Archive for February, 2009

What is there more to talk about at MMI?

February 28, 2009

Thanks for a great first week, things have steadily been picking up as the week wore on. I’m getting a good steady stream of people here to check out my blog and it’s so greatly appreciated. I’d also like to say some people may call this hard work, but I can’t, it’s what I love to do and I often times can’t do it enough.

As you can tell we’re just getting started here at MMI. It helps that the NFL scouting combine was here to help us kick things off, but we’re just warming up the blog roll here trying to get an idea of what works well.

Well I can tell you what I have planned all the way up until draft day. Complete wall to wall coverage of free agency over the next two weeks even if the Bears don’t make a signing we’ll likely cover some of the signings our NFC north rivals are making.

What that’s just easy stuff and filler you say?

Okay how about extended in-depth reporting on Pro Days of prospects that at positions of need the Bears need. We’ll give you a complete blow by blow run down how Michael Oher performed at his pro-day, how did Phil Loadholdt look in Norman has he lost some more of his weight?

What about Means at Indiana Heyward-Bay in Maryland, Robiskie at Ohio State. William Moore at Missouri, Malcom Jenkins and will improve his 40-yard dash time enough to be considered a top CB prospect or can he possibly fall to the Bears at 18 as a free-safety?

There will be plenty of in depth coverage leading up to the draft.

Plus there will be updates from one of the earliest mandatory veteran mini-camps to take place in NFL history on March 17-19. That’s right as things move along the new coaches will get a first hand look at our Chicago Bears prior to the draft. The new staff will be able to better gauge where the veterans are at and better form a plan prior to the draft taking place. We’ll have complete insider coverage of that as well.

All sorts of exciting things will be happening with the Chicago Bears this spring. Why miss a moment of it? While the Cubs and the Sox are trudging through the equivalent of 1/4 of a season in spring training games trying to iron out the obvious you can be here keeping up on the most important aspects of the Chicago Bears.

All the in-depth coverage you would expect on other websites but don’t get unless the little guy like me comes and pokes them in the eye you’ll find right here. While the giant newspapers are worried about whether or not they should start charging YOU for their online coverage, you’ll find it all here for free at MMI. You’ get the guaranteed best and most in-depth coverage you can find here on the web because that’s what I strive to do.

Things happen on a near daily basis in the NFL, one way or another and I know if you’re here you want more than just a once a week blog update that says “Kyle Orton is still the starting QB and the Bears are hoping for veteran help” or “Can the Bears replace Mike Brown?” or my all time favorite “What do you think about Rex Grossman?”

I promise to provide the most comprehensive analysis and coverage you can’t find anywhere else on the web and you watch….other web sites will copy my lead.

But as always this blog is about you the readers so if you have any ideas or any questions I ask you to please hit me with your comments and or suggestions. I can’t have all the good ideas so I’ll need your help, please feel free to e-mail me at


and I’ll work to put your content idea to good use.

But really I appreciate all the people who have stopped by and I look forward to making this the best blog on the web.


Free agent frenzy in 18 hours what next?

February 28, 2009

The Bears addressed an immediate need today by signing Frank Omiyale a versatile offensive tackle from the Carolina Panthers who could wind up playing left guard in the future if Josh Beekman moves inside to center as expected. Omiyale has the same level of versatility that John St Clair had to this franchise but he’s younger and you would have to assume more affordable. Affordable in that St Clair was probably offered the same level of money that Omiyale was and turned it down thus hitting the free agent market on Thursday night.

So with the initial free agency frenzy almost in the books after 18 hours who is left? Essentially anyone that the Bears could want if they feel the price is right. Though its apparent the Bears are likely following a strict criteria which may not sit well with some Bears fans the only thing is certain is that Angelo is doing something none of us thought would happen a mere 18 hours ago.

The debate in Chicagoland wasn’t who the Bears would sign, it was would the Bears sign anyone at all? Now we find out that no one really now knows what the Angler is up to. The running line of thought was and still pretty much is that the Bears will do nothing. However Angelo already proved us wrong in a matter of five hours so the new thought should be let’s calm down and see what happens before the draft.

Angelo has proven before that he can go any route he wants with this franchise. He can make a sudden signing like he did today or he can wait it out see where things are and see who is left standing at the end of the day. Bears fans should recall that Lance Briggs was on the open market for quite some time before he re-signed with the Bears so it’s important for the Bears to not knee jerk react to the first 18 hours and see how things pan out.

It would be nice to have all the money to throw around like Dan Snyder of the Redskins does on a nearly annual basis but then you’d be stuck with showing off three Lombardi trophies won in a completely different era, under a completely different ownership group with a completely different coach. For now Snyder is the talk of the league, but a year from now he could be mocked for making another bone-headed free agent signing that cost his team too much money.

One thing we must remember though is free-agency isn’t like national signing day in college. It’s an ongoing process of evaluations and decisions that lasts a couple months before teams focus the last week of the energy in April to strictly the draft and the decisions that entails.

There are still some good players to be had, Nate Washington is a popular choice as a WR, Bryant Johnson as well. Recently released guard Brandon Moore looks like a very enticing prospect, but how much money he is commanding is another aspect of the equation likely to be considered. The Bears are fairly comfortable with Josh Beekman and his development at guard and Angelo has gone on record as saying he is pretty comfortable with Beekman’s play from last year.

Additionally just how things eb and flow so drastically is being reported right now. Roberto Garza’s play has fallen out of favor with the team and he is now in danger of losing his job to Omiyale. Omiyale is being slated to play guard and the Bears are still wanting John St Clair to return. It appears that his immediate future may be at guard and if the Bears don’t manage to sign St Clair then he could take over at RT.

This recently updated news could mean that the Bears are in the market for another player as a contingency to losing St. Clair.

So while it seems like nothing is likely to happen and the cult like hype of the off-season for football addicts is at it’s annual peak, it’s important to remember that patience is a virtue and Rome wasn’t built in 18 hours.

Breaking News: Bears Add OT Frank Omiyale

February 27, 2009

Jerry Angelo proved a lot of detractors wrong, including myself by singing former Carolina Pather offensive tackle Frank Omiyale to a four year $14-million deal in the early part of free agency Friday. Omiyale was the back up LT for the Carolina Panthers last year playing in 10 games behind Pro-Bowler Jordan Gross who was injured off and on.

Omiyale performed quite well in Gross’ spot which was enough to land him the offer from Chicago. Omiyale addresses an immediate need for the Bears who appear ready to drop out of the race for OT John St. Clair who started all 16 games at LT last year for Chicago. St Clair had thus far rejected the Bears’ offer to stay and reached the open market Thursday night.

A wise move by Angelo and I give him solid props for making this move on the account of Omiyale is only 26-years-old and has starting experience. He played well for a playoff team so you know expectations are high for him and he has that youth element which St. Clair lacked.

If St. Clair does not return I won’t be shedding any tears over his departure as the Bears needed to get younger and add experience. They did both with this free agency signing and added a player who could start immediately at RT.

Most certainly I can eat any negative words I have spewed about Angelo with this free agent deal. He has proved a lot of critics wrong and if you were out scouting around for free agent stories prior to the free agency period opening you knew that there was a negative buzz surrounding the Bears doing nothing.

The follow up question would be do the Bears take an O-Lineman on the second day of the draft and potentially develop him for four years down the line? My guess is the Bears most assuredly won’t take an OT on day 1 of the draft now which narrows their draft focus a bit. This is always a good thing to fill holes as you go, again good move by Jerry Angelo.

Bears Free Agency: Backup RB options

February 27, 2009

For all the obvious reasons the Chicago Bears don’t need to out and spend a ton of money on a potential RB to push Matt Forte for the starting RB spot. But what they do need is someone who can come in and possibly push Forte to better himself, be a healthy option in case Forte gets hurt or wears down from all the offensive touches he took last year as a rookie. Forte was a major part of the Bears’ offensive production and plays. He grinded through a 16 game season for the first time in his career. So having someone who will give him a breather or be a change of pace would be good.

So what type of player should the Bears target? An over 30-year old option who still has some bounce in his legs?

Fred Taylor is the most intriguing RB option in the league right now. He’s not going to be asked to be a starter, would probably be pretty productive as a back up who gets some carries but not a lot. Would be a nice veteran stabilizer for the young core of RBs the Bears currently have and could mentor Matt Forte. Further solidifying the great work habits that Forte already has by helping develop the habits it would take to have an 11-year career.

Taylor’s production dipped but he would be good in a RB committee situation sharing carries with Forte. If the Bears are up big in a game Taylor could help to keep the chains moving and keep the Bears from having to rely on their defense so much. It’s a win win situation for both parties involved.

The problem is though Taylor is quietly becoming the most talking about free agent RB available because so many teams recognize his value for what it is. If the Bears were to make a run at Taylor it would have to be with the idea of keeping the right price in mind for him.

There is mutual interest between Taylor and the New England Patriots and assuming Tom Brady is on track to come back well it may be hard for him to turn down a more successful franchise who may be closer to the Lombardi trophy than the Bears are. It may come down to forking out more money for Taylor to keep him away from the Patriots something the Bears would rather not do.

A surprising second option the Bears might consider that may be in the same mold as Taylor is Deuce McAllister. He’s slightly younger than Taylor and slightly less productive. Injury prone is the only concern you have with McAllister. He has only twice played in all 16 games in his NFL career. Although he only one year removed from his last 1,000 yard rushing season. Typically when he is in the game he is productive, but he’s kinda the Mike Brown of RBs so it may be something the Bears shy away from.

I’ll throw it out there because it’s an ideal fit and his agent has negotiated well with the Bears. Thing is the kid wants to start and wants big money to start and his agent is Drew Rosenhaus. It’s not likely the Bears would go after such a major player in the free agent market but if they shock the world by doing so I guess it’s fair to mention him.

Derrick Ward is probably the featured free agent on the market and rightfully so. He is young and proved his mettle in a contract year with over 1,000 yards rushing last year despite not being the featured back. He would instantly be an upgrade to the team as a whole because a lethal headed two-back combo in a run heavy offense would simply help all other aspects of this team. I’m not against the idea of the Bears attempting to sign him, because they could stand to invest more into their offense anyway, the market is not completely favorable to the other positions the Bears have needs at.

It would be a complete and total shocker for sure to make a run at a RB on this level, but it also wouldn’t be so silly to be completely incomprehensible. The Bears could then draft an OT for their two headed monster RB attack to run behind and getting the aforementioned in a blog receivers would probably be more productive because there wouldn’t be the same amount of pressure on them to perform. It’s silly to think that Ward would even consider the Bears, or that the Bears management would even be half smart to go after a guy like this.

The Bears may need a touch of versatility in their offense at the RB position. Someone who isn’t the same type of runner that Forte is, big strong move the pile is good and great especially given the the amount of agility in the open field Forte displays. But a player like Maurice Morris might be another option behind Forte as well. Before his knee injury Morris was on his way to having a fairly productive 2008. Even with the knee injury slowing him down he still managed to crank out 4.6 a carry over 13 games. It may be a battle to take him out of Seattle, but it’s another option worth exploring.

So there is slim pickings at the RB position but the Bears should at least get involved in looking for a player instead of sitting on the side line waiting for the draft to fix everything.

Bears Free Agency Targets: Wide Receivers

February 26, 2009

I’d have to be the first to admit the idea of going out and getting any free agent over the age of 30 doesn’t sit well with me at all. That said there are reasonable exceptions to this rule that I am capable of living with. Especially given the amount of youth at some of the positions on this team and the need for a stabilizing veteran presence.

What type of player is a stabilizing veteran presence? Well mostly certainly not Terrell Owens, or anyone with a questionable character or team wrecking back ground. Certainly not someone that has shown severe decline in their production, well at least for not average to good NFL money. Someone who might need a change of scenery for a team he has been on. Perhaps a chance to shine with a little bit lowered expectations heaped upon him that he had with his previous team.

One thing is certain the Bears don’t need one receiver they realistically need two because the depth has been so bad. Plus if they do draft a receiver and don’t do it in the first round the possibility he’ll come up with a mystery injury and be placed on IR is pretty high too. Bears coaches have been notorious lately for red shirting their rookies. Earl Bennett did so last year and Jamar Williams and Micahel Okwo are others who red shirted as rookies.

These free agent targets appear in no particular order. I am not writing this in order of importance as to who I’d like to land in Chicago. I’m simply tossing around these guys in my head doing a little research and then following it up with a preview. I am advocating the Bears target these free agents, but not in any order of importance or excitement for the possibility of landing them. It’s all just something to chew on.

So who fits into as a possibility as a free agent target? For some reason I like the idea of Reggie Williams from the Jacksonville Jaguars. While not a perfect option he is a big receiver who can be physical. At one time Williams looked like a Larry Fitzgerald clone, but that was when he was playing for Washington. Williams is 6-foot-4 212-pounds and has always had respectable speed for his size.

In 2007 Wiliams scored 10 touchdowns so the potential is there. Plus given that Williams is under 30-years old is another big plus. He could be had given that there likely won’t be a major bidding war for his services. Plus to say that he never reached his potential in Jacksonville may not be terribly fair given that Jacksonville has always had a strong running team and had only two productive seasons from the QB position, coincidentally the year Williams tallied his ten scores.

If you’re an under performing player still in your rookie contract as Williams was the best thing that could happen is to get a fresh start somewhere else. Just look what it did for Thomas Jones’ career after he left the Arizona Cardinals. The best time to target Williams would be right out of the gate while other teams are attempting to bid over T.J. Houshmandzadeh a war the Bears don’t need to get involved in given the amount of needs they have elsewhere.

On the opposite end of the size spectrum is receiver Shaun McDonald. He has had a decently productive 6 years in the NFL. While not a #1 receiver option McDonald is a lunch pail guy with no history of character problems and one pretty good season in 2007 where he grabbed 79 receptions for 943 yards albeit in a Mike Martz designed offense where receivers seem to flourish. Given that the Bears got essentially ZERO production from their WRs last year save some good development from Devin Hester the last six game of the season McDonald is another option.

In the interest of full disclosure I am an Arizona State fan and McDonald is a Sun Devil alumni so it is fair to say I have a soft spot for McDonald. That being said I am able to look beyond my bias and see youth and potential in Shaun McDonald. Which is what the Bears need in the first place rather than age and greed. Plus I am looking at free agents that aren’t likely to break the bank and McDonald fits that modl. Even though is is around the 5-foot-8 range McDonald has always been productive for his size.

Another receiver who fits the mold of an under performer ready for a change of scenery is Michael Clayton from Tampa Bay. Clayton is another 6-foot-4 physical receiver. I myself am biased towards bigger receivers but even still it’s not as if the Bears really have a big receiver on the roster right now. Devin Hester and Earl Bennett don’t crack the 6-foot mark, both around 5-10. So a nice red-zone target for fade routes would help this offense become more productive.

Clayton had a monstrous rookie season with 86 receptions and 1,193 yards and 7 TDs. So there is potential there if he wants it. From then on however Clayton hasn’t played a full 16 game season so his production drop could be attributed to injuries. Given that he is finally out of his rookie deal and may want the opportunity to stick around in this league Clayton may be the type of player to target. A modest one to two year deal to prove himself in Chicago may help motivate him to be productive, it will also keep Devin Hester motivated knowing he will be challenged by young guys who are more natural receivers.

Another guy under 30 years old who has stuck around because he has reliable hands and decent size at 6-1 200-pounds is Jabar Gaffney. He’s not going to the light the world on fire with his ability and stats but he’s good for depth and effort. Hester may not be the most durable guy if he gets a good lick, so any free agent with potential to contribute is a must for the Bears. The Patriots may try to keep him around so if they think is worthy of being on their roster it’s someone the Bears should look at.

Bryant Johnson was just on the market last year and was considered an option then. He bombed in San Francisco so he’s likely to be back on the open market. But what receiver hasn’t bombed lately in San Fran with the lies of Alex Smith etc throwing the ball. Johnson has been fairly reliable throughout his career. His stats are not awe inspiring but they are solid for where he stands. A good options for the Bears because he won’t come expensive to attain and he has the aforementioned size that would fit will into the Bears’ offense 6-4 214-pounds.

So that rounds out a small list of the receivers the Bears might consider targeting in this year’s free agent market. Guys who have been productive shown flashes are under the age of 30 and could be a solid stabilizing force. The Bears don’t need a top of the line play maker in free agency, they need solid contributors. Would they benefit if there was a deeper free agency pool with a game-breaker that they could target? Most certainly they would go for a true #1 option with proven experience and talent.

What does work best for building a team though is getting guys who can contribute, have a history of contributing and still have some tread on the tires. This definitely could be a smart group of options for Jerry Angelo to ponder.

Every team wants the big free agent catch who make make an instant impact but the Bears need to help take the heat off of their defense by moving the chains and help to take some of the offensive workload off Matt Forte. These players give the Bears that option.

Combine Review DBs: Looking for safety help

February 25, 2009

Yeah so suddenly I discovered how much of an idiot I am. Why am I an idiot? Because of the difference between the official times on the 40-yard dash and the unofficial times which I have been referencing.

The unofficial times that are being referenced are hand timed by someone on the set of the NFL network. Me thinking that an unofficial time was much like an unofficial NASCAR race result (it’s reported by the scouting combine but then adjusted by video or what have you) where they give you initial results and then make them official later on down the line.

Well unfortunately for my own idiocy my assumption about the unofficial time was wrong. So by giving unofficial times throughout this blog like I have, I have been giving hand timed 40 yard dashes from a grip on the NFL network site.

The whole time I thought they were just simply adjusting things here and there to make it official. Instead they don’t give the official times until quite later on in the process. My bad, my stupidity it won’t happen again.

Not that it really matters what they ran in the 40-yard dash in the first place. You can argue matter for RBs, WRs, and DBs, arguably some LBs. But not much else.

So anyway these times I’ll have going are official times from one of the official websites.

I guess if I were going to worry about something and if you like going by 40-yard dash times one of the biggest concerns I have is how out of the safeties that ran only two ran 40-yard dashes in the 4.4 range. Everyone else was at 4.5 or above. Last year’s crop of safeties were a bit faster than that.

The major safeties of interest that ran:

William Moore from Missouri 6-0 221-pounds his 40-yard dash time was an average 4.56. That’s like average, not average as in good, average as in a grade of C. That’s how I’ll wade into the importance of 40-yard dash times debate. If Moore stays in the 221-pound range I see no reason teams should try to move him to WILL linebacker as has been rumored.

Patrick Chung from Oregon lined up at 5-11 212-pounds which is fine by me for safety size. Admittedly what I find to be ideal is around the 6-2 215-pound range running a low 4.5 or in the mid 4.4 range. But a prospect can have all measurables in the world, Josh Barrett from ASU sure did, but with 6-2 225-pounds and 4.36 speed in the 40-yard dash last year. Who wouldn’t want a safety with those sort of measurables? Then you go and look at the tape of Barrett or in my case watch him play football for four years at ASU and realize he shouldn’t have even been drafted.

So what do we hear about Patrick Chung from Oregon? We hear he’s not afraid to stick his nose into a tackle and he plays well. He doesn’t have all the ideal things you want in a safety, but he does everything you want good to well. I suppose that’s fine enough for me, but I don’t recall him making a ton of plays in the ASU v. Oregon games that I saw. However taking my ASU bias to a semi-neurotic level ASU didn’t have a lot of RB in the past two seasons that really had the ability to make a safety look like a fool.

Now that I look at Chungs bio he had a career high 15 tackles against ASU in 2007. Oregon has never been really known for their great players in the secondary. They have struggled for years to stop the pass been torched pretty consistently. So I don’t know why Chung is rated so high. Probably because he makes a ton of tackles in the run game. Oregon’s defense has always been built to stop the run. It’s why they beat Michigan two years in a row.

So to write, there’s not really that big play maker type safety. The question is, is there a player that is comparable to Mike Brown? Chung fits that mold, Moore too guys that can come up and stick a guy in the running game, but won’t blow coverage ala Danieal Manning in the Cover-2 defense.

NFL Combine Updates D-Line LBs Part II

February 25, 2009

Moving past the 40-yard dash and getting into the nuts and bolts of the drills we come to some change of direction drills. Important that the D-Lineman have a little wiggle of agility to make plays at the next level because it’s not all about power and the bull rush.

A guy who might fit that mold of a later round DE pass rush specialist is David Veikune from Hawaii. Not very big at 6-2 257, not very fast with a 4.81 40-yard dash. But he was productive and works hard and gets after the QB. He’s got a solid motor that never stops running. He’s not the most fluid of athletes out there but he is just all around a good football player.

The sewing machine drill as we’ll call it shows just how quick some of these big boys are in tight spaces. B.J. Raji looks quicker than he does running the 40-yard dash. In the 40 he barely looked like he was taking a full stride, it was almost like he was doing a D-Lineman shuffle.

A lot of midwestern D-Lineman out here, seems like there’s more Big-10 guys out there than SEC guys which is kinda suprising given the emphasis on athletic defenses in the SEC. Another one you can keep an eye on as a potential mid rounder is Matt Shaughnessy from Wisconsin who has nice size. Measuring up at 6-5 266-pounds he didn’t have impressive stats numbers that jump out at you. He just made plays for the Badgers.

Another possible late-rounder, Brandon Williams of Texas Tech 6-5 252-pounds who had 13 sacks for Texas Tech last year. Might be a little on the lighter side by with that type of sack production you know he can get after the QB. He looked good in his drills and showed up well in the three cone which measure some burst speed and agility to go with change of direction.

In the end I don’t know if there was real good way to judge a lot of the DEs in these drills because so many of them are such good athletes and just look good to great in spandex. There’s a plethora of tweener DE/LB types. Guys who may get pushed around at the point of attack and in the run game but be good pass rushers.

There may not be one truly elite all around DE prospect in this year’s draft. There’s a lot of system type players and guys that fit into the 3-4 defense as outside linebackers.

The good news however is the talent pool is deep and some teams may overreach for some of these prospects in order to fill out a 3-4 defense and emulate the Steelers. After all the NFL is a fad following league and right now the Steelers D is what will be copied. What does this mean for the Chicago Bears? They should be able to get a quality OT at 18 and then a good WR in the second round.

Moving on to the linebacker workouts where the Bears probably won’t be going after top talent early. Additional depth may be called for here from the later rounds rather than on the first day. One last thing to ponder is everyone says that you need to draft for scheme and personnel specific needs aka prospect A) is a nose tackle in the 3-4, prospect B) is a 3-4 DE or a 4-3 DT…why should the Bears limit themselves to not drafting a LB who may project better as a 3-4 DE? Why not find a better blitzer who happens to be a good strong side LB as well? Versatility is the key, especially since the Bears don’t really have a blitzer that plays LB.

Angelo’s comments shift blame

February 25, 2009

Here we go again the Chicago media attempting to manufacture a story during the time of the year where people actual care to read about the Bears. Perhaps the media should come up with something a little more than manufactured troubles within the Bears organization.

More telling they should hold the GM’s feet to the fire and hold him to a higher level of accountability. Angelo has not done a lot to help his coach missing on some serious draft picks and certainly not going out and making much of a splash in free agency.

The offensive line is in tatters, the safety position a joke, WRs are likely the worst and least talented of any group in the NFL and it’s essentially be the status quo for quite some time.

One of Jerry Angelo’s biggest contributions going out and getting an old and aging Muhsin Muhammad and paying him some of the highest money ever for a Chicago Bear. Then last year completely neglecting the WR core all together after cutting the unproductive Muhammad and letting the leading receiver walk in free agency. What was already a shaky core last year became a disaster in 2008.

Now Angelo is faced with having to pay starter’s money to a back up at OT in John St. Clair. Plus finding a safety to replace the oft injured Mike Brown and Angelo is already counting on speed bump Craig Steltz to do it. Steltz by the way is a disaster with a lack of speed to make plays on top of his flailing tackling attempts in support.

Angelo’s words essentially made it clear to not count on much help from him to help fill out the roster. Which shows just how clueless he is when it comes to where the 9-7 Bears are at. The Bears have so many needs that it’s appalling to consider that only better motivation and better coaching will keep the team from spiraling into the depths of failure and mediocrity.

The bottom line is great organizations move forward and attempt to get better on an annual basis. They don’t throw their hands up and say well it’s not on me to fix the roster, it’s on you to coach better. But therein may hopefully lay the golden ticket to getting Angelo fired along with Lovie Smith upon the Bears’ impending failure in 2009. Smith is Angelo’s hire, his man his choice to put the Bears where they are, and if he’s a failure in the end so is Jerry Angelo.

NFL Draft Combine Updates D-Lineman and LBs

February 24, 2009

Getting back into the combine we come to the coverage of some of my favorite players in all of football. The defensive front seven, war hogs of hell. I’ve grown up a Chicago Bears fan, so it’s easy to see that this is just naturally in my blood to root for and watch these gladiators. It’s simple really the Bears didn’t get the nickname “The Monsters of the Midway” from their history on offense.

With that said I plan to keep a close eye on the DEs and some of the LBs because whether Bears fans are ready to admit it or not it maybe time to start looking for a player who could push Urlacher for playing time, and perhaps be the future. Urlacher got old fast by football standards and we may only get one perhaps two decent years out of him production wise.

First up in the 40-yard dash is a player that has been mentioned a lot around here. DE Michael Johnson from Georgia Tech who has all the athletic measurables in the world by all accounts, but apparently needs a heart transplant. I however am of the opinion that if he has first round type talent and dips to far into the 2nd or maybe even the third round he may be to tempting to pass up. A lot of people questioned Simeon Rice’s heart for a number of years when he was with the Arizona Cardinals, but Rod Marinelli got a lot out of him during his tenure in Tampa Bay. Johnson’s measurables are similar in stature at 6-7 266-pounds.

As expected Johnson blows it up in the 40-yard dash with a time of 4.66. That’s moving down the line for a player of his size. Most LBs can’t run that fast. He looks the part that they say, he’s built, cut, trim, well proportioned…he has it all…..lub dub, lub dub….lub dub aside.

Next up is a four-year starter at DT from Iowa Mitch King. Mayock instantly addresses the heart issue with Johnson by comparing him to King who is a white farm bred boy who’s 6-1 281. “I tell you what if did a heart transplant between Johnson and King you would have a Hall of Fame DE.” King is a kid who is really to small to play DT, to big to play DE, but he just flat out makes plays.”

King definitely looks good running his 40-yard dash doing so in 4.81, which is pretty darn good for a DT prospect. I’m with Mayock you can’t coach heart or work ethic so you’d like to hope that King winds up somewhere and has a good career. You root for the guys that just love to battle in the trenches and epitomize every work hard superlative compliment you can throw out there.

One of the heroes from the Sugar Bowl victory for the Utah Utes steps to the line for his 40-yard dash. 6-4 263 DE a RS Sophomore for the Utes. Mayock rates him as #5 on his list of top DEs in this draft. Paul “Freddy” Kruger runs a 4.84 in the 40-yard dash. Like what you see from a kid who has spent his entire career underrated, undre recruited, and under respected. Perfect fit as a later round selection if he lasts that long runs a 4.84 40-yard dash.

Someone that definitely triggers debate is up DT from USC Fili Moala 6-4 308-pounds. Loved by the likes of Mel Kiper Jr and especially Todd McShay. Played next to and benefited from the production of Sedrick Ellis from USC last year. A prospect that I haven’t always felt was as highly regarded as McShay or Kiper Jr crowed about. I’m able to separate USC generated hype from actual production. Moala IMO is that type of player not as consistent or as dominant as he should be for a player rumored to be as talented as he is.

Just as I finish typing this it’s precisely what the two ex scouts from the NFL Network get into. They talk about how he is a high level talented guy but you just don’t see enough out of him to be blown away. Moala gets down the line in 5.14 in the 40-yard dash. Average among DTs just another thing that says what I’ve been saying all along about USC football players. Are there great ones that come out of USC? You bet, Sedrick Ellis was one of them I had him ahead of the Glen Dorsey last year. However things in the NFL always tend to even themselves out amongst players and some of the Trojans end up being exposed.

As I finish typing about a Trojan yet another one steps to the line. Kyle Moore 6-5 272-pounds, yet another manufactured hype player from the Trojans. He goes out and runs an acceptable 4.82 40-yard dash.

So the question is why do the USC guys dominate so well in college week after week. Simple they don’t see even remotely good OTs on a week to week basis. They may see one to three good guys a year that measure up as talented OTs. But then they run into the Arizona State’s, the UCLA’s the Wassu’s the U-Dubs who don’t have even a remotely decent offensive tackle and they expose them. The Sun Devils and Bruins specifically have had O-Line problems for a number of years and last year was no exception. Plus people by default think that these two typically top of the Pac-10 schools would have a great OT. But they flat out don’t so the USC’s of the world expose that.

Next up is the stud from Texas Brian Orakpo who goes 6-3 263-pounds. Orakpo won’t be around long enough for the Bears to select and he immediately shows why by running a 4.63 40-yard dash. If scouts think he can play the OLB in a 3-4 defense they’re probably right when you can fly down the line in the 4.63 range.

BJ Raji is one of the most highly regarded DT maybe a nose tackle on the big board of just about everyone. Unfortunately if you make him take his shirt of you might be able to catch a wave off his stomach. Obviously at 6-1 337 he’s not going to be put together like a man of steel, but you would still prefer to see some sort of definition instead of a jiggle. He is built like a freaking tank though low squatty just thick throughout. I’ll give him props for throwing up 33 reps on the 225-bench.

This set of experts can’t get enough of busting Michael Johnson’s balls. They go in and show tape on the kid show how he got a pretty good push and defeated Eugene Monroe, but then gets taken out by a TE. Please let him fall in the draft just enough into the third round or so who knows. He could be valuable with running a 4.69 40-yard dash. Buyer beware, but Rod Marinelli just might be the guy to get something out of him.

Is it redundant with my reporting on Johnson? Yeah I should perhaps move on to others.

Okay so Robert Ayers from Tennessee 6-3 272-pounds goes out and runs a 4.80 in the 40-yard dash. Highly regarded and highly rated by Mike Mayock, Mayock says “I have to see where he was at before his senior year.” Ayers may be a potential prospect that slips to the Bears.

A Northen Illilnois boy Larry English a great edge rusher 6-3 255-pounds. Mike Mayock likes him a lot said he dominated the Minnesota Golden Gophers the first game of the season. Extremely talented edge rusher one of those tweener types that could play DE or LB in the NFL. A lot of the fast DEs in college are a wee bit undersized by NFL standards so there are a bunch of them that look like Lawrence Taylor, Devon Ware type 3-4 guys. English gets down the line in a pretty decent time of 4.77.

The intriguing thing is though these under-sized DE types seem to be the type of DEs that Lovie Smith favors even while running his 4-3 defense. Neither Alex Brown or Adewale Ogunleye are Bruce Smith or Reggie White type DEs.

In the end what the Bears need anyway is speed off the edge.

Everrette Brown from Florida State is another one that may just happen to fall to the Bears. If the perfect storm happens as the Chicago media mentions and all the OTs, WRs and Safties are off the board by the time the Bears select there is a plethora of pass rushers that would fall to them. Brown is 6-4 252-pounds and goes and runs a 4.63 40-yard dash. So while I say the Bears should not take a pass rushing DE on day one, if a great one happens to fall and keeps on falling and all the other high need prospects are off the board then take the needed value at 18 cut Ogunleye and save yourself some cap money in the process.

Connor Barwin from the Cincinnati Bear Cats goes 6-4 255-pounds and runs a 4.61 in the 40-yard dash time. Yet another tweener edge rusher type who if you put his hand in the dirt would be a good DE in the cover-2 defense where pass rushing is a must.

Barwin will be available later in the draft possibly outside the first round to where the Bears can snatch him up after they take an OT at 18 because guys like Orakpo, English, Brown will already be off the board by 18.

Lovie Smith Press Conference from the Combine

February 24, 2009

The transcript from the Chicago Bears website of Lovie Smith’s address to the media essentially giving a where are they now assessment of the team. I’ll have a blog with my comments on it later.

Opening statement
“It seems like once you get to the Combine, you can really start getting ready for the upcoming season. After having a chance to watch Pittsburgh celebrate winning the Super Bowl, everyone else is excited about getting back on the football field. It seems ours is coming a little bit closer. As a matter of fact, we want to get out there so bad we’re going to move up our minicamp to March 16. It’s the first time we could really get out there, and we’re excited about that.

“This past season of course was disappointing. Anytime you don’t make the playoffs and you’re not holding up the trophy I see it as a bit of a disappointment. But we feel like we’re real close. We like the nucleus that we have coming back in all three phases; I’m talking about offense, defense and special teams. But we need to add a little bit; that’s why this Combine is good. There are a lot of good players here, and we have a big group down here evaluating the players and hopefully we can add a couple pieces to the puzzle.

“Offensively, just talking about a couple of our guys … I’m a big Kyle Orton fan. I like him leading our football team. He’ll do that this coming season. Of course you’re always trying to add different pieces to the mix, but Kyle Orton will be leading our football team this coming season. I like what Matt Forte was able to do this past season. It seems like it was a few weeks ago we were watching him perform out here at the Combine. We like what he was able to do, [but we] need to get a little bit more around him. We can add a few more pieces to the puzzle on the offensive line. With John Tait retiring, that’ll open up a spot for someone. Greg Olsen coming back of course will be big. We know we need to add a little bit at the receiver position and we’ll do that also.

“Defensively, we’re anxious to get back. We haven’t played defense the way we should play defense in a few years, but I still like what we have. After having a chance to evaluate our players quite a bit, Lance Briggs really did have a Pro Bowl year. I know he went there, but after evaluating it he really did play well throughout. Tommie Harris played better than he was given credit for. We’ll add some more pieces to the mix and then make a run from there.”

How surprised were you by John Tait’s retirement and was it injury related or did he just say he was ready to retire?
“I think after you’ve played as many years as John has you just get to the point where you’ve had enough. I think he can still play. He has more years left in him, but I guess as a football player you know when. I tried to talk him out of it, but for the guys that know John, you know that he doesn’t come to decisions overnight. He put a little bit of thought into it, so we wish him the best and we’ll go from there.”

Offensive tackle John Tait is expected to retire after 10 NFL seasons, including five with the Bears.
With John Tait retiring, does that make re-signing John St. Clair a necessity?
“John St. Clair was big for us even before John Tait retired. John played well for us throughout the year. He was consistent each week; we knew what we were going to get from him. We’d like for him to remain a member of our team.”

How would you evaluate Devin Hester’s move to wide receiver?
“He made a lot of progress during the course of the year. The last month of the season he was playing very good football. I think he’ll make another step. He’s excited about having a chance to throw with Kyle throughout the offseason. Last year we had different things going on with the quarterback position and Devin was working his way into it, but he’s a lot further along now. I think he’ll be able to handle being a full-time receiver and being the best punt returner in the league next year also.”

Is the quarterback position set or will you look to acquire someone in free agency or the draft?
“We always like to keep our options open. We like what we have at the quarterback position, adding Brett Basanez. Caleb Hanie played very well when he got a chance in the preseason last year, but it all starts with the guy you have leading your team and we feel comfortable with him.”

How much of a priority is bolstering the secondary?
“As you look at it on paper, you can say that we have some holes there losing Mike [Brown] and then just not playing as well as we need to last year in our secondary. But this starts the process. In free agency there are some options that you could possibly have, but the draft, I’m anxious to see the DBs work out. We have time to get the secondary the way we would like it to be and we’ll just kind of go from there.”

Is Corey Graham a starting cornerback right now?
“As far as starters, the good thing about having the minicamp [earlier than usual] is you get a chance to get the guys in the position that they need to be in. Nathan Vasher is healthy now coming back, too. Corey Graham played well for us, Charles Tillman, we have a lot of different options there. We’re not naming a lot of starters there.”

There’s been talking about Charles Tillman moving to safety. Is that a possibility?
“I’m still trying to figure out where that talk started. He’s our No. 1 corner and we’re going to move him to free safety? Who came up with that anyway? Who in the Chicago media started that? Again, I don’t know where that came from. Charles Tillman is a cornerback for us. I can’t wait to get him back out on the football field. As we talk about free agents and what we’re going to do in free agency, I feel like we’ve already signed the best free agent on the market right now in Rod Marinelli with our coaching staff and also adding Jon Hoke to that mix. I feel real good about them. Jon Hoke is excited about getting a chance to work with Charles.”

Are you trying to send a message or set a tone by moving minicamp up to March?
“You’re always trying to not necessarily send messages, but get certain points across, and the point we’re trying to get across is that it wasn’t good enough last year. This is the first time we can do something about it, and we want to take advantage of that. We do have new coaches on our staff. They get a chance to see the players earlier, and with the draft coming up, we get another good look at the players before we get to it. But as much as anything, it’s the first time we can do something as a group, and that’s what we’re going to use it for.”

With Marty Booker and Brandon Lloyd gone, do you need a veteran presence at wide receiver or can you just draft someone at that position?
“I think we need a good solid No. 2 to step up with Devin as much as anything. I’ve never looked to just add veterans to add veterans. You’re just trying to add good football players. We weren’t satisfied with all the production we got at the receiver position last year, so we’re trying to do something about it.”

Hunter Hillenmeyer has been a favorite of yours for a long time. Will he have a chance to regain his starting job from Nick Roach in an open competition this coming year?
“All good players are favorites of mine, I guess you could say that. But it will be good competition. You start over each year. Hunter has played a lot of football for us. I like what Nick Roach was able to do, even with injuries this past year, so we’ll let the guys battle it out, along with Jamar Williams. I wouldn’t count him out either.”

How would you assess Matt Forte’s rookie season?

Matt Forte set Bears rookie records for rushing yards, receptions and total yards from scrimmage.
“I think he had an outstanding season. He did everything we asked him to do. He carried the football as a runner, picking up the protections, learning the offense, just becoming a good teammate. He did everything we asked him to do for a rookie season. I’m anxious to see what he can come back with this next year.”

Is Garrett Wolfe your No. 2 running back?
“No. 2, No. 1 … we’re not putting a lot of numbers on guys right now. Garrett did a lot for us last year, special teams-wise and the few times he got an opportunity to run the football. I’m anxious to see him, the 2009 version of him.”

Given that Chris Williams missed half the season with a back injury, will you be more careful in drafting a player without any medical concerns in the first round?
“I think we were cautious last year. You have to make decisions. You evaluate players and sometimes they get injured or things pop up. Chris Williams is fine right now. He’ll line up at the left tackle position for us and we’re expecting big things out of him now. Looking at it in hindsight now, to have a chance to come in and learn your rookie year without playing I think has turned out well for him. But we’re always cautious. We look at everything. We have our doctors evaluate all of the players before we take them, and hopefully the guys we bring in this year will be able to play right away.”

Will injuries affect how you look at the draft; would you go for someone like Michael Crabtree?
“You don’t go into the draft trying to take guys that are injured. Crabtree, I’ve answered about three questions on him right now. I think it’s a little early even to go into that. We always try to get the best possible player, period, and that’s what we’ll do this year. That’s about all I can really tell you about that.”

What will Rod Marinelli bring to the table for the Bears?
“First off, just his expertise at the position. I think if you talk to players, coaches, everyone would say the same thing about Rod as a defensive line coach. I know he’s hit the pavement running quickly. Sometimes you go on reputation and other times you have a chance to go on what you really know. I spent five years with Rod. I know what type of coach he is and what type of man he is. I know what he will bring to our football team. He’s bringing a lot of excitement in the building. I know that the players are excited about getting a chance to work with him, and they’ll get a chance to work with him soon.”

How important is it to get a complement for Matt Forte or are you okay with him getting as many touches as he did as a rookie?
“I’m OK with him getting that many touches his first year. Do we need a good complement to go along with him? Yes, we’re always trying to do that. I think as you look at our history since we’ve been there as a staff, I think we’ve had our most productive years when we had two running backs that we really felt comfortable playing, and you would like to get back to that situation. Maybe we have that complement there right now.”

How big of a priority is it to add a top-flight pass rusher in free agency or the draft?
“Of course that will help whenever you can add a top-flight defensive lineman who’s a rusher. But the first thing you do is what we did. We brought in the best defensive line coach in the game. He’ll help a lot. From there, we’ll always try to keep our defensive line as one of our strengths, so you’ll always look to that.”

Is Danieal Manning in the mix at safety?
“He’s definitely in the safety mix, that’s a good way of putting it. Danieal has a lot of things going on right now. He was the best kickoff returner in the league this last year. Of course, I like what he was able to do at the nickel position. He made a lot of progress. That is a tough position to play. We put a lot of time into Danieal getting that down. So we have options with Danieal. Right now, before we get to the minicamp and all, we want to keep all of our options open.”

With 14 players around the league being designated as franchise players, how does that affect your approach to free agency?
“When you franchise [a player], what they’re saying is those are pretty good football players. Some of them, of course, we would have had interest in. It changes a little but, but there are a lot of good players. One door is closed, you look to the other.”

After evaluating tape, you said that Lance Briggs and Tommie Harris played well. What about Brian Urlacher?
“What I saw from Brian is that Brian did some good things during the course of the year. When I said Briggs played well, there are a lot of things he can improve on. Tommie can too. What I saw from our defensive players, is that at times they played very good football, all of them, individually and as a group, the works. But there were other times when we didn’t make plays that we need to and that we’ll make this coming season. Brian is a part of that.”

What stood out about Kyle Orton’s performance this past season?
“What stood out to me the most was how he started out the football season. This time last year, competing for the job, he earned it. And then starting off the football season, before Kyle injured his ankle I thought he was doing all of the things we thought he could do and we needed him to do. After the injury, he didn’t play as well. He is working out already. He is on a mission. I loved his leadership throughout. We got a chance to see him in some tough situations. Guys need to go through a little adversity, all quarterbacks do, you need to be able to handle it. He’s solid. He’ll be able to handle it. He’ll come back strong this season.”

Would you be comfortable with Caleb Hanie or Brett Basanez as your No. 2 quarterback?
“Yes, I would. Everybody wants a veteran, and that’s good, and who knows? We haven’t closed the door on any of our positions right now. But I think sometimes you have to go with young talent. Brett has played a little bit, has been in the league a little bit, but what I saw from Caleb Hanie last year gets you excited.”

If there’s a veteran quarterback in free agency who wants to be a starter, would you not look at that player because you don’t want to stunt Orton’s growth?
“We will look at veterans at every position, quarterback and all. In the offseason, you don’t shut any doors. You keep all the options open and you see what is available and see if it is a good fit for our football team. That’s the way we’ve looked at it every year. Nothing has changed this year. But if you ask me if I feel comfortable at the quarterback position right now, yes I do.”

You said earlier there might already be a complement to Matt Forte on the Bears roster. Could that be Kevin Jones (who’s slated to become an unrestricted free agent next Friday)?
“Yes, it could be Kevin Jones. It could be Garrett Wolfe. And I am really not trying to get around the question, but you do have to keep all of your options open. I just know that I like what Kevin Jones was able to do last year. He had an injury he was able to fight through. He’s been a No. 1 running back. At the end, he was coming into my office asking me what he could to help the football team win. He played some special teams. Garrett Wolfe has been a team player throughout, Adrian Peterson, all of those guys have been. So we’ll give him an opportunity but you always evaluate them against everything else that is available.”

Rod Marinelli said that Mark Anderson has done it before. Are you confident that Anderson can rebound and play like he did as a rookie?
“I definitely think he can. As you said, he’s done it before. It’s on record what he can do. Again, new defensive line coach coming in. We see a lot of guys for him to work with. Mark has done it. He will do it again. Another guy who played better than he was given credit for is Anthony Adams last year. Anthony didn’t dress a few games, he just kept working hard each week and as you look at the video he did some good football things.”

How much of a role do you envision Earl Bennett filling in 2009 and what does he have to do this year that he didn’t do last year to get on the field?
“He was just a rookie last year. He didn’t get an opportunity to be truthful. You have to wait your time a little bit as a rookie. Some things have happened. He will be in a position to show us what he can do soon. Earl did everything we asked him to do. We saw him on the practice field getting better and better and I know he was active there a little bit at the end. We like what we’ve seen from him and some of the questions we have right now, maybe he is the answer to some of them.”