Archive for the ‘Bears free agency’ Category
The most complete NFL draft coverage you can find anywhere on T.V. today comes via the NFL Network and their half hour, now hour long program covering the NFL draft and all of the prospects in it’s entirety. You can find a more in-depth show anywhere else and the commentary is first rate and non-biased. Plus if anyone makes a biased sounding comment they typically go out of their way to correct it or clarify exactly their opinion on a team or player.
Charlie Casserly kicks off the NFC North segment with commentary he received from Jerry Angelo. Angelo stated to Casserly, and Casserly followed with this interesting quote “Well Jerry Angelo when I talked to him at the end of the season, he’s what he told me (paraphrasing his conversation with Angelo) I wanna upgrade the following things, pass rush, offensive line and I wanna bring some competition or challenge into the quarterback position, I’m gonna look at everything out there, Casserl paraphrasing his conversation with Angelo. Casserly then goes on to state, “So what does he go and do? He trades for Jay Cutler, HE HIT A HOME RUN! He was just trying to get in some competition, he threw out the competition.”
“Alright so now you have a Pro-Bowl quarterback, how does that help your receiving core? He didn’t mention receivers prior to me. It makes Devin Hester a better player, why what can Hester do? He can run by everybody in the league, Jay Cutler’s strength? Throwing the deep ball so automatically they get better at the receiver position.”
“Hey at the offensive line he brought in depth he brought in Kevin Shaffer, he brought in Orlando Pace at the left tackle. Now I KNOW there’s controversy over whether he can play or not (Orlando Pace) but hey the Bears think he can play. Let’s hope they’re right. ”
“On the pass rush in the second round (third round) he draft the best inside pass rusher in the draft, potential wise, why do I say potential wise? You don’t see it on every play. But I’m gonna watch this, Rod Marinelli is one of the best defensive line coaches in the league, if not the best, one of the best I’ve seen. A hard-nosed ex-Marine, he’s gonna fire these guys up. Hey Jarron Gilbert is either going to be a player or he’s going to be on a long bus ride back to California.”
Charlie Casserly seemed pretty pumped up about the Bears’ draft and based on the conversation he had with Angelo you can see that Angelo met and fulfilled most of the needs he had laid out after the off-season. While most everyone wishes the Bears had the next Jerry Rice, or even Anquan Boldin on the team, the main point cannot be missed. That point is that the Chicago Bears finally have a franchise quarterback in Jay Cutler.
The final point is it took a lot to get Cutler and it didn’t leave the Bears a lot of ammo left to land a top receiver prospect via the draft or via a trade. The one possible top target in free agency that may have been worth the money was Torry Holt, but Holt decided to play with a different team.
The final word from the draft won’t be written for another few years, but the word as it is right now, is the Bears had one of the best off-seasons of any team in the league. Arguably the best off-season in the history of the franchise.
The Bears have arguably had a bigger need to land a veteran wide receiver than they have had a need for an OT, S and QB. The receiver was the least productive position on the team last year, possibly in the league. Yet the Bears made no move towards landing a single WR in free agency and don’t appear to be making a move with veterans Marvin Harrison and Torry Holt on the market.
So the question is why? Holt has a lingering knee problem that have kept teams at bay and Harrison is 36 not exactly goiing to get a lot of production out him at his age. Delving further into things the Bears appear to be intent on landing a WR via the draft first and foremost. The strong majority of their pre-draft focus has been on WRs specifically possession type receivers that can take the heat off of Devin Hester on the deep patterns where he can best utilize his speed to get open and make plays in the open field in one on one situations.
So the question that seems to be on every fan’s mind is why haven’t the Bears signed a receiver and who will they draft? The answer seems to be the Bears could just draft a player to come in and be the number two guy behind Hester who undoubtedly will be the first receiver. As much as it makes sense to everyone given the immediate need for receivers, only one additional receiver may come on board.
Why? I suspect that it could be because the Bears don’t want to upset the balance they currently have with Devin Hester. Why is the balance with Hester seemingly so delicate? Simple Hester’s extended contract is structured such that he’ll only get the big money for production as a receiver. Last year during Hester’s contract stalemate that happened at this time it was for more money. So what did the Bears say to Hester? We’ll pay you big money, but we’re not going to pay you elite receiver money unless you give us elite receiver production. Hester’s salary is designed to pay him based on the production he shows as a potential wide receiver.
So what happens if the Bears draft a player in the second round who comes in and becomes the number one receiver or number two receiver behind a veteran presence like Marvin Harrison or Torry Holt? Hester could be relegated to the third receiver on the team, there by limiting his production and also limiting the amount of money he makes. As evidenced by some of the comments made by Hester last year, he will be one unhappy player if he’s not given the best opportunity to make his money.
While it makes the most sense to just about everyone that Hester’s touches should be somewhat limited so that his production as a return man picks back up, there is the risk of making Hester unhappy. The last thing the Bears want to do is upset the locker room or the balance of this developing offense.
Further reveiwing what league experts are saying about the Jay Cutler deal we come to coverage from the NFL Network. Total Access kicked off two days of essentially round the clock Cutler trade coverage.
Former NFL GM Charlie Casserly steps up to the plate to diagnose the Cutler trade first and give his take on how it benefits the Chicago Bears.
Casserly is most famous for his years with the Washington Redskins where he uncovered two of the original members of the Redskins’ famed offensive line known as “the Hogs”. From there Casserly took over as a GM and sustained Washington’s excellent up to the mid 90s. From there Casserly took over the Houston Texans were he scouted and drafted five future Pro Bowl players. Among them WR Andre Johnson, DE Mario Williams, LB DeMarco Ryans.
Casserly starts out his analysis with how the Bears offered up the best deal with two number one draft picks and the best QB option for the Broncos. His take is that Kyle Orton was a good QB for the first year and he has had some success in the NFL. Casserly says “If I’m the Chicago Bears I’m ecstatic I made this deal if I was Chicago I would have made the deal because it’s hard to get a quarterback at this level in Jay Cutler. A guy who came into the league that’s proven he can play. He’s young, he’s had success in the league, it’s hard to find this guy.”
Mike Mayock then steps up to give his take of the ramifications and impact that Cutler will have on the Bears’ offense and the strategy that takes shape with a QB like Cutler in the fold.
Mayock states “I feel like Jerry Angelo and Lovie Smith were on a short leash, this tells us that the need to win now.” “What I look at is their remaining draft picks and they have 49 and 99th overall selections. The hope is that one of the big time wide receivers slides to them at 49 a Hakeem Nick, Britt or Robiskie. That way they can maybe address the WR position via the draft instead of in free agency. They play some pretty good defense still in Chicago (run defense was one of the best in the league). It’s up to Ron Turner to expand his offense and to take advantage of what this kid does which is get the football down the field vertically.”
Bob Papa interjects with his analysis about the trade saying “When you take a look at this division and you take a look at the problems that Green Bay has from last year, and they’re switching to the 3-4, you still have the quarterback question when it comes the Minnesota Vikings and the Lions they have a lot of work ahead of them. Chicago was right into that playoff race late into the season last year. I think this is something that can put them over the top. The have a good running game they’ve added Orlando Pace they’ve got a talented young tight end that’s gonna help the quarterback pick up the offense, they can do some things with (Greg) Olson. So I think the Chicago Bears if they can tidy up the defense get some help at the safety position can be that gets into the post season by winning their division.”
Mike Mayock states while talking to Deion Sanders (does anyone wants Deion’s take really?) that ” I’m big on franchise quarterbacks and I think Denver was CRAZY to let him go.”
Moving into the second day of the coverage of the biggest trade in the history of the franchise of the Monsters of the Midway.
The NFL Network lines up Bears cam and brings in Jay Cutler for one of his first official interviews after his introduction as the newest member of the Chicago Bears.
Rich Eisen asks for Cutler’s emotions after this big trade:
Cutler says, “It’s been some ups and down for the last three of four weeks. You know (I’m) a little relieved, I’m a little sad to be leaving my teammates in Denver. But it’s a new chapter, I couldn’t be more excited to be in Chicago, and to be a Chicago Bear.”
Eisen adds if you could tell the kid growing up (meaning Cutler) that he was going to be future quarterback of the Chicago Bears.
“I think it would have been a dream come true Cutler adds, I was a little bit shocked that I got the call, because I didn’t really think it was going to be a possibility. You hope it is but you try to be realistic to not put yourself up for that that kind of disappointment (meaning if the trade did not happen) it worked out well for me.”
Cutler goes on to quietly wax poetic about the situation over the last month. He doesn’t really want to go and bad mouth the Broncos by dispelling rumors that surfaced during this whole ordeal. Some people may look at it as dodging a question, but to me if Cutler publicly dispels the rumor he starts a he said they said back and forth which further ignites the controversy. Cutler instead decides to move forward on to his career with the Chicago Bears, rather than explain himself and leave it open to interpretation by the media and fans as to what exactly went down.
Eisen goes on to ask about the “bad publicity” and whether or not Cutler wil have to address it moving forward with the Bears.
“Absolutely I think this city is happy but they’re a little bit wary of what kind of quarterback they got. I’ve gotta earn the respect and trust of my teammates first and foremost and that’s the first thing that’s gotta happen. They have to trust me and what I can do for them as their quarterback they have to believe in me and trust me that I can get the job done as their quarterback.”
Cutler talks about the new teammates that called him, Urlacher called, Earl Bennett called, Greg Olson called and that a lot of his teammates were there at the press conference. They are excited about the possibility of what we can do going forward.”
Brandon Marshall is brought on to talk about Jay Cutler and the trade and one of the key quotes he makes is” Jay Cutler is a great quarterback and a great friend. He was a great locker room guy and I’m sad to see him go.”
The NFL Network then goes to it’s panel that includes Charles Davis, Bob Papa, and Mike Mayock. They always seem to lead off their conversations with Mayock.
“I really believe it’s the perfect storm for both him (Cutler) and the Bears. What they’d like to do in a city where there’s an awful lot of wind and weather is have a big armed quarterback who can get the ball vertically down the field to talented wide receivers like Devin Hester a great tight end like Greg Olson who could emerge as another deep threat.” Then in true Mike Mayock fashion he goes to the coaches tape (the behind the line of scrimmage angle) to show what he liked about Cutler when he was in college and then coaches tape from this season where he’ll compare and contrast the differences in what he like about Cutler.
The play Mayock goes to show is a fourth and 12 play against Arkansas game on the line less than two minutes left, where he stands in the pocket and flat footed (not stepping into the throw) he drives the ball down the field over the head of a linebacker and in between two defenders, while simultaneously getting smacked in the face by an oncoming linebacker. “Fourth and 12 while getting smacked in the face and he knows it, he delivers the football flat footed, I fell in love with that play” Mayock says the octave level in his voice changing with excitement.
“Later on same drive, flat-footed, this guy’s got more hip torque than anybody else since John Elway. They beat a team they should have never beat in Arkansas.”
“This last season on the run look at the accuracy he drops it in over Schefler’s shoulder, big play on the run without a problem. Again he has an awful lot of confidence in his ability, watch him feel pressure up the field eyes down the field, never look down delivers the football touchdown. That’s a huge play very few quarterbacks in the league can make. Again Cutler the vision bracket coverage (four man end-zone defenders) it’s not there right now, eyes down field, feel pressure, step up and again that’s a tight window right there that he threw the football into. This is a third and 12 with two minutes left I don’t think (this route) is open I wouldn’t want him to throw the football there, but somehow he puts it on him (the pass) and the one thing I have to say to be honest in my overview is that he threw the ball up for grabs to often in college and he has a little bit of that gun-slinger attitude in the pros.”
Charles Davis interjects “that that part of holding the ball and not throwing it up for grabs comes with maturity and given that he’s been in the league for only three years, two as a starter he will get better. Weather late in the season with Forte and the running game and this guy with the arm, this is Bears football with the opportunity to make big plays. I think they’ll go out and get another wide receiver somewhere along the lines to take the pressure off of Devin Hester being the number one wide receiver its nothing but an upside for Chicago in the immediate future. I said I don’t think this makes them a Super Bowl team this year, but later on down the line if they keep adding the pieces and with Orlando Pace he doesn’t hurt one bit.”
Bob Papas wraps up the panelist analysis with “Well you know it’s interesting watching Mike’s break down of what he can do physically and you look what the Bears have they don’t have a Brandon Marshall and an Eddie Royal but with what they do have he can make it better get better production out of them. The thing that’s really impressive is that he got all that done all that production last year done with no running game. He’s now going to be with a team that pounds the ball they’re going to be able to control the football. I think the sky is the limit for Jay Cutler.”
That last quote would seem to the quote that makes this the deal of a lifetime for Chicago Bears fans. Cutler has all the tools and by all reports from media people talking to Mike Shannahan to talk to Cutler’s teammates, he is a consummate professional who can be a leader and a franchise quarterback. The important aspect being franchise, because it takes more than a strong arm, great vision, physical talents and pocket awareness, it take the ability to be the face of the franchise. The leader of the team and the organization, cementing his legacy as what could be the greatest quarterback in the history of the Chicago Bears franchise.
Beginning our extended wall to wall coverage of the Jay Cutler trade and getting expert opinion and analysis on the trade and it’s impact. We’ll gather opinions from around the league and multiple media sources and compile them all into this blog.
The first bit of information we get is from one of the most respected analysts in the league and on TV. Former New York Giants and CBS analyst Phil Simms. If anyone is going to give a fair assessment it will be Simms because he’s covered AFC games for CBS for quite a number of years now. Simms has seen Cutler first hand and dealt with the Broncos and Mike Shannahan .
Simms felt after seeing Cutler at Vanderbilt that he was the best player available in the draft. He still wonders to this day why people even argue this point between Leinart, Young and Cutler, because Cutler clearly had all the tools. Cutler has proven himself behind two QBs who came from two bigger programs and had a ton more respect coming out of college. Not coincidentally though the NFL always has a way of evening things out.
Simms brought up what has been talked about regarding Cutler’s nimbleness in the pocket, his athletic ability to extend the play and then how great he is at throwing on the run. This is one of Cutler’s advantages is that with his arm strength he can still make throws while on the run, he doesn’t need to reset his feet and then throw he can just flick his wrist to a receiver who make deek a CB who has his eyes on Cutler and then get open. This will be specifically beneficial to Devin Hester who will be able to use his speed and elusiveness to get open down the field if Cutler is flushed from the pocket.
Simms talked about how Cutler led a great offense with an awful defense and helped his team be successful. The offense the Broncos had was second in the league and none of that was a result of pure passing. Cutler’s passing helped by the running game was still averaging 4.5 yards a rush. When the Broncos’ defense gave up less than 21 points per game Cutler was 13-1 as the starter, and the Bears defense for all it’s shortcomings gave up less than 21 points eight times last season, translating to what would be eight wins for the Bears. From there that would translate to eight likely victories with Cutler possible pushing the Bears over the top in two to four more games, giving the Bears at least a Wild Card berth.
While Simms has not seen a lot of the Bears’ games (covering the AFC) the game he has seen he felt that the offense usually played well enough to win, but that it was the defense that struggled. Most Bears fans would agree with that assessment about the defense which struggled while on the field in pre-season too.
Simms went on to talk about whether or not his attitude would effect things coming into the Chicago Bears. All the drama coming from Denver to Chicago and the two week long soap opera, and Simms was just as adamant about Cutler’s make up as he was his talent. Simms stated that he was still on the Cutler band wagon and that this was a great trade for the Bears. He didn’t understand why anyone would give up a franchise QB. You draft a guy like Mathew Stafford, in hopes that he BECOMES Jay Cutler. Well with Cutler you already have a proven product, and talent. That proven commodity that you hope you get when you draft. Plus you look at the hit and miss parts of first round draft picks and it really opens your eyes.
Simms brought up his conversations with Mike Shannahan and Shannahan never had anything bad to say about his QB. He never had a private conversation that said something like “well yeah he’s a great talent, great arm, good production, but he’s not a leader or a team guy. None of the coaches in Denver, none of the players ever had anything bad to say about Cutler. He was the type of professional you want your QB to be, a leader who doesn’t flinch in the face of pressure.
Simms then went on to speak of his experience of playing under Bill Parcell’s who said essentially you don’t have to be liked by everyone on the team. You don’t have to get along with everyone, your job is not to be the popular guy on the team and even if you try hard not everyone is going to like you. Your job is to be a leader of men and a leader on the field and Simms feels that Cutler has that.
Beyond the overall trade Simms spoke about the new dimension to the Bears offense Cutler brings. The play calling will change, the play design will change the receivers’ production will improve. Different scenarios will be handled better, and there will be a more open play book for the Bears to run. If the defense gets back to being extraordinary the Bears could go far into the playoffs. He already feels they are a playoff team (they were one game away from the playoffs last year).
Simms was also excited about Jerry Angelo and his statement that “if we were going to get into the Jay Cutler trade talks, we were in it to win it.” Angelo became adamant about getting a deal done and not letting this one pass him by. It’s one of the most unique situations in the history of the league when you have a franchise QB entering the prime of his career likely to be a multi-year Pro Bowl selection. Cutler is a proven QB and Simms felt that it’s going to work out great for the Bears and he didn’t really speak to any negatives coming in this deal.
It’s truly hard to argue with Simms’ assessment and I for one have a lot of respect for Simms as an analyst who does his homework knows his stuff and doesn’t run his mouth for the sake of having an opinion. The most important aspect is there is no guarantee the Bears were going to be able to get a great player from their next two draft picks.
You can find successful players in free agency and in the second to fifth rounds of the draft. Angelo has done this time and time again and has built a successful team around it. Plus with 2010 likely to be a non salary cap year the Bears could really be in a position to add to their franchise and solidify it for the next decade. We can sit here and look back at the first month of free agency (it was exactly a month of free agency before the trade happened) and be critical about Omiyale, Bullocks and Shaffer. But the bottom line is Jerry Angelo just made a move that instantly improves the Chicago Bears. He made a bold move that may go down as the most impressive trade in the history of the league.
When no one thought it was possible, no one thought Jerry Angelo had the brass sack to get it done Angelo pulled off a major coup today on April 2nd 2009 and traded for and got QB Jay Cutler. No Bears fans it is not a misprint or a 24 hour late April Fool’s Day joke. Jay Cutler is coming to play for his childhood favorite Chicago Bears.
This is a day that one way or another will go down as an earth shattering moment in the history of the Chicago Bears. For better or worse Jerry Angelo has cemented his legacy in the Windy City. The Bears have their future franchise QB and they are now the toast of the town.
While I can wax on about the negatives, this much is clear the Bears got their man, gave up what they felt necessary to get him and they have my full support. I am on cloud nine with excitement at this move because if you’re a long suffering Bears fan you didn’t think a move like this was possible.
Turns out the move is real and the Bears got their man and according to Jon Clayton of ESPN the Bears become the instant favorite in the race for the NFC North. The Bears are now assured a playoff spot with Cutler and depending how things shape up elsewhere in the league it could be playoff games in Chicago at Soldier Field, where as we know ANYTHING can happen.
In the trade the Bears give up their first round pick #18 overall, their first round pick in 2010 their third round pick this year and QB Kyle Orton. In return the Bears receive Cutler and a fifth round pick from the Denver Broncos.
Cutler instantly becomes one of the best QBs in the NFC based on stats alone and youth and potential ahead of him. He arguably is now the most talented QB with potential to be great because of his rocket arm and his level of production. Regardless of my previous feelings on the matter, I can say that Cutler does have a world of potential and some production to back it up.
Here is hoping that Cutler can be the best quarterback in the history of the Chicago Bears.
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.
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.
The NFL Network’s Path to the Draft show is essentially a prospect and team preview show that happens every day for half an hour. It’s better than any of the crap on ESPN because it encompasses real analysts who have played the game and gasp a real former GM. So when you’re getting opinion on these players from these guys at least they’ve been there done that or have made a living off of doing it. Instead of the Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay pissing match you get real in-sight and analysis on the players. Plus it’s not a five minute segment that they do on ESPN’s sports center where you have to watch the douche bag commentators on there who are trying to be as witty and funny as Dan Patrick and Keith Olbermann were. Never can beat the original.
So with that in mind they’re addressing the Chicago Bears’ first round team need at O-Line, WR and apparently QB. Until the Bears have a hall of famer under center well the majority opinion is that the Bears will need to draft a QB. There’s a quick mention of the Bears’ last four first round draft picks, Tommie Harris at 14, Cedric Benson at 4, Greg Olsen at 31 and Chris Williams at 14. Benson being the biggest bust of the bunch Angelo made up for it immediately before cutting him by drafting Matt Forte last year.
The analyst brought in to talk about the Bears is Dan Pompei. There’s a major advantage the Bears have in already holding mini-camp, they know how well some of the players have stayed in shape in the off-season. Additionally they know whether or not the players on the roster are serious about football and how it is a year round job. Pompei immediately dives into the Bears’ need at OT. Pompei’s opinion is far different than mine, he seems to have completely bought into the argument that Frank Omiyale was brought in to strictly compete at left guard. That’s pretty funny because Omiyale has never played guard in his career and earned his money based on his ability to play OT for the Carolina Panthers. The media has fallen for the smoke screen that Jerry Angelo put out there regarding Omiyale. Angelo puffed up the smoke screen because he wanted to not publicly apply pressure to John St. Clair that they had already found his replacement. They did find his replacement because after one day at guard, Omiyale moved over to RT immediately upon St. Clair signing.
Omiyale would have likely supplanted a starter and it wouldn’t have been Josh Beekman because Beekman didn’t play as bad as St. Clair did last season. Plus you can be safe in the starting five being what it would have been last year had Chris Williams not been injured. Williams will be an upgrade over St. Clair and Omiyale might be an upgrade over Tait, because Tait aged so fast.
Pompei next has to answer to the column in which he wrote about “If Jay Cutler is available the Bears should pursue him. To which Pompei has to essentially back track on that column with more support towards Kyle Orton than he originally intended to give when he wrote the column. They wax poetic about the Jay Cutler trade, to which the question immediately shifts to, do the Bears take a QB at 18 or a OT. Ummm…the consensus is the Bears need a WR or an OT at 18. Kyle Orton is fine as a QB, his production slipped due to injury. He played five games he likely shouldn’t have because his production in those five games where he was injured was better than what Rex Grossman would have been healthy. That says a lot about Grossman that a hobbled Kyle Orton is better than you.
Pompei not the subject matter expert you would expect here. He says Angelo likes to draft lineman and is pretty good at drafting lineman. Yeah perhaps D-Lineman but certainly not O-Lineman. Angelo has only drafted two OTs in the first round in drafts that he was allegedly a part of in his career (including Tampa Bay and Chicago). One OT had a decent career and is currently a free agent, the other had injury problems forcing the Bears to release him, but now he’s a multi-year starter in Dallas. Angelo’s evaluating strength is on defense rather than offense, let’s be clear on that immediately.
So who would Dan Pompei take at 18 if an OT was available? Eben Britton from Arizona. Pompei’s opinion is that he could man that RT spot immediately because he’s big and strong and help in the run game. Uh Britton was rarely asked to run block the last two years at Arizona. They ran most of their offense out of the Texas Tech passing spread offense. So there wasn’t a lot of creativity with their run plays at the UofA. To say Britton can stick his hand in the dirt and be a run blocker is a bit ignorant when the guy comes out of a pass first pass heavy offense. The same questions arise when people talk about Jason Smith at Baylor because he played in the spread too.
So apparently in this segment Dan Pompei has no clue to which he speaks he talks in generalities and football cliches about players of which he has no clue about what they are like or what system they come from. This is not to say Britton wouldn’t be a good pick at 18, it’s just saying his strengths lie elsewhere beside run blocking. To add to my point the high-lights they show of Britton show him run blocking, albeit out of two point stance. He stands in his two point stance essentially giving the DE the idea that he’s going to pass block, the DE shoots up the field and Britton simply walls him off like it’s a draw play. Britton already has the inside advantage because the play is going to the opposite side of where the defender is attacking, advantage to the blocker.
Sticking your hand in the dirt and firing off the line when it’s a HB-Iso or zone blocking running play is much more important to the Bears than being able to fool the defender by making them think you’re going to pass when in fact it’s a run call. Neither the host of the segment or Pompei has a clue about this little common sense difference between OTs who come from a spread offense and OTs who come from a pro-style offense.
Pompei’s next line of thought as to who the Bears might select at WR if they go that route at 18 is Kenny Britt from Rutgers. He might be a bit of a reach at 18 but I could definitely see him in the second round. Britt is as Pompei says the perfect compliment to Devin Hester, he’s big fast and catches the ball well. If the Bears don’t trade down, but can trade up into the earlier part of the second round to take a WR like Britt after they draft an OT at 18 that’s a good strategy as well.
The next question is why the Bears were not more active in free agency and Pompei is a better subject matter expert on this than most of the Bears related talk we’ve heard to this point. Pompei has spoken to Angelo at length and he essentially stated that this is the worst free agent class he’s ever seen. Why were the Bears not more active, when the GM feels like it’s the worst free agency class ever, there’s your answer. Rightly or wrongly Bears fans Angelo is the GM and is getting paid for his judgment and based on that football knowledge and judgment the Bears didn’t go on a spending spree to add average to marginal level talent. They did add players that are marginal or average, but they did so in a cost effective manner.
History will prove Angelo right or wrong on this call so we’ll see how things go.
So to wrap up the segment of the Bears on the clock with Dan Pompei as the subject matter expert the Bears may look at Eben Britton or Kenny Britt at 18. WR and OT are the most important aspects to this franchise, heading into the draft. Although if I’m making the call it’s a player like Hakeem Nicks at 18 and maybe a Phil Loadholt in the second round.
Reports in from Halas Hall has the Bears pretty excited to be back in camp. Though they only did team drills and seven on seven work today in no pads it’s to have the team focusing in on 2009 at this juncture.
Some of the talk via ESPN 1000 sports radio had bits from Rod Marinelli who is excited to be back out there as a positional coach. This is the area of expertise that Marinelli has and working with the D-Linemen and their technique is stuff you like to hear. Warren Sapp has given a lot of credit to Marinelli for making him the sure fire hall of famer that he is at the DT position. Given Tommie Harris’ level of talent hopefully he can develop him along the same line.
Marinelli talked about how excited he was to be out there and how much he loves football. To him football in general is just a wonderful thing and he looks forward to continuing to work with this group of guys. Having followed Marinelli’s career since his young days at Arizona State there is little doubt in my mind of his enthusiasm and intensity as a coach.
Talk from Marinelli also surrounded how much he loves coaching the D-Lineman. He has a great appreciation for those guys that do battle in the trenches and fight hard week in and week out. To put it simply perhaps no one better understands that the success of the defensive unit as a whole starts with the men up front.
Marinelli has a lot of talent to work with, guys that have had successful careers and guys just cutting their teeth in develop a successful career. Don’t underestimate the type of player DT Marcus Harrison is going to be for this defense. Although he better fits the 3-technique type of player in this scheme, Harrison could see more time with Dusty Dvoracek recovering from his triceps surgery.
Elsewhere on the field today the first reports came in regarding WR Earl Bennett. Bennett caught some balls and worked on some things with Kyle Orton. Not much happened though since it was a little breezy out today. Hester is out there as the self-proclaimed #1 receiver and seems determined to be THE player the Bears need out there. He’ll get every opportunity in mini-camp to prove just that.
Jay Cutler rumors also don’t appear to have effected Kyle Orton’s mentality about being the long term solution at QB. From the NFL Network Orton said “I think I’m going to do everything I can and work as hard as I can and be the guy that stabilizes it (the QB position). I don’ think that say I’m not going to be that guy, I think I am going to be that guy. I think this is my offense and I’m working as hard as I can to show everybody that it’s my job.”
Lovie Smith himself feels confident in Orton as the long term solution given how well he performed the first half of the season. The numbers back up Lovie’s assessment of Orton and given that the Bears will likely bring in a receiver on day one of the draft Orton will have every opportunity to play himself into a long term extension in the final year of his contract. The more weapons surrounding Orton the better off the offense and Orton will be. Orton should only build upon the early success he had in 2008 and will likely have a break out year which causes fans to forget about this Cutler crap.
Elsewhere with the news that John St. Clair is moving on to play with the Cleveland Browns second year man Cody Balough was getting the reps at first team RT. There could be movement on the free agent market to keep an eye on in the coming days with Orlando Pace, Levi Jones, Marvel Smith of three former Pro-Bowlers available in free agency. If the Bears don’t choose the free agent route they could move Frank Omiyale out to RT (he was running 2nd team LG today) or they could draft a solid prospect on day one. For the sake of mini-camp it will be Balough as the “starter”.
When asked if the Bears were still in the market for more offensive lineman Lovie’s answer was more direct in saying “It’s the off-season we keep all our options open.”
Those options could be in free agency or the draft, either way now that St. Clair is in fact gone, the Bears will be upgrading the OT position from last year.