Sometimes It Isn’t Rocket Science

Next Fan Up Artwork

Sometimes value and need meet to make for the almost perfect draft pick. That’s what I think happened to me in the “Next Fan Up” mock draft, an exercise performed by the same group I participated with last year.

The Situation

Last year I hated the Bears spot at 14. They needed defensive linemen and safties but none were worth the pick. I ended up taking the best available player, linebacker C.J. Mosley. Not a bad pick in retrospect.

This year with the Bears picking at seven things were totally different. With needs all over the field the odds that a player that could fill one was going to be the best available were high. Here’s what happened with the first six picks:

Screen Shot 2015-04-03 at 9.48.02 AM

The Guy

Before the draft I pegged four impact players in the top ten picks:  Leonard Williams, Jameis Winston,  Dante Fowler, and Danny Shelton.  Some may justifiably criticize me for not including Amari Cooper and Kevin White.  But Cooper may have already hit his peak and White is a one year wonder that relies too much on physical abilities that may not be dominant once he gets to the NFL for my taste.  Don’t get me wrong – I’d gladly take either one.  But I put them a tier below my top four.

To no one’s surprise, the first three of those four top players were gone.  That left Shelton as the best player on my board.  But I knew that few other draftnicks agreed with me.

ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper didn’t put Shelton in his five safest picks in the draft because his ceiling is too low. I think Kiper is under estimating him. Shelton reminds me just a bit of Vince Wilfork and I believe he may turn out to be more than just a clogger in the middle.  He’s never going to be a penetrator but Shelton uses his power and quickness to leverage offensive linemen and collapse the middle of the pocket as a pass rusher.  Even if Kiper is right and Shelton only turns out to be a plug in the middle he’d be valuable as the center piece of any 3-4 defense.  He never gets blocked back off of the line of scrimmage despite almost always being double teamed and he’s uncanny in the way he regularly shed blocks to stop the run.  And you can’t stop anything if you can’t stop the run.

danny-shelton

The Attempt to Trade Down

There was little doubt that Shelton (above) was my guy.  The question was could I trade back and still have a reasonable chance to get him and, if so, how far?

Ordinarily I wouldn’t think twice about this unless I had multiple players that I liked with no definite winner heads and tails above everyone else.  But most mock drafts that had Shelton getting past the Bears had him falling to somewhere  in the middle of the round.  The first team behind me that I had with defensive tackle as a need was the Cleveland Browns at 12.  So I figured anywhere in front of them might be relatively safe and was willing to risk going down farther.  With the third oldest roster in the NFL last year and more holes than a golf course full of gophers, heaven knows the Bears need young players.  So I thought it was more important to get more chances in the annual draft lottery and to take the risk losing Shelton, even as someone who I thought was clearly the best available.

But I didn’t trade back.  Why?  Because it take two to tango and no one wanted the pick.  One of the things that’s evident this year is that everyone wants to trade back but almost no one wants to trade up.  At least not into the top ten, especially with Marcus Mariota gone after the second pick.  Only one trade in the mock draft actually took place in that area and that was between the Jets and the Giants, who wanted White.  The tail end of the first round may include more action depending on how highly the teams involved value the quarterbacks that are left and how much they want to over draft to get one.  Other than that, I can’t see it happening.  Most draft experts actually don’t think there are much more than 15 players with first round grades in the entire class.  And I can’t see too many teams trading up into the first round to get second round talent.

The Pick

In the end my choice was clear and I gladly took Shelton at number seven.  I think his talent matches the pick and fills a need.  Perhaps the Bears biggest need.  Last year I said that playing general manager isn’t easy.  But sometimes all you need to do is keep it simple.

On Avoiding the Ups and Downs and Other Points of View

Bears

“Coaching, or perhaps a front office NFL job, could be in McCown’s future. In fact, the Bears gave him some feelers when they released him in training camp. But for now, maybe for a few years even, the 33-year-old wants to play. And he wants to play in Chicago.”

“Marshall said the biggest difference between Cutler and Campbell is that Cutler ‘likes to run around a lot,’ while ‘Jason is more of a pocket guy.'”

That is true. But the one difference that became very apparent early in the third quarter of the Texan’s game was the fact that Campbell is much more of a “timing” quarterback. Where Cutler is more likely to hold the ball, look around, see who is open and deliver, recievers were getting the ball from Campbell immediately as they turned out of thier breaks last week.

In many ways, Campbell would have been the perfect quarterback for former Bears offensive coordinator Mike Martz, who has made a living teaching quarterbacks to do this. As it is, the receivers need to adjust to the new style, something which they did well last week.

“The 49ers will lean on their Tank personnel (one wide receiver, two tight ends, two backs) to establish the run and set up their play-action passing game. Look for schemes that will target the Bears’ eight-man defensive fronts Monday night and test the eye discipline of the secondary.”

I couldn’t agree more. The Texans also successfully drew an eighth Bears defender up into the box by showing run personnel. They then frequently passed out of the formation hoping to get favorable matchups. I expect the 49ers to do the same thing, probably more effectively.

49ers

“‘He definitely has emphasized it, just based on how many times (the 49ers) run the ball. Especially coming off Houston last week. Houston was more of a stretch scheme. This week is more of a downhill, smash mouth football.'”

“Had Monday night’s opponent been a passing team, the Bears would have considered activating pass-rusher Cheta Ozougwu. But Amobi Okoye is 37 pounds heavier than Ozougwu and gives the Bears more flexibility against the run.”

  • In the wake of the news that 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh had to be treated for an irregular heart beat last week, Kevin Lynch at the San Franscisco Chronicle quotes former NFL head coach Brian Billick on the stress associated with the job:

“‘It will kill you,’ he said. ‘If not, it’s going to shorten your life.’

“However, trying to be less intense has it’s ramifications as well according to Billick.

“‘Part of the problem is, the longer you are in it, to keep your priorities right and hold off the devastating lows when you lose, also means you are keeping an even keel and not enjoying the wins as much as you should,’ he said. ‘You end up in that gray twilight of not enjoying the wins and not showing too much in defeat.'”

Elsewhere


“Head coaches do not necessarily need players to like them but do need their respect and trust. The coach has to have the players’ backs. Andy Reid, the coach, certainly does. However, Reid is also in the less friendly role of general manager, signing off on all roster and financial decisions regarding players.”

“This is the major flaw of the coach/general manager model. Although Bill Belichick has been able to achieve sustained success, he has done so with cold and impersonal detachment, often not even responding to player discontent about roles or contracts, further infuriating players and agents. Reid, although a flat-liner with the media, cares deeply about his relationship with his players.”


One Final Thought

Pompei, this time writing for The National Football Post points out that the NFL owners around the league seem to be taking a more heavy handed role in managing their franchises. I, also, have taken note of this and, like Pompei I think there may be a number of explanations for it. But if I were to pick the one biggest reason, I’d say it is encapulated in this statement:’

“Some of the aging owners such as [Bud] Adams [of the Titans] and Jerry Richardson of the Panthers, who fired his general manager midseason, may be less patient than ever.”

I think a lot of these owners are getting older and they want to win one more before they go. I have, in fact, sensed a certain degree of urgency from the Bears dating back to the Julius Peppers signing, which at the time I considered to be uncharacteristic. I love Virginia McCaskey and I hope she lives a long, long time. But the family must ba acutely aware that she isn’t getting younger.

Fundamentals Are the Key and Other Points of View And Other Points of View

Bears

  • Chase Stuart at The New York Times thinks history indicates that this will be a Bears team that once again comes up short:

“For Chicago, 2012 feels a lot like 2001 or 2005 or 2006 or 2010, only more so. The defense is as dominant as ever and the special teams have been outstanding. But whether Chicago can finally win another Super Bowl may depend on how the offense operates. With Matt Forte, Chicago has its most effective offensive weapon during this stretch, but in 2012, success in the passing game is paramount. According to ESPN’s Total QBR, Jay Cutler ranked as the 20th-best quarterback before Monday night’s game. Even worse, Cutler is averaging just 5.7 net yards per pass attempt, placing him 26th in the N.F.L. Even though the Bears have a dominant defense, to defeat the Giants, Packers, Falcons and 49ers, the Bears can’t afford to have Jay Cutler play like the 26th-best quarterback in the league.”

“(on how he was able to get into a rhythm in today’s game)

“‘It took a little bit of time. I think we shortened up some of our routes, just tried to get the ball out quicker, get it in the receivers hands and get some rhythm that way. Then when they came up we hit that bomb with B (Brandon Marshall), so it came throughout the game.'”

and Cutler again on his fumble:

“(on his conversation with quarterbacks coach Jeremy Bates after his fumble)

“‘It was a good exchange. You know, I just tried to do too much and I think he was just trying to emphasize that point — to play within the play, trying to get B (Brandon Marshall) the ball. We had single coverage with him, but timing wise that play didn’t allow for the time I needed. We just have to play within the play, and we just have to limit that stuff, especially down in the red zone.”

Cutler has been saying a lot of the right things lately. I’ll be more impressed if he keeps it up when things aren’t going well for the team. But for now, its still notable.

  • Vaughn McClure at the Chicago Tribune says that Alshon Jeffery returned to practice Friday as the Bears try to force the Texans to prepare for him. Jeffery had no comment after practice, probably because he didn’t want to lie and say there was a possibility he will go. He’s doubtful for the game.

“‘Right now we’re talking an awful lot about our defense,’ Smith said at his Monday press conference at Halas Hall. ‘But before this season is over — hopefully this week — it’s going to shift, where we’re going to be talking an awful lot about the weapons we have and the offensive plays that we’re making.'”

Bold talk. Here’s hoping it’s more than just wind.

“When do you think Chris Conte‘s cheap shots and Brandon Marshall‘s push-offs are going to cost the Bears a game? — Marc, Downers Grove

“I don’t consider Conte a cheap-shot safety. I think he’s smart for making receivers think twice about coming over the middle, and I don’t think he did anything wrong to draw a penalty and fine against the Panthers two weeks ago. Titans coach Mike Munchak appeared to be upset about Conte knocking down wide receiver Nate Washington after a third quarter touchdown. Conte probably could have avoided Washington, but really all he did was run into him and put his hands out. If he really wanted to lay him out, he could have. He chose not to. As for Marshall, he has been penalized once all year, for a false start. Marshall pushing off has not been a problem for the Bears. I think he does it very well and knows what he can and can’t get away with.”

“UNSUNG HERO

Stephen Paea, NT: Paea very quietly — and very productively — has gone about his business since winning the starting job in Week 2. By eating double-teams and plugging holes, Paea (five quarterback pressures, 11/2 sacks, two tackles for loss) is a big reason for the Bears’ success against the run.”

  • Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune reports that D.J. Moore lost the nickel back job Sunday. Its notable because he’s pretty good at generating turnovers. But he’s not as reliable as [Kelvin] Hayden will be in coverage and you get the feeling the coaches have been trying to find a spot for him since camp. It will be interesting to see how this affects Moore. His comments were professional but inside he must be pretty angry.

Lance Briggs can still play and he’s playing his (butt) off, but Brian Urlacher is beaten up and just getting by. I don’t think he has played well at all this year, and he’s really starting to wear down. If we were to play them, I’m running it right at him every time.”

“The Bears thought they could get pressure up the middle because in their preparation they noticed personal protector Jordan Babineuax released early to get downfield and cover. That is exactly what he did. Steltz ran a stunt in the middle of the line and the Bears figured he or maybe [Corey] Wootton could get pressure on punter Brett Kern. It turned out [Sherrick] McManis was unblocked off the edge, allowing him to pick the ball off Kern’s right foot. Wootton scooped it up and carried Kern into the end zone.

“‘Normally, we are more of a return team but we saw something that we could exploit them on,’ Wootton said. ‘We went after it. Sherrick wasn’t even supposed to be the guy that comes free. That is why you always rush hard.'”

“The viability of the Bears special teams genius as a head coach becomes a story every year, so, why wait?”

“… Toub’s name and accomplishments will come up Sunday night. You watch, Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth will talk about Toub’s magic touch and perhaps get to his candidacy to run a team.”

It’s really only a matter of time. Toub has proven over a number of years that he can get the best out of a variety of types of players on a unit which, by its nature, has a large turnover every year. I can’t think of a way to better train to take over a team as a head coach.

  • Pompei, this time writing for The National Football Post, asks the question: “Is the executive of the year in the NFL going to be Phil Emery? Or Jerry Angelo?”
  • Sometimes I wonder if there aren’t hero worshiping Bear fans out there who are willing to believe this. From ProFootballMock.com

Titans

  • This article by Andy Benoit at Football Outsiders is strongly recommended reading for anyone who wants the small details of the Bears-Texans Matchup and the way they’ll likely approach the game. The article is so good, I can’t quote from it because I’d end up putting the whole thing up.

“The Bears play a gap-control defense and when everyone fills his assignment, a runner has no place to go. But they are so fast up front and pursue to the ball so hard that sometimes cutback lanes open up. When that happens, it’s 10 or 15 yards before a safety must make a play in the open field.

“The Texans have plenty of weak and strong leads in their playbook, and Foster’s patience is what sets him apart. With coach Gary Kubiak coming from the Broncos, it’s similar to what helped Terrell Davis and Clinton Portis have terrific seasons.”

“[Defensive coordinator Rod] Marinelli says the Texans like to start running outside zone plays to stretch a defense and widen lanes then hit leads, attacking the middle of the defense.”

“The most challenging aspect for the Bears’ defense Sunday might be staying disciplined against a team that relies heavily on play-action-to-bootleg plays. Last week, Schaub had the Bills swerving every which direction with such plays and one resulted in a 39-yard touchdown hookup with tight end Owen Daniels, a Naperville Central product.”

“‘We (will) double cover [Marshall] every play,’ [Texans defensive coordinator Wade] Phillips said [Thursday] in his press conference in Houston. ‘That’s our plan. We’re going to double cover him every play, so see what happens.'”

“[Offensive coordinator Mike Tice said,] ‘We just need to put a couple of drives together. We need to get that rhythm.’

“Cutler never found it against the Packers and their 3-4 scheme, which is very similar to the Texans’ defense.

“‘[The Texans] present a lot of challenges,’ Cutler said.

“The Packers were able to neutralize wide receiver Brandon Marshall by using ‘two-man’ coverage.

“Essentially, they had two safeties over the top while underneath man-to-man coverage was employed using a trail technique.”

“The Bears believe they do well against ‘single-high’ man-to-man coverage (one safety over the middle). The Texans used that against the Packers at times and were burned.”

Single high or two high, the only guy is is going to consistently get open against man underneath is Marshall. Bennett will help.

Having said that, the key to me isn’t so much the coverage as pressuring Cutler while keeping him in the pocket at the same time. If the Texans’ do that, their defense will do well. If they let Cutler escape, he’s got the talent to burn them both with the run and by buying time and space for the pass.

“All things considered, it’s difficult to imagine anything other than the kind of brawl that’s decided by who makes the fewest mistakes.

“In that case, it’s easier for me to trust Matt Schaub, who’s more of a big-armed game manager, than it is Jay Cutler. And that’s bothersome.”

Yes, it is bothersome. McNeil is probably worried more about interceptions but Cutler’s recent penchant for fumbling the ball could cost the Bears more here.

But I really don’t think Cutler is what everyone should worry about. Its the stack of penalties of all kinds which the Bears offense and special teams both have been committing the last few games. If that happens Sunday night, the Bears are going to constantly be in third and long and they will have an up hill battle beating a good team like this one.

Elsewhere

“You want to know what the difference is between winning and losing in the NFL? The margin of error is so small. It can come down to one player — hitting on one draft pick no one expects or finding a gem after the draft or in free agency — that can be the difference between making the playoffs and sitting at home. It can be the difference between keeping your job and losing it. It’s not easy to swallow, but that’s the cold, hard truth.”

  • This injury is a new one on me. From The Sports Pickle.
  • And finally, the NFL mid-season logos have officially arrived. Also from The Sports Pickle:

One Final Thought

“‘I think the thing that eliminates most of (the rules disadvantages) for us is we play hard,’ Urlacher said. ‘We get 11 guys to the football. The ball’s coming out. We’ve got guys stripping the football. And usually when they come out, unless they go out of bounds, we get them because we have so many guys going to the football.'”

I’m going to mildly disagree. I think a lot of defenses play hard. I think what set the Bears defense and other good defenses around the league apart is the very good fundamentals they display. I’m no expert but I know bad tackling when I see it. I don’t see it much with the Bears. They usually play with discipline and its a good thing because when they don’t, they look very average (or worse) no matter how hard they play.

Quick Game Comments: Bears at Titans

Defense

  1. Color man Brian Billick made the comment that the Bears usually are stopping the run with only seven in the box. That really isn’t the whole truth. The Bears have done an excellent job of calling the correct plays on defense. We’ve heard color men for at least a couple weeks say that its “almost like the Bears know the other team’s plays”. So what they do is show seven men, then crash an eighth into the box at the last second. It really is uncanny how often they do it.
  2. The Bears were getting good pressure from the front four on Titans quarterback Matt Hasselbeck.
  3. The Bears linebackers were frequently pressing and blitzing the A-gaps. I’m not so sure that they weren’t actually doing it in an effort to stop the run up the middle.
  4. I don’t think I have to say that it was a good defensive game overall. Its hard to complain but the defense did allow the Titans to occasionally get some big chunks of yards on some long throws including the Titans third quarter touchdown. I know it was with a bunch of back ups in but the big run by Chris Johnson in the fourth quarter also sticks out. At that point in the game you’d think those things would be what you’d be guarding against.

Offense

  1. Some good blocking by Brandon Marshall down field this game.
  2. Cutler wasn’t really very accurate this game. Part of that is because he had a lot of defensive pressure on him for some good chunks of the game. Once again his best throws went to Marshall. Its as if the quality of his throws are directly related to his confidence in the receiver.
  3. Cutler seemed to be making a conscious effort to connect with Earl Bennett and Devin Hester but they were having a tough time of it, especially in the first half. Once again, Brandon Marshall and Matt Forte seem to be the only two biggest reasons the offense moves the ball. They were certainly enough this game.
  4. Nice run by Forte on his first quarter touchdown. He kept keeping his legs churning until the rest of the team could get behind him to push him in. The Bears were very aware of their surroundings and knew to look and do that. I think that’s probably the result of good coaching.
  5. Cutler’s mobility is such a gift. It was very evident on the offense’s second touchdown on the pass to Brandon Marshall when he bought time by getting out of the pocket and throwing on the run. Cutler is at his worst against disciplined defenses that don’t allow gaps for him to slip through. This Titans defense is not one of them.
  6. Kellen Davis just cannot seem to put two good games together. He looked lost blocking out there at times.
  7. Some good run blocking this game. With the Bears so far ahead, the Titans had to know the Bears were going to run the ball but Matt Forte seemed to run wild anyway.

Miscellaneous

  1. Thom Brennaman did his usual, professional job. Laura Okmin’s question for Urlacher was really inane but I’ll admit that its probably what the network thinks most fans want to hear. The network did try to make a bit of a theme out of comparing the current defense to the ’85 defense with a bunch of graphics and the occasional comment. Brian Billick was really good. For instance, he had a number of nice comments like the one right before the big return by Devin Hester in the first quarter. He pointed out that the return was on because the Bears were doubling both gunners on the outside.
  2. I thought both teams did a nice job of catching the ball today. There were very few drops.
  3. Penalties were another matter. There was a holding call on Kellen Davis that put the Bears in a hole right after they got a turnover. That eventually set up yet another third and long and a punt. There were a number of holding calls and an illegal hands to the face in the endzone by J’Marcus Webb that resulted in the safety. The Titans weren’t a lot better with a couple illegal formation penalties and an illegal block in the back that nullified a nice return.
  4. Beautiful block for a touchdown by Sherrick McManis. Which was, by the way, particularly well broken down by Billick. A nice return by Devin Hester set up a touchdown.
  5. Turnovers were, of course, the story of the game. The Bears ability to force fumbles, especially Charles Tillman, is amazing. Brian Urlacher doesn’t run those pick sixes back like he used to but he still got the job done. On the down side we had another Cutler fumble just before half time. I don’t know what that play was but guard Chilo Rachal let his guy go and went one way and Cutler rolled the other.
  6. The Bears once again traveled well as you could clearly hear the Bears fans on television throughout the game. Kudos.
  7. I’ve never had so little to say about a football game in my life. It was an explosive combination of the Titans handing the game to the Bears and the Bears being so good at forcing turnovers. I was ready to move on to next week midway through the second quarter.

 

Of Jay Cutler and Cam Newton. And Other Points of View.

Bears

  • This article from ESPN.com‘s Pat Yasinskas is really about Carolina quarterback Cam Newton. But the whole time I read it, I couldn’t stop thinking about Bears quarterback Jay Cutler.
  • Its hard not to contrast Cutler’s reaction to his incident on the sidelines with offensive coordinator Mike Tice (total denial) last Monday night with Tice’s. Via Sean Jensen at the Chicago Sun-Times:

“Asked if he was surprised that Cutler walked away, Tice laughed and said, ‘He probably had enough of me telling him why the play didn’t work.

“‘I get enough of me sometimes, too. I can talk a little bit, as you guys know. The heat of the battle, it’s tough. A lot of things happen on the sideline. A lot of things happen over the course of a game. I was really angry about the fact that we didn’t make that third-and-one. I was in his ear from the time he came off the field to the time he went over and put his helmet down. At a certain point, probably enough’s enough.'”

“Smith rightfully gets top billing as the Bears’ coach, but Tice is the rock star on the staff. And not because he’s Mr. Entertainment or Vince Lombardi, but because he sees the same game we do.”

  • I thought Jensen, who had a lot of experience covering Tice with the Vikings, had an interesting take on the incident:

“Cutler seems resistant to his reality, but he needs to begin to accept it.

“There wasn’t a hint of frustration or anger from Tice on Wednesday as he heaped praise on Cutler.

“‘Jay and I are good,’ Tice said. ‘I really admire his play the other night. I really admire how he’s prepared himself right now. I really admire how he’s bought in.’

“But Tice isn’t anyone’s pushover. So as their relationship moves forward, Cutler had better treat him with respect.”

  • Dan Pompei at the Chicago Tribune asks a question that most Cutler apologists will parrot:

“Romo carried himself like the pro he is. But he didn’t win.

Anything else you want to know?”

Yeah. Why is it too much to ask that Cutler do both?

In any case, Rick Morrissey at the Chicago Sun-Times provides some perspective for the average fan who is stuck personally disliking arguably his team’s most talented player:

“At some point — now would be good — we’re going to have to give up on the idea that Cutler can be rehabilitated. Personality transplants are not on the medical horizon. The name is Jay, not Joy, Cutler.”

In other words, “Yeah, he’s a punk. But he’s out punk. Like it or not, that’s the way it is.

That’s fine. As long as everyone also recognizes on some level that its also wrong.

In that respect, I was actually getting ready to write a full post on the Cutler situation and the total denial of most fans I know about the situation when Steve Rosenbloom at the Chicago Tribune said virtually everything I wanted to say. So I’ll just link to his article and let you watch the video and say it all goes double for me:

  • Many people will look at the final score of the Cowboys game and conclude that the offense was a dominant force. But Devin Hester got it right when he made this comment. Via Jensen:

“‘To me, this was a defensive victory,’ he said. ‘When you come up with five turnovers and 14 points, you pretty much won the game. They had an amazing night.'”

This team has that personality trait and it probably will for a long time. Its the defense that leads them and everything else follows on that. If they don’t make big plays first, they won’t happen on offense. Don’t look for it to be the other way around. They don’t have that kind of character. Haugh does a good job of making that point in his column here.

“‘The way that offensive line is blocking, it’s making it easy for me,’ Cutler said. ‘That was the best rhythm we have had offensively, in and out of the huddle, all year. We’ve just got to take that momentum and keep it rolling.'”

I did my best to concentrate on the offensive line during the game and my impression was that it wasn’t that simple. They got a lot of help and most of the time, Cutler was getting the ball out quickly to Brandon Marshall over the middle. When the tackles were one-on-one, most of the time one or the other struggled. But they did just enough to allow Cutler to get the ball off and occasionally they really did well.

By the way, its getting almost no notice but right guard Lance Lewis is a Pro Bowler. He’s been outstanding. Left guard Chilo Rachal and center Roberto Garza also had solid games with no noticeable gaffs as far as I could tell.

Besides being on the road and on short rest, the Bears also will have to adjust to the Jacksonville heat Sunday. The predicted high is 90 degrees.

The Bears have not played in a game with a kickoff temperature above 76 degrees since Oct. 10, 2010, when they beat the Carolina Panthers 23-6 in Charlotte.

The Bears got off to a fast start in that game — 17 points and 280 all-purpose yards (21.5 yards per play) in the first quarter — but petered out. In the final three quarters, they scored six points and had 168 all-purpose yards (2.9 per play).

“The Bears said they wanted more consistency this season from defensive tackle Henry Melton, who acknowledged that was a goal. At the quarter post of the season, it’s fair to say Melton is delivering. He sacked Tony Romo in the first quarter and has four for the season, just the way he wanted to begin a contract season. He also forced the play on Lance Briggs‘ 74-yard interception return in the third quarter. Teams pay for sacks, and Melton knows it. Could the franchise tag enter the discussion?”

As a serious Melton doubter before the season began, I can say that his play thus far has been a wonderful surprise. He’s been taking favorable match ups inside and capitalizing on them.

  • Its also hard to under estimate the importance of Lance Briggs to the defense. And yet I somehow always manage to do it. Fortunately Biggs doesn’t share that fault.
  • I’m not too thrilled seeing Julius Peppers have to sit out a half nor is it good to see Earl Bennett inactive due to injury. The Bears are going to need both of these guys. From McClure.
  • Pompei noticed something in his film study last week that I’d like to see more of:

“[Bears defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli had another wrinkle for the Cowboys too. The Bears lined up in a 3-4 defense twice, with Shea McClellin playing stand-up linebacker. Both times, he dropped and covered running back DeMarco Murray.”

  • This is unfortunate when you are a fan of a team in need of a left tackle. But its also hardly surprising. From Biggs:

“Some have already suggested the 2013 draft could be solid for offensive linemen, so I asked the national scout that exact question.

“‘Within the first two rounds,’ he said. ‘There are some big-time guards and some good tackles but not premier tackles. There are not premier lefts out there right now unless I have missed out on some juniors. Now, there are some big-time guards and some really good right tackles out there.

“‘There could be two to maybe three guards go in the first round, which is pretty out of the norm because usually it is just one. Usually those are back-end first-round guys if they are at that good. There are some good right tackles and there are a couple juniors out there that could be overdrafted (if they forego their senior season) but are there any Joe Thomases out there? Heck no. There is not. Numbers-wise on the offensive line, maybe the first two, two-and-a-half rounds might be strong. After that, it kind of falls off.'”

“One thing that could help is the Bears will face a 4-3 defense after playing three 3-4 fronts in four weeks.

“‘It’s a total technique change across the board, so it’s going to be a little edgy at times and not as clean as it could be when you’re playing against an over front or a team you work on every day,’ Tice said.

“‘If we played against a 3-4 team every day in practice we’d be a little better against it, but each game I felt we got a little bit better.'”

“A year after rushing for 2,000 yards, the Bears have yet to find their groove on the ground. Matt Forte hasn’t been fully healthy. The offensive line has been revamped. Don’t forget all of the new passing toys that arrived too. Offensive coordinator Mike Tice made a concerted effort in training camp to make sure the passing game was installed and operating efficiently. An inordinate amount of time was spent throwing the football in Bourbonnais. That meant less attention to the ground attack, but that should change this week against the Jaguars, who enter 30th in the NFL against the run.”

In fairness, the passing game seems to me to be much harder to coordinate (as the Cowboys can attest). Personally, I’d rather see the Bears spending and inordinate amount of time throwing the ball in camp. As a fan, its not easy to see your team get beat. But when you are watching on a Monday night with 24 hours with no sleep, seeing them beat themselves by running the wrong routes would be agony.

  • Vaughn McClure at the Chicago Tribune talks about the brewing feud between ESPN‘s Steven A. Smith and Marshall:

“‘I’m saying if you have old incidents dating from Oct. 31, 2004, to March 11, 2012 — if you have eight years of a track record of transgressions, I need to see more than a few months of a transformation,’ Smith said.

“Marshall apparently responded to Smith’s rant with this tweet: “Yellow journalism is a type of journalism that presents little or no legitimate well-researched news to sell papers or create controversy.”

This is what worries me about Marshall. Suggest something critical about his past that is nothing more than the truth and he calls it “yellow journalism”. I can’t help but think that, no matter what he says or how it looks on the outside, he’s still in denial.

  • Fred Mitchell at the Chicago Tribune quotes Cutler on how teams are trying to handle the Bears passing attack.

“‘I think week by week, teams are going to try to take ‘B’ [Marshall] away and make those other guys make plays,’ Cutler said Wednesday at Halas Hall. ‘I think that’s going to be the philosophy behind that.

“They’re going to bet that defensively they can cover those other guys and not let ‘B’ beat them. That’s what we’re seeing a lot of. But we have a lot of belief in our guys — Kellen (Davis) and Alshon (Jeffery) and (Devin Hester) and Matt Forte … all those guys we believe can make plays.””

I’m glad Cutler believes in them. Because other than Forte, I surely don’t. Like the Bears opponents, I’ll believe it when I see it.

“With Matt Forte starting to get pretty worn down, would he still demand a good price on the trade market? Trading him would leave the Bears with a solid player in Michael Bush and then the option to take a guy like Marcus Lattimore in the draft. — Joe Devine, Saskatoon, Canada

“I don’t know why the Bears would want to get rid of a player they just signed and a player who clearly helps them win games. But to answer your question, I think the Bears could get something of value in return for Forte. They probably couldn’t make a killing because he is soon to be 27-years old and he has some miles on him. The days of receiving five players and eight draft picks (including three first rounders), as the Cowboys did for Herschel Walker, are over. It’s unusual to see a star running back traded anymore. The Seahawks got Marshawn Lynch for fourth and fifth round picks two years ago, but he wasn’t in Forte’s class at the time of the trade. The Redskins gave up Champ Bailey and a second round pick for Clinton Portis in 2004, but Portis was younger than Forte at the time, and he had been more productive. So what could Forte bring in a trade? I would say if they found the right partner, the Bears probably could get a good starter at another position or a second round draft pick.”

I’m always of the opinion that the fans are under-estimated by people associated with the NFL. I’m a fan of the fans and I think they often see more than the professionals who are too close to what’s going on to see the forest for the trees. But questions like this about Forte seem to pop up in columns every week and I’ll never understand why anyone would want to trade Forte. Forte said during the offseason he thought he was being disrespected by the Bears organization during a contract dispute. But in my view its nothing compared to the disrespect of some fans who see to think the Bears would be better off without him. He’s not appreciated like he should be and that’s a shame.

“I just don’t understand why the Bears don’t at least try Gabe Carimi at LT. OK his ceiling maybe isn’t as high as J’Marcus Webb‘s, but he does not have the low downside either. Carimi went up against a lot better competition in college too and always performed well. Why not put him there and let him deal with those great pass rushing DEs. I have to believe he would perform better then what Webb has showed. Plus doesn’t Mike Tice say he is the best OL they have? If that is the case why isn’t your best OL playing the most important position on the line? — Peter, Wausau, Wis.

“If the Bears move Carimi to left tackle and he is just an average left tackle, which many suspect would be the case, you might have an average left tackle and a below average right tackle. Does that make them better? Carimi can be an above average right tackle. You don’t want to create one problem by solving another. I don’t recall Tice saying Carimi is the best offensive lineman on the team, but Tice clearly is high on Carimi. And even if a player is the best lineman on the team does not mean he could play any position.”

  • Many of us wondered what happened with Al Afalava, a promising young safety for the Bears who had a good rookie year in 2009 but was cut in 2010. Now we know. From McClure:

“Now, Afalava plays special teams for the Titans, and he regrets how things unfolded with the Bears.

“‘I learned that being on the sideline ain’t going to get you a job in the NFL,’ Afalava said Thursday. ‘I didn’t come in prepared my second year.

“‘Before my second year, I went home to Hawaii and put on weight that I wasn’t supposed to. I was close to 240 pounds after playing as rookie at 212. I was just living the life back home. Hawaii has good food.'”

Jacksonville

  • Looks like the Bears defense will get a shot against yet another bad offensive line. The odds are good that, like the Cowboys, their best chance to beat the Bears will be to run the ball. From Pompei.
  • You can couple that with this grim assessment of the Jaguars defense at the quarter pole mark from Ryan O’Halloran at the Florida Times-Union:

“The Jaguars can’t stop the run to force a third-and-long, and when they do, don’t have the pass rush to pressure the quarterback.

“So what are the Jaguars options? They rushed six or more players five times against the Bengals, who blocked it up with extra protection.

“The element of surprise — more zone blitzes, corners and safeties coming off the edges, etc. — should be next up.”

“Although the Jaguars remain 30th in rush defense for the second straight week, linebacker Paul Posluszny sees improvement. The Bengals rushed for 138 yards, but 48 came on a fake punt.

“‘Early on [the struggles] were a huge surprise,’ Posluszny said. ‘Each week, we’re getting better and better. Last week, we were successful and the fake punt skews the number. We’re tackling better and we’re more disciplined. We started out rough and now we’re making that ground up.’

“Not counting the fake punt, the Jaguars allowed only one rush of longer than 12 yards to Cincinnati.”

  • It’s apparently not all bad for the offensive line, as well. Also from O’Halloran:

“Along with center Brad Meester, left tackle Eugene Monroe is the only Jaguars offensive starter to play every snap this year. He’s been consistent in pass protection and occasionally dominant. Monroe has one penalty (a false start) and controlled Minnesota’s Jared Allen in Week 1.

“Helping Monroe’s performance is who he hasn’t faced. Houston moved J.J. Watt from right end to left end to go against reserve right tackle Guy Whimper and Indianapolis moved pass rusher Robert Mathis around so he wouldn’t get a steady diet of Monroe.”

I think you can count on Lovie Smith and Rod Marinelli to do the same with Peppers.

  • One match up to look at will be left guard Eben Britton against the Bears defensive tackles. Britton was benched at half time last game. From O’Halloran:

“‘He’s very prideful,’ [Jaguars head coach Mike] Mularkey said. ‘He came in here with a great attitude. A lot of guys would have sulked, but he didn’t do that. He works hard all the time, but you could tell it’s important to him. With another week, he’ll probably be better health-wise.'”

“One bright spot for the Jaguars is that Blaine Gabbert hasn’t been horrible under pressure. He’s middle of the pack with a 62.9 Accuracy Percentage when pressured and has yet to throw an interception. However, he takes a sack on 21.8% of those plays, the 10th-highest rate in the NFL.”

  • Maney continues with this interesting tid bit to look for:

“Gabbert will likely target slot corner DJ Moore, who’s given up 18 catches on 24 targets this season, two of them going for scores. Of 108 passes this season, Gabbert has thrown just eight longer than 20 yards in the air and 17 at intermediate distance (between 10 and 20 yards). Of those 25 passes over 10 yards in the air, just three have gone to the left side of the field and he didn’t attempt a single pass there against the Bengals. In fact, on passes beyond the line of scrimmage, he’s thrown just 18% to the left side of the field, compared to roughly 32% to the right and 50% to the middle of the field. He’ll want to throw left more often and stay away from the right side against the Bears, where [cornerback Tim] Jennings spends an overwhelming majority of snaps.”

  • Who will cover Marshall seems to be a major question in Jacksonville this week. As it should be. My advise is that whoever it is should get significant help. Form Gene Frenette at the Florida Times-Union.

Elsewhere

  • I got a lot of flack about a game comment I put up last week. I said that I thought Tony Romo‘s accuracy and touch are impressive. Bears fans thought that a QB who threw five interceptions shouldn’t be getting those kinds of compliments. So I was glad to see Andy Benoit at The New York Times come to Romo’s defense as well and do it in a much more thorough way than I could:

“So what about the five interceptions? Three, maybe four of them weren’t Romo’s fault. On the first pick, Dez Bryant ran the wrong route. On the second pick, Kevin Ogletree had a perfectly thrown ball bounce off his chest. The third pick probably should have been ruled a fumble, because the ball squeezed out of Romo’s hands after he was corralled by Henry Melton. Romo tried to escape the pocket on that play, but Melton had spectacular closing speed. Nevertheless, Melton shouldn’t have been able to break down Dallas’s protection so quickly. The fourth interception may have been Romo’s fault, though the intended receiver, Miles Austin, ran a very poor route, failing to cross the face of cornerback D.J. Moore.

I might add that, bad decision though it might have been, this pass was a laser beam that was right on target. Benoit continues:

As for the fifth interception….that was Romo’s fault, but in a lot of ways, it was his most impressive play of the night. The Cowboys were trailing by 24 late. Their only chance at a win was via a sports version of a miracle. So Romo went for it and threw into coverage. How many quarterbacks in that situation would have checked down to avoid risking a five-turnover game? Romo showed selflessness and character on that play. He showed those same traits in the postgame interviews, too, when he protected his teammates and accepted the unwarranted blame for his team’s sloppy showing.

This isn’t to say that Romo shouldn’t be scrutinized. He has played extremely well this season but hasn’t gotten much help from his supporting cast. It’s fair to point out, though, that receivers who play with Tom Brady and Peyton Manning never seem to get way off their quarterback’s page. You don’t see Brady’s targets drop passes in bunches. So why are Romo’s teammates so inconsistent at times?

There isn’t a single right answer to this question. But this is the question sportswriters should be exploring. It’s not as easy or fun as exploring why “Tony Romo stinks,” but it’s a lot smarter and fairer.”

  • Ben Stockwell at Pro Football Focus more or less tells it like it is as he reviews the Cowboys-Bears game film:

“At this point Cowboy fans, coaches and players must simply be tearing their hair out. In spite of consistency in personnel at key positions, the hallmark of this offense continues to be miscommunications and disconnects between players. At some point you have to wonder when this will be picked up on as a recurring problem to the extent that it costs someone their job.”

I’ve got to figure that if things keep going like this, there will be changes at the end of the year in Dallas.

  • Dan Pompei, this time writing for The National Football Post, highlights the new trend in the NFL – the “rat race offense”.
  • The Bears aren’t the only ones with an aging defense. And the one in Pittsburgh may not be aging as gracefully as Steelers coach Mike Tomlin faces some tough choices. From Alex Marvez at FOX Sports:

“‘It is a natural evolution of this business,’ Tomlin told FOXSports.com when the subject was broached after Wednesday’s practice. ‘Any of us that are in (the NFL) have to accept it on one level or another whether it’s coaches or players. That’s the mentality I have regarding it.'”

“‘We’re not trying to strike a balance (with age). We’re going with the guys who are capable of playing. We’ve got some veteran guys who are still good players. As long as they remain that, they’ll continue to play. We’ve got some young guys with some promise who are working. When they’re good enough to play, they’ll be in there.'”

  • Michael Vick swears this one’s just for sparring. From Mike Florio at profootballtalk.com.
  • The Sports Pickle asks “Which NFL quarterback should be benched?” My answer:

Mark Sanchez — he needs to be benched so he can clear his head and be ready to start again when Tim Tebow gets benched.”

One Final Thought

“As he trudges through the snow on his way to the Champaign County YMCA, where he would stay that night for $2, his shoes fall apart.

“‘I’ll never forget that feeling where the sole comes off your shoe, snow seeps in, your socks gets full of that cold, wet moisture,” he said. “But it was the greatest thing that happened to me. It gave me perspective. Those are the life-defining moments. They hard-wire you. When you meet challenges in life later on, you say, ‘This is nothing.'”

Charles Barkley Begs for Sanity and Other Points of View

Bears

“We’re an athletic defense … we have a pretty good front,” [Brian] Urlacher said. “We run to the football. Hopefully we get takeaways, which we haven’t done in the last couple of weeks. Just run to the football and do what we do.”

The Bears do have the kind of discipline it takes to stay in their gaps and stop this kind of offense when they’re playing well against the run – which they have not always done this year.  But the real problem is that plenty of teams have stopped the Broncos this year only to have them hang around and win at the end.  The defense has to lay a complete game and they are gong to need some offense to win.

“I want to make a personal plea to Lance Briggs, Brian Urlacher, Mr. [Julius] Peppers, please stop the madness,” Barkley said Friday on “The Waddle & Silvy Show” on ESPN 1000. “I’m just so tired … I like Tim Tebow. He seems like a good kid, and I wish him success, but I am Tebowed out. So this is my personal plea for you three guys, please stop this madness.”

  • Jeff Dickerson at ESPNChicago.com points out that the Broncos like to run out of a three receiver set. It will be interesting to see if the Bears choose to keep linebacker Nick Roach in the game in those situations instead of going to the nickel. The guess here is that they confident in their nickel backs stopping the run.
  • Dan Pompei at the Chicago Tribune makes the point that the Bears are less likely to pass to the running back with Matt Forte out. That’s true. But I was puzzled by the lack of a screen game against the Chiefs. I’m wondering if offensive coordinator Mike Martz has lost confidence in Caleb Hanie‘s ability to execute it after having one intercepted against the Oakland Raiders two weeks ago.
  • Pompei also points out that the Bears are being penalized a lot but that the penalties are even for and against the Bears. I never doubted whether there was a bias against the Bears but I do think the officiating has been especially bad this year. I’m starting to wonder if adding another official to the crew might not be a bad idea.
  • And Pompei also writes about the way to game plan against the Broncos:

“The best way to play [Tim Tebow] is with a zone defense so all eyes are on him. Eight in the box is recommended. Try to force him to throw to beat you. Gap discipline is important.”

  • Vaughn McClure at the Chicago Tribune writes an article about how safety Craig Steltz has to step up with Major Wright suffering a sprained shoulder. Meanwhile we’re all left to wonder what happened to Brandon Merriweather (again).
  • Pompei also points out that the upcoming draft will be a good one for defensive ends for The National Football Post. The Bears might be thinking in the direction of the defensive line (again). The Bears need another end even if you don’t account for the fact that none of the current defensive linemen has taken full advantage of the presence of Julius Peppers.
  • For those of you who enjoy these things:

Elsewhere

  • The Browns are under fire for allegedly letting  quarterback Colt McCoy play with a concussion.  This may be one to keep an eye on.  It sounds like the team may be outright lying.
  • Lions head coach Jim Schwartz continues to enable Ndamukong Suh. Via ESPN‘s NFC North blogger Kevin Seifert:

“‘The fact that he was in a fender-bender?’ Schwartz said. ‘How guys drive and things like that … let’s worry about him on the field. Ndamukong is a hard-working guy and he hasn’t had any kind of issues with the law, including this one. Let’s worry about him on the field and get him back playing well. He’s under a microscope, but that’s too much of a microscope.”

Here’s the description of the “fender bender”:

“‘When the light turned green, he floored it,’ one of the passengers told KGW-TV. ‘I just remember going so fast and it was violent, and just getting thrown around like rag dolls.'”

Suh eventually hit a tree.  Afterwards he told one passenger who requested medical attention that “she was fine”. She left and walked down the street to get her husband to take her to the hospital.

“Put on the tape and watch (Lions DT) Ndamukong Suh get blocked one-on-one all game and you show me where he is the dominant player he has been made out to be (by the media). I’ve never seen a bigger farce. I thought he was overrated coming out of college, and he has done nothing to change my mind. He’s nothing but a bunch of hot air, and I think people are starting to come around to it.”

  • Pompei also makes the point for the Chicago Tribune that the injuries around the league are a “strong argument against an 18 game season”.
  • And Pompei quotes Titan’s head coach Mike Munchak on running back Chris Johnson for The National Football Post. Bear fans might want to pay attention to this one because it might be relevant if Matt Forte decides to hold out after being franchised next year:

“Missing camp, it definitely affected him,” he said. “We knew it would. We just didn’t know how much. Is that the only reason we weren’t running well? No. But to be a running back in this league, you have to be in a certain kind of condition and shape, have a certain spring in your legs.”

“Usually at this time of the year, there is more clarity about who will be in the Super Bowl. Yeah, Green Bay is undefeated, but if they land on a field where they can’t throw the ball and they have to play power football, I’m not so sure they are the best team in the NFC. And they are looking at a cold home field. The Packers look a lot like the Patriots did when they ran the table – a loss might be good for them right now. I think they need to be humbled.”

One Final Thought

Fred Mitchell at the Chicago Tribune summarizes the situation in Chicago:

“After the last two losses, Bears players and coaches may have more confidence in themselves right now than their fans.”

Yeah, pretty much.

Cuts Have Arrived and Gone but Roster Shaping Not Over Yet. And Other Point of View.

Bears

“This guy is straight out of a Rod Marinelli dream. Reed’s effort raises the level of play of everyone around him. And the word out of closed Halas Hall practices is the Bears haven’t been able to block him the last couple of weeks either.”

I have my doubts.  Reed had a good game and did flash some ability Thursday night but it was still against back ups.  He did n’t do a whole lot when given a chance before that with the big boys.  Reed might, indeed, be their guy but other teams are making their cuts as well and the last defensive end may not be necessarily on the roster yet.  Probably both he and Mario Addision should still be worried.

  • Pompei points out that second round pick Sephen Paea has been a disappointment so far.  Pompei thinks he still might be recovering from a Senior Bowl knee injury.  Paea certainly needs work regardless.  He doesn’t play with much leverage.  You can set all the bench press records in the world but it doesn’t mean anything if you aren’t a football player.
  • Fred Mitchell at the Chicago Tribune writes about wide receiver Dane Sanzenbacher.  Sanzenbacher will keep the last wide receiver spot.  But the job basically requires that you play special teams and what to do with him there appears to be an issue.
  • Greg Gabriel, Bears Director of College Scouting when Lance Briggs was seeking a new contract four years ago, comments for the National Football Post on Briggs’s current request for renegotiation:

 “If I’m the Bears I would tell both Briggs and [agent Drew] Rosenhaus to take a long walk on a short pier. If they don’t like it, then don’t play! Fine him the maximum for not living up to his contract. They will argue that he has outplayed the contract, but that’s not true.”

Elsewhere

Tommie Harris  Colts
Brad Maynard  Texans
Justin Gage  Titans
Lousaka Polite  Dolphins

  • Defensive end Jacob Ford, who played a key role for the Titans the last few years, was cut.  Via profootballtalk.com.
  •  The Sports Pickle brings you the Dancing Football Ref:

  • On a related note, Bears safety Chris Harris is apparently training to join him on the field as a dancing side judge:

 “The Texans believe they can get more out of safety Danieal Manning than the Bears did. Their plan is to play him closer to the line than the Bears did with their Tampa 2 scheme. Texans coaches believe Manning is more valuable around the ball. They are high on his toughness, talent and work ethic.”

The Bears knew that Manning would make a good strong safety and got plenty out of him at the position.  The problem is that they already have strong safeties and they needed Manning to be able to play free.  When failed in that role and as a nickel back, he was worth less than what teams like the Texans were willing to pay.

  • Pompei also points out that defensive end Ryan Kerrigan has looked very good for the Redskins so far.  I’m still wondering how the undersized Kerrigan will hold up in the 3-4.  I thought he was a better fit for a 4-3 team like the Bears.
  • Perhaps not surprisingly, the NFL season will begin without HGH testing as the NFL Player’s Union stalls.  I can understand why.  If testing is done such that players who are taking the hormone actually get caught, we would probably be looking at a very different game.   But I really doubt that will happen.

One Final Thought

What do you do when you receiver a brand new reel wrapped in a Packer’s bandana?  Perform an “exorcission” of course:

Analysts Continue to Pound on Draft Quarterback Debate

ESPN AFC South blogger Paul Kuharsky and NFC North blogger Kevin Seifert debate: Who will have the bigger impact, Jake Locker or Christian Ponder. This factor in Locker’s favor caught my eye:

“Competition: Nobody gets an easy road, but if they are playing, Locker will be facing a much easier division. The Colts will be a prime contender in the AFC again. It’s unlikely the Jaguars or Texans are exceptionally threatening. Meanwhile, Ponder will be on the division’s worst team, facing the teams that played in the last NFC Championship Game and the Detroit Lions, who will be ranked by many (including me) as breakout candidates.”

A couple things:

  1. Its nice to see the NFC North getting some respect but that AFC South division looks tough enough to me.
  2. Hard not to notice that with the lockout going on in the absenc of any other real news, ESPN has decided to continue to pound on the draft quarterbacks story. This was over-hyped even before the draft. Now its just becoming intolerable.  There has to be more than this, even if its just speculating about free agents.

How desperate is the media getting?  We have this via Gregg Rosenthal at profootballtalk.com:

“One stat from Tom Canavan of the Associated Press sums up the problem perfectly.

“He reports that seven New York Giants are present at Eli Manning’s loose “passing camp” at Hoboken High School on Wednesday.  And there are eleven reporters present to cover them.”

(Personal note:  Its kind of a good thing for this blog that things are slowing down with the lockout.  Those who check here regularly will note that the posts have been fewer lately.  This isn’t laziness on my part.  I’m afraid I have a real job and its picking up so I’m spending my early morning hours more on business, probably until the end of June.  I’ll try to keep posting a couple times a week until then.)

The Bears and the NFL Top 100. And Other Points of View

Bears

  • Well, the Bears drew an interesting schedule.  As everyone now knows they will be traveling to London to play Tampa Bay.  I addition to that, they drew a Christmas night assignment at Green Bay.
  • Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune says that the Bears won’t be playing in London if there’s no labor deal by Aug. 1.
  • ESPN’s  NFC North blogger Kevin Seifert wonders if the NFL didn’t purposely schedule the Bears to have more than the usual number of early home games because the turf would be better that time of year.
  • For those who despise night games as much as I do the Bears currently have four on the schedule.
  • Charles Tillman and his wife went on Oprah to meet the mother who donated her son’s heart so that Tillman’s daughter could live.  Via Sean Jensen at the Chicago Sun-Times.
  • Matt Williamson at ESPN’s Scouts Inc, ranked the NFC North offensive lines.  The Bears were dead last.

“In 2010, the Bears’ run blocking was terrible. But the pass protection was horrendous. In fact, it was probably the worst in the NFL, as evidenced by the league-leading 56 sacks Chicago allowed. Even though the coaching staff did a great job masking these insufficiencies, there will be changes. It is amazing that the Bears got as far as they did in the postseason with that group of linemen.”

“Fixing the Bears’ offensive line will be a two-part process. They’ll need to bring in better players, but more important, they’ll also have to coax improved play from a group that our resident scout sees little promise in.”

We all have to hope that there’s more promise that Williamson thinks in the Bears young offensive linemen or 2011 could be a long year.

  • The Bears website did this nice little feature on Director of Player Personnel Tim Ruskell:

“We brought in Chester to be a complement to Matt [Forte], which he was… I know the numbers weren’t there, but Matt’s numbers were up. You’re just looking for the running back position’s numbers to go up, which they did.”

Whatever.

“If Brandt is right, and neither [Anthony] Castonzo or [Gabe] Carimi can protect Jay Cutler‘s blind side, it may behoove the Bears to take an interior lineman or the best defensive player available.”

“Texas gave the Bears Nathan Vasher, and [Aaron] Williams is a 6-foot cornerback in the tradition of Charles Tillman. Because of the value of the position and the need to get a Tillman replacement in the pipeline, this pick solidifies a spot that has bedeviled the defense since Vasher’s precipitous decline from his one-time Pro Bowl level.”

  • Nolan Nawrocki at Pro Football Weekly reviews the character issues (good and bad) surrounding some of the to talent in the draft.  Amongst the players connected at some point to the Bears are Marvin Austin, Rodney Hudson, and Ryan Kerrigan.
  • Jensen picks Derek Sherrod for the Bears in a mock draft for NFL.com.

Elsewhere

  • Regulars here know that I’m purposely avoiding most of the details of the labor negotiations that aren’t directly football related.  In fact, I’m not even reading the articles.  However for those who care, profootballtalk.com seems to be all over it.  Mike Florio is a lawyer so there’s even a slight chance that you can believe some of it.
  • Jeff Fisher says he wants to coach again in 2012.  Florio continues to express his skepticism about Fisher’s history with the Titans.
  • Tom Pelissero at 1500ESPN.com doesn’t think the Vikings should be looking defensive end in the first round.  He points to fourth rounders Ray Edwards, Brian Robison and Everson Griffen as examples of good defensive linemen who can be found late.  Yes, but how good would they be without Jared Allen?  I think last season answered that question as Allen had a down year and so did everyone else.  True Allen, was a fourth rounder, too.  But the Vikings had to go outside the organization to get him and I don’t like the odds of finding another one of him.
  • Evan Silva at profootballtalk.com might as well just say out right that there’s no way Redskins quarterback Donovan McNabb gets traded.
  • Michael David Smith also at profootballtlk.com, indicates that, to no one’s surprise, the Patriots are willing to trade draft picks.  Historically they’re pretty good at it:

“One of [Bill] Belichick’s favorite draft-day tactics is to trade a pick this year for a higher pick next year. This year the Patriots own the first pick of the second round (and thus the second day), and it’s quite likely that some team will call Belichick before the second round starts to offer the Patriots a first-round pick in 2012 for the right to choose first in the second round of 2011. So the Patriots won’t just use all those picks to bolster their 2011 roster; they also may look to build a stockpile of 2012 picks.”

  • One season into his NFL career and Jimmy Clausen may already be done in Carolina.  Former NFL safety Matt Bowen relates his experience at a similar point in his career for the National Football Post.  If I’m Clausen and the Panthers draft a quarterback in the first round, I’m ignoring all other factors and doing my best to get onto a team with a history of developing quarterbacks.
  • And finally, the last of the series, the Carolina Panthers are on the clock at ESPN:

One Final Thought

Pete Prisco at CBSSports.com rates the top 100 NFL players.  There were only two Bears, only one of whom was drafted by the organization and he was not drafted by GM Jerry Angelo.

A New Perspective on the X’s and O’s of Bears Football and Other Points of View

Bears

“The Bears had gone away from holding the local workout day because many agents would not permit their players to actually work out. That left the team in a position where decision makers would then spend a few hours looking at players who were not going to be drafted or targeted as priority free agents. It wasn’t productive. Now, it appears the Bears must see value in holding the workouts again.”

“The Bears don’t have an immediate need at cornerback as they have several young corners with potential in Zack Bowman, D.J. Moore and Joshua Moore. But no team ever has enough and Charles Tillman, the Bears’ best, is 30.”

As I’ve said before, I think the Bear do need a third corner.

“Considering the talent likely to be available at each of these positions, the Bears could have plenty of options staring at them at No. 29. As such, they could be one of the teams at the end of the first round willing to trade back to allow a club desperate to snatch up a quarterback before the expected run on the position begins in the second round. “

No one would be surprised if that run began earlier, well before the Bears picked in the first round.

  • In an earlier post I noted a mock draft where an NFC scout had given the Bear nose tackle Phil TaylorI agree with Bob LeGere at the Daily Herald that Taylor is a bad fit for the Bears’ scheme.  But beyond that,  I was surprised that Taylor fell so far.  Now Rang is suggesting that there’s a problem with Taylor’s feet that might be causing teams concern.  That would be interesting for a couple of reasons.  First, nose tackle has become an extremely valuable position in the NFL.  Second, Taylor is the only one anybody thinks deserves a first round grade.  This could be bad news if you are a team that needs one.

Elsewhere

Jack Britt believes that his son, Titans receiver Kenny Britt, needs to be out of his hometown of Bayonne, New Jersey and back in Nashville.

“‘I’m worried about him all the time,’ Jack Britt told Conor Orr and Matthew Stanmyre of the Newark Star-Ledger in an article that takes a thorough look at Britt’s history of off-field issues.  ‘But my concern is not with Kenny, per se, it’s more with Kenny’s friends, and he knows that.  He has too many friends with too much free time.’

“‘He needs to be around more positive people.’”

“The day I got back, I took my nameplate from my locker — ‘Ben Roethlisberger, Super Bowl XLV’ — and it’s sitting underneath my mirror in my bathroom. I want to see that every day. It hurts a lot.”

“Don’t get too carried away with all the workouts. This is just what NFL teams do in the months between the Super Bowl and the draft. Keep in mind that they’re doing their homework not only for this year, but for the future. Maybe three years down the road, the Eagles will be in the market for a quarterback, even if it’s only a backup. And maybe the homework they do now will pay off then.”

“’Good running backs are hard to find, but big people are (harder) to find,’ Packers general manager Ted Thompson said. ‘Other people, the good Lord just made more of them.’”

  • The Denver Broncos are on the clock at ESPN:

“Just before Josh Sitton was drafted in the fourth round in 2008, he was in a mullet-tossing contest, in which people hurl the fish across the beach all as an excuse to throw a huge party.

“’Actually I just went and watched. I didn’t have the 20 bucks to enter it,’ said Sitton.”

I doubt its a problem now.

One Final Thought

Bear fans talk about a new and very unique strategy in this can’t be missed video: