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.'”

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.'”

 

What Staley Should Have Been and Other Points of View

Bears

  • Dan Pompei at the Chicago Tribune asked 5 personnel men to evaluate the NFC North by position.  The Packers were voted to have the best head coach in Mike McCarthy.  But the scouts had some interesting things to say about Bears head coach Lovie Smith:

“Every ballot was the same except one, in which a personnel assistant ranked the Bears first, ahead of the Packers.

“His justification?

“’Lovie Smith has had to deal with quarterback issues, job speculation and inconsistencies that Mike McCarthy has not,’ he said.

“Another front office man voted the Bears staff second but said, ‘Lovie does a nice job. He is steady and that is a team that is well coached, well prepared and ready to play.’”

  • Michael Bush on his new role with the Bears.  Via Pompei and Brad Biggs:

“Asked if he dislikes that role, he said, ‘No one likes to be a battering ram. It just happens that way.’”

  • Also via Pompei and Biggs, Dave Toub is confident that D.J. Moore can take the departed Corey Graham’s place as gunner on the punt team:

“’We are going to hope to depend on him,’ Toub said.”

  • It’s early but this nugget from same article could be significant:

“Tight end Kyle Adams had a place on first-team kickoff return, a good sign for second-year player from Purdue.”

  • Starting cornerback Tim Jennings has a fight on his hands for his starting cornerback position. From Sean Jensen at the Chicago Sun-Times:

“[Kelvin Hayden] was the one DB that stepped up (Sunday), locking down Brandon Marshall so tightly on one rep that Jay Cutler didn’t even throw the football. When Marshall’s turn came around, he yelled for Hayden to get back out there and cover him, even though it wasn’t Hayden’s turn. Unfortunately, the horn ended the drill before Round 2 could take place.”

On the other hand we have this from Vaughn McClure at the Chicago Tribune after Tuesday’s practice:

“’Each day we see a few guys who step up and make a few more plays,’ Lovie Smith said. ‘Like what Tim Jennings was able to do today (and) Charles Tillman. Both of our corners were able to get a pick. There are good football players on the other side, so it’s a challenge for them every day.’’”

So sounds like some good things are happening there.

  • McClure highlights a trend that I also noticed this year in the draft as he talks to defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli about new safety Brandon Hardin:

“Hardin already has quite an adjustment to conquer. He played cornerback in high school and in college at Oregon State. The guy in front of him, [Chris] Conte, made the same transition last season and drew rave reviews.

“Marinelli explained the philosophy behind drafting corners to play safety.

“’It’s athleticism,’ he said. ‘People are spreading the field on you more, opening the field up. That day of the guy wearing the big neck roll and coming down tackling is not there. You need athleticism.’”

 

“If anyone unexpected stood out in pass-rush drills, it was defensive end Corey Wootton, whose standing on the team is jeopardized by McClellin’s arrival and two previous years of minimal production. Wootton looked quick and confident on the edge.”

That’s fine but I think we’d all like to see it the games at some point.

“’The speed of the game tells me I’m in the NFL,’ Jeffery said. ‘It’s a lot more faster.’”

Its training camp and the preseason.  Jeffery ain’t seen nothin’, yet.

“He’s difficult to cover in one-one-one situations because he’s so active with his hands, and he still can run past cornerbacks to get deep.”

On the other hand we had this:

“Fellow rookie Alshon Jeffery looked OK but was absolutely stymied at the line of scrimmage by cornerback Kelvin Hayden on one play. Hayden is big, physical and understands the elements of the Cover-2 scheme.”

Like most rookie wide receivers, Jeffery obviously has a long way to go.  But the’s big and he should eventually do better against veterans like Hayden.  Teams that have played aggressive man coverage on the Bears have given them a very hard time. Hopefully the acquisitions of Marshall and Jeffery are the first step towards changing that.

“As for the overall line, I think it can be efficient enough. It’s not going to be a great offensive line, but the days of great offensive lines may be over. If you look around the league, there are not many impressive offensive lines. Most of them have question marks like the Bears do. It is a reality of the NFL in this day and age.”

Outside the division the Bears play five of the eight worst returning offenses, including the bottom three: Colts (30), Rams (31) and Jaguars (32) — all in the first five games. The defense has a chance to establish itself early and hit that top-10 standing that has been so crucial in Smith’s tenure.”

Elsewhere

“Later, during the 11-on-11 team period, Tebow received a few more jeers. On one play when he held onto the ball for too long, a couple fans called for him to ‘Throw it, Tebow!’ Later, on a shaky incompletion, they called out, ‘Tebow, come on!’ and ‘That’s a Tebow ball!’”

Rex Ryan knows that when you are a defensive coach and you are inside the 5 or 10, you don’t account for the quarterback. When Tim Tebow is on the field, now you have to account for the quarterback. It’s much more difficult to get away running cover zero (man) and pinching the ends. With Tim Tebow, Cam Newton, Michael Vick or Robert Griffin, you have to account for the quarterback ­— so it takes one less player away from stopping the run. The other thing Tebow brings — as a defensive coordinator, even if it’s only five or seven plays, every team will now have to spend X amount of time preparing for a package with Tebow. If you don’t, he can make you pay. And even if you do, he might still catch you off guard. He can be a weapon.”

“Watching Danieal Manning in Houston (last year), he has great instincts. He’s a smart player. He just kept moving positions in Chicago. It was a question of development — not instincts. He is very talented.”

 “The Lions announced that Schwartz had signed a “multiyear” extension June 29. Schwartz has been steadfast in his refusal to speak about his contract status and remained tight-lipped in his first public comments about his contract.

“Early in his 35-minute news conference, Schwartz and reporters engaged in verbal jousting.

“Reporter: ‘Why won’t you reveal the length of it?’
“Schwartz: ‘It’s my choice.’
“Reporter: ‘But why?’
“Schwartz: ‘It’s personal to me. Do you make your contract terms public?’
“Reporter: ‘I don’t have a contract.’
“Schwartz: ‘You choose to reveal that.’
“Reporter: ‘I’ll tell you mine if you tell me yours.’
“Schwartz: ‘I don’t play that game.’”

Here’s a prediction:  Detroit will be shocked when [insert name of latest troubled Lion player here] is in hot water with the league for being uncooperative with the press.

  • Michael David Smith at profootballtalk.com notes a reported incident in which Schwartz laid into receiver Ryan Broyles for getting in line for a drill without buckling his chin strap:

“Schwartz, who said last year that he didn’t appreciate it when he heard an obscenity when attempting to shake the hand of 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh, brushed off his own obscenities toward Broyles.

“‘I barked at a lot of people,’ Schwartz said.”

  • Speaking of bad head coaches, Andy Benoit at The New York Times pulls no punches on Andy Reid as he previews the 2012 Eagles:

“The real reason the Eagles underachieved was they never figured out how to properly piece their tremendous individual parts into a fine-turned machine. It had nothing to do with “attitude” or “focus” or “desire.” It had everything to do with strategy and execution. The offense relied too much on big plays and did not always feature enough of LeSean McCoy, even though he had become arguably the best all-around running back in the N.F.C. The defense was stale and ill-conceived, featuring the now infamous wide-nine front looks that worked perfectly to highlight Philly’s weaknesses at linebacker. The star-studded secondary was incongruent, thanks to youth at safety and miscast players at cornerback (Nnamdi Asomugha in the slot!?). These are the things that lead to losing five games just on blown fourth-quarter leads alone.”

“If all this sounds like a description of bad coaching, well…it is.”

  • ESPN’s NFC North blogger Kevin Seifert says that the Packers are emphasizing tackling in their camp.  They should.  From what I say it was 85% of their problem on defense last year.  If they can just reduce their missed tackles they’ll be consideerably better.
  • Forty-niners owner Jed York gets it. From Sam Farmer at the Los Angeles Times:

“What are some of the high-tech features [of the planned stadium]?

“Some stadiums focus all their money on the scoreboards. That’s a hardware solution. You can only show certain things on a scoreboard. There’s only one screen, or two, three or four. If you have a tablet or some kind of smartphone device, it will be, what do you want to learn? You might like the offensive-line battle. And it’s hard for you to see that, and that’s not something that’s going to be on the scoreboard. But you might want to watch Justin Smith maul an offensive guard and figure out, what’s he doing? So to have a Justin Smith-cam that you’re going to be able to watch on your tablet, those types of things are going to allow you to connect to the game in ways that you want to connect to the game.

“A lot of people would rather watch games on TV than pay to see them live. And what about the fans who have fantasy teams and want to watch all the Sunday games?

“One idea is to put the Red Zone Channel on the scoreboard for the early games and let people in the stadium. One of the things we’ve talked about is opening concessions before the game at reduced prices. When you look at the food and beverage consumed on a Sunday at a football game, 50% is consumed in the parking lot before people actually come in. So why not open that up and have sort of a tailgate atmosphere inside the stadium and watch games?”

One Final Thought

The Onion thinks Matt Forte’s long-term contract with the Bears will be “career-ending”:

“’It’s such a shame to see such a promising young talent fall victim to a multi-year deal with the Bears,’ said ESPN’s John Clayton, adding that he had to look away when Forte announced the painful signing. ‘We’ve unfortunately seen this fate befall so many players through the years and while some of them try to recover, after a few years spent battling with a Bears contract, nobody is ever the same.’”

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.

Forte Not Doing Himself Any Favors and Other Points of View

Bears

  • Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune reports on the Bears acquisition of running back Michael Bush.  This was a good signing, I think.  You need two good running backs these days.  Bush has good size but moves well and is almost kind of a slasher.  At minimum, he’ll be a good replacement of Marion Barber and he’ll probably be better in short yardage situations than anyone on the roster.
  • Bush’s signing generated this somewhat petulant response from Bears free agent Matt Forte on Twitter:

“There’s only so many times a man that has done everything he’s been asked to do can be disrespected! Guess the GOOD GUYS do finish last….”

Dan Pompei at the Chicago Tribune has a potential explanation:

“Perhaps the reason Matt Forte is so sensitive to sharing the meeting room, shower area and backfield with Michael Bush is he knows Bush can be more than just his caddie.”

The problem that I have isn’t that Forte feels disrespected. Its just that when someone offers you more money than most people will make in a lifetime, I don’t want to hear you complain about it.

His situation is totally different from yours and mine and I do understand that. I just don’t want to hear him cry about how “good guys finish last” on Twitter as if we’re supposed to be sympathetic.

Forte has an agent who is in charge of negotiating his contract and making public statements when warranted by things like this.  He would be a lot better off dumping Twitter, concentrating on football and letting his agent do his job by catching the flak.

  • Pompei answers this good fan question:

“There were six other NFL teams that finished with the same record as the Chicago Bears. The Arizona Cardinals pick 13th in the upcoming draft and the Bears will select at 19. How was draft order determined, and how badly do you think this will impact the Bear’s ability to get the player they want?”
“— Norb Gecewicz, Deer Park

“The first tiebreaker in the draft for teams with identical records is strength of schedule. Because the Bears played a stronger schedule than the Cardinals, Cowboys, Eagles, Jets, Raiders (their pick now belongs to the Bengals) and Chargers, they pick last among all the 8-8 teams. And picking 19th as opposed to 13th definitely could cost the Bears dearly. If you say the Bears’ biggest need is an edge rusher, the Cardinals, Cowboys, Jets and Chargers all could use one as well (though each of those teams runs a 3-4). If you say the Bears really need an offensive tackle, the Cardinals, Jets and Chargers are threats to take one of them. And if you still want another receiver, the Cardinals, Jets and Bengals all could ruin the Bears’ plans.”

  • For those looking to see the Bears bolster the defensive line, Pompei gives some draft analysis:

“The four best defensive ends in the draft that fit the Bears’ scheme, in alphabetical order, are Melvin Ingram from South Carolina, Whitney Mercilus from Illinois, Nick Perry from Southern Cal and Courtney Upshaw from Alabama. There is a chance the Bears will have their pick of these four, but I really think there is a good chance Mercilus is off the board at 19. I also think there is a good chance Quinton Coples from North Carolina could be off the board, but I don’t see him as the kind of player the Bears will be looking for. Different players will rank these ends in different orders based on their schemes, so we can’t be completely sure how they will come off the board.”

“According to the West Virginian Times, Smith and Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin were both on hand Friday, probably to get a close look at defensive end/outside linebacker Bruce Irvin.”

Despite the fact that he was at the combine for interviews, Biggs says that the Bears will have him in for a visit before the draft.  He may require an extra hard look because of his checker past.  In fact,  after his pro day last week, he was arrested for allegedly damaging a sign outside a Jimmy John’s sandwich shop.  But given the Bears new focus on “on field character”, it probably won’t matter much.

Pompei reports on what scouts think of Irvin for The National Football Post:

“The fear is that at 245 pounds, Irvin isn’t big enough to put his hand in the dirt, and he doesn’t have the understanding of the game to play outside linebacker. Coaches will have a hard time trusting him as an outside linebacker, but it may be the only thing he can do.”

  • Pompei answers another very good fan question:

“With Mike Shanahan looking for weapons for Robert Griffin and the price for [Brandon] Marshall being so reasonable, why do you think the Redskins did not trade for him? Marshall had his most productive games playing for Shanahan. With the trade for RG3 and the signing of Pierre Garcon and Josh Morgan, it’s obvious that draft picks and money are not the issue. Does Shanahan know something we Bears fans don’t? — Mazhar Paliwala, Buffalo Grove

“My sense is Shanahan had his fill of Brandon Marshall, but I could be wrong. In 2009, ESPN’s Chris Mortensen reported that had Shanahan stayed in Denver, he was preparing to cut Marshall because he believed Marshall hurt the Broncos more than he helped them. If Mortensen said it, I believe it. He’s as solid as they come. Then again, the Marshall that Shanahan knew might not be the Marshall that Lovie Smith is going to know, if Marshall is to be believed. Marshall says his treatment for borderline personality disorder has made him a new man. We’ll see. But there is another reason why the Redskins might not have been in the Marshall trade discussions. Even though the compensation requests from the Dolphins were reasonable, the Redskins don’t have much trade ammunition after the RG3 trade. They already are missing a second-round pick this year and first-round picks in 2013 and 2014. They really are not in position to be giving away two more picks.”

“You have to be careful with players who did not produce a lot in college, especially wide receivers. I think he would be a fine pick in the second round, where taking big risks makes more sense.”

  • Pompei also quotes former Redskins GM Vinny Cerato on new Bears QB Jason Campbell:

“He has a big arm, a very good arm.  He’s athletic. He can run. He can make first downs with his legs. He can make all the throws.

“The negatives are he holds the ball too long at times. He fumbled a lot from the pocket. And he has just average anticipation. He gets in trouble some from holding the ball.”

  • ESPN’s NFC North blogger Kevin Seifert delivers some bad news regarding Brian Urlacher:’s late season knee injury.
  • Mark Potash at the Chicago Sun-Times reports that Corey Graham has signed with the Baltimore Ravens, presumably because they promised him a chance to play in the defensive back field.  They promised Brandon Ayenbadajo the same thing.  How’s that working out?
  • Pompei, this time writing for The National Football Post, on former Bears running back Cedric Benson:

“The Bengals’ backfield makeover isn’t about dissatisfaction with Cedric Benson as much as it is about molding the offense to suit Jay Gruden’s offense… The Bengals are looking at backs with speed, receiving skills, and the ability to pass protect.”

So it’s about dissatisfaction with Benson.

Elsewhere

  • Last week I wondered if the Bears might not pursue defensive end Andre Carter.   Ian Rappaport at the Boston Herald provides a pretty good clue as to why they haven’t.
  • Fans wondering why the Bears didn’t pop for Mike Wallace will find thier answer here.  From Matt Barrows at the Sacramento Bee.
  • Mike Florio at profootballtalk.com reports that Jeremy Shockey is seriously considering a law suit against the NFL Network’s Warren Sapp after Sapp reported that he was the snitch who gave information on the Saints bounty program.
  • It looks like the Redskins and Cowboys are also feeling litigious.  They might sue the league over the penalties they incurred for dumping salary in what was theoretically an uncapped year of the last labor contract.  It apparently wasn’t and the teams are now paying for violating a rule that wasn’t a rule even though it was.  If you get my meaning.  Via Mike Florio:

“It’s unknown whether the Redskins and Cowboys are bluffing in order to force a compromise, or whether they indeed truly intend to file suit.  Reducing the allegations to writing necessarily will expose that the league was engaged in collusion in 2010, which could have all sorts of unintended consequences for the entire NFL, including the Redskins and the Cowboys.

“And so the real question is whether the Redskins and Cowboys are angry/crazy enough to drop a grenade into a room they won’t be able to escape.

“The answer very well could be yes.”

  • Cowboys QB Tony Romo takes a lot of heat.  So this statement from a Brownsville Herald interview with Hall of Fame QB Troy Aikman is going to take some people by surprise:

“Herald: Who do you think is the better quarterback, you or Tony Romo?

“Aikman: ‘I think Tony already is a better quarterback than I was. I know how quarterbacks are judged but as far as his play-making ability and the things that he is capable of doing, he is a far more athletic quarterback, capable of making more plays than I ever was able to. He has a good team around him and hopefully, and I believe this will happen, I believe that he will win a Super Bowl before he is done playing.’”

“You know, you can’t … everyone has their opinion.  You go out there and try to help your football team win, and I just happen to play with an edge to me. I never want to hurt the football team, but also want to make big plays and help this football team win and lead this football team.”

Translation:  “Yes”.

“Quinn will now be reunited with coach Romeo Crennel and new offensive coordinator Brian Daboll, both of whom worked with Quinn in Cleveland.  It actually gives Quinn a bit of an edge over incumbent starter Matt Cassel.

“‘You can’t make every decision in life based on money,’ Quinn told the Kansas City Star, via NFL.com.  ‘For me, personally, I had to make the best decision I felt like for me.  And Kansas City was the right choice.’”

  • Former Bears Director of College Scouting Greg Gabriel, now at the National Football Post, doesn’t think much of writers (and bloggers) who think they know more than scouts and general managers about prospects.
  • The NFL is apparently considering making some changes to instant replay.  The proposals call for moving the entire operation to the replay booth without the involvement of officials on the field and expanding the automatic use of replay to all turnovers:  interceptions and fumbles.  The full list of proposed rule changes can be found here.  Via Florio.
  • To ESPN’s great joy, there’s some momentum building for Robert Griffin III as the number one overall pick instead of Andrew LuckMerril Hoge likes RG3 better (vai Florio) and there are certain aspects of his game that Greg Cosell at the NFL Films Blog likes better as well.  On the other hand, the scouts that Pompei trusts aren’t buying it.

Both Cosell and Pompei, who is writing for The National Football Post, agree that Luck is the most NFL ready in terms of his experience in a pro style offense and that Griffin has the stronger arm.  But the differences in opinion are notable:

1)  Cosell believes RG3 shows better ball placement, Pompei’s article disagrees.

2)  Pompei’s people believe that Luck avoids pressure in the pocket better.  But what Cosell says in this regard about RG3 is significant:

“[Griffin impressed me with] his patience and composure in the pocket. He did not move when the bodies started closing it down. He threw effectively out of what we call a “muddied” pocket”. He did not need much functional space to deliver the ball with velocity and distance. Surprisingly, in my 5 game breakdown of Luck, he exhibited a tendency to move too quickly, to leave the pocket too early. The result was often a positive because of his athleticism and ability to throw on the run, but I am very anxious to chart this element of his game in the NFL.”

What sticks out to me about Griffin is his unconventional throwing style.  But its not necessarily a bad thing.  He seems to throw over the top a lot which will keep the ball from being batted down and he his release is reasonably quick as he literally seems to flick the ball out.

I don’t know if I like him better than Luck but I definitely do like him.

“I understood why the Dolphins wanted Peyton Manning, possibly the greatest quarterback of all time. I even understood the pursuit of Matt Flynn as someone who has a potential upside worth exploring. But you have to draw the line somewhere and accept that you’re no longer seeking to upgrade the position, but rather just looking to replace Moore for the sake of it.”

“If you watched Matt Moore last year, you’ll know that the Miami Dolphins really don’t need to. Which begs the question; just what were they watching?”

“So why are the Dolphins having a hard time luring free agents to South Beach?  Steelers safety Ryan Clark has a theory.”

“Clark later says, ‘It’s my honest opinion. Not a good guy making decisions.’

“Here’s referring, presumably, to G.M. Jeff Ireland.”

“If it’s true, the Dolphins need to find a way to fix the situation.  If it’s not true, the Dolphins need to find a way to reverse a false perception.”

I’m not so sure its Ireland that Clark is referring to.  Stephen Ross, the owner of the Dolphins, doesn’t seem to have the sense of integrity that most of the other people around the try to NFL exhibit.  I think his attempt to secretly interview Jim Harbaugh for a position that Tony Sparano still held told us all we need to know about him.

I might add that he didn’t do his trading partner on the Brandon Marshall deal any favors either.  Via Izzy Gould at the South Florida Sun-Sentinel:

“[Miami fan Jason] Lawrence said he asked [Ross] about the decision to trade leading wide receiver Marshall to Chicago for two third-round draft picks. Twice, Lawrence said, Ross would not say if the Dolphins were rebuilding. He told Lawrence moving Marshall was not about money, but more about protecting team morale.

“’[Ross] said they had been shopping [Marshall] for a couple weeks,’ Lawrence said. ‘Nobody would return their phone calls about getting him. If Chicago didn’t take [Marshall] … they would have ended up cutting him very shortly after that, and got nothing.’”

So basically the Bears gave two third round picks for a wide receiver they could have gotten for a lot less because no one else wanted him.  Setting aside what this means for the Bears, the fact that Ross would embarrass the Bears by letting this out speaks volumes for his integrity or lack thereof.

Teams are likely to be very careful about dealing with the Dolphins in the future.

  • Looking at GM Jeff Ireland’s Wikipedia page, some Dolphins fans have apparently chosen to protest the teams recent moves in their own unique way.  Via The Sports Pickle:

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One Final Thought

For those wondering why the Saints got such a severe penalty for carrying on a bounty program, you might want to read the official statement from the NFL.  There was a lot of lying going on, here.

Its fairly evident that head coach Sean Payton was, to say the least, taken by surprise (even though he shouldn’t have been).  Via Florio:

“[Jay Glazer on NFL Network] said, ‘Are you OK?’ And he said, ‘No, I’m not OK.’ He is stunned. He’s going to lose about $8 million. He is beside himself here.’”

Steve Rosenbloom at the Chicago Tribune bottom lines the situation:

“Some people contend that every team has run something like the Saints’ pay-for-pain idea. Maybe, maybe not. But the Saints did it, continued doing it and got caught. So, consider this a tax on the stupid, as well.”

Bears Shifts Philosophy Under Emery. And Other Points of View.

Bears

Rasheedah Watley has known Brandon Marshall since he was 12 and laughed when I asked her Wednesday if the Bears can change Marshall in ways the Broncos or Dolphins couldn’t.

“’It’s very foolish to think that,’ said Watley, Marshall’s high school sweetheart. ‘I don’t know how many chances you can give somebody. I’m really fearful for someone’s daughter or sister. The guy needs some real help.’’

“Watley has a pending civil suit against Marshall based on a history of alleged domestic violence.”

‘‘I have only had positive experiences with Brandon.  He is misunderstood. Once you get to know him, he will give you the shirt off his back.”

‘‘My thing is this: Get to know him, the man, before you pass judgment.’’

“In due time, the truth will be out, and we’re excited about that.  Given my history, I definitely understand the concern and the questions.”

Ya think?

Personally, Im assuming it was just the story from Marshall’s lawyer.  According to Dan Pompei, also at the Tribune, general manager Phil Emerydeclined to say whether he called the New York police, talked to bouncers at the club, hired a private investigator to look into the matter or simply relied on the word of a colleague looking to move a player.”  He also “would not say whether language was included in the deal to protect one of the draft picks if the player winds up with a long suspension this year.”

That sounds good until you realize that the Bears really never have rehabilitated a player.  They’re really better known for cutting guys like this.  I respected that.  Until now.

“Yeah, I’ll take that responsibility,” Cutler said. “Brandon will take that on as well. He knows what he’s done wrong in the past.  Any support I can give him, I’m there for him.”

“Emery got into an uncomfortable exchange with a reporter at one point when asked if the trade, the first big move of his tenure, could be seen as symbolic of his philosophy or simply a matter of timing.

“‘In terms of bringing in big productive playmakers, yes,’ Emery said. ‘In terms of bringing in people we feel are going to fit … our goal of winning a championship and someone (who) is mature and (has) shown … courage to improve as a person, yes.’”

Biggs also pointed to the change:

“Time and time again, the Bears did their best to shift the conversation to Brandon Marshall the football player, not the man off the field.

“[Emery said,] ‘Also, the performance on the field reveals the person’s football character in terms of his passion, his toughness, his competitiveness. We know Brandon’s one of the top players in the NFL, and that speaks volumes about his football character.’

Head coach Lovie Smith also seems to be on board:

‘“Every employee you hire, there’s some risk,’ Smith said. ‘But you weigh that, which we did. I looked at what we had in place here. Having Jeremy Bates here, being his position coach in Denver, helps a lot. Having him work with Jay and knowing that relationship, a relationship between a quarterback and a receiver … is very important. That helped a lot also. And we’re trying to win games.”

Finally, Potash also emphasized the new bottom line :

“A question about the risk of acquiring oft-troubled wide receiver Brandon Marshall elicited a nearly five-minute soliloquy from Bears general manager Phil Emery on all the factors that convinced him it was worth it to trade two third-round draft picks for a three-time Pro Bowl wide receiver with a litany of personal-conduct issues.”

“That’s all well and good. But it took coach Lovie Smith about 45 seconds of his own babble to cut to the heart of the matter when asked a similar question.

‘‘’We’re trying to win games,’ Smith said.”

So if Marshall spends his offseason beating women, its only a reflection of his ‘football character’.  Under the new regime, that’s what counts.

  • In fairness to Emery, based upon the calls to sports talk radio I’ve heard, this seems to be OK with a surprising number of fans, many of whom can’t see past the uniform.  But even those fans become quiet when you ask them this:  “How often will Marshall show that character if he’s suspended and not on the field?”
  • Assuming that Marshall does eventually find his way onto the field, the good news for those fans is that the Bears seem to have gotten a wide receiver who was superior to anyone else out there.  Biggs compares him to top free agent Vincent Jackson:

“Marshall, Emery pointed out, has the second most catches of any receiver in the NFL over the last five seasons, behind only the Patriots’ Wes Welker. What he didn’t say is Marshall has almost twice as many catches (474 to 242) as Jackson over that period.

“‘We really like who he is as a route runner,’ Emery said. ‘We like who he is in terms of his flexibility of alignment. Brandon can be an X, or he can be a Z or he can be an inside slot because he has that great combination of size. He’s 230 pounds. Length, he’s taller than 6 feet 4. And he has great route feet, you know, body control, hips, and he has great strength to move defenders out of the way to get position and make the catch.’”

“One executive who has studied both players said Jackson is faster and a little better with the ball in his hands. But Marshall competes for the ball better, is a superior blocker and a significantly better route runner.”

“In 2010, Marshall had a drop percentage of 8.5, which ranked 60th in the NFL that season. That means 59 receivers caught a higher percentage of the catchable passes thrown their way.

“In 2011, Marshall’s drop percentage was 6.9, ranking him No. 52 in the league.

“In this case, the percentage confirms what the raw numbers suggest. Marshall’s drops weren’t only a function of his high involvement in the Miami Dolphins offense. He missed more catchable passes than dozens of other NFL receivers.”

“As we discussed Thursday, it would be difficult to reconcile any suggestion that Marshall has turned a personal corner if the allegation from Sunday’s incident — that he punched a woman in the eye — is true. It would make Friday’s news conference performance a high-quality con job.”

Seiferts comments highlights the difference between words and deeds.  And history indicates that even Marshall’s words aren’t trustworthy.

In terms of the current incident, here’s what Marshall said (emphasis is mine):

“Monday night, he was involved peripherally in an incident at a New York club in which his wife was hit with a bottle during an altercation neither of them was part of, according to a statement from Marshall’s attorney, Harvey Steinberg.”

And here’s what the police reportedly say:

“New York City Police received a report Monday about the alleged assault outside the tony club Marquee in Manhattan at about 3:30 a.m. An argument between a group of men and Marshall that had begun inside spilled outside when Marshall allegedly hit her.”

So, basically, we have yet another lie from a player who has had plenty of practice doing it.  The next thing you know, we’ll hear that she slipped on a McDonalds wrapper and his fist hit her on the way down.

  • Many fans have pointed out that the victim might be simply trying to take Marshall for some money.  But the woman’s motivation is irrelevant.  What’s important is that the Bears just bought a receiver who is likely headed towards a suspension before he ever sees the field as a Bear.
  • Seifert compares the Marshall acquisition to that of a sports car.

“You’ve read the reviews, which include a long history of high performance and extensive maintenance. You’re hemming and hawing. You figure you’re a great driver, never had an accident, and feel relatively immune toward the chances the car will break down on you. The dealer offers one final test drive. As you careen around the final corner into the lot, laughing the whole way, the transmission drops to the ground.

“What do you do? Write it off as a random and unpredictable incident? Or do you connect it with the documented history of this model and head to the minivan dealer?”

“It wasn’t clear if Marshall intentionally struck [Christine] Myles or if he meant to hit one of her friends, according to the [New York Daily News] report.

“Only buying that if the other friend was a woman.”

“A strong sales pitch for defensive end Jeremy Mincey fell short. He was minutes away from joining the Bears Tuesday night when the Jaguars lured him back with a four-year contract.”

  • Seifert comments on the re-signing of Israel Idoinije:

“The question is whether the Bears intend for Idonije to resume his full-time role, or if their pursuit of Mincey (and possibly others) indicate they will continue searching for another starting option. The Bears don’t have much depth at the position, which is why they were forced to play Idonije — a longtime reserve/swing lineman — on 84.4 percent of their defensive spans last season. “

The signing of Idonije, along with Jennings and Steltz, is simply insurance.  The Bears are now working in free agency to make sure they don’t take a step back at any position of need.  They’ll now look to draft the best players available to compete at these positions to make themselves better knowing that if no one falls to them, they are covered.

“It does not sound as if the team is intent on finding a new starter for the offensive line, however.

“Smith indicated he was excited about Gabe Carimi and Chris Williams returning from injuries. ‘I like the look of our offensive line with the guys with have signed up right now,’ he said.”

Though I most certainly do not like the idea of J’Marcus Webb at left tackle again, I do recognize the Bears’ problem.  Teams usually don’t let good ones get away and there’s not much out there.  For instance, Seifert comments on what was probably the best left tackle realistically available:

“Veteran Marcus McNeill visited earlier this week, and his situation is a perfect example of how left tackles who are available often are damaged goods in some way. McNeill is a two-time Pro Bowler but has had two neck surgeries and suffers from spinal stenosis. It would have been hard to count on him for more than a year-by-year basis.”

Emery seems to have the right idea:

“Asked about adding a lineman, Emery said the Bears will always be searching for depth.  He said they could look at other free agent linemen, and the team will look “very hard” at offensive linemen in the draft.”

“Outside of [Peyton] Manning there are no “marquee” players left. On a short term deal though I think once he is healthy, and as he showed last season in New England, Andre Carter can really provide a boost to a defense. He’s not a long term option but if you’re a contender, running a 4-3 defense, with a hole at defensive end you can do far worse than to sign Carter on a one year deal. If I was theJacksonville Jaguars I’d take a look at him.”

You could say the same for the Bears, I think.

  • Biggs quotes Emery on new backup quarterback Jason Campbell:

“Arm strength is very important because of our weather and the teams we play.  That to me was a prerequisite moving forward.”

“Cutler joined coach Lovie Smith in raving about tight end Kellen Davis, who signed a two-year contract. ‘He can be one of the premier tight ends in the league if we use him correctly and he stays healthy and all the stars align,’ Cutler said. ‘He’s such a talented guy, so big, so strong, fast, catches the ball well. So we’ve got to design a package that sets him up for success.’”

Davis is probably an adequate tight end but he’s never going to be a star in the league.  He’s good for short passes of 10 yards or less or the occasional pass down the seam but don’t count on him to do much with the ball after the catch.

Elsewhere

  • Mike Florio at profootballtalk.com highlights the conflict of interest that results from players with competing interests are represented by the same agency, in this case Peyton Manning and Alex Smith:

“Both players are free agents, and the 49ers surely will want to keep Smith if the 49ers don’t land Manning.  In order to best represent Smith, his agent should be trying to persuade the 49ers to make a decision sooner rather than later.  In order to best represent Manning, his agent should be trying to persuade the 49ers to wait on Smith until Manning makes up his mind.”

“More specifically, the two teams are contemplating suing anyone and everyone connected to the sudden removal of $46 million in total cap space over the next two years, based on the contention that their treatment of the term ‘uncapped year’ too literally somehow created a competitive disadvantage.  Even though no rules or policies were violated.”

  • Sally Jenkins at the Washington Post explains:

“The word is that [Washington owner Dan] Snyder is beside himself, but he has only his uncontrollable self-interest to blame. What happened was this: Back in 2010, when the NFL entered hardball negotiations with the players union for a new labor contract, the owners warned each other not to use the situation to get a leg up. They were in an uncapped year, with no limit on player salaries, and entering a tense and emotionally fraught labor situation, and they asked each other not to abuse the circumstances.

“In essence they said, ‘Don’t try to set yourselves up to be in a better spot when this is over.’ Think of it like a yellow caution flag in a car race: The drivers agree to hold their places and not to accelerate until the track is clear.”

“Snyder is said to be lawyering up and alleging ‘collusion,’ but experts say a legal challenge will be tough. For one thing, colluding in this instance means improperly acting collectively to suppress salaries. But salaries weren’t suppressed. They were just moved around, manipulated by the Redskins for the purpose of evasion and gaining a future competitive advantage when the cap was reinstated. For another, the group that the NFL owners supposedly colluded against, the union, has signed off on the punishment.”

I’m sure the league got advise from their lawyers before they did this but I have to say that I’m not at all sure there’s no case here.  When owners “warn each other” it sure sounds like collusion and I’m not at all sure salaries weren’t suppressed.  Jenkins probably says that’s the case because the cap room the Redskins lost was distributed amongst the other teams in the league.  But had the owners not “spoken to each other,” who knows how many other franchises would have dumped cap the way the Redskins did.  And who knows how high the effective cap would have been this year had all of that extra cap been distributed amongst the other franchises.

In any case, to me “uncapped” means “uncapped” no matter what the owners whisper amongst themselves.  Anything less seems to be illegal to me.  Or at least it ought to be.

  • Seifert points out that the Packers need a center now that Scott Wells has left for the Rams.  Look for them to draft one early.  Wisconsin’s Peter Konz is a good possibility.
  • Pompei, this time writing for The National Football Post, digs out this interesting nugget:

“In fact, Bucs owner Joel Glazer was quoted as saying this in 2007. ‘Free agency can be almost like a drug. You look for that quick hit, that quick feel-good. I know teams that year in and year out are the Super Bowl champions of free agency, and amazingly enough it doesn’t seem to happen for them during the season. If you can resist the urge for about six weeks, you’re often better off.’”

The fact that the Bucs are eating up cap space by signing free agents like its going out of style this year doesn’t diminish the truth behind this quote.  The only proven way to consistently compete in the NFL is through the draft.

  • Free agent tackle Samson Satel’s timing rivals Brandon Marshall’s.  Via the Honolulu Star-Advertiser.
  • Sam Monson at Pro Football Focus has a few observations from the first week of free agency that I thought were interesting:

“The schematic balance in the NFL continues to shift.”

“This offseason cornerbacks are raking in big money, but the shift in value seems to have come at the cost of linebackers, who are once again experiencing a slow market. Last offseason several high profile and talented players saw a complete lack of interest and ended up signing on for cheap, short contracts in the hope that they could try again down the road. At the time some of this was put down to the chaotic and truncated nature of post-lockout free agency, but now it looks more like the league has begun to value smaller defensive backs who can play the pass over linebackers, many of whom are now rendered two-down players by the ever expanding passing game.”

“Some teams evidently don’t watch tape

The Vikings signed John Carlson to a healthy contract worth around $5m a season. It’s a five-year contract that can be dumped after two seasons, but regardless, the only way you could decide that is good value is if the last bit of John Carlson tape you watched featured a golden dome and Touchdown Jesus.”

“This is a move that seems speculative at best, blindfolded dart-throwing at worst.”

“Quarterback Dominos”

“The Manning sweepstakes is now only down to a couple, but the market for Matt Flynn, another potential answer to a team’s QB issues, is being hampered by the shadow of the Kevin Kolb deal last season. Flynn has shown huge ability in flashes, and teams have thrown big money at those players before, but his current options seem reluctant to pay him for performance that they can’t guarantee he’ll hit. The Cardinals sunk a lot of money into Kevin Kolb on similar potential, and after a stinking first season in the desert, they just had to bite the bullet and pay him another $7m bonus because they have no viable alternative. Nobody wants to repeat that same mistake with Matt Flynn, while the evidence of what it means if you guess wrongly staring them so plainly in the face.”

“Mario Williams: Signed with the Bills after other teams were unable to clear enough cap room to sign both him and his pectoral muscles”

One Final Thought

WSCR’s Steve Rosenbloom did an interesting interview of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel’s  Omar Kelly.  On whether Marshall’s treatment for borderline personality disorder will affect his on field performance: “He’s trying to kill ‘The Beast.’”

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: