Archive for March, 2009

Let the hypervenelating begin, Jay Cutler on the trading block

March 31, 2009

It’s official the Denver Broncos are offering up QB Jay Cutler on the open trading market. It’s official Bears fans have reached a new level of excitement typically reserved for possible Super Bowl aspirations.

This just in, the April fool’s joke will be a day early as the Bears will be very unlikely to make a move for Cutler. Shocking to Bears fans everywhere I know but the amount of disgust and disdain Jerry Angelo is about to have heaped upon him even before Cutler is traded to another team and AFTER he is traded to another team will be quite unfair and despicable in it’s scale and deep rooted hatred.

The level of bitterness has already been shown this off-season, even before Cutler was officially on the market. The level of venom spewed Angelo’s way in the next month will be on another level.

But the level of hypocrisy shown by Bears fans will come out as well. Most Bears fans won’t admit that Aaron Rodgers is essentially at the same level of talent as Jay Cutler, nor will they admit their nearly identical seasons.

Comp Att % Att/G Yds AYPC AYPG TDs INTs RTG
A. Rodgers 341 536 63.6 33.5 4,038 7.5 252.4 28 13 93.8
J. Cutler 384 616 62.3 38.5 4,526 7.3 282.9 25 18 89.0

Yet Bears fans would not mortgage their future if Aaron Rodgers were on the trading block. They wither away in disgust with the thought that Aaron Rodgers is somehow a franchise QB, is somehow one of the top QBs in the league. No way do the Packers have a QB capable of yet another largely productive career.

Cutler is a once in a decade QB, on the level of….wait what Scott Mitchell? That couldn’t be possible, or is it? Scott Mitchell had a big arm and a majorly successful season as well. 1995 Mitchell turned in this season with the Detroit Lions.
comp att % yds TDs AYPC AYPG INT
S. Mitchell 346 583 59.3 4338 32 12.5 271 12

So Chicago Bears fans want to mortgage their future for a player that has been as productive as Aaron Rodgers and Scott Mitchell. Trade #18 our second rounder and a third for Cutler? What would you give up to land Cutler?

Me personally I’ll stick with Orton and see how thing pan out for him and then go in a different direction in 2010. Should the Bears shock the world however and trade for and land Cutler, he will have my full support and hope for a multiple Pro-Bowl appearance level career.

Updated: Reports are already surfacing that the Bears are entered in to the Jay Cutler sweepstakes. I support the move by the franchise to make the call and attempt to get a deal done. I ask though at what price? Yes I feel Cutler could make the Chicago Bears a better team, but no I don’t feel like he has the potential to put up a stat line on par with some of the great ones Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Kurt Warner or you could go back to the good to great ones from 80s and 90s. Cutler doesn’t have the mental make up to be on a level with those guys, otherwise he wouldn’t be whining about the current situation, and the Broncos wouldn’t be so willing to cut ties.

We have to ask ourselves many different questions about Cutler, is he more than just a rocket arm and a 4,500 yard passing season? His TDs to INT stats from last year are a cause for concern, his win-loss record is a concern and the way he folds up like a cheap cot in the face of Phillip Rivers and the San Diego Chargers is of even greater concern. To me Cutler could be a good QB maybe on the same level of what Jake Delhomme and Matt Hasselback have been.

But to be that QB that has the mental make up to be great, at this point in time Cutler has not shown even an inkling of that type of intelligence or that type of intangible. He is still an unknown quantity who could come at a very high price.

There is a certain level of buyer beware that you notice upon further examination of Cutler’s resume and credentials.

Shocking development, Jerry Angelo cares about free agency

March 30, 2009

You wouldn’t have known it a mere seven days ago, but apparently Jerry Angelo cares about improving the Chicago Bears to the point he’s willing to bring in players for free agency visits. The development has Chicago Bears fans picking their collective jaws up off of the floor. Two free agents at ONE TIME came to visit Halas Hall today. Pro-Bowl offensive tackle Orlando Pace came in for a visit today along with corner back Ken Lucas from Carolina.

Even with the signing of of Kevin Shaffer last week, it would probably benefit the Bears to bring in Pace as a mentor to Chris Williams. While the Bears may firmly believe that Williams is capable of manning the LT spot for 2009, and they may in fact be counting on it. Would it be all that shocking if the Bears signed Pace as insurance to Williams and competition to Shaffer? The Bears NEED depth on the offensive line even with the signing of Shaffer and bringing in Pace to mentor Williams and possibly a newly minted and drafted RT would suit the future just fine.

While Pace is a couple years past his prime he could still be a capable starter on the right side. Pace has mid-western roots growing up in Sandusky, OH which is a scant 300-miles from Chicago making it close in proximity. We don’t know if Pace was offered a contract while in Chicago so there isn’t much more to report other than the visit.

Ken Lucas formerly of the Carolina Panthers is another veteran who would provide some depth and competition in the secondary. With Nathan Vasher’s down slide of late it would help the secondary to have a 30-year-old veteran who has excelled for a big time football team in the past. Lucas was a cap casualty in Carolina where his cap number was slated to be at $9-million-dollars this upcoming season. Lucas would have just enough left in the tank to likely help the Bears improve their pass defense. Lucas fits the mold for the type of free agents the Bears would target. A proven veteran presence that would likely be a reliable contributor at a good price.

Updated: The Chicago Tribune reports that the Bears have made a formal contract offer to Orlando Pace’s agent. Pace is seen as a priority and if signed would be the starter at LT thus moving second year man Chris Williams over to the RT position. If signed the move also would not effect the Bears’ plans to draft another OT in this year’s draft.

Chicago Bears Pro Prospect Private Workout List

March 30, 2009

Bear with me I am going to attempt to put together a list of prospects that are being invited to Halas Hall for further review beyond just their Pro-Day and combine evaluations. The list will be a constant work in progress and I can promise it won’t be 100% accurate because lists like these are kept pretty quiet for the most part. Some information has been leaked so I’ll attempt to keep a running tab on who is coming and who has been here. The Bears are allowed 30 private workout visits per draft scouting period and are currently at 20.

If there is any player that I missed that you have heard is coming to visit Halas Hall feel free to share you comment in the comment section of this blog post.

Updated April 1st to include WR Mohammed Massaquoi and OL Lance Louis
Updated April 2nd to include WR Derek Kinder
Updated April 4th to include WR Juaqin Iglesias, DB Sherrod Martin, DB Anthony Scirrotto, DT John Gill, WR Brian Robiskie
Updated April 5th to include RB Aaron Brown DB Ellis Lankstser
O-Lineman

Rich Ornberger
Phil Loadholt
Eben Britton
TJ Lang
Lance Louis
Louis Saucedo
Dennis Conley
Mark Lewis

RBs

Aaron Brown
Ellis Lankster

WRs/TE

Hakeem Nicks
Kenny Britt
Brian Hartline
Taurus Johnson
Brandon Myers
Jason Chery
Brandon Gibson
Mike Wallace
Mohammed Massaquoi
Derek Kinder
Juaquin Iglesias
Brian Robiskie
Julian Edelman

QB

Todd Boeckman

D-Lineman

Henry Melton
Jamaal Westerman
John Gill

LBs

Maurice Crum
Nathan Williams
Russell Allen

DBs

Michael Mitchell
Al Afalava
Anthony Scirrotto
Sherrod Martin

NFL Network: Chicago Bears draft needs

March 28, 2009

Breaking up the state of the franchise segement into two less grueling on the eyes posts, we come to part two team needs. Most everyone that is a Bears fan and has a pulse understands what the Bears’ team needs are.

Charles Davis who is serving as a draft analyst on the NFL Network points out mostly what we already know. The needs Davis specifically targets in his statement are offensive tackle, wide receiver and defensive line. But Davis projects the Bears utilizing the #18th overall selection on Hakeem Nicks wide receiver from North Carolina.

Davis states that Kyle Orton needs another weapon to stretch the defenses and Hakeem Nicks provides just that. Big, strong, fast, smooth with terrific hands, I think Hakeem Nicks would be a terrific selection for the Chicago Bears.

Based on a lot of the scouting reports I’ve read about Hakeem Nicks he doesn’t seem to have a real weakness to his game. Nicks is arguably the most complete WR in the draft opposite Jeremy Crabtree. The one true thing that old Nicks back, ever so slightly from being THE most complete WR in the draft is his lack of ideal or elite speed in his 40-yard dash times.

However when you pop in the tape of Nicks you can see that he has plenty of speed to make big plays. In the Miami game, Nicks had a huge day making plays which may have been his national coming out party for NFL scouts and analysts.

His exclamation point game came in the final game of the season , the bowl game against West Virginia. Nicks attempted to take on the West Virginia team by himself, attempting to win the game on his own by finishing with eight catches for 217-yards and three touchdowns against the Mountaineers. Nicks was a man possessed in the game with his game-breaking receiving ability.

Nicks fits into the mold of a complete player who will be available at 18 because of his perceived lack of game-breaking speed. But it should be noted the lack of game breaking speed that Jerry Rice and Anquan Boldin showed at the NFL combine as well. Nicks fits into that physical mold of receiver as well.

In our earlier combine coverage we covered what Indianapolis Colts GM Bill Polian had to say about Nicks during his combine workout:

Hakeem Nicks is a very very good player, he’s got a great feel for routes, he’s got very very good hands, he’s got exceptional run after the catch, and he’s a very strong guy. And I think he’s going to have a very fine career in the National Football League.

Nicks was a player I noticed early into the college football season during the ESPN televised game of Miami versus North Carolina. Nicks stood out to me then and I followed him throughout the rest of the season.

It’s almost to the point the way the hype as built around Nicks and the way the draft board is aligning itself and the Bears’ needs that they would be foolish not to draft Hakeem Nicks. This is not to say that there are other great players out there, Nicks just seems to be the near consensus pick that would suit the Bears the best at #18.

NFL Total Access: Chicago Bears state of the franchise

March 28, 2009

Just about anytime you have media types talking about the Chicago Bears they’re going to open with questions or comments about the quarterback. This was no different when then NFL Network did it’s team update segment they call the state of the franchise. The focus Friday night was the Chicago Bears and where they are at as a team.

The opening segment was high lights from an interview with Lovie Smith focused on Kyle Orton. Smith went into specificst as to why he has so much current and future confidence in Kyle Orton as the starter for his team, this team, OUR team, the Chicago Bears.

Smith states “Kyle last year of course it was not like there was musical chairs or anything at the quarterback position, he was our guy. Until he had the injury I’d seen a lot of signs from Kyle being able to take that next step. Great leader, great leadership qualities, can throw the football. But I see Kyle leading us to a lot of wins this year.”

Rod Woodson then steps up to give his analysis on Kyle Orton and the Bears franchise stating that while Kyle Orton might be the guy, the Bears should possibly look into bringing in a veteran to push Kyle. Not open up the QB competition to Orton and a veteran, but bring in a player like Byron Leftwhich who has a stronger arm and some big upside. The thought would be to bring in a veteran to put pressure on Kyle Orton with Rex Grossman gone, so that Orton continues to develop.

The next take is on how the wide receivers aren’t really there, how they have a fantastic running back and that the defense is still solid. This from Woodson’s analysis.

My take the defense was solid against the run in 2008, but the lack of a pass rush was evident throughout the year. Apparently this aspect of the Bears’ struggles isn’t as magnified as the QB position’s productivity. It seems the overwhelming theme STILL remains the Bears have one of the best defenses in the league and still struggle mightily to get production from their QB. The fact of the matter is in 2008 it was almost opposite. The production from the QB position was there, but the defense survived purely on reputation alone rather than actual production. Once teams realized the Bears were getting zero pressure in the front four or from a blitz they picked the Bears apart. This happened in four of the first seven games in which the pass defense was deplorable. The Bears were ahead and in a position to beat the Carolina Panthers in the second game of the season, but the pass defense collapsed and Carolina rallied for a win.

Against Tampa Bay in overtime Brian Griese was able to lead the Bucs to a game tying and then comeback victory with zero pressure getting to the QB. Rookie Matt Ryan looked like Dan Marino in the prime of his career, in leading the Falcons to a literal last second victory. The Vikings rang up 41 points and Brad Johnson looked like a savior for them, and the Bears eeked out a win.

Yet somehow on a national media level the defensive reputation seems to remain intact. The fact is before Kyle Orton’s high ankle sprain which is one of the most notoriously non surgical repair related injuries a player can suffer, Orton was on target to be one of the top passers in the league. Without his health Orton’s injury hampered his drive on the ball, hampered his ability to throw the ball and even his accuracy. His mechanics for the rest of the season were completely flawed from an ankle injury.

National media attention though still continues to focus on the lack of Pro Bowl production from the QB position. This will be Orton’s year to get it done, it’s the last year of his contract and even if he doesn’t stay healthy he likely won’t get a break from the front office. One year to be THE GUY and prove that he has what it takes, if not the Bears will likely be in a position to get a Sam Bradford or a Tim Tebow, or Colt McCoy or any one of another top QBs likely to emerge from the draft class of 2010.

The state of the franchise segment then shifted to Devin Hester being the primary big play making option the Bears have had. How his transition from returner to primarily a receiver severely limited his production. They show the stats graphic where Hester went from a punt return average of 14.1 yards per return for two years in the league down to 6.2 yards per return in 2008. From there they focus in on his kick off return average being down from 23.2 yard per return to 21.9 and how he went from 11 punt and kick off returns to ZERO in 2008.

Rod Woodson jumps straight into the topic of Devin Hester’s ability being hurt by saying “Mushing Muhammad said Chicago is a place where receivers go to die.” He then goes on to wax poetic about Hester’s demise in the return and how it’s a direct parallel to him playing WR on offense. Woodson feels as though Hester should not be as much of the focus on offense if it’s going to severely limit his productivity as a return. He does play devils advocate on himself a bit by stating he understands get Hester more touches and making him a bigger threat on offense, but not at the expense of his return abilities.

Diving into the defensive discussion Woodson is questioned about the defense and how far it fell off in 2007 and how it improved somewhat in 2008. Woodson chooses to focus on the CB play and their lack of man to man coverage capabilities. He thinks the defense’s struggles came more from the lack of talent or ability from the CBs. It’s the fault of the secondary more than the lack of a pass rush.

Which goes against what most die-hard Bears fans are aware of. The pass rush was anemic, one of the worst in the league last year and the lack of pressure led directly to losses the kept the Bears from the playoffs. My take likely to stir some debate if the Bears have even a marginal to above average pass rush they likely win the Carolina game, the Tampa Bay game and the Atlanta game. A three game difference in wins and losses which puts the Bears at 12-4, division champs a first round bye and a playoff game at Soldier Field where ANYTHING could have happened. It is hard for most Bears fans to comprehend being THAT close to such a lofty playoff seeding and possible return to the NFC title game scenario.

Where coaches are supposed to put forth a non stop positive face on the franchise and given Lovie Smith’s habit of undying positive outlook this is the thought process Smith undoubtedly uses when he made the statement that stirred up a hornet’s nest of media and fan criticism. Lovie Smith’s famous “we’re close” comment.

Given that football is such a game of inches it is undeniable of just how close the Chicago Bears were to returning to the playoffs, and being in a position to make a serious playoff run. But in the same formula of inches the Bears were equally close in not being a factor at all. Six victories the Bears had in 2008 that were decided by seven points or less. Take away those six victories and the Bears are staring at 3-13 just as easily as they are staring at a deep playoff run.

The 2009 Chicago Bears as they currently are situated with the idea of the season starting tomorrow would be close to disaster just as easily as they are close to that near identical 2006 playoff scenario. The ultimate question is, what is going to happen between now and the start of the season that puts the team in a position where they are closer to success, than they are to near ultimate failure.

Bears bolster OT depth add Kevin Shaffer

March 25, 2009

Showing that the Bears are not completely focused solely on the NFL draft Jerry Angelo continued to do what most Chicago media types figured he wouldn’t do, he added depth to the O-Line. The Bears came to terms with 29-year-old offensive tackle Kevin Shaffer formerly of the Cleveland Browns.

Shaffer is a seven year vet who started 47 of the last 48 games with the Cleveland Browns and is immediately expected to compete for playing time at the RT spot. Shaffer was originally drafted by the Atlanta Falcons before signing a free agent deal with the Browns.

Adding a solid veteran OT who was quoted as saying he wanted to play for the Chicago Bears means that the Bears have more flexibility on draft day. Shaffer signed a three year deal meaning he will be 32-years-old at the end of the deal, giving the Bears the option of drafting a prospect later in the draft who projects as a RT. If the Bears draft a player who needs time to develop at RT Shaffer could potentially man the position for three years.

Three years would be an ideal time frame to develop a prospect that could be drafted on day two of the draft. Adding decently young depth, starting experience only bolsters the notion that Jerry Angelo is in fact committed to improving the O-Line. Frank Omiyale will likely be moved back to LG, Josh Beekman will be forced to compete for the LG spot or be ready to take over for Olin Kreutz as the future at center.

I was satisfied with the starting give potentially being Williams, Beekman, Kreutz, Garza and Omiyale. Jerry Angelo was not so he went out and further helped the O-Line cause. He did so in the fashion he has always been most comfortable with, through free agency. Roberto Garza, Ruben Brown, Fred Miller, John Tait are examples of free agent signings the Bears have made in Angelo’s tenure. All of those happen to be offensive lineman who served the Bears well during their back to back playoff and Super Bowl runs.

Shaffer had a rough tenure in Cleveland originally manning the LT position before being moved to RT after the drafting of Joe Thomas. Shaffer took the move to RT well before struggling a bit in 2008. A fresh start should benefit Shaffer, and his contract likely is a very cost efficient deal that benefits the Bears.

The key for the Bears going forward is building youth along the O-Line, youth that can be developed instead of forced into a starting role. Letting that youth develop over a course of two maybe three years and then from the be ready to be solid starters for seven to ten years after their drafted.

Report: Bears did inquire about Cutler

March 25, 2009

The above headline is perhaps unfathomable for most Chicago Bears fans. Not after the way this off-season has gone thus far with the signings of Frank Omiyale, Josh Bullocks and Brett Basanaez everyone assumed that the off-season free agency action for the Bears was over. Because Jerry Angelo didn’t come forth at the Chicago Bears’ mini-camp and profess his undying love for the idea of trading half his defensive roster of has beens and his draft picks of never will be’s (even though those players have yet to be drafted) Bears fans were, are ready to lynch Jerry Angelo.

Thing is a reportemerged today on Yahoo Sports about some of the teams interested in trading for Jay Cutler. Low and behold there in one sentence worth of interest was the team, the Chicago Bears. So while the Chicago media, sports talk airwaves and fan base were in full riot and melt down mode, one thing happened behind the scenes. The Bears made a play for Cutler, an inquiry to find out his availability and if in fact he was available via trade.

Problem is as has been stated a lot lately over the past few days by Broncos staff and their head coach Cutler is not currently available (at least publicly) and they have no future plans to trade him. The question is why would the Broncos WANT to trade him? A player can demand a trade, teams can then inquire about that player via trade, but in the end the Broncos have to be actual willing trade partners.

No one knows precisely how willing the Broncos are, but what we do know is that Josh McDaniels still wants at least one more one on one meeting with Cutler. He wants one last chance to clear the air, face to face one man to another with no agent and no GM involved. Will this meeting actually happen? No one can say, but if it doesn’t happen or it does and the rumors do in fact begin to swirl Bears’ fans can relax a little and let things play out.

There is no way to know until it happens precisely how much interest the Bears have, what they offered or how far the talks went if even beyond a small inquiry. But if the management DOES choose to trade for Cutler, that is their choice and I’ll support the move. However the Bears choose to go forward and state emphatically that “Kyle Orton is our quarterback” and even come out publicly within the next 24 to 48 hours state this report as erroneous and false (likely to avoid causing any waves with their current starter) I’ll support that too.

One thing is for sure, Angelo has my support for the moment, with a big franchise changing even on the horizon with the 2009 NFL draft.

Official Draft Order released from the NFL

March 24, 2009

We officially know where each and every team will be drafting in the NFL draft next month. Most fans can hardly wait from here on out it’s analysis and perhaps over analysis of each and every prospect, prospect’s stat, mock draft, various draft sites evaluations all of it coming down to a select 100 or 150 who will actually make it onto an NFL roster.

The Bears’ selections as most of us know from yesterday’s compensatory additions looks like the following

Round Pick Overall Pick

1 18 18
2 17 49
3 20 84
3 35 99
4 19 119
5 18 154
6 17 190
7 37 226
7 42 251

Bears add 3rd round compensatory pick

March 24, 2009

While most Chicago Bears fans are pretty satisfied that the Chicago Bears earned a third round pick as compensation for the Bernard Berrian loss in free agency, they may want to stop and think it through. Fans and media personalities alike have been screaming at the top of their lungs into an echo chamber for nearly a month now for Jerry Angelo to do something in free agency. Land a big name prospect at either WR, OT, S, or QB. Their pleas have only fallen upon deaf ears as Angelo has turned his full focus and attention to the NFL draft.

By receiving the #99 overall pick in the 2009 NFL draft it gives the Chicago Bears four picks in the first 100 picks of the NFL draft. This scenario strengthens the likelihood that Jerry Angelo will do even less in free agency given that four of the top 100 prospects in the NFL draft will be on the Chicago Bears roster in 2009.

The Bears can now draft players to fill four positions of need or draft four players to address any of the four positions of need on the team they have. The best way to address this situation would be to draft on extra player at one of the other positions of need and save the QB for the fourth round or later. The best scenario would be to take two O-Linemen a safety and a WR or two WRs an OT and a safety, strengthening and developing youth at two of the most important positions of need on the team. The additional pick also gives the Bears more flexibility in addressing the defensive end pass rush need or the need for a strong side LB.

There are a number of ways the Bears can now go with the list of players in the Top-100 given the Bears a plethora of options. A lot of good O-Lineman exist in the area betwen 50 to 100. Additionally solid WR talent is also to be had between picks 50 and 100. Within the coming weeks we’ll preview some of those prospects individually that may best first into the Bears draft needs between picks 40 and 100.

While it may feel like a good thing to have four picks amongst the first 100 in the NFL draft, the pressure is added to Angelo to get it right even more. Now more than ever the Bears need to be successful in the draft and this time any small screw up should cost Angelo his job.
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Herman Johnson scouting report

March 22, 2009

So I did a little thinking in the way that Jerry Angelo might do some thinking. With Frank Omiyale moving over to RT and the Bears being in need of a left guard now by proxy of the move, who would I target? What better prospect to scout on his pro-day than LSU behemoth Herman Johnson. At 6-foot-7 356-pounds Johnson is a mountain of a man. With that type mountain lined up next to Chris Williams for the next decade the Bears wouldn’t have a lot of problems running left on teams.

Johnson in the same breath would work well for and work against the Bears running scheme. Johnson would be able to help in the running game immediately because he is going to get out and lean on people and lean on them heavy for quite a while. If he keeps his weight down and conditioning up (which he is starting to do) he could develop into a solid prospect.

It’s important to note that not every GREAT O-Lineman comes in the first round. They come from various rounds and their work ethics define what type of player they develop into. Johnson’s weakness is he isn’t very fluid or mobile and may not work out in the Bears’ zone-blocking scheme which requires your lineman to be pretty nimble and to be able a hit a moving target. So while he grades well as a guy that might win a one on one battle against one of the Williams boys form the Vikings, he might struggle against a quick three technique type of DT. Overall he grades out as a mid round level prospect that could be had in the second day.