Friday, September 20, 2013
Bears' Friday mailbag: Week 3
By Jeff Dickerson
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Here is the first installment of the Chicago Bears’ Friday mailbag.
Lee Holland of Norfolk, Va., writes: What’s it going to take for Alshon Jeffery to get more involved in the offense?
Jeff Dickerson: Jeffery didn’t have his best game last week (one catch for five yards, two rushes for 30 yards), but he’s been targeted 13 times through two games. So Jeffery has been involved in the offense, it’s just that Brandon Marshall, Matt Forte and Martellus Bennett have accumulated better statistics heading into Week 3. Jeffery’s time will come. Bears head coach Marc Trestman is likely telling the second-year wideout to stay patient. Jeffery proved to everybody in the preseason that he is reliable weapon in the passing game. Give it some time.
Bob from Chicago writes: Is Jay Cutler a $20 million a season QB? What options do the Bears have at QB if they don’t believe Cutler is worth that money?
Dickerson: Bob, Cutler is off to a strong start, but it’s only Week 3. The smart move is to wait until later in the year to determine whether or not Cutler is the kind of quarterback the Bears want to invest that heavily in. If Cutler continues to shake off his mistakes and lead the Bears to victories and to the playoffs, then all his money concerns (not that he really has any) will be taken care of. But I don’t feel comfortable writing the ‘Jay Cutler is a new guy’ narrative after two games. The true test will come when the Bears face real adversity. How will Cutler respond? As for Plan B; the Bears really don’t have one. I assume if they decide to not re-sign or franchise Cutler, they would search for his replacement via the draft while also signing a veteran quarterback in free agency. The Bears want to make it work with Cutler, however. That is how the scenario would play out in a perfect world.
Frank from PA writes: Don’t you think the Bears will be hurt without a legitimate No. 2 receiver as they continue to play tougher teams on their schedule?
Dickerson: Yes, the Bears need a dependable No. 2 wide receiver. But I believe the Bears have two on the roster: Jeffery and Earl Bennett. If Cutler ever gets into a situation where he can’t connect with Marshall, Martellus Bennett or Matt Forte out of the backfield, Jeffery and Earl Bennett are more than capable of catching the football in tough situations. Earl Bennett, especially, has shown that he has great hands. Not good, great. The drawback with those two players has been their inability to stay healthy. But if both are active every week, the Bears should have enough at wide receiver to get them through the season with great success.
Deryll Ringger from Decatur, IN, writes: Why does Devin Hester let the ball hit the ground when fielding punts instead of saving 20 yards by catching the ball before it hits the ground?
Dickerson: Fair question, Deryll. For all of Hester’s brilliance on kickoff returns (249 yards) last week against Minnesota, he does still have occasional lapses in judgment when determining when to field punts or let them drop. Now, I think Hester’s decision making has improved since last season, but he’ll never be perfect. I guess Bears’ fans will just have to live it. Hester is still capable of busting long returns, and I believe the 76 and 80 yard kickoff returns he busted off versus the Vikings made up for his indecision on punt return.
Frank from Canada writes: If Julius Peppers continues to be nonexistent while cashing the biggest check on the team, do you expect him to be on the team in 2014?
Dickerson: Obviously, Peppers needs to produce for the Bears to keep him around beyond 2013, but the veteran defensive end has time to turn it around. If Peppers goes off and has a monster night versus the Steelers, some concerns should fade away. However, it’s way too early to determine whether or not the Bears want to carry the $18,183,333 cap charge or pay the $14 million in salary to Peppers in 2014. Even though the Bears are expected to have ample salary-cap space next year, Peppers does have an expensive contract, especially for an older player. But if Peppers starts to light it up and finishes with his standard 11.0 sacks, then maybe it would be worth it. Another factor is the development of Shea McClellin, Corey Wootton and Cornelius Washington. If the Bears feel good enough about the younger players stepping up into larger roles, Peppers could become expendable. But just like with Cutler, Bears general manager Phil Emery has plenty of time before he has to make that call.