Friday, November 29, 2013
Mailbag: Expectations for Hester vs. Vikings
By Jeff Dickerson
Here is this week's edition of the mailbag:
1. JD, huge Devin Hester fan here. I almost cried when they took away his punt return touchdown last week. Can we expect Devin to light it up against Minnesota? -- Brendan, Peoria, Ill.
Dickerson: Brendan, Hester has torched the Vikings' special teams in 14 career games, returning three punts and one kickoff for touchdowns. Hester was named NFC Special Teams Player of the Week for his efforts against the Vikings in Week 2, when he set a franchise single-game record with 249 kick-return yards. However, it is important to note that Sunday's game will played inside the Metrodome. It's much tougher for a return man to get his hands on the football when the game is played in a controlled climate. Maybe Hester's best shot this weekend is to hope that Vikings rookie punter Jeff Locke kicks him a returnable ball.
2. Why are the Bears going back to Jay Cutler? Josh McCown has found the fountain of youth. Ride with him! GO BEARS! -- Chester, Cicero, Ill.
Dickerson: Cutler is the unquestioned starting quarterback. He has too much talent and is earning too much money to sit on the bench if medically cleared to play. But I believe the Bears are taking the correct approach by sitting Cutler on Sunday and letting McCown start against the Vikings. High-ankle sprains are serious injuries. Cutler needs extra time to let his ankle heal before he's ready to return. McCown is clearly capable of beating the Vikings, who own the league's 30th overall defense (allowing 401 yards per game), so there was no need to rush Cutler back, even if he is pushing hard to come back. But when Cutler is ready, likely for the Bears' Monday night game against the Dallas Cowboys on Dec. 9, he will be back in the starting lineup.
3. Please, please, please tell me the Bears are going to cut Shea McClellin soon. What he did last week in St. Louis was inexcusable. Come on, JD, make it happen. -- Bernard, Gainesville. Fla.
Dickerson: Bernard, I can assure you that I have zero input in the Bears' personnel decisions, nor should I. Those calls are left to the qualified, paid professionals. As for McClellin, it would be a terrible blow to the organization to cut another former first-round draft choice after just two seasons. McClellin could have value to the Bears next year if the defense changes schemes, or if the club improves its depth at defensive end, allowing McClellin to slide back to the situational pass-rushing role he is best suited for in a 4-3 front. McClellin's cap number in 2014 is $2,253,654, so it's not as if he's eating up a ridiculous amount of cap space. I've been critical of McClellin's performance this season, with the exception of the Green Bay game, but cutting high draft picks is simply bad for business.
4. You tweeted during the Rams game, "This is the worst run defense I can ever remember seeing the Bears play." Is the absence of Brian Urlacher the reason? Thanks. -- Victorio, New York
Dickerson: The main reason is because the Bears played Sunday's game in St. Louis without onetime projected starters Henry Melton, D.J. Williams, Lance Briggs, Charles Tillman, Stephen Paea, Nate Collins and Kelvin Hayden. Every NFL team deals with injuries, so that's not meant to be an excuse, but the Bears are suffering from a staggering decline in experience and ability on defense. And for the record, I do believe Urlacher would have helped the run defense this season. At least he would have guys lining up in the right spot on the field. Urlacher went berserk last year when the Bears lost their gap integrity during a road loss in Detroit, when Jahvid Best busted a long touchdown run. That was one play. This stuff happens on almost every single defensive snap in 2013.
5. Do you think the Bears should give up on Michael Bush and see what Michael Ford can do? -- Carlos, Hammond, Ind.
Dickerson: The Bears might be reluctant to give Ford the football in short-yardage and goal-line situations because he is 5-foot-10 and 216 pounds, as opposed to Bush, who checks-in at 6-foot-1, 245 pounds. But I think we all agree the Bush experiment has run its course. Based on Bush's production working out of a split-backfield in his final year in Oakland (977 rushing yards and seven touchdowns), I understand why the Bears inked him to a four-year, $14 million deal in the spring of 2012, especially with the franchise tag looming over Matt Forte's head at the time. However, Bush has never lived up to expectations, and the Bears don't use him in the offense enough to justify the contract. He has zero total yards in his last 11 carries, and is averaging 1.6 yards per rush for the season. If the situation arises in the next five games where the Bears need to turn to a reserve running back, I would have no issues if the Bears give Ford a shot to carry the football.