Despite Worrisome Early Reports Shea McClellin Fits His Role Well

Joe Cowley at the Chicago Sun-Times had this piece of information that will not ease anyone’s mind about the possibility of Shea McClellin being an all around defensive end any time soon:

“There were a few times Saturday when first-round draft pick Shea McClellin looked the part of a defensive end. More often than not, though, he looked like a boy going against men.”

Cowley goes on to say that it wasn’t just the starting offensive tackles and that McClellin was having trouble against the third stringers.

This certainly doesn’t ease my own concern that McClellin is going to need a year in the weight room before he’s really effective.  And certainly as it is teams are likely to try to run over McClellin whenever he’s out there.  That may be why the Bears seem so intent on decreasing the public expectations of him.

Having said that, Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune was more encouraging on an appearance on The Score (AM 670) on Tuesday.  He made the point that quickness off the ball is what the coaches look for and the rest you may be able to teach.  Defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli all but confirmed this with his comments to ESPN’s NFC North blogger Kevin Seifert:

“‘What I’ve seen already is real,’ Marinelli said. ‘He’s got exceptional speed. Boy, he’s fast. And he’s not just fast. It’s that initial quickness. It’s reaction and movement. Suddenness. If someone moves, he’s off and following him. Some guys are fast with no awareness, but he sees it happening.’”

Seifert puts the situation in perspective by describing the way the Bears are likely to use McClellin:

“Marinelli’s scheme should help minimize the times when McClellin is lined up directly over an offensive lineman, an instance that would make him vulnerable to a power block. Among other things, Marinelli typically positions ends on what he calls the ‘edge,’ essentially over the outside arm of a tackle, or else they line up over a tight end.”

So why aren’t they having him do this instead of going head to head with bigger tackles who can push him around?  Because its early and coaches are testing the edges on the rookie players to see what they can do.  Sure, they probably already have a good idea of what McClellin’s limits are going to be this year.  But you don’t know until you throw him out there and let him try different things.

Despite some of the doom and gloom reports, there are too many factors to consider to make any judgements on McClellin.  Cowley’s observation above, though astute, is probably of limited value at this point.  Certainly there’s every reason to believe McClellin will fit well into the role which the Bears apparently have defined for him this year.  We’ll just have to wait and see.

Switch to Left Guard Should Be a Snap for Spencer

A lot has been made of the competition at left tackle between Chris Williams and J’Marcus Webb – and justifiably so.  There’s also been a lot of attention put on the limited game experience of right tackle Gabe Carimi.  But there’s another position on the offensive line that might warrant paying some attention to during the preseason.

Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune quotes Chris Spencer, who has also played center, on the switch from right to left guard:

“’Guard is guard,’ Spencer said. ‘The only difference is your body is so used to being right-handed and doing everything that way. You have to get used to putting your hand down — left, left, left, left — over and over. You do that when you have those days of minicamps and OTA’s. Then, it becomes easier.’”

It’s natural that Spencer wouldn’t want to make a big deal of the difficulties involved in this switch.  But as far as I can tell he’s right in that there’s probably little to worry about.  For instance, it seems that the switch from right to left should be easier than, say, the switch from left to right would have been.

I listen as often as possible to the ESPN Football Today podcast with former NFL scout Matt Williamson and former NFL lineman Ross Tucker.  Tucker has mentioned multiple times on the show that right guard is the toughest of the interior line positions to play.  The reason is that most NFL offenses are “left handed”.  That is, they tend to roll their protections schemes towards the left because the right defensive end is usually the opponents best pass rusher.  The right tackle usually concentrates on the defensive left end which leaves the right guard on an island between him and the rest of the line.

The fact that Spencer was a success at right guard (and in my opinion he definitely was) bodes well for two reasons:  1)  he’s switching to an easier position which he’s even more likely to be capable of handling and 2)  it means offensive coordinator Mike Tice might well consider Lance Louis to be an even better guard than Spencer.

So with the focus being on the two tackles, it nice to know the Bears should be solid in the middle.  Time will tell.

New Bear May Only Be Worth the Price

New Bears defensive tackle Brian Price may have passed the Bears physical but that doesn’t mean he’s healthy.  From Sean Jensen at the Chicago Sun-Times:

“According to multiple published reports, Price didn’t complete the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ conditioning test because of a leg injury.”

In reading further about him, I have to say that I’m not enamored with Price.  Most people have a natural tendency to cover their flaws by telling you what they think you want to hear.  So when the mere sight of the Bears training room where he took his physical made Price say this:

“The love of the game is coming back to me.”

it sets off alarms in my head.  Whether its all of the personal problems Price has encountered or his injuries, the fact that he lost “the love of the game” in the first place worries me.  Most people would consider playing the game to be the only good thing in those circumstances.  The game is usually the thing that tends to make players forget their troubles not the other way around.

Bucs rookie head coach Greg Schiano is trying to establish a new culture in Tampa Bay and I’m guessing he quickly picked up the fact that Price needs a heart transplant.  At minimum he’s high maintenance.

The best thing I can say about Price is that he’s low risk in that it only cost the Bears a seventh round pick.  That might be exactly what he’s worth.

All We have to Risk Is Disappointment and Other Points of View


  • Mark Potash provides an interesting comment for the Chicago Sun-Times on the always tenuous hold head coach Lovie Smith has on his job:

“Measuring progress is subjective. If the McCaskeys like you, progress could be defined as winning the last game of a losing season. Finally, Peggy Kusinski of Channel 5 asked the key question regarding Smith’s future: Is it possible for the Bears to be making progress toward their goal and still not make the playoffs?” In other words, can Lovie keep his job without making the playoffs?

“The answer is yes, [general manager Phil] Emery said, pending the circumstances.”

“’It’s possible [the Bears could still be making progress without making the playoffs], because it depends on the health of the team, what’s happened in the season, what’s happening in the rest of the NFL,’ Emery said. ‘I was with the Chiefs last year and everybody counted us out. It came down to getting a blocked kick against Oakland in the last game and we would’ve made the playoffs.’”

“This training camp opener had a different feel to it. Lovie Smith’s optimism at a training camp press conference usually evaporates into the heat-heavy air almost as soon as the words are out of his mouth. But not this time.

“Almost everybody’s on board this train. And none of us has any idea where its headed. Hard to believe that less than a year ago, it looked like the Packers and Lions were pulling away from the Bears in the NFC North. Yet even after another playoff-less season, Emery was basically being asked if ‘all the pieces are in place’ for the Bears to make a Super Bowl run.”

“How does this happen? The Bears lost their best receiver (Johnny Knox) to injury. Brian Urlacher is coming off a knee injury at 34. Matt Forte is coming off a knee injury and is no longer fighting for a long-term contract. Gabe Carimi still hasn’t proven he’s healthy. Mike Tice‘s biggest attribute as an offensive coordinator is that he’s not Mike Martz. And Jay Cutler, while 20-9 in his last 29 starts for the Bears, still has never beaten a winning team in the postseason. If Brandon Marshall is that much of a difference maker, why has he never played in a playoff game?

“But those very legitimate reservations are currently being trumped by some almost-as-legit expectations. If the stars align, this team could be as good as it’s cracked up to be. And why not? All we have to risk is disappointment.”

Potash makes a good point.  Disappointment is, indeed, all we have to risk.  As fans.

But I’ll say this.  Don’t doubt that if that’s what you are feeling at the end of the year, the hammer is likely to come down on Lovie Smith’s head.  My gut feeling is that Smith is being set up to fail with high expectations for a team that may not warrant them.

“Asked how he’s getting along with new general manager Phil Emery, Smith laughed.

“‘That’s a heck of a question,’ he said. ‘How is my relationship going with Phil? Real good. How’s that? Did you expect something else? Phil and I don’t get along or something like that?’”

“Emery’s stamp: Looking for an imprint from new general manager Phil Emery during training camp? It could be the conditioning tests players had to take Wednesday afternoon in 99-degree heat.

“It’s the first time in nine summers under coach Lovie Smith the Bears have had a mandatory running test at the start of camp. Emery was a strength and conditioning coach in college before he became a pro scout. No word yet if every player received a passing grade.”

  • Dan Pompei at the Chicago Tribune had some nice things to say about Bears cornerback Tim Jennings:

“At 5 feet 8, he always will have limitations. But Jennings doesn’t back down from anything or anyone. He approaches the game as if he is the biggest, baddest dude on the field. There is more heart in this one little cornerback than there is in some entire secondaries.”

“Bears receivers coach Darryl Drake refused to sugarcoat the dropped passes by Brandon Marshall during Thursday’s first day of training camp.

“’He’s still trying to get used to it, but he understands and knows that that’s something that we’ve got to work on,’ Drake said. ‘We can’t drop the football. I expect him to make those non-routine catches. And he expects to make him. I’m going to be tough on him when he doesn’t.’”

Drake couldn’t have said anything to make me happier.  Dropped passes cost more yards than penalties.  It sounds like Marshall has been catered to in the past and this has been an aspect of his game that previous position coaches have let slide because of his immense talent.  Here’s hoping Drake screws his head on straight and gets him to concentrate.

“Tight end from a scheme perspective in offensive coordinator Mike Tice’s offense will be interesting to watch. Look at matchups here between the numbers with Kellen Davis and don’t forget about rookie Evan Rodriguez when the Bears use their Ace personnel (two receivers, two tight ends, one back). Rodriguez played with much more speed Thursday than I saw in minicamp and his conditioning has improved.”

“It’s fair to expect the offense to incorporate the tight ends more in the passing game. Davis and [Matt] Spaeth no longer will be given such restricted roles and should find themselves in pass patterns more often. Tice, a tight end during his long playing career, puts a premium on versatility at the position. Both Davis and Spaeth block effectively.

“Tice was seeking an ‘F-tight end,’ which is typically a smaller player who can block on the edges and excel as a receiver and that is what led the team to select Evan Rodriguez in the draft’s fourth round from Temple.

“Tice refers to the ‘F’ as the ‘move’ tight end and the Bears likened Rodriguez to a poor man’s Aaron Hernandez. If he can become two-thirds of what Hernandez is for the Patriots, he will be a welcome new weapon. Rodriguez runs well and provides a dimension that has been missing. How he adjusts to the NFL remains to be seen.”

“It can’t get worse in terms of pass-catching production. This is one of the most injured positions in the game and the depth chart could be thinned out quickly. That could be a problem given the overall lack of experience.”

“I wouldn’t say it’s once in a lifetime, but you don’t see it too often. You can put a really good quarterback with a really good receiver and the connection is not there. They don’t see the field the same way. Jay and I, I don’t know why, but we see the field the same way.”

“He tells me what to do on a lot of things. He thinks he’s my father.”

Sounds to me like Marshall needs one.

“Urlacher was lucky the knee sprain he suffered came in Week 17 or he surely would have missed extended time. Injuries could create major problems because the Bears just aren’t very deep. All eyes will be on Urlacher and how he’s moving. When players begin to fade it’s often a quick process.”

“On the other hand, if [middle linebacker Brian] Urlacher struggles and rookie Shea McClellin shows signs of being able to replace him sometime in the future, this could be Urlacher’s final year in Chicago.”

I really doubts that McClellin is going to show enough signs that he’ll be a good middle linebacker from the defensive end position to make anyone comfortable with him replacing Urlacher any time soon.  He’s going to be a defensive lineman.  Accept it and let it go, man.

  • Bowen isn’t buying the “McClellin just has to be decent this year” line in this interview with Biggs:

Biggs:  “Julius Peppers was pretty much a one-man pass rushing threat last season, with Henry Melton flashing from time to time. Will the defense be in a bind if first-round pick Shea McClellin isn’t an impact performer?”

Bowen:  “I think so. In order to beat Aaron Rodgers, if you want to play Cover-2 you’ve got to be able to have four guys that can rush and you have to have two guys that can bring pressure off the edge. Peppers is an elite pass rusher, but it’s going to take McClellin to be a factor to really help this defense. Eight to 10 sacks for him is what they need. He has to be a factor. If you can only get pressure from one side, they’re going to put the tight end over there and they’re going to chip on Peppers, and I don’t care how well the secondary is playing, if Rodgers has time, he’ll beat you. It’s about a rush opposite Peppers.”

I think Bowen is right.  Most people are basing their hopes for additional pass rush upon improvement from Henry Melton at tackle.  Unfortunately I’ve seen very little from Melton that indicates to me he will make that kind of a jump.  It seems optimitsic at best to expect it.

In any case, I’m not sure McClellin is going to provide the extra pass rush either.  It sounds to me like he needs a year lifting weights before he’ll really be ready to be a threat opposite Peppers.  So I’m bracing myself for another year of constant Peppers double teams.

“The Bears traditionally have very high attendance for offseason workouts at Halas Hall. But those sessions run Monday through Thursday, allowing players — if they choose — to spend a long weekend outside Chicago. [Center Roberto] Garza invited his fellow linemen to join him for workouts on Fridays at TCBOOST, a specialized training facility in Northbrook headed by Tommy and Bob Christian.”

“This offseason, TCBOOST regularly led Garza, Chris Williams, Lance Louis, Chris Spencer and Ricky Henry through Friday exercises focused on explosive movements and a handful of position-specific drills.

“Left tackle J’Marcus Webb sometimes joined them, and right tackle Gabe Carimi came often after he was cleared to work out by Bears trainers.”

“[Special teams coordinator Dave] Toub got some recognition around the NFL as the Dolphins interviewed him for their head-coaching position that eventually went to former Packers offensive coordinator Joe Philbin.

“It’s a difficult hurdle for special teams coaches to clear to get into the mix for top jobs but Toub has done it now. The Bears rewarded him with a contract extension that makes him one of the highest-paid special teams coordinators in the NFL and if he continues to find success, perhaps his name will surface in future coaching searches.”


“One of the best lessons he picked up was from John Levra, a longtime defensive line coach who worked for the Bears under Mike Ditka and eventually was on Dennis Green‘s staff in Minnesota with Tice. After a game in the ’90s that the Vikings won, Tice wasn’t fuming in the parking lot but he was agitated. He can’t recall specifically what set him off, but offensive coordinator Brian Billick had sparked a little fury.

“‘I’ll never forget an old, great coach who is still a dear friend, John Levra, coming over to me and saying, ‘Son, any victory in the National Football League is hard to come by. It’s hard to win a game in the National Football League. You need to learn to enjoy the victories,’ ‘ Tice said. ‘That never left me. I’ve always learned when you win a game, no matter what the stats look like, you have to enjoy the victories because they are hard to come by.'”

For everyone.

  • Biggs interviews former Bear offensive lineman Tom Thayer:

Biggs:  “Some believe the biggest reason for improvement on the line will be the switch from Mike Martz to Mike Tice at offensive coordinator. Do you buy into this explanation and if so to what degree?”

Thayer:  “Yeah, I do. After you call the play in the huddle and you know the protection, if your guys are going to the line of scrimmage with peace of mind and understanding after the ball is snapped there is no exposed weakness in the protection. … I think Martz allowed that to happen at different instances throughout his time here. I don’t think the offensive line, the running backs and the quarterback are going to go to the line of scrimmage with the belief that there is an exposed weakness that could get somebody in trouble now. I think the direction of the protection, the understanding how one guy helps the next, I think there is a chance for there to be a much more guided sense of protection on the front.”

I’m not sure how much I buy this.  Thayer talks about weaknesses in protection but there were no weaknesses in the overall offensive scheme if everyone did their job.  Basically the failures in protection last year were due to lack of execution and ability of the players.  The extent to which Martz was to blame for that is debatable.

Biggs:  “When you look at this defense, so many of the core players are past 30, guys like Brian Urlacher, Lance Briggs, Julius Peppers and Charles Tillman. How much longer can this defense remain together playing at a high level?

Thayer:  “As long as they have sustained time of possession by the offense, I think you are still going to get these guys playing at a really high level. If you go out there and they have to struggle because the offense has 20 minutes, 21 minutes or 22 minutes of possession, then you’re going to see the above-30 crowd struggle. But the way championship football is built is you sustain time of possession and score on offense and allow your guys to freshen up on the sideline and then sic ’em. I think this defense can be one of the top defenses in the league as long as it is complemented by the offense.”

“Why are the Bears so averse to hiring former players like Jeff Fisher, Ron Rivera, Leslie Frazier, Mike Singletary and Doug Plank to coaching positions? Seems they could instill Bear pride and tradition into the team.

“John H., Fort Worth, Texas

“This is a good question, and one I’ve wondered about myself. The answer, I believe, is the Bears are not averse to bringing back their former players to coach. But they are cautious about it. I would say the best way to put it is they have not prioritized it. They brought back Richard Dent and Rivera. They have had several other opportunities and decided against bringing back names that would have resonated with fans. There were different reasons for each decision. The bottom line is whoever is doing the hiring has to feel comfortable with the person working for him, otherwise it’s not a good hire. But there undoubtedly would be benefits to see some of the old Bears brought back.”

  • Mike Florio at takes a close look at the Forte contract.
  • When it comes to Dick Butkus you can always count on former Bear teammate Doug Buffone for a good line.  From Pompei:

“I guarantee if he took steroids, they would have had to put him in a cage and have an animal master there with a whip.”


  • It doesn’t seem like there’s as much benefit to being the boss as people think.  Via Potash:


“The last time Emery was at Olivet Nazarene was in 2004, when he was an area scout under former general manager Jerry Angelo. Now he’s in charge.

‘‘’The one big difference was now I have furniture in my room,’ Emery said. ‘I have a couch and an easy chair, which I did not get to enjoy as an area scout.’’’

Maybe they’re to blame for the Robert PattinsonKristen Stewart break up, too.


  • Dave Birkett at the Detroit Free Press wonders if the Lions cap problems will lead them to make Matthew Stafford the next QB to hit a big contract.
  • Dolphins center Mike Pouncy seems to think that David Garrard is finally going to be the answer at quarterback.  From Barry Jackson at the Miami Herald.

“Garrard has been great, has been the main guy running with the first team. He brings leadership. Matt Moore did a good job last year but when Garrard is in, it’s a whole different tempo.”

Nevertheless, past history tells me not to hold my breath on Garrard.

And The Sports Pickle also gives you the 15 Most Ridiculous Sports Gadgets:

“Do I think the jerseys ads or anything else will raise our visibility any more or win us any additional fans?” said Goodell. “Probably not. But that’s the point of doing this — reminding the other sports leagues that we’re so much more rich and powerful than they are that we can just throw money away for fun. I just bought the Stanley Cup off of Gary Bettman for 300 grand cash. I’m going to make it an award for punters.”

One Final Thought

Dan Pompei rounds out this entry with an excellent point for a fan writing in with this question:

“I would like to know your take on the tell-all book about Walter Payton. Are the stories true in your opinion? This man has been my hero since I first saw him play and an inspiration to achieve personal goals in my life. I know he was human like the rest of us but I cannot condone adultery. Any insight you can provide would be appreciated. Ever since the book has come out I cannot look at the man in the same light.

“John K., Lockport

“I have not heard of anyone questioning the veracity of the stories in the book ‘Sweetness: The Enigmatic Life of Walter Payton.’ There were no stories I could dispute either, though author Jeff Pearlman presented a lot of information I had not previously heard about. Look, I knew Payton and liked him personally. I know he did a lot of good things, touched a lot of people in a positive way. But I didn’t make him out to be a god. And I didn’t stand in judgment of him. He had flaws. Like me. Like you. My advice to you and all sports fans would be to admire athletes for what they do on the field. Don’t make them out to be saints because they can carry a football or hit a baseball. Athletes aren’t heroes. People who make them out to be heroes are making a mistake in my opinion.”

Forte Deal Was Best for Everybody

My first thought when I heard via Sean Jensen at the Chicago Sun-Times that running back Matt Forte got a long-term deal done with the Bears was that it was well deserved and couldn’t have been given to a better guy.  So I was surprised to read and hear so many people who didn’t like the way the team’s money was spent.  Steve Rosenbloom at the Chicago Tribune expressed the typical view:

“Running back has become the most fungible position in the league. Running backs last about as long as Forte has already played. Running backs get hurt the way Forte did last season. Connect the dots, people.”

Former NFL safety Matt Bowen, writing for The National Football Post, also expressed his surprise at this reaction:

“However, talking on Chicago sports radio Monday afternoon, the one negative is the amount of money spent on a position that many believe has lost it’s value.

“‘It’s a passing league now,’ is what I heard yesterday. Don’t spend on backs and instead focus your money on the QB position and WRs/TEs that make plays down the field. Be a vertical offense. Put pressure on the secondary.”

I disagree with this view.

First, all players carry a certain degree of injury risk.  Yes, its probably a bit worse for running backs but not that much worse.  Every offensive player who carries the ball gets hit.  At east running backs usually see it coming a brace for it.

Any way you slice it, Matt Forte is a very productive NFL player.  An elite and versatile player.  Those are the ones you keep because, no matter what anyone thinks, they don’t just grow on trees.  If they did, Forte wouldn’t be the first one the Bears have really had since Thomas Jones.

Second, yes, its a passing league.  We all know that.  But as fan after fan after fan has pointed out in regards to the flaws of former offensive coordinator Mike Martz, you can’t pass in this league unless you run the ball occasionally.  Even Martz’s most ardent defenders (e.g. me) would admit he had a tendency to forget the run occasionally.  The minute pass rushers can load up and go after the quarterback without thought of stopping the run, offenses are in deep trouble.  Especially offenses with a questionable line like the Bears.

You don’t think having a running back who can protect the passer is important for offensive success?  You don’t think a running back who can catch the ball is of value in the passing game?  Think again.  Matt Forte is not just a good running back with vision.  He’s an essential cog in the passing game as well.

No, I never had a doubt that the Bears were better off signing Forte long-term.  The only question was what the money was going to be.  We have the details from Vaughn McClure at the Chicago Tribune:

“Forte is due $9.8 million this season, including signing and roster bonuses. He would have made $7.74 million in ’12 under the franchise tag. His cap hit now for this season is $6.8 million. But Forte essentially would have made the same amount of guaranteed money had the Bears elected to franchise him two years in a row.”

The 4 year deal gives Forte $17.1 million guaranteed and $28.1 million overall (the maximum is $31.5 million with roster bonuses and incentives).  This is probably lower than the $20 million guaranteed Forte was looking for.  Its certainly lower than the money Baltimore running back Ray Rice got a short time later (five-year deal reportedly worth $40 million, including $24 million guaranteed).

Why did Forte accept less?  One reason was very practical.   As former NFL defensive end Marcellus Wiley explains in this video at ESPN, the Bears had a lot of leverage in this negotiation.  Forte was bound to be franchised again next season.  But the Ravens needed to free up the tag so they could apply it to quarterback Joe Flacco.  That got Rice a better deal.

Still, Forte could have stayed home and played it for more money next year.  But ultimately he understood what was important.  Wide receiver Earl Bennett put it very well in an interview with Sirius NFL Radio (via Jensen):

“‘We know what type of value Matt has within our offense and what he brings,’ Bennett said. ‘It went longer than I expected. Matt’s a great player, and he’s one of those stand-up guys.’”


In terms of the important things, Matt Forte did everything right in this negotiation.  He wasn’t holding out with two years left on his deal.  He played out his contract and his obligation.  He didn’t have to sign anything.  He could have held out of training camp as a matter of principal and signed the taken the almost $8 million franchise contract (still a lot of money) right before the first game and not lost a dime of it.

But those would have been the actions of an angry and prideful man and that’s not Forte.  Instead, he did what was best for the team, took the offer and settled down to play football.  Forte got more than long-term security yesterday.  He got long-term respect.

Why Lions Fans Cry Like Babies and Other Points of View


  • Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune questions the optimism surrounding the Bears headed into this season:

“Amid the optimism that is running wild for 2012, keep in mind the 7-3 mark through Week 11 wasn’t good enough for general manager Jerry Angelo to keep his job. Angelo wasn’t fired because of the backup quarterback mess — GMs make or break their futures with what they do with front-line players. Angelo was let go after President Ted Phillips (and likely Chairman George McCaskey) didn’t like how the Bears roster measured up against the Packers and Lions.

“’Ultimately, we look at our division and say we need to close that talent gap,’ Phillips said at the time of the firing.

“The NFC North champion Packers are coming off a 15-1 season and the Lions reached the playoffs for the first time in 12 years. So, you have to ask yourself if the Bears have closed that talent gap during the offseason under new GM Phil Emery?

“Two weeks from the start of camp, it looks like the Bears have added one starter to the depth chart in wide receiver Brandon Marshall. Could more new faces in the lineup emerge after training camp and preseason? Certainly. But after the trade for Marshall, free agency was largely about re-signing a host of the team’s own free agents while adding backups and help on special teams.”

  • Having said that, bless ESPN’s NFC North blogger Kevin Seifert for so ably defending the Bears during his chat with fans last week. Though I kind of agree withe the Lions fans in that I think they may be the better team (its certainly close), I dislike the way that they take exception so strongly when ever someone disagrees with their views.

Dealing with these and other Lions fans has taught me the value of maturity that comes with having a team that competes most years.  Bears fans as a rule will defend their team as well as anyone.  But most won’t violently claim that you can’t be right if you don’t have them in the playoffs because its just part of the conversation year after year.  Whether the Bears are going to be in the playoffs is almost always an issue.  Its never been an issue until very recently with the Lions.  They aren’t used to having people disagree with them because most of the time there hasn’t been anything to discuss.  As a result, they get emotional and cry like babies.

“At 29, [Bears quarterback Jay] Cutler no longer can be regarded as a young gun. But he still has the capacity to improve. The needed help he has received should be a great aid. He has to utilize all of his targets and not be fixated on feeding the ball to [wide receiver Brandon] Marshall.

“Cutler has reduced his interceptions the past two seasons and there should be some natural concern that figure could rise if he gets too enamored with Marshall and the idea that if he just puts the ball close, the physical wideout will make a play for him. But no matter how you dissect it, the reunion of Cutler and Marshall should mean big things for what too often has been a punchless offense.”

Cutler did the same thing with former Bears tight end Greg Olsen his first year with the Bears.  The result was ugly.  Here’s hoping he spreads the ball around.

  • Running back Matt Forte is optimistic that a long term deal will be reached by Monday.  However, he wasn’t particularly forth coming about what he would do if that didn’t happen.  Forte will have to play the season for the franchise number but doesn’t have to go to camp – or play at all – if he doesn’t want to sign it.  From Sean Jensen at the Chicago Sun-Times:

“There was one awkward moment. [ESPN’s Adam] Schefter asked Forte what would happen if there was no deal by Monday.

“’I think we all know,’ Forte said.

“Schefter asked again, and Forte just shook his head.

“Schefter asked if Forte wouldn’t show up to training camp, and Forte again declined to answer.”

“Bush can make a difference between the tackles and that could give the offense an added dimension. According to ESPN statistics, over the last two seasons Forte has had 50 rushes up the middle for 151 yards — a 3.02 average. Bush averaged nearly a yard better on runs up the middle the previous two seasons for the Raiders gaining 612 yards on 156 carries up the middle for a 3.92 average.

“But Bush doesn’t have the lateral quickness, moves and speed Forte possesses. Still, Bush will be a load to bring down in the open field and some thought he was the best back available in free agency.”

Probably most important, Bush won’t have Matt Forte’s vision.  He’ll be a valuable second option, though.

Something else to keep an eye on in camp will be what the Bears do about the full back situation.  Biggs explains:

“It will be interesting to see what happens with fullback Tyler Clutts, who carved out a niche after the Bears scooped him up from the Browns. He provided something the offense lacked but consider that historically [new Bears offensive coordinator Mike] Tice has not used a fullback.

“During his span as the Vikings head coach (2002-05), he employed a full-time fullback in just one season. Tice likes versatile tight ends who also can be used in the backfield and that was the Bears’ thinking in selecting Temple’s Evan Rodriguez in the fourth round of the draft. The Bears have also had tight end Draylen Ross working with running backs during positional drills throughout the offseason.

“So, Clutts likely will have to prove his value to stick around, especially if the Bears desire to keep four tight ends.”

Finally, Biggs summarizes:

“Bottom line: The offense will remain committed to the run. Despite [former offensive coordinator Mike] Martz‘s intentions, the Bears surpassed 2,000 yards rushing in 2011 and should use that figure as a benchmark once again. One thing Tice has done consistently wherever he has been is run the football.”

Let’s face it.  Its a passing league.  Mike Martz knew that. The Bears ran the ball pretty well and yet they failed to make the playoffs last year.  That’s because they failed in the passing game, something Martz knew they had to push the limits on despite the lack of offensive line talent.  If they fail in the passing game again, they aren’t going anywhere no matter what they do on the ground.

  • So having covered the ground game, Biggs also addresses the situation in the air by discussing the wide receivers:

“The Bears have not had a 1,000-yard receiver since [Marty] Booker in 2002 (1,189), the longest active streak in the NFL. The 49ers are next as Terrell Owens‘ last 1,000-yard season for them was in 2003.

“So, those who criticize new general manager Phil Emery for not addressing the offensive line in the draft need to consider the pressing need that was there in the second round when the club traded up five slots to 45th overall to select Alshon Jeffery out of South Carolina.”



“Thanks to a Super Bowl win followed by a 15-1 regular season, the Packers enjoyed record profits in the last year, according to a report in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.

“The Packers reported net income of $42.7 million last year, a jump of $25.6 million from the previous season.”

“The Packers are in a unique situation because they lack the debt many teams are saddled with, but any way you look it it, the numbers are astonishing.”

A 4% return on a 1 billion dollar investment is astonishing?  Really?  Most corporations would consider that to be a loss and consider selling the business and investing elsewhere.

“‘People may say I am not the classic nose tackle, but what is the classic nose tackle? Some nose tackles are big, some small,’ McLendon told ‘If you look at Jay Ratliff for the Cowboys he is not a big nose tackle, but he plays very well. You look at Casey Hampton and he is a big nose tackle and plays well. I figure I will be in between. If I can move quick at nose and play strong at nose, it’s all going to work itself out for me.”

As is usually the case, it all depends on the scheme. Contrary to the “classic” way the 3-4 is played, the Cowboys have penetrating nose tackles where quickness takes precendence of bulk.  Traditionally, the Steelers don’t play it this way.   So if McLendon is going to succeed, I think they’re going to have to make some adjustments.

  • Gantt suggests giving the Packers a call if you need wide receivers. Somehow I doubt the Bears would be able to take that route.
  • Supposedly the new collective bargaining agreement was going to make negotiating with draft picks.  So why hasn’t it?  Seifert addresses the issue:

“All eight picks will get fully guaranteed contracts, and the specific numbers are dictated by slot and pretty much non-negotiable. But teams are trying to protect themselves if one of these picks is a bust.

“[ESPN business analyst Andrew] Brandt: ‘Teams want language in their contract … saying if they cut the player at some point, and he signs another contract, they are ‘offset’ the guarantee. So they cut a player. He signs for $1 million somewhere. That $1 million comes off what they owe.’

“Otherwise, the player would be able to double-dip: Earning the remainder of his guarantee from the original team and then whatever his new team is willing to pay him. In the example above, the offset clause would save the original team $1 million.”

One Final Thought

Can you imagine what it would be like if Bears tickets were $30 instead of the actual $100-$175 range they actually are?  Because that’s what they’re paying in Tampa Bay this season.  Via Mike Florio at

Earl Bennett Has the Surest Hands in the NFL and Other Points of View



Earl Bennett

“Statistic: Lowest drop rate (3.15 percent) of any NFL receiver

“Comment: Bennett dropped four passes in 127 opportunities, partially explaining why quarterback Jay Cutler has so much confidence in him. ”


Brandon Marshall

“Statistic: No. 1 overall in raw drops (35).

“Comment: Marshall also had the third-most opportunities over that stretch, 303. That made his drop rate 11.55, the 10th-worst mark among receivers. ”

Devin Hester

“Statistic: Had 15th-highest drop rate at 10.3.

“Comment: Overall, Hester dropped 14 of 136 opportunities. If he gets more opportunities this season, as promised, well …”

As a fan who finds drops particularly irritating, I’m not spurised that Bennett rates so well.  And I’m also reminded to brace myself for what I’m sure will be a frustrating year from Marshall in this respect.

“Urlacher was asked when he felt his knee started to return to form.

“‘I don’t think it will ever be normal again,” he said with a hint of sarcasm. “But it probably started feeling better near the end of May.”’

  • ESPN has been running a special series of segments called “5 In, 5 Out.”  For 16 consecutive years five teams that made the playoffs the year before missed the next year.  The ESPN experts have named the Bears as being in (with reservations) and the Lions as being out.

A couple points

1)  The Bears have the THIRD BEST odds of making the Super Bowl on the NFC side in Vegas.  As you might expect, they’re getting better odds than a lot of very good teams.  This means a lot of gamblers are buying into the Bears.

2)  I think a lot of the reason for this sudden positivity is the change in the offense.

I, personally, like Mike Martz and think that most of the criticism of him is unfair.  I also have no faith in Mike Tice and it would appear that Lovie Smith doesn’t have a lot more becuase the first thing he did after promoting him was look for a “passing game coordinator”.  For those who have been hiding under a rock, the passing game is about 80% of running an offense so you might as well say you aren’t completely convinced he can do tha job.

Having said that, I think it likely that the new offense will be a better fit for Cutler.  He obviously can’t throw with anticipation and now he won’t be asked to do it.  Letting him get out of the pocket and wait for something to open up will be more his thing.  That could make a big, big difference.  That is the single biggest reason for optimism.

There are probably at least two reasons for this.

1. The top 100 were rated as players not QBs. That probably is what got guys like Tim Tebow onto the list despite being ranked the 30th best QB by Jaworski.

2. The top 100 was voted on by Cutler’s peers.  As with the attacks on Cutler by fellow players after taking himself out of the second half of a Bears playoff game two years ago, we are faced with the fact that for whatever reason, the other NFL players around the league just don’t like Cutler


One Final Thought

Jared S. Hopkins at the Chicago Sun-Times brings us a very thorough look at the life of the “new” Brandon Marshall.  He re-states the problem with Marshall’s off field issues.

“A pattern has emerged: trouble, then promises he has changed, charges that go away, then more trouble. Two days before the Dolphins traded him to the Bears in March, a woman accused Marshall of punching her outside a New York nightclub at nearly 4 a.m.”

“‘I want you to observe me for who I am,’ he says in the car. ‘There is a perception out there that is unfair, and there really is another side that I think will help your story.'”

I’m as sure as an average fan can be that Marshall is sincere in his wish to be a better citizen.  But having said that, there are a lot of things in this article that lead me to be very doubtful that he’s done it.  This statement is one of them.  What Marshall doesn’t understand is that the perceptions of him are not unfair. They’re entirely based upon fact and he is what the facts say he is.  Its not about perception.  Its about changing who you are.  This is something that he needs to acknowledge.

Another striking feature of the article is the parallels between Marshall’s history and that of his father.  Here’s one example amongst many:

COURT RECORDS, PENNSYLVANIA: On Nov. 17, 1987, Marshall was riding in the back seat of a car with his younger sister, London, on Larimer Avenue, the main strip in their neighborhood in Pittsburgh. Up front, an argument between his parents escalated.

According to court records, Freddie Marshall punched his wife, Diane, in the eye. Freddie stopped the car in traffic, then got out and walked around to the passenger side and punched Diane in her other eye. She kicked at him, but Freddie grabbed her feet and pulled off her skirt. Diane hustled to the driver’s side and drove to a stop sign. Freddie caught up to her, got back in and hit her again, leaving bruises under her eyes.

In the back seat, the two children screamed and cried. Marshall was 3. His father would be ordered by the court to stay away from the family home for four months as part of an order of protection.”

Marshall flat out refuses to answer questions about his relationship with his father.

“What did your dad teach you about marriage? ‘This isn’t no Q-and-A.’

“I sigh. Marshall turns on the TV. He says he is still skeptical of my story. I try to explain that his family’s past is just one piece, not the only one. He cuts me off midsentence, uninterested. ‘If you’re going to go writing about John Kennedy right now, you’re not going to look at his father’s police reports. You’re not going to talk to his ex-wife.'”

This statement is laughable.  As anyone could tell you, most biographies of not just Kennedy but of anyone would start with the childhood and its influence on later life.  Indeed, you would be hard pressed to find one that didn’t.

Eventually even he is eventually forced to acknowledge that this is a factor.

“’My upbringing, it definitely contributes to who I am today,’ he concedes eventually. But answering questions about that topic, he says, lends credibility to the perception people have of him as a volatile person.”

Once again, what’s bothersome to me is the way that Marshall talks about his nature.  He’s worried about image – perception.  But its not perception.  It is fact.  Marshall is a volatile person.

Bottom line, I doubt very much that Marshall will ever be what he wants to be without facing who he is first.  And that makes me continue to wonder how much of a struggle the Bears still have ahead of them with their “new” wide receiver.