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September 13, 2009

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Chicago Bears 53-man Battle Royale: Danieal Manning

May 25, 2009

This is Danieal Manning’s make or break year. He’ll likely get THIS season to prove his value, and then the Bears could move on from him. I make this statement based on the same statement Jerry Angelo made about Dusty Dvoracek.

Not because Manning has been as injured as Dvoracek, but because with each passing season Manning seems to slip lower onto the depth chart. He currently has no true position on the roster. Kick returner and nickelback sure, but more was expected out of a player with some of the best athletic ability on the roster.

Manning should be the starting free safety this year especially with the dire need for one and his speed. Talk about a true center fielder type, with his previously mentioned athetic prowess Manning should be able to cover a lot of ground in the secondary. Instead he looks completely lost out there at times, giving up the deciding touchdown to Andre Johnson in the final game of the season. Among other mental errors he has committed Manning, has been a part of game deciding plays and has been no help in run support.

Manning’s worth has been bumped up slightly only because of Devin Hester’s decent from elite kick off return man. Manning led the league in kickoff return average last year and did score a touchdown on a return. That being said Manning’s worth needs to be added to the secondary.

Especially because of his second round draft status in 2006. The Bears traded out of the fisrt round and then drafted Manning with their first pick. Manning fits into the mold of current athletic prospects Henry Melton and Jarron Gilbert. Players with elite level talent and athleticism that the Bears hope they can coach into players.

Manning to this point has failed to show up or take advantage of numerous starting chances. Due to Mike Brown’s constant injury problems Manning has started and gained what should be valuable experience moving forward.

Instead the coaching staff is choosing to go in a completely different direction with Saints castoff Josh Bullocks and strong safety Craig Steltz getting looks at the free safety spot.

More recently has been the development of CB Corey Graham being moved to safety. The tenous situation there is a direct result of Manning’s failure to develop.

So now the question is, what next for Danieal Manning? Can he be the team’s primary kickoff return man? Can he get enough value from his duties as the nickelback?

My guess is yes Manning will be on the roster through 2010. However he will not be in line for a comtract extension, and depending on the 2010 draft picks, may be gone before 2010.

Hopefully Manning can think of this as his one last shot and his play begins to reflect a player playing for his NFL life.

Chicago Bears OTA workout report

May 20, 2009

From various reports today, but primarily from ESPN 1000 Bears beat writer Jeff Dickerson I was able to gather information from today’s organized team activities.

These OTAs as they are more commonly known are usually informal, voluntary workouts and practices that go on during the off-season. The workouts consist of your typical, basic fundamental and again HEAVY on the informal aspects of drills and practicing.

Today was the first time the media was allowed access to these OTAs and there were some news and notes to pass along.

Most notably was Tommie Harris did not participate in any of the drills or stretch and was not in action. This seems to be a recurring theme with Harris since his hamstring problem from the 2006 season. Harris has not been a 100-percent participant in any aspect of practice, workouts, mini-camps or OTAs. He usually rests for some and in some cases, ALL of the workouts.

Sure everyone can say don’t look into this, don’t read to much into it, or make any assumptions based on such an informal level of workouts.

Problem is this seems to be consistent for a player like Tommie Harris. This all seems to be related to his injury concerns and, or knee problems that seem to continually keep him on the side line.

In order to take the next step in his development and become the player the Bears are paying him to be, you’d like to see more consistent participation. Warren Sapp was quoted as saying that Harris could be one of the most dominant DTs in the league and we’ll see what type of player he can be now that Rod Marinelli is in the fold.

But you just don’t see the consistency in his work habits to say emphatically he will be a force on the D-Line for the next eight or nine years. I think it’s safe to say that bus has passed Tommie Harris by and it’s better to just thing of him as an important cog in the defense, but not the game changer he was in 2005 and for part of the 2006 season.

Also held out of workouts were Charles Tillman who seems to be consistently in the same boat as Tommie Harris. He’s just a constant injury concern and is never playing or practicing at a level he once did.

Marcus Harrison was also held out today from OTAs. With that news Israel Idonije practiced today at the DT position. Of course consistent reports have been that Idonije will primarily be focusing on the DE position this year. That said, the Bears will always utilize the versatility he offers by being able to play either position.

Corey Graham today took reps with the second team today at safety. An intriguing development given that Graham has been one of the most consistent players at CB. With Graham working at safety, Zachary Bowman was lined up with the first team at CB. The secondary was made up of newly acquired Josh Bullocks, Kevin Payne and Craig Steltz.

Steltz has been talked about by the coaching staff as the likely player who will be starting at free safety this year. Steltz at times looked shaky last season, but has the full confidence of the coaching staff.

Pro Football Weekly reported that CB Roderick Hood of the Arizona Cardinals is coming to visit Halas Hall next week. Hood may not be a big name free agent, but he does have a solid resume and veteran experience playing in the NFL.

On offense Jay Cutler did as he promised he would do when he came, that is re-establish his relationship with Earl Bennett. Bennett and Cutler played together at Vanderbilt and the chemistry paid off today with Bennett catching a lot of passes from Cutler.

Cutler as expected looked very sharp on every ball he through. It’s going to take a while for local Bears fans and media alike to get used to having a QB who has a strong, sharp and accurate arm. We know Cutler will look better than any QB who has ever walked the a hallowed grounds of Soldier Field. But reality still hasn’t set in for most of us, that yes the Bears have a franchise quarterback.

Josh Beekman still has a lock on the first team left guard position. Beekman is ahead of Frank Omiyale at this point, but it may not last until opening day. Omiyale will have to win the position, he won’t simply just be given the right to start.

On the injury concern flip side LT Orlando Pace was out there today and looked healthy and sharp. Pace is a grizzled veteran who sets the tone for any of the young rookies or younger players. Pace may miss some OTAs (Love Smith is known to rest veterans) or he may be out there every day to make it a point that he’s healthy and ready to go.

Chris Williams as was reported early after the Orlando Pace signing was indeed working with the offense as the first team right tackle. Backing him up was newly signed Kevin Shaffer. Shaffer is a classy guy with a solid veteran background who should not only push Williams but also be a mentor.

At strong side linebacker both Joey LaRocque and Hunter Hillenmeyer were held out today. Also free agent Pisa Tinoisamoa was out there today to watch practice. There is a strong possibility that Tinoisamoa signs with the Bears. At 6-foot-1 240-pounds he represents a stouter and possibly stronger option at the SAM ‘backer position. Still he’s not the ideal candidate out there to be a starter.

Overall the day went about as well as could have been expected. It is nice to have media coverage to these events. All this action should help ease the lull of the next month and a half leading up to two a days down in Bourbannais.

The Legend That is Brian Urlacher

May 19, 2009

It’s time to face the harsh reality of legendary middle linebacker Brian Urlacher, his best days are behind him. Brian Urlacher is the heart and soul of this team and has been the face of this franchise for 10 seasons. He is the poster boy for The Monsters of the Midway, the most popular player on the Bears since Walter Payton.

It’s truly is hard to see a legend begin a slow and painful decline in the twilight of his career. Especially since all Chicago Bears fans typically day dream of Urlacher big hits during a weeks leading up to a game.

On top of Urlacher’s greatness he mans the one position that three previous hall of famers have held down for this franchise. Beginning with Bill George who was the original. Tracing the roots on through to the greatest and most feared defender in the history of the league in Dick Butkus who struck fear into opponents on a level never seen before or since. On through the great years and Super Bowl Championship under samurai Mike Singletary the middle linebacker position has defined the franchise of the Chicago Bears.

It’s defined the reason I’m a Chicago Bears fan given my father played middle linebacker during his high school and college career and yours truly mixed it up as a linebacker for a few of his own years. It’s the position that doles out the most punishment on defense and not by coincidence is in the middle of everything.

Everyone wants to be like their heroes, and everyone wants to play the position their heroes played. For me and many Chicago Bears fans alike that position has always been the MIKE ‘backer position.

However playing such a position of punishment takes it’s toll and opponents and yourself alike. The biggest hits typically come from this position, the most frequent collisions happen at this position. This is a given since most great middle linebackers lead their teams in tackles.

As is the case with Brian Urlacher that toll has begun to wear down another all-time great. While we are used to seeing our heroes play for many years and having the live and play with a aura of invincibility. The fact of the matter is the greats who man this storied position typically have a career that lasts a shorter span than most greats.

While we may have to suffer through another season of watching the geriatric Brett Favre play for one more year of glory and a possible championship with the Vikings. We will never see Brian Urlacher’s career last as long as Favre’s 18-year tenure in the NFL. Why? Because for all of the talk that Brett Favre is one of the toughest players ever, the fact is a quarterback can go almost a whole season without getting his jersey dirty.

Urlacher will not last 18 years, we may be lucky to see him last another three given this arthritic back problem and his surgery on his neck. Subtle signs that his career of collisions has taken it’s toll on one of the most dominant defenders in the league the last decade.

I have been one of Urlacher’s harshest critics during the last two seasons. I have on numerous occasions called him out for lack of taking on the pile, squaring up on a blocker and plowing into the line of scrimmage. In the heat of every NFL season I have judged Urlacher’s play harshly, sometimes within reason, and sometimes outside the bounds of acceptability. But my love for Urlacher as a Chicago Bears player and middle linebacker will never waiver.

However Urlacher’s sense of legendary invincibility already has and I must accept that.

Brian Urlacher is one of the greatest defenders of his generation. Sure there has been Ray Lewis, Zach Thomas and others. But not many have been as consistently productive as Urlacher has been for as long as he has. Lewis and Thomas are both exceptions to the rule rather than the norm.

So we must as Bears fans accept the fact that Brian Urlacher is no longer the best linebacker on this team, nor is he the best linebacker in the league. Urlacher will likely be allowed to retire a Chicago Bear, and it should be that way. Unquestionably he has been the Joe Montana, Brett Favre, Peyton Manning, Dan Marino, John Elway of our beloved franchise. He is unquestionably the hero of this team for the first decade of this century. The defining player who represents all that is great about the Chicago Bears.

Urlacher’s play has faltered, last year he at times struggled to make plays he otherwise would have. He looked a step slower, look a bit weaker at the point of attack and his back pedal and coverage in the open field wasn’t what we are used to seeing from him. All sure signs of his age and heavy price he has paid by causing collisions.

This year we must measure are expectations for this all-time great player. Urlacher should be more of a mentor to the younger members of this franchise, be the type of coach on the field that we lost in Mike Brown. Expect a solid level of production and consistency, but not for Urlacher to compete for the defensive player of the year honors he won in 2005.

There is some hope that Urlacher will exceed our expectations. He has stated publicly he feels better this off-season than he has in any off-season in years. He says he’s fully recovered from last season’s off-season neck surgery, and this will in turn has allowed him to hit the weight room like had in previous years.

I take him at his word and hope for the best for this upcoming season. He should be a cog in a defense that again stops the run like it did last year, when it was fifth best in the league at doing so. He should once again don the captain’s C and his ability should continue to benefit the play of Lance Briggs.

Brian Urlacher I hope will have one maybe two more great years, years that will surprise us all. Hopefully a year that gets this all-time great another chance at a Super Bowl title. Maybe he’ll be able to play with less pressure and more rest while knowing that the Bears have potentially a new face to the franchise in quarterback Jay Cutler.

Cutler’s guidance to the offense should help keep the defense fresh and healthy by spending more time on the field. A stat that has plagued this defense for far to many seasons. The Bears are statistically one of the worst teams in the league at generating first downs over the last five seasons. From 2005 to 2008 a span of four seasons the Bears have been middle of the pack only ONCE in generating a first down. 2006 their Super Bowl year they were 14th in the league in total first downs. In 2005 they were 31st, and the last two seasons they have been 27th in the league in arguably one of the most overlooked and important stats. A stat that truly shows the efficiency of an offense and shows just exactly how much rest a defense gets.

Cutler’s addition BETTER improve that stat thus helping to improve the overall play of the Bears’ defense in 2009. By proximity a more rested unit will be better at shutting down opponents in the fourth quarter. Also having more gas in the tank will improve a fourth quarter pass rush and the defense’s ability to stop the run when they may be behind in games. Giving the offense another crack at a come from behind victory, or scoring again to put a game out of reach.

So with all the previous offensive stats in mind, I hope Urlacher can lead this defense to a level of play that allows them to have a couple playoff games at Soldier Field. Because as we know, playoff games in Chicago in January give the Bears one of the best chances in the league to win. The fans at Soldier Field provide one of the best home field advantages of any team in the league. Which means come January, anything can happen.

While Brian Urlacher’s play may not live up to a level that is expected of him, we must still respect him. Urlacher has given a lot for this franchise and has conducted himself with a high level of class, during the strong majority of his career as a Chicago Bear. We may never see the once great player we have enjoyed for nine seasons in the NFL thus far. However we will see a player dedicated to goal of winning a Super Bowl title.

Sadly as with many great legends of the battle field, and in the words of five-star general of the Army Douglas MacArthur squarely in mind, we will eventually see another great Bears play, fade away.

53-man battle royale: Mark Anderson

May 15, 2009

Where have you gone Mark Anderson of 2006? The rookie sensation who had 12 sacks over 16 games as a part time starter for the NFC Champion Chicago Bears. Anderson also caused four fumbles on his way to a run at the defensive rookie of the year honors.

However if you closely examine Anderson’s 2006 season you find that his success came in spurts, but also came against some of the worst pass protecting offenses in the league for that year.

When you break it down, Anderson had 8.5 sacks against teams that were in the bottom ten in the league in sacks allowed on the season. Anderson had 2.5 sacks against the Detroit Lions, 2.0 against the Buffalo Bills, 2.0 against the Seattle Seahawks, 2.0 against the St. Louis Rams, teams that were just awful in pass protection in 2006.

With this type of production against teams that were this bad at protecting the passer it’s easy to see how Anderson’s numbers were so inflated. Feasting against the worst pass protecting teams is exactly the reputation Anderson built for himself.

So the question is will he be able to better take advantage of Rod Marinelli’s arrival and get back to that level of production?

I find the likelihood of that to be highly unlikely. Anderson has some natural pass rushing ability, but there isn’t one aspect of his game that he does very well. He has decent size to be a weak-side pass rusher at 6-foot-4 255-pounds. But he is under-sized by the regular standards of what would be considered ideal.

Anderson’s speed off the edge is also not very impressive for a player who needs to be making his living off of rushing the QB. While he may have the most speed off the edge of any player on the Bears’ roster, it’s inadequate. Alex Brown and Adewale Ogunleye have average speed at best when it comes to running the curve.

While Brown has superb closing speed and both the starters hold up well against the run, getting to the QB is the weak point of their games.

You can even argue that Ogunleye has given up at this point in his career given how big of a failure he has been in Chicago.

Anderson further hurts himself by not being able to hold up well against the run thus limiting his role to a third down rusher. As a starter Anderson was man-handled against the run making it easy for teams to run at him.

The only plus side of Anderson’s failure was the fire it lit under the ass of Alex Brown. Brown has in turn become one of the best DEs in the league against the run. Brown saved the game against the Eagles with his fourth and one stop on the goal-line.

With the arrival of both Jarron Gilbert and Henry Melton Anderson may be on his last chance to be a part of the D-Line rotation. Both the rookies have attributes that Anderson lacks. Also by virtue of their draft standing this year they are both guaranteed a spot on the roster.

So the battle for Anderson may be for his very NFL career this year. With Marinelli here, and a load of competition behind him it’s Anderson’s year to put up or shut up. If he doesn’t show signs of big things in the pre-season you will likely see him not a part of the Bears’ final 53-man roster.

Peter King Releases Pre-Season Power Rankings

May 11, 2009

After the post draft hoopla and with most of the major free agency activity completed (although the Bears may still be looking at a vet WR) Peter King of Sports Illustrated released his power rankings. You’ll never guess what team he has in the NFC Title game. That’s right it’s your Chicago Bears the team of the biggest off-season move in the last decade.

Peter King has the Bears listed in the fourth spot of his power-rankings. While most fans complain about not getting a lot of national respect one of the most respected football columnists in the country has the Bears playing to go to the Super Bow. Peter King is officially on the Bears band wagon where as not many at ESPN are on the same page.

So what does Peter King like about the Bears?

A) Duh Jay Cutler he feels is a game changer at the QB position. Sure there are things that have caused concerns among NFL insiders regarding Cutler’s maturity and talk of rubbing some teammates the wrong way, but Cutler’s talent is undeniable. He is an instant upgrade at the QB position that really breathes life into this franchise.

Brian Urlacher the face of the franchise never again has to answer if the offense could have done more to help the defense win games. Why? Because the offense will likely be there and it will be productive and with the defense still doing just enough to win football games the Bears should be even more competitive.

B) Yes the defense is still good for the most part for in the key categories that win football games, stopping the run, creating turnovers and yards per completion. As Peter King correctly points out the Bears were in the Top-3 in the league in two of those categories and in the Top-8 in the yards per completion.

To expand upon King’s point about the defense Carolina and Atlanta were second and third respectively in the league in rushing. The Bears held the Falcons to their lowest rushing total of the year at 75 yards rushing in their game.

The Bears held the Panthers to a low total as well only 114 yards rushing. The Tennessee Titans, seventh in the league in rushing, the Bears held the Titans offense to a putrid low total of 20 yards rushing. This was the Titans’ lowest rushing output of the season as well. The Philadelphia Eagles, sixth in the league in total rushing yards were stalled to a low 114 yards against the Bears. Add to it perhaps the most famous goal-line stand from the season where Alex Brown led the fourth and one stuff on the goal-line as the Bears sealed their victory over the playoff bound Eagles.

With that you can easily see that the Bears’ defense faced some of the top rushing teams in the league and played a big part in shutting down their run games. As is always stated as a major cliche, defense wins championships and the best way to play defense is stop the run and pressure the quarterback.

The Bears’ defense still does one of these aspects very well, and they definitely addressed their inability to pressure the quarterback in the draft. Leaving the main question to be, will Rod Marinelli have an impact on the current veteran talent on hand and can the rookies come in and be a part of a renewed pass rush attack on the QB.

Bears Rookie Mini Camp and the Aftermath

May 5, 2009

I’d like to be able to sit here and tell you as many glowing things about the rookies and draft picks as we’ve heard for the last two weeks, but I can’t. I’m going to take a very fair and measured approach to what we can take away from our top draft picks from rookie camp this weekend. It’s going to be straight from the hip and it won’t coincide with a lot of the hype that I have generated over the past week over our top draft picks.

Yes you can be certain that what we saw this weekend was comforting in that the players we expected to step up in mini-camp did just that. The players reported on did what they were expected to do in rookie mini-camp and that is a good sign.

However it’s no more of a positive sign beyond what we already knew about this crop of players. Why?

Hear me out on this one because it’s going to be very easy to follow.

These rookies did as well as THEY should have. We can take nothing more away from this camp regarding these prospects than we already know. We knew these kids were good from the start and the three day camp changes nothing.

This was a camp against their peers, it was rookies on rookies. Essentially it was the same thing we have already seen from these players since the scouting combine began. These players excelled against each other and each one of them is essentially at the same level as their peers. Those that are a step above, stood out above the pack because they already had, and that is why they were drafted in the slots that they were.

Saying that Juaquin Iglesias could step in and be a starter or compete as a starter is more than a little premature. Because Iglesias dominated a level of competition this weekend that he dominated throughout his college career. Saying that Henry Melton, Jarron Gilbert and Iglesias looked the part is no more of a different assessment of them as players as we saw during the scouting combine and pro-day workouts.

The only real difference was the new football helmets atop their heads. The rookies went out and competed against other rookies, rookies most likely that are not going to be on an NFL roster come opening night against Green Bay. Beating a free agent signing or a player here strictly on a tryout basis is not something to form a solid opinion on as to who will compete well against the veterans.

These are still the same kids we saw playing and practicing football the last nine months. They are excelling against the same level of competition they did in college. Only in a slightly different setting than what we are used to seeing.

So while yes I am happy to report on the positive things we saw at camp from the top rookies we are all excited to report. I think it’s only fair to keep things in perspective going forward. The perspective is that things will change dramatically between now and the end of training camp.

These players learned this weekend the level of expectations that they face. They learned that the NFL coaches are a lot better at their jobs than college coaches. They soaked in the fact that the play books they face are a lot bigger than what they are used to. The defenses they face are a lot more complicated and intricate.

They learned that football no longer just a hobby and a sport that they play. But it’s also their job, a job that many of us would love to have and earn money doing. However we should all still recognize that and I hope that the rookies recognize is what they are facing is all the more daunting.

I hope that these players can face the reality that IS THE NATIONAL FOOTBALL LEAGUE and that they are prepared to pay the price to succeed in this league, but more importantly as a member of the Chicago Bears.

Training camp will be a whole different ball of wax for these rookies, once they face the talent and experience of the veterans. Put the pads on and face the speed of a level of competition they have never faced before then we will all get a better look at what these players truly are.

The question then will be easier to answer, can these rookies cut it?

Examining the Bears’ offense: WRs versus RBs

May 1, 2009

Is anyone really comfortable with the wide receiver rotation we have in place right now? Three drafted rookies, Juaquin Iglesias, Johnny Knox and Derek Kinder dot the roster currently. The equivalent of two second year men are the starters in Devin Hester and Earl Bennett, and former Arena-League football star Rashied Davis rounds out that corps. Hester yes is in his third year as purely a WR but he’s really only developing in the role for the second year in his career.

So why then is Jerry Angelo and the Bears’ coaching staff speaking so highly and confidently regarding this crop of receivers? There’s not one receiver who has even come within 300 yards of a 1,000-yard receiving season in his career. Nothing with this group inspires even the slightest bit of confidence from fans and the media in Chicago.

However there is one thing that we as a fan base seem to be forgetting in all the media driven fear we have regarding the wide receiver position. That is the reliance upon the receivers within this offense is pretty minimal almost down right non-existant and yet that strategy has been effective so far in helping the Bears win football games.

For proof look no further than the ’05 and the ’06 season, seasons in which the Bears won the division and were in the playoffs. Bernard Berrian for all the money showered upon him and the gaping hole he seemed to leave behind in the offense after he signed with the Vikings, never has had a season of 1,000-yards receiving. He’s come close, twice last year he had 964-yards, and the year before with Chicago 951-yards. Sure to most it would seem to not matter that he came up short, but it misses the point of what the Bears’ offense needs to be successful.

The Chicago Bears offense is built around the running game first and foremost. The tired and redundant statement that the Chicago Bears get off the bus running is accurate, but more about a philosophy. The run and a strong running game will set up the pass here. The Bears will not ever go to a three wide receiver spread set like the Colts, or any offense coached by Mike Martz for that matter. So the reliance upon the receivers takes it’s first credibility hit.

This offense needs to be efficient, it does not need to be one of the most dangerous offenses in the league. It needs to be effective and what it primarily needs to be effective in is running the football. Sure the addition of Jay Cutler to the offense gives it a new dimension, and the chance that it will be more explosive, but this team will still rely heavily upon the running game.

This in turn leads back to the title of this article. The back-up running back situation here in Chicago. The Bears are relying on a back up who has been completely ineffective throughout his career due to injuries. Kevin Jones is the second strong option behind Matt Forte and a player who has yet to prove he is fully recovered from reconstructive knee surgery. Matt Forte was fourth in the league in carries last year at 316 on the season. That’s quite a load of work for a rookie, on top of the 63 receptions from a year ago Forte represented a large chunk of the offense.

What this means is that the Bears need likely need a more effective back up running back than they do a big time play maker at receiver. So long as Lovie Smith is running the show, this team will be a defense first team and an offense team second. Compounding the philosophy is that the passing game is a third option for this team. Even with Jay Cutler in the mix the Bears are not suddenly going to turn into the Broncos from last year of the Saints. Throwing the ball all over the field and relying on their passing game to win football games. Will that be a part of the offense and a part of the reason the Bears win games this year? Certainly it will be, but this offense will be able to have success with the players in place and will be even better off if Kevin Jones is more effective.

Look no further than the Super Bowl seasons when the Bears led the league in rushing both times in ’85 and ’06. This is where the Bears need to be effective is in running the football. The engine that drives this offensive machine will not be Jay Cutler. Could Cutler be the engine that drives this offense? Most certainly he is that good of a quarterback, but sticking to the ground game is always a better strategy.

The Bears will be a better team by running the football more than they pass the football. To understand this point look no further than the pass-happy New Orleans Saints’ offense under Sean Payton. The Saints’ best year to date under Payton is the 2006 season in which they had a record of 10 wins and six losses. That year the Saints had a stronger rushing attack than they did passing attack and their offense benefited from it. Their win loss record reflected it in that 55-percent of their plays were passing plays. Conversely the following two seasons in which Saints record fell to seven wins and nine losses their passing game made up 62-percent of their offense in 2007 and 61-percent of their offense in 2008.

The same typically holds true for most of the offenses in the league that rely more on the run than they do the pass. So yes there is a very important aspect that the wide receivers will play in the Bears’ offense in 2009. Equally or perhaps more important will be the success of the rushing attack and the health of Matt Forte.

With the addition of Jay Cutler and the continued health and success of Matt Forte the Bears offense can be effective enough for the Bears to go to the playoffs. Further illustrating the point even with the anemic offense that was led by Kyle Orton and the borderline tackling dummies that made up the receiving core last year, it was the defense that cost us this team the playoffs.

When the offense had a lead in the fourth quarter in games against the Panthers, Falcons, and Buccaneers due to the offense primarily putting the points up on the board, it was the defense that failed to generate a pass rush that directly led to last minute drives that lost the games.

Winning championships seems to always come back to the old worn out cliche, running the football and playing good defense, will in the end be what it takes to be successful.

Chicago Bears Draft Day Thoughts

April 25, 2009

This is as close to a mock draft as you’re going to see out of me today. I honestly just don’t see the point of making a wild prediction or even a slightly educated prediction about every team that is likely to select a player today.

However given that I have been steadily covering the Bears’ draft needs and off-season activity since Day-1 of the NFL combine I will provide just some thoughts of how this day and the draft may develop for the Chicago Bears.

First of all I’ll cover some basic thoughts on the needs. The Bears obviously need a wide receiver, an offensive lineman with a bit of versatility (able to play more than one position) a free safety and a pass rushing threat.

The good news is there is a plethora of talent available at those positions that are likely to be there with the Bears select at the 49th pick overall in the second round. Most Bears fans who have followed this blog and other media outlets covering the draft hype up until this point know precisely what I am about to write next and for the most part everyone is about unanimous on the idea of who the Bears should take if things roll as we all hope they do.

There is a group of wide receivers that I have now taken to calling the big three. Not because they’re the three best WRs in the draft, nor the biggest players overall. They are the big three because they have been talked about and scouted and analyzed extensively by myself and just about every other Bears outlet. The big three are obviously Kenny Britt, Hakeem Nicks and Brian Robiskie, players that we hope and pray will fall out of the first round. All three are considered first round worthy selections, but the good news is not all three will be drafted in the first round. The question is if one of the three goes in the first round will the other two quickly follow in the early part of the second round?

That’s the ultimate and primary question Bears fans want to know and they’ll follow closely as the draft wears on. Most fans will be out working hard today with spring clean up projects, fertilizing the lawn, pulling up thatch, clipping off dead parts of plants and trees. All the fun stuff you do on a Saturday during the spring. Then the draft will start later this afternoon and fans will sit and start to watch the coverage on the NFL Network or ESPN. Each time a WR is taken off the board in this draft fans will start to grind the gears as to what the possible implications are for later in the draft.

Most fans hope that a lot of the first round is dedicated to players who don’t necessarily fit the needs of the Bears. Three QBs going in the first round would be a positive development. A slide in the draft by Percy Harvin would definitely hope the Bears out. A few DTs going in the first round would help out the Bears so on and so forth.

The key to the entire draft may be what happens from about pick 22 to 48 for the Bears. That is the area of the draft where members of the big three are most likely to go. A span of 27 picks that could arguably make or break the draft for the Bears in 2009.

Dream scenario: The members of the big three fall out of the first round leaving 17 picks between the Bears and landing the wide receiver needed to help put this offense over the top for the next three to eight years. One of them is left on the board at 49 the Bears make that selection and then start planning to fill the rest of the needs from the third round on.

Likely scenario: One or two of the big three will go to either the Colts Giants, Vikings or Titans. The Colts would like to find someone to replace Marvin Harrison and while not a lot of experts have the Colts grabbing a WR in their draft slot, no one predicted Anthony Gonzales would be the pick a few years ago either. The Titans have been working hard to get a receiver the entire off-season. Every time the Bears are mentioned as a suitor, the Titans are usually named in the same report. The Torry Holt sweepstakes, the Anquan Boldin trade talk, the Titans are in the mix. I have a feeling that either Britt or Robiskie will be the pick at 30.

What to do if all three of the big three are off the board? Well the Bears will not likely touch one of the next two receivers on the board that they have been linked to the most. Juaqin Iglesias and Mohammed Massaquoi while second round worthy are just as likely to be there at 99 as 49. That’s a lot of players between then and now.

Plan B: If the big three are gone the Bears can go after safeties Louis Delmas and Rashad Johnson, DE Michael Johnson or OT Phil Loadholt or Guard Duke Robinson. There is also talk of other pass rusher types being available af 49 that the Bears may look at. Larry English, Lawrence Sidbury are two that may be thoughts at that point in the draft if they fall that far.

Plan C: Trade down a way into the later part of the second round, grab a safety like Patrick Chung from Oregon and add a second third round pick. If the nine players most closely linked to the Bears are gon at 49 it may be a good time to consider trading down in the draft to avoid making a reach. Recouping a loss third from the Denver trade may give Jerry Angelo the chance of landing four future starters from this draft. Angelo’s plan is already to get three from the current crop of draft picks he has, the opportunity to add a possible fourth future starter may be to enticing to pass up if the value at 49 is gone.

The likelihood that one of the big three falls to the Bears at 49 is less than 50% and probably closer to 20%. Meaning that the other scenarios in this draft are a lot more likely. The Bears can get better value in the third and fourth round at WR if big three are off the board. Plus with other teams likely wanting to target players the Bears aren’t as high on, trading down remains a 50-50 option in my opinion.

You can’t escape the hype

April 25, 2009

Well sports fans it’s finally here, the day of the 2009 NFL Draft. The official end to the second season of the National Football League. Make no mistake this IS the second season. It may sound like silly cliche to explain the hype surrounding the NFL Draft, but make no mistake the league survives because of the second season.

Take for instance just the coverage that the draft gets on a monthly basis leading up to weekend of on ESPN. Mel Kiper Jr has a solid career and perhaps the most famous hair cut on TV because of the draft. With the invent of the internet the draft has taken off into a completely different world of hype and coverage.

Now comprehend the magnitude of the Mock Draft phenomenon a database by a Washington Redskins site lists 221 mock drafts. This doesn’t include all the updates that constantly occur from the end of the college football season until the day of the draft. Fans just can’t get enough of the draft coverage.

So the question is why? Well the popularity of the NFL for one. It’s the most popular sport in the U.S. and with all the marketing opportunities that stem from it appealing to the most marketable class of people in the country (18-35 year old males) it’s easy to see why an entire second season can spring up just from the draft hype.

The amount of draft hype is insane given the rare success of first round draft picks and the even further failure of draft picks there after. Less than 50% of first round picks wind up with a successful NFL career. But if you were to listen to all of the scouting experts just about every player drafted from one to seventy-five in the league will have a long tenured career of 10 or more years in the draft.

Then the level of hype is magnified ten fold over a period of roughly four months. Non stop coverage, talk of the combine, Pro-Days, personal workouts, private workouts, official visits, and analysis so thorough it would make the folks at NASA envious.

However even with the more recent recognition I have had in the fact that most players don’t live up to the hype I still can’t escape it. The Chicago Bears traded away their first round pick for the next two years in the Jay Cutler trade yet myself as well as many other Bears fans have not dropped in our collective level of excitement. I still want to see who the Bears draft at 49 and I’ll be faithfully watching the draft unfold pick by pick up until the Bears make their selection.

So while I recognize the gigantic level of ridiculous hype and the enormous lack of clarity shown by most fans and analysts and experts during this period of time. I still recognize it is the NFL and any football is GOOD football.