correct its ironic that he has his own union to blame for worsening the injury.

Chris [Williams] is a very smart guy,” Tice said. “He figures it out very fast. The one thing he doesn't do is make mental mistakes.”

This is, of course, the issue. The Bears really want Webb to win the job but they aren't going to put up with the mental errors this year. What's particularly frustrating is that Webb's mistakes should be easily corrected. But for whatever reason he just can't seem to be able to concentrate. One more offsides penalty in a preseason game might be the end of Webb as the left tackle. And, based upon this quote via Jensen, I think Webb knows it:

“'I feel like I am doing what Coach is asking me to do,' Williams said. 'Trying not to make any mistakes. I'll let the rest sort itself out.'”

Biggs sums up the situation very well as amply later in the week:

“[J'Marcus] Webb vs. Williams: Maybe this would be more accurately described J'Marcus Webb vs. himself.”

  • Of course Rosenblom wants to know whose head should be put on a platter for allowing the left tackle situation to develop as it has. The real question is where were you going to find a left tackle? There weren't any real freeagents worthy of the posiiton and the only prospect vailable to the Bears in the draft was Riley Reiff, a player who many doubted fit the position. So if you are looking for someone to blame you are going to have to take a good look at the previous regime in the front office.
  • Vaughn McClure’s impresson of defensive end Corey Wootton’s play last Thursday matched my own.

“Third-year defensive end Corey Wootton got a chance Thursday to measure how far he has come. Wootton, who started the exhibition game against the Broncos as Peppers rested, matched up against Ryan Clady, one of the top tackles in the league.

“Wootton was far from perfect, but he held his own on a few plays.”

‘‘'We’re going to keep things pretty basic,' said Cutler, who didn’t play in the preseason opener against the Denver Broncos last week. 'What we unroll against the Redskins isn’t the final product.'

“'We want to get in and out of the huddle. We want to execute plays. But it’s not going to be the end of the world if we’re not clicking on all cylinders.'”

  • Steeler's offensive coordinator Todd Haley talks about quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. But he might as well be descibing the situaiton with Cutler. From Sam Farmer at the Los Angeles Times:

“'You rely on that in emergency situations,' Haley said. 'When you make a bad call, or there's a breakdown up front or with the back, or something doesn't go the way it's supposed to, you have a guy that can get you out of trouble better than anybody else.

“'You don't just drop him back and say, 'Hey, work the field.' If you do that, you're going to be watching him dive and keep plays alive all the time. But those are also situations where he's put in harm's way.'”

What Haley's is saying is that he wants Roethlisberger to drop back and get rid of the ball. that doesn't appear to be an option with Cutler, who simply cannot throw with anticipation which is the reason he didn't get along in former offensive coordinator Mike Martz's offense. It will be interesting to see if Roethlisberger can make the adjustment.

  • Matt Bowen at the Chicago Tribune explains how the Bears are likely to use wide receiver Earl Bennett.

This anonymous quote from Pro Football Weekly's Audibles section caught my attention:

“Everyone knows how good (Bill) Belichick is. John Harbaugh has come into Baltimore as a special-teams coach and done an outstanding job. We saw (Bears special-teams coach) Dave Toub get head-coaching consideration in Jacksonville last year. His special-teams units are one of the best in the league year after year. He’s a former strength coach like (Bears GM) Phil Emery. The Bears went into their pipeline to find the new GM. I’m not so sure the next head coach is not on staff already. You've got two coordinators (Mike Tice, Rod Marinelli) who have done it, but the one who hasn’t, I think, may be the most ready.”

There are a couple things that interest me here. 1) This personnel man assumes that Lovie Smith will be fired at the end of the year (meaning they aren't headed for very good things). 2) He's targeted Dave Toub to replace him. Toub is certainly deserving of a head coaching shot and would be a facinating candidate. But picking someone from the staff may not be enough of a change to satisfy most fans.

Elsewhere

  • Dan Pompei at the Chicago Tribune profiles former Illinois kicker Derek Dimke , who is in Detriot's training camp:

“Dimke initially kept calling [current starter Jason] Hanson, who is 20 years his senior, “sir.” Hanson eventually told him to knock it off.”

“After a crunching collision between multiple Raiders and Kolb behind the line of scrimmage early in the second quarter, defensive lineman Tommy Kelly said as he made it to the sideline, 'That boy’s scared,' according to the Raiders TV broadcast being streamed through NFL.com’s Preseason Live package.”

  • Pompei thinks it might be interesting to keep an eye on former Bears safety Brandon Meriweather tonight:

“'I know in Chicago it was mainly two, three deep (coverage),' [Redskins coach Mike] Shanahan said. 'He is more of a safety like he was in New England, a box guy who plays a lot of different coverages. I’m not sure he’s a very good straight two deep or three deep player. But our scheme kind of fits what he does. And I like the time we’re getting him. Whatever happened in Chicago, he has to come in here and fit in. I’m hoping he keeps playing at this level.'”

Translation: “The Bears misused him.” I'm not sure I buy that, though. Meriweather's problems with Lovie Smith really had more to do with discipline on the field, I think.

  • Here's another thought provoking Audible:

“New England, I think, is going to dry up. The quarterback (Tom Brady) is on his way down and I don’t think he’s surrounded by the same amount of talent he was earlier in his career. The other one to me that is on the downswing is New Orleans. We’ll see if (Drew) Brees is worth everything they put into him. There are a lot of good teams out there. It was a different game last year with the lockout ­— and it favored teams like the Patriots and Saints.”

“It’s easier to know who to block when you are facing a four-man front, and that ultimately translates to better quarterback play. As an offensive guy — I can tell you — the 3-4 (front) is more difficult to play against. I think you see a lot more quarterbacks with the deer-in-headlights look when they’re dealing with ‘30’ fronts. It’s more difficult to decipher. Why do you think (Peyton) Manning has the hardest time with the Chargers? It helps if your secondary can be great window dressers, showing three deep and playing two, but there is no disguise as effective as surprising quarterbacks with the rush. … The trend moved toward the 3-4 a few years ago. Now it’s trending back toward the ‘40’ (front).”

“The White Fan Favorite

“This guy is usually a combination between The Late-Round Project and The Undrafted Superstar. Except he’s white. And he probably already has sold 5,000 jerseys. But it’s not so much a racial thing, it’s just that … I don’t know … a lot of fans identify with him somehow.

“It could be because chances are he’ll be just like them in a few weeks in that he also won’t be employed as an NFL football player.”

One Final Thought

TIm Tebow appears to developing chemistry with his favorite target in Jets camp. From The Onion:

“'As we get into camp, more and more often Tim has been throwing to the ground,' center Nick Mangold said. 'During plays, he just has this instinct for finding the ground every time. It’s becoming apparent to everyone on the team that the ground is Tim’s go-to target.'”

 

It’s the Dan Pompei Show Today and Other Points of View

Bears

Things are pretty quiet so I kept this short.

“‘[Bates] has a really good feel of what I like to do and what I don’t like to do,’ Cutler said after the Bears’ second organized-team-activity workout. ‘There are plays out there today that I told him, ‘I don’t like them. Let’s think about getting rid of them.’ He’s fine with that.'”

So correct me if I’m wrong but aren’t you supposed to talk to the offensive coordinator about getting rid of plays?  This brings to mind the situation that the Bears were in last year where players talked after the game about offensive line coach Mike Tice diagraming new plays on the sidelines.  It appears that there’s no one person in charge of the Bears offense.  Instead, one gets the impression that Tice will be sharing the duty with Bates just as former offensive coordinator Mike Martz shared it with him.

“Another likely carry-over for Tice is his ambitious use of tight ends. In Minnesota, he used multiple-tight-end formations 43 percent of the time. One of his favorite personnel groupings included one back, two wide receivers and two tight ends.

“Tice didn’t have Pro Bowl talent at the position, but a tight end led his offense in receptions twice and finished third twice. The player who led the Vikings in receptions twice was Jermaine Wiggins, a journeyman who never came close to having the kind of numbers he had under Tice in four previous NFL seasons.”

Sounds like good news for Kellen Davis.

  • There’s also this great article by Pompei which breaks down the problem of Matt Forte‘s contract dispute.  It seems clear to me that this dispute isn’t going to be solved easily.  Basically, Forte’s going rate is about 8.5 million dollars per year on average for a long-term contract.  The Bears are paying him $7.7 million this year with the franchise tag and about $17 million over two years if they do it again.  The Bears do take care of their players but the never overpay.  And there really isn’t much incentive financially for the Bears to come to terms.

Elsewhere

  • Pompei at, this time writing for The National Football Post, explores the characteristics that make Packer’s general manager Ted Thompson such an exemplary draft guru.  Thompson bucked his usual trend of trading down in the draft by frequently trading up this year:

“Trading up felt good this year, but there were some unusual circumstances that led to Thompson changing it up this year. First, the Packers had 12 picks, including four compensatory picks. That was a big wad of cash in Thompson’s pocket. Given where the Packers are as a team, they didn’t need 12 players. They needed impact players.”

  • Its worth noting the the Packers weren’t the only ones known for trading down that did the opposite this year.  The New England Patriots did the same.  This is likely in part because it was a poor draft.  Teams who do a good job of evaluating talent usually have multiple players that they feel comfortable with when their time comes.  But this year’s draft was generally considered to be poor with little depth.  So those same teams found themselves trading up to get one of the few guys they thought were good value.
  • Pompei also noted the Bills acquisition of QB Vince Young:

“One of the reasons the Bills were sold on Vince Young is they took the unusual step of putting him on the board for a couple of hours when he visited their facility. It is common for teams to talk schemes with rookies, but less common for them to do it with veterans. Given Young’s history, it was a smart move by Chan Gailey. And Young’s knowledge was sufficient enough for the Bills to take a chance on him.”

You want to know if Vince Young has grown up enough to be an NFL QB?  Make him the punter’s personal protector and see what he says then.

  • This quote from Peyton Manning is for all of those people who don’t think offseason workouts are important.  Via the Chicago Tribune:

”I’ve always believed you develop your timing for the passing game in the offseason. You can’t just show up in September and expect to be on the same page. Offseason workouts, it’s a great time to make an impression on the coaches. Coaches are always evaluating.“

One Final Thought

Pompei on the importance of height in a QB:

“[Charger’s GM A.J.] Smith notes that [Drew] Brees has become better at compensating for his lack of height as he has become more experienced. ‘With Sean Payton in New Orleans, Brees gets himself back [in the pocket] to get that vision,’ Smith said. ‘The arm is better now, the release better. You can do that as a pro. Drew figured out his deficiencies and improved.’

“You might even say he grew as a quarterback.”

Ugh.

Looking Towards a Defensive Draft and Other Ponts of View

Bears

“If Quinton Coples begins to fall in the draft, should Chicago trade up and select him? If so what would it take for the Bears to move up five to seven selections? — Scott Dennler, Columbus Junction, Iowa

“I wouldn’t move up for Coples, and I’m not even sure I would take him if he fell to me if I was picking 19th. He has top-of-the-draft talent, but Coples doesn’t always play like it. NFL scouts question his motor, his passion for the game and his coachability. I think he is going to drop in the draft. To move up five to seven picks in the first round probably would not be cheap, either. It depends on how badly the trading team wants to move and if there is competition, but I would say it would probably cost a third-round pick for such a move.”

This answer surprised me because I’ve read a lot of good things about Couples.  He’s currently at number nine in the Scouts Inc. Top 32 and number 13 on Mel Kiper’s Big Board at ESPN (though he’s slipping).  So my initial thought was that the Bears would be extremely happy to have him.  But obviously there’s a strong difference of opinion among scouts and where he goes could be one of the more interesting stories of the draft.

“Quick off the edge, Mercilus utilizes great anticipation and some natural gifts as a pass-rusher, with closing speed and long arms once he has the quarterback in sight. He’s coming off a brilliant final season for the Illini, and Rod Marinelli could do wonders with him. The Bears could use some pass-rushing insurance with Julius Peppers not getting any younger.”

He has them taking Randall in the second round.

  • And Los Angeles Times columnist Sam Farmer came out with his mock draft:

“Chicago: OG David DeCastro, Stanford — Andrew Luck says DeCastro plays angry, and that’s just the kind of player who can help Chicago’s line. This also could be a spot for a receiver.”

I think most scouts would agree that DeCastro would be good value at this pick and the Bears would consider themselves luck to have him.  They really need a tackle more than a guard but if they are going to be serious about drafting the best player available DeCastro’s probably their guy in this situation.

  • Steve Rosenbloom at the Chicago Tribune assesses the current state of the Bears:

“Anyway, [Brian] Urlacher’s point was that [GM Phil] Emery filled so many needs in free agency that the Bears don’t have to make the killer mistake of drafting for need, which leads to reaching for a player, which leads to bad evaluation, which leads to empty drafts, but enough about [former GM] Jerry Angelo.”

Its worth noting that Angelo worked this way, too. The problem is that, though he could often take the best player available, he couldn’t identify him.  That’s know as a problem in execution, not planning.

“I know it’s still early and J’Marcus Webb hasn’t given up a sack yet, but I see a lot of Bears momentum right now. The arrow is pointing up for a team coming off a death spiral. I don’t just see them as a playoff possibility, but I expect them to challenge Green Bay and the Packers’ sloppy defense atop the division.”

“No, Stevie Sunshine isn’t smoking anything. Fortunately, the Detroit Lions are.”

“Personally, suspension or not, it’s probably best I’m never in a room with Gregg Williams and wonder if such an order crosses the line of the aggressive, competitive spirit we all know and love about the sport; and leans closer to a criminal act and therefore a litigious matter.”


Elsewhere

  • The Chicago Tribune reports that the new Nike uniforms will have built-in foam padding in the knee, thigh and belt.  Many players remove such padding to increase their speed on the field.  Though the story describes the padding as being “adjustable” one wonders if these players aren’t going to be forced to keep those pads in now.
  • Though I believe the Saints deserved the punishment they got from the NFL over the “bounty scandal”, there is a part of me that figures that they aren’t the only guilty parties out there.  As a Bears fan, you just hope it isn’t everybody and, in particular, you hope it isn’t your team.  So it was nice to see ESPN’s NFC North blogger Kevin Seifert’s post which seeks to destroy the “happens all the time myth”.
  • From Mike Florio at profootballtalk.com we have this abject lesson for the Bears with their apparent recent change in philosophy regarding finding guys with “football character”:

“Three of the Lions’ five draft picks last year have been arrested for possessing marijuana since the season ended, and that’s bringing into renewed focus what many observers said about the Lions’ 2011 draft class at the time: Detroit brought in some talented players, but some questionable characters.”

“Today’s shining example of Wilbon repugnance began with a rant about the Redskins. There’s nothing wrong with going off about the Redskins, per se, but when Wilbon does it, it’s usually in the service of defending a player for the wrong reasons or because it’s a player Wilbon claims he’s friends with. In this case, it’s Donovan McNabb, who last week got all pissy in saying he wasn’t used properly by the team, a story that clashed with the reality that McNabb had nothing left by the time he arrived in D.C.’His blast was the same as mine; it was great,’ Wilbon said. ‘I called him and said ‘Good, I’m glad you had the guts to say it. I know you’re getting ripped. Good.’ I’ve said it on our show. The Redskins, if the next Joe Montana fell out of the sky, why would anybody look at them and give them the benefit of doubt that they could get it right?’  Their quarterback utilizing skills are JUNK. Did you know that Wilbon is friends with McNabb? Has it dawned on you since the last four dozen times that Wilbon mentioned it? Makes sense; you would have to be extremely close with McNabb to compare him as a faded 34-year-old to a Hall of Famer in his prime. If you can’t gameplan for bounce passes to a receiver, what can you do?”

One Final Thought

Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune reports that the Bears appear to be unlikely to resign Amobi Okoye.

“The Bears missed adding a defensive end in free agency when Jeremy Mincey re-signed with the Jaguars. They were successful in bringing back starting end Israel Idonije but now they could be faced with trying to add a third end and finding a replacement for Okoye and nose tackle Anthony Adams, who was released. That’s work that likely will have to be done in the draft.”

Biggs conclusion would appear to be further supported Vaughn McClure’s report, also for the Chicago Tribune, of the signings of cornerbacks Kelvin Haden and Jonathan Wilhite.  Hayden is very experienced in the cover two defense from his days as a Colts.  Unfortunately he’s also been often injured.

These were low risk, on year signings that weren’t for much money.  But they were sorely needed.  The depth at CB was practically non-existent and now that they Bears have some insurance at the position, they can take the best players available.  As Biggs points out, the Bears obviously believe one or more of those players will likely be defensive linemen.  McClure also points out that the Bears do plan to add depth at safety so that’s a real possibility as well.

In any case, one look at the roster tells you that the Bears are looking to draft a fair number of defensive players this year.

A Little Knee Bending for Bears Offensive Line? And Other Points of View.

Bears

Devin Thomas has never taken off as a wide receiver in the NFL.

“What are the odds he will with the Chicago Bears? That’s hard to say right now. But the Bears certainly don’t have the kind of depth chart Thomas was up against as a member of the New York Giants. Opportunity could come with his new team.”

“Despite what Dolphins owner Stephen Ross allegedly told a fan, the Dolphins had no intention of cutting Brandon Marshall without getting anything in return for him. It is true, however, that the team was intent on purging Marshall at some point. Marshall was persona non grata in Miami for a number of reasons. He was perceived as a quarterback killer because of his complaining. New coach Joe Philbin was looking for a different style of receiver. Marshall is high maintenance off the field. And the Dolphins needed cap space. However, if the Dolphins couldn’t have traded Marshall in the offseason, it is likely they would have brought him to training camp to see if a trade market might develop for him after teams started losing players to injuries. As it turned out, they received two third round picks from the Bears.”

“Unfortunately, by our numbers, Marshall hasn’t exactly played up to that skill set. Last season, he had a 9.8 percent DVOA, good for 36th in the NFL. (DVOA is Football Outsiders’ defense-adjusted value over average metric, explained here.) That was his best career ranking in DVOA and only the second time he finished a season with a positive score. Despite his eye-popping traditional numbers, Marshall has had just one season with a catch rate above 60 percent. His statistics deserve some slack since Marshall has always been the focal point of his team’s passing game, but when you consider the opportunity cost of two third-rounders and Marshall’s fairly hefty contract, trading for Marshall wasn’t exactly the slam-dunk move many have called it.”

WR Michael Floyd: Notre Dame (6-3, 224)
DE Whitney Mercilus: Illinois (6-4, 265)
OT Jonathan Martin: Stanford (6-6, 304)
DE Quinton Coples: North Carolina (6-6, 285)
WR Kendall Wright: Baylor (5-10, 190)

I’m guessing that there’s no way Floyd, Mercilus or Couples falls that far.  It seems to me like a fantasy but if scouts are right about Coples and he is there, you take him and start doing cart wheels.

Martin is intriguing and could fill a need but a lot would depend on how much OL coach Mike Tice thinks he can coach him.  Most scouts seem to thin he has a pretty low floor and the Bears don’t need to draft a tackle who turns out to actually be an average (at best) guard (*cough* Chris Williams *cough*).

“What do you make of all the attention this week on Kendall Wright? Is it due diligence or real interest by the Bears? I’m sure he is a good football player, but don’t we have enough 5-10 wide receiver experiments? I would preferMichael Floyd and if he is not avail at 19 then Stephen Hill based on speed and frame. Do you think Phil Emery will stick to his comment, which I support 100 percent, about football being for big players? Andrew Los Angeles

“Look, Kendall Wright is a pretty good prospect. You can be 5-10 and be a lot better player than someone who is 6-3. I wouldn’t turn up my nose at him just because he isn’t big. There have been plenty of outstanding receivers who are shy of six feet. The Bears already have a big receiver in Brandon Marshall. If the Bears draft a receiver, they need to draft the best receiver they can find, regardless of how tall he is. Emery likes big players, but he likes good players more. In Kansas City, he drafted 5-foot-8, 170 pound Dexter McCluster.”

Dexter McCluster is a multi-demential player who was drafted as a slot receiver.  Drafting Kendall Wright for the Bears would be like getting another Johnny Knox for the Packers to knock off the line of scrimmage and sit on.  Like McCluster, he’s too small to be anything but a slot receiver and Earl Bennett has that pretty much wrapped up.

  • Pompei, this time writing for the Chicago Tribune, quotes Bears head coach Lovie Smith on Wright:

“‘When I watch video, I don’t want to see all these bad plays,’ he said. ‘If we’re coaching a guy up to his max, OK, what can he be? It’s about the ceiling, always. This is what he’s capable of doing.’”

I found this to be interesting because it clicks together with another quote from Smith via Pompei, this time about his relationship with GM Phil Emery:

“We watched a little tape together. It’s on video what type of guys we like. And it’s constant communication, normal flow of day, going over everything we want at every position. It’s continuing still.”

Hard not to notice that Emery’s emphasis on evidence-based evaluation and watching tape is catching on with Smith.  I like that.

  • On a related not, from Mark Eckle at the Times of Trenton we have this comment on DT Dontari Poe:

“He’ll be overdrafted,” one personnel man said. “He did all of that at the Combine, so some team will take him way higher than he should go. I mean watch him play, just watch. He didn’t do anything. And he wasn’t playing at a very high level, either.

 

“All I know is he had one sack last year and it came against Austin Peay. You probably didn’t even know Austin Peay had a football team.”

 

Poe might be available for the Bears at 19.  If he is it sounds like a good test of GM Phil Emery’s philosophy to judge prospects primarily by seeing what show up on tape.

“Are you as sold as Mike Tice is on J’Marcus Webb as our left tackle? I like him as a person but I think he’s a swing tackle at best in the league. Also, Tice and Lovie Smith need to remember that Webb was a seventh-round pick from a tiny school that nobody had ever heard of. He was never meant to be a starting left tackle in the NFL. I think the Bears should trade up in the early teens of the first round to secure Jonathan Martin, who I’m sure would eliminate the only question mark on our offense now. Jim Lee, Platteville, Wis.

“It’s possible Webb could develop into a starting left tackle you can win with. He has done enough good things for the coaching staff to have faith in him, it’s just that he hasn’t done them consistently enough. He clearly still is a work in progress, as you might expect someone with his background to be going into his third season. There have been Hall of Famers who have come from “tiny schools that nobody ever heard of,” so that is not an issue. What is an issue is Webb allowed 14 sacks, tied for most in the NFL according to Stats, and that he was flagged an NFL-high eight times for false starts and five times for holding. It’s important that everybody, especially his offensive coordinator, understands this isn’t Anthony Munoz. Don’t expect him to be able to handle the best pass rushers in the game one-on-one, and he’ll have a chance. But there is no question he has some serious improving to do in order to be the Bears’ long-term left tackle.”

Elsewhere

  • Former Bears Director of College Scouting, Gabriel Gabriel, on QB Ryan Tannehill for The National Football Post:

“Yes, Tannehill will get drafted high and I know of at least three clubs that are praying that it actually does happen because that drops a good football player to them. It has been my opinion all along that some evaluators and people in the media are ‘creating’ a player just as they did Blaine Gabbert last year and others like him in previous years. Don’t forget, J’Marcus Russell was the first pick of the draft the year he came out.”

  •  And, as if to prove Gabriel right, from Pro Football Weekly’s Whispers column:

“The Vikings continue to hope that the Ryan Tannehill buzz keeps flowing. After his strong pro-day effort, there is more buzz about teams having to trade up ahead of the Browns at No. 4 to get the athletic-but-green quarterback. The Vikings will be all ears — they would love to slide down a handful of spots, pick up additional picks and still get a top-rated player. It would be the ideal situation in their minds.”

 “The union possibly has deferred comment on the situation until it has a chance to obtain more information.  The NFLPA is in a tight situation on this one, balancing its obligation to protect both the alleged participants in the bounty system and the targets of the bounty system.  It’s possible that the union will eventually contend that the players who participated were coerced by their coaches, making both the player-participants and the player-targets the victims.

“Frankly, any other argument would make it hard for the NFLPA to aggressively and properly represent the interests of both ends of the bounty spectrum.”

“Line him up as an H-back. The players who have been most successful as package quarterbacks have been the ones who are on the field in other roles. If a player comes off the sideline only when he’s part of a package, it’s a red flag for defenses.

“And Tebow can play H-back. ‘Look the way he’s built,’ McCarthy said. ‘He’s an athletic, powerful man. He’s bigger than people realize.’”

I don’t know that Tebow will ever be a good QB.  But I’m reasonably certain he’s a player.  He can do a lot of things on the football field.

“You can improve in the offseason not just through free agency.  We’ve improved every year with our offseason program and I believe that’s going to be the case again this year.”

Want to know why the Packers are successful as an organization?  Notice that McCarthy concentrates on what he does best when commenting on how to improve the organization.  Its fairly evident that he never stops coaching while letting GM Ted Thompson do what he does best in evaluating players.

  • Former NFL safety Matt Bowen at The National Football Post provides some coaching points while reviewing tape of North Alabama’s Jenoris Jenkins.
  • Bowen also talks about the importance of adjusting to the ball using Appalachian State’s Brian Quick as an example.
  • Jon Gruden gives QB prospect Andrew Luck a hard time about this play.  It’s really just guess work but watching the film and judging from the way that Luck goes right to the receiver without a glance to the left, I’m guessing that he’s being a good soldier and covering for a poor play call.  Its even posible that Gruden is baiting him in an effort to get him to call the coach out.  To his credit, Luck doesn’t give in to the temptation.
  • Gabriel tells lots of Bear fans what they’d like to hear as he describes the big wide receivers available in the draft.
  • I actually laughed out loud when I read this headline from profootballtalk.com before I even read the article.  Glad to know Donovan McNabb is still good for something.
  • Like most people who have been in this situation, I don’t know whether to laugh at this or cry. From A Factory of Sadness.
  • The Sports Pickle wonders what might have been had Internet commenters been around to ruin great moments in sports history.  Here’s a good example:

One Final Thought

If anyone needs any further evidence as to why Jerry Angelo deserved to be fired, this excerpt from Pro Football Weekly’s Whispers column provides some:

“Packers head coach Mike McCarthy said at the annual NFL meeting that 2011 third-round RB Alex Green is well ahead of schedule in his recovery from the torn ACL that cut his rookie campaign short in Week Seven. McCarthy also said that 2011 first-round OT Derek Sherrod, who also suffered a season-ending injury (broken right leg), has been conscientiously rehabbing on a daily basis at the Packers’ facilities.”

This is the kind of thing that drives Bears fans insane.  The Packers lose thier first round offensive tackle to jury and they nearly go undefeated.  The Bears lose theirs and the whole right side of the line falls apart.

One look at the statistics, as reviewed in this very good article by McCown, tells you what you need to know.  Also taking into account his analysis of Brandon Marshall above, he sums up the Bears offseason moves:

“The Bears did upgrade another area of weakness by signing QB Jason Campbell to back up [Jay] Cutler. But unless they start working to improve their offensive line, the Bears are in for a season much like the past two: one in which good defense and solid quarterback play are undone by an inability to punch the ball into the end zone and in which goal-line sweeps are buried in the backfield due to missed blocks.

But at least there will be one key difference: This time [Michael] Bush gets to be the scapegoat instead of [Matt] Forte.”

But Bears head coach Lovie Smith and, presumably, GM Phil Emery continue to bury thier heads in the sand and state that the Bears are happy with the status quo on the offensive line (Via Sean Jensen at the Chicago Sun-Times).  Florio comments:

“‘There are some things you have to do to help [J’Marcus Webb] out a little bit more at times, which we plan to do,’ Smith said, per Jensen.  ‘So you can make a case and throw out stats on what he did.’

“You can, but not many Bears fans will be willing to do it.  Instead, Bears fans will hope, and perhaps pray, that the stated faith in the team’s offensive line is part of a broader plan to dupe other teams into thinking the Bears won’t be targeting guards and tackles in the draft.”

Amen.