- Michael C. Wright, ESPN Staff Writer
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Bears general manager Jerry Angelo met with the press before Thursday's game in Miami. Here's a look at what he had to say.
What area have you been most pleased with or surprised by?
Angelo: I’ve been pleased with what the offense has done in the last two weeks. We felt we would be this. We thought we would be it be a little sooner. So that’s been good to see.
I think the offensive line is starting to come together. Obviously, that’s critical, particularly with all the sacks that we had early on and Jay [Cutler’s] situation. That’s been good.
Defensively, I don’t want to say I’ve been surprised, but we’ve been playing good defense. We’ve been playing good defense throughout for the most part. Short of Julius [Peppers], it’s not like we have a bevy of all-stars. It’s just been a real good, collective group, so hopefully we’re going to continue to see that.
Did you think your defense would be so successful
JA: That’s a good question because we talk so much about the sacks. Our defense is built for third down. But the one thing we’ve been able to do, and we did a pretty good job of it last week, was generate some pressure, particularly on third down. We’re playing a true Cover 2 defense right now. There are no bells and whistles to it. It’s pretty vanilla-standard, and you can do that if you’re getting pressure. You’re seeing the quarterbacks going down and you’re seeing the checkdowns. Those are the things you want from the offense, and we’ve been getting that. We’ve been getting real good results on third down.
And then the takeaways. The takeaways have been the key. I think if we’re not one, we’re two in the league in takeaways. Our defense has always been predicated on that. So things are falling into place.
The offense has been more balanced lately, did Mike Martz have to be reigned in during the bye?
JA: You know, I’m not going to say it that way. Mike is new to the players. Obviously, Mike has expectations of what he wants to do with our offense. But you have to play to know what you can and can’t do. I felt -- and everybody saw what we saw -- that you have to protect the quarterback, and we needed to do things different than maybe what we wanted to do early on, and we adjusted.
That’s the great thing about great coaches. They do what they have to do, not necessarily what they wanted to do. I think Mike and the whole staff adjusted very, very well, and our players are more comfortable now, and they have to be in order to play with any kind of confidence. Hopefully, we’re going to see that [continue] and our offense grow as it has.
Devin Hester saw more time on returns and his reps at wideout were scaled back last week, is that a fundamental shift in philosophy?
JA: When I look at this offense -- and I know it’s been said last year, a little bit this year -- the No. 1 receiver is overrated. We’re receiver-by-committee, and that’s a good thing because anybody in any given game could be the guy. We’ve done a good job getting all of the guys integrated into the offense. What Devin’s role will continue to be, we’ll see. We do know he is a good receiver. We know what he can do as a returner and how he can impact the game, so there’s a balance there. I’m sure our coaches are very cognizant of the reps he’s going to get on offense to make sure that if they’re going to use him as a dual performer, as they did last week, then we’re going to get a fresh Devin for four quarters.
So is it just working out that way, or a fundamental change or organizational decision to change his role?
JA: No, I can’t say that right now. Could it evolve that way from here on out? It can, but that’s not to say that that’s what we’re going to do throughout.
What are your thoughts on Julius Peppers' season?
I think he’s great. I wouldn’t take another defensive player in the league outside of him. He’s a great player. He has impacted our defense. He’s a guy you have to account for. He plays all three downs. Don’t let the sack numbers be the end result of how you measure this guy. He really, truly is a great player. He has been a great leader for us, too, and you can’t minimize the intangibles. I think a big part of why we’ve been playing good defense is intangibly, we’re very, very strong. I’ve got to say this: It starts with him.
The team has lots of vets in last the year of their deals -- including Olin Kreutz, Anthony Adams and Patrick Mannelly -- does labor uncertainty prevent you and other teams from making deals during the season? Is that a tough area right now?
JA: It is. Everybody is moving cautiously because there is a lot of uncertainty and before you commit money, you want to have a better understanding of what the cap is going to be. Time is an ally for us, so we need to take advantage of that time. It will all play out, and everybody’s in the same boat. We’re no different than anybody else. You’re not seeing a lot of activity. We probably had more activity in the offseason than anybody. I think you saw it in the offseason with that mindset. But we feel good with where we’re at, and once we get a little bit more clarity, and hopefully that will be sooner than later, we’ll be able to act accordingly.
Have the Bears been more lucky than good?
JA: This is the NFL. Were not talking about college where you look at your schedule you’ve probably got seven or eight wins if you’re a really good football team. It doesn’t work that way. Every week is a real challenge. If we don’t come in play well tonight, if we don’t tackle well, the quarterback won’t make a difference for this football team. You have to play hard every week. You can’t turn the ball over. All those things people do to beat themselves. If you do that regardless of what you’re talent level is you’re going to lose the football game. It’s too hard on Sundays. We’ve played some good football irelavant of the teams we’re playing and what their records are. I thought that team we played last week was a very good football team. Nobody is raising their hand to play Minnesota. We won the game. WE just hope we continue right now to get momentum and play good football on both sides of the ball, special teams, that’s what everybody wants to do right now.
Is Jay Cutler better this year than last year?
JA: He definitely is better than what he was last year. He’s more comfotable in what he’s doing. You’re starting to see that. The last few weeks I think he’s got a much better feel for the rush. He’s starting to move in the pocket, otu of the pocket, making plays, doing things now that show a lot more confidence in his ability to make plays. We all know he’s very gifted in terms of his arms strength. He’s learning the offense, the players around him. That’s still a work in progress, but I think he has definitely taken a step.
Are you satisfied with where he is in Year 2?
JA: Absolutely. The expectations when he came in was that he was going to walk on water. I never thought that. I knew there would be some growing pains. He hit every speed bump you could hit last year and I feel he worked harder, it created a little humility, as it would do to anybody. He is much more focused this year, much more comfortable with his environment, with out players and I think Mike Martz and he really hit it off early and there’s a strong relationship there built on trust and that’s critical for his development.
What else do you attribute this years defensive improvements to?
JA: Really, our defense, when you look at is very disciplined, very tough-minded and you could see that through their tacking and effort to the football. We play four quarters of defense. They’ve been resillient. They’ve bent. In some cases, they’ve broken, but they come back. That’s always a key to a really good defense. Are we a great defense? I can’t say we are a great defense but we are a very reslillient defense. I go back to our coaches. Rod Marinelli has done a great job. I’ve been with Rod. I know how Rod can impact a player, how he can impact a unit, I saw it first hand on the defensive line. He’s infectious. He’s had a strong influence on the guys.
What is this team's identity?
JA: We’re seeing it now. Now when we go out there we know what to look at and what to expect. It’ much easier to evaluate, much easier to develop and work on things. The last two weeks, after we came out of that bye, we have a much better compass on who we are.
What are your thoughts on Michael Vick's success?
JA: When you say you’re not surprised by anything, I’m still surprised that a guy can just come in and have a game like that. Again, it’s a testament to his hard work and athletic prowess and the good coaching he’s getting in Philadelphia. They’ve always done a great job. When you look at their tenure in Philadelphia it stands on it’s own merits. There’s a lot to be said for that. I’m just hoping it was a hot hand and he’s going to cool off.
Is this the offensive line you want in December?
JA: That’s the plan right now. They still have to continue to play well. There are still a couple works in progresson the offensive line. I don’t want to say the verdict is out. We’d like it to be. There’s no reason why it can’t be. Again, we’re still evaluating and we like some of the guys that are in the background right now. They’re antsy to get on the field. Guys have to perform. One of the things Lovie did this year with our team is reiterate that playing time isn’t a given. It has to be earned. That’s very, very important. It’s not just about the contract. It’s about playing time. Our guys get that and have done a real good job responding. Anytime we’ve had something bad happen to us it wasn’t for a lack of effort, it was just bad. That just happens. It can get better with continued work and confidence and obviously coaching. We’ve been getting that the last few weeks.
How tough was it to watch the Giants game?
JA: One word: Brutal. Absolutely, brutal. I can’t describe the pain. It doesn’t matter what you guys do, it doesn’t match the pain of watching that. It’s part of the game. You have to suck it up. You have to bounce back. That’s what you have to do in this game. You have to handle the downs. You have to. The downs come off the field as they do on the field. You have to stay resillient. If you don’t, you’re going to crash. there’s no other way. It’s a tough league. That’s the beauty of our game. It’s a challenge to everybody. That’s the greatness of it. If you can’t handle that, then it’s next.
What is going on Pisa Tinoisamoa's injury
JA: He should be fine. He’s had some medical issues that have been well documented. He has had something with his knee but we feel he will be fine. If we had the regular cyle of the week he might have been able to play on Sunday but having the short week we didn’t want to push it.
Is it the same knee?
JA: Yes, I believe it is the same knee. It’s manageable. We feel he’s going to be fine and everything will be up and going with him. He’s really had a fine year for us.
What are your thoughts on Lovie Smith's season?
JA: The same things we’ve seen every year from Lovie. He’s always been a great leader for us. I keep going back to that adversity, those storms, and he continues to create hope, and the guys rally around Lovie. You can say what you want to say. I’ve read everything that you’ve said. Most of it to me is unfair because the guy has really done and outstanding job of keeping the team together and that’s critical for a head coach in this league. You can’t minimize that.He doens’t get enough credit for that. We talk about the Cover 2, sometimes we talk about the anemic offense. We talk about a lot of things. Nobody ever says the things he really brings to the table and has brought to the table during his tenure and there has to be a lot of emphasis on that because it’s a very difficult job. We all know that. He’s done a great job of leading this team. I feel the staff has really galvanized in a short period of time with the newness of the coaches and hopefully we’ll see the fruits of all that during the second half of the season.
What are your thoughts on Tommie Harris season?
JA: I’m not going to use the word disappointed. I was hoping we would see more. Didn’t happen the way we thought. It would’ve been great because he was ready. He worked hard. Nothing short on his part. You couldn’t ask a guy to work any harder than he has worked in the offseason, during the season. It’s just not clicking. I don’t know how to say it other than that. I’m not giving up hope that it can’t because we still see the quickness and athlticism that you need to see in practice. Unfortunately, we’re not seeing it as much on Sunday. But it’s not a lack of effort, toughness, it has nothing to do with his work ethic and hopefully he’s going to turn the corner here.
How tough is the second half schedule?
JA: I don’t think we have to be any better. I just think we have to be consistent with what we do. I always say this when I head into a season. I’m not worried about our opponents, i’m not worried about the schedule. I’m worried about our team. If we’re a good team wins take care of themselves. I’ve always felt that. I’ve been in this league a long time. The good teams I’ve been on, we’ve had some murderous schedules and we come out at the end of the day a very good football team and I’ve looked at some schedules and said you know what, this is going to be a good thing for us and we’re picking ourselves off the mat. I really believe that in this league. You just focus on teh next opponent and be consistent at what you do. If you do that you’re going to win a lot of football games. You have to be a solid football team though. ... You’ve got to be sound and toughminded and you have to play hard on Sunday and that’s not always the case with all teams. That comes with the territory. Particularly at the halfpoint of the season because guys are hurt, a little sore, the media is beating the up a little bit, they’re getting stuf at home, it’s easy to go south right now. It’s really easy to go south. And if the record isn’t in your favor, you see that. Unfortunately, it happens. We’re human beings.
Jerry Angelo met with media before Thursday's game in Miami.