Chicago Bears: Mike Tice
Selected 14th overall in 2008 by former general manager Jerry Angelo as the club’s left tackle of the future, Williams never lived up to his draft pedigree, resulting in the Bears releasing him last October after he’d lost starting jobs at two spots along the offensive line. Williams received a fresh start in St. Louis shortly after his departure from Chicago, and has started all 10 games at left guard for the Rams this season. Williams faces his former team Sunday at the Edward Jones Dome.
Williams received that just prior to Week 8 of last season, and played in three games that year prior to winning a starting heading into 2013.
“He came in and played guard and tackle for us last year, and played well,” Fisher said. “He’s familiar with the system now. He’s communicating real well with Scott [Wells] and Jake [Long]. He’s having fun. He’s a great guy in the locker room, and he’s become a great teammate here.”
Williams started 38 games for the Bears, with just seven of those starts coming at left tackle, the original position he was brought in to play.
Williams moved from left tackle to guard after suffering a hamstring injury in 2010 against the Dallas Cowboys. Then, going into the 2012 season, the Bears pitted Williams against J’Marcus Webb for a competition for the starting job at left tackle; a battle Williams ultimately lost.
Just before Williams’ release, he had been inactive for two consecutive weeks.
“Chris is a great guy and we had a great talk after we released him," former Bears offensive coordinator Mike Tice said at the time. "He's had some bad breaks; he's had some bad injury breaks. We tried to move him inside [to guard] a little bit, and just as things were going last year he got dinged-up a little bit and lost some time. Right now, I just think the organization felt it would be good for him to maybe get a fresh start.”
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The Bears wrapped up the three-month long offseason program without their projected two starters at wide receiver ever sharing the field together for an extended period of time. Offseason hip surgery limited four-time Pro Bowl wideout Brandon Marshall to individual work at the end of OTAs last week and one day of minicamp, while a tight hamstring kept Alshon Jeffery off the field Tuesday and Wednesday. Jeffery did return on Thursday but only participated in limited individual drills.
"I think we turned it into a positive," Trestman said. "We got a great look at some of the young guys. They were ready to step in. We had very few, if any, mental errors there. They were running full speed and we were catching the football when we had the opportunity. So it was good for them to get the reps and get the reps against our top players on defense. Those are all good things.
ESPN's Adam Schefter has already reported Trestman's first hire: Former New Orleans Saints assistant Aaron Kromer as offensive coordinator/offensive line. Kromer and Trestman worked together on the Oakland Raiders' staff in 2001 and 2002, and their respective backgrounds suggest that Trestman will call the plays in 2013. It also means that Mike Tice, the Bears' offensive coordinator in 2012 and offensive line coach in 2010 and 2011, will be looking for a new position.
On the other hand, you wonder if Trestman would consider keeping defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli and the rest of the Bears' respected defensive staff. That decision will be based in part on whether Trestman wants to continue the "Tampa 2" framework that Smith brought to the Bears in 2004 and that has been well coordinated by Marinelli since 2010.
Hopefully Trestman will shed some light on that possibility during a news conference scheduled for 11 a.m. ET on Thursday.
"It's hard for an offense and as a quarterback to get to where you want to be and be consistent on a weekly basis if you're changing coordinators every couple of years," Cutler said on "The Jay Cutler Show" on ESPN 1000. "That's a reality. I think it's an overlooked fact."
Under Mike Tice, the Bears rank 28th in total offense and have averaged just 14 points a game over their last seven games. Still, Cutler praised Tice, a first-time offensive coordinator who had never called plays before this season.
Will that potential change include the head coach and a franchise icon? Our panel weighs in on that and more:
Fact or Fiction: Sunday's game was the last as Bears at Soldier Field for Lovie Smith and Brian Urlacher.
Jeff Dickerson: Fact. The Bears could prove me wrong, but I don't see the team making the playoffs. And if the Bears miss out on the postseason for the fifth time in six years, I just can't fathom how the organization can retain Smith for another season. So if Smith goes, my hunch is Urlacher follows his guy out the door. Unless Urlacher truly believes the Bears can be contenders next year, I'm not sure the 35-year old middle linebacker wants to be part of a rebuilding process. Plus, there is the issue of Urlacher's knees, which might require an off-season clean up, and the current hamstring injury he's dealing with. Is it worth it to put in all that work for one more NFL season? Only Urlacher can answer that question. But if Smith gets out the door, the decision probably becomes much easier. Smith and Urlacher are a package deal, in my opinion.
Michael C. Wright: Fiction. I've got to think general manager Phil Emery is a smart enough man to know this team's failures haven't been a result of Smith's coaching. This team simply lacks talent on offense in several areas, and depth in others, and it's Emery's job to make sure that changes. When your best two offensive linemen are merely average, that points to a serious deficiency in talent. So if ownership doesn't take the decision out of Emery's hands, it wouldn't surprise me if the GM let Smith finish out his contract. As for Urlacher, I don't see him returning unless he's willing to take a major salary reduction. The Bears likely will extend a one- or two-year offer based on Urlacher's past contributions. It will then be up to Urlacher to decide whether to take it. It's difficult not just for me, but surely all the Bears fans to imagine Urlacher wearing another uniform. So for now, I'll lean to him returning for at least one more season.
Scott Powers: Fact/Fiction. I could see a scenario where Sunday was Smith's last home game. If the Bears don't reach the playoffs, Smith's job is likely on the line. Even if they sneak into the playoffs and get bounced in the first round, he could be in jeopardy of being fired. As for Urlacher, I'm not convinced he isn't coming back next year. Unless the Bears sign or trade for a suitable replacement, he may be their best bet at linebacker. Urlacher isn't his old self, but he can still play a role.
Jon Greenberg: Fiction. Urlacher's done but Smith stays. It's painful to some to hear that opinion. While I don't see how the Bears bring back Lovie Smith if they miss the playoffs, I think this dead team comes back to life the last two weeks. There is nothing to buttress my opinion but the lousiness of the Cardinals and Lions. I think the Bears win two ugly games, get some help and sneak into the first round, where they get blasted by San Francisco or Green Bay. And Smith gets another year or two tacked onto his deal.
"I think that's a conversation for after the season," Cutler said Wednesday. "We are in the middle of the season right now and there is enough on our plate to worry about. After the season that will be a conversation.
"I don't think we can worry about that stuff now. We got to worry about (Sunday's game against) Arizona and whatever happens at the end of the season then that's going to be a cause of concern. (General manager) Phil (Emery) is going to do whatever is right for this team."
"Not just because of the losing, but it just doesn't feel like we're having enough fun," Tice said. "This thing's supposed to be fun. When you don't have fun, you put added burden and added stress on yourself. I don't think that's what we need to do right now."
- Quarterback Jay Cutler said during his ESPN 1000 radio show that his stiff neck shouldn't keep him out of next Sunday's game against the Green Bay Packers. Cutler allowed the Vikings to set the tone with a pass rush that prevented him from finding a rhythm. He completed only one of eight passes against the Vikings' blitz for eight yards, according to ESPN's Stats & Information. And Sunday might have been one of the few occasions when Cutler has forced the ball too often to receiver Brandon Marshall. Cutler (14) and backup Jason Campbell (one) threw 15 passes to Marshall that traveled at least 10 yards in the air. That was the highest total in one game for a wide receiver in at least the past five years. Cutler completed only two of seven such throws in the second half, one of which was intercepted and returned for a touchdown by Vikings safety Harrison Smith, and the Bears couldn't close the gap created by an early deficit.ESPN.com
- Running back Michael Bush only got two snaps because of a recurring rib injury that had left him questionable for the game. That is one of an inordinate amount of injuries the Bears are dealing with for their key people. Cutler might miss some practice time this week. Bush obviously had a setback. Receiver Earl Bennett is trying to come back from a concussion. Linebacker Brian Urlacher has a hamstring injury that could keep him off the field for the rest of the regular season. The same goes for cornerback Tim Jennings' shoulder injury. Place-kicker Robbie Gould's calf strain might necessitate reinforcements. Rookie defensive end Shea McClellin suffered a knee injury Sunday that prevented his return. Two of the Bears' best special teams players, Craig Steltz and Sherrick McManis, left Sunday's game because of chest and knee injuries, respectively. That's a long list of ailments for a team that needs to win at least two of its last three games, and perhaps all of them, to make the playoffs.
- The Bears rotated Edwin Williams and James Brown at left guard, with Brown actually getting more snaps (42) than Williams (36). Offensive coordinator Mike Tice has spoken highly of Brown since training camp, and you wonder if he is considering using Brown as a starter as Chris Spencer deals with a knee injury. Brown is an undrafted rookie and the Bears have already used five different starting guards this season, but his sudden entrance into the game Sunday was worth noting.
Earlier this season, we noted the Bears hadn't established an offensive identity. Other than Cutler's connection to Marshall, it wasn't easy to come up with a long list of things the Bears do well offensively. After Week 14, that's still the case. They rank No. 18 in the NFL in yards per carry (4.2), No. 27 in passing yards per game and No. 28 in scoring. At the end of this season, whenever that comes, we'll have to ask whether the Bears' preseason plan to mesh their former scheme, Tice's philosophies and the ideas of quarterbacks coach Jeremy Bates all into one offense was too complicated a task.
Five nuggets of knowledge about Week 12:
November woes: The Green Bay Packers have won four consecutive road games against the New York Giants, their opponent in Sunday's prime-time game. And are the Packers getting the Giants at a good time? Recent history is inexplicable but clear. The Giants are a bad November team, and this year quarterback Eli Manning has slumped badly as well. Under coach Tom Coughlin, the Giants are 13-21 in November and 67-37 in all other months. The Giants have lost their past five games in November, including two this season. Manning, meanwhile, hasn't thrown a touchdown pass since the fourth quarter of Week 7, a span of 99 passes. Since Week 8, Manning has completed only 54.5 percent of his total throws and has a Total Quarterback Rating (QBR) of 27.1, ranking him No. 29 of 33 qualifiers during that span.
Run opportunities: The Packers achieved rare equality in their run-pass ratio last week against the Detroit Lions, running on 28 plays and passing on 31. Coach Mike McCarthy lamented a relative lack of production from starter James Starks, who rushed for 74 yards on 25 carries, and it appears Starks and Alex Green will rotate more frequently Sunday night. The Packers should have some opportunities against a Giants defense that has allowed at least 150 rushing yards in consecutive home games for the first time since 2006. The Pittsburgh Steelers rushed for 158 yards against them two weeks ago, and 99 of those yards came after contact, an indication of the state of the Giants' tackling.
Tracking Allen: Vikings defensive end Jared Allen had at least one sack in six consecutive games but has now gone two games without one. But the last time Allen saw the Bears, he lit up left tackle J'Marcus Webb for 3.5 sacks in the 2011 season finale. Webb is one of three offensive linemen who kept his job after backup quarterback Jason Campbell was sacked six times by the San Francisco 49ers on Monday night, but offensive coordinator Mike Tice has pledged constant chip help for Webb this weekend. The Bears will try to contain the rest of the Vikings' defense with a new right tackle (Jonathan Scott) and left guard (Chris Spencer).
Peterson power: The Bears' defense has proved vulnerable recently to what has been the decided strength of Peterson all season. Specifically, they have given up at least 80 yards on runs between the tackles in each of their past five games. Peterson, of course, has been gashing teams almost exclusively between the tackles since returning from knee surgery. This season, 174 of his carries, 922 of his yards, six of his touchdowns and 11 of his 20-plus yard runs have come on runs that began between the tackles. There is every reason to believe the Vikings will attack that area early and often, and then probably follow up with a heavy dose of their play-action game.
"There is no consideration on that, at all, so I don't know where you got that from," Smith said.
Cutler admitted the club can’t win with the offensive line giving up six sacks on backup Jason Campbell the way it did Monday, as he watched from Chicago while recovering from a concussion. Offensive coordinator Mike Tice revealed changes could be on the way, and added that “at a certain point a player, a man needs to grit his teeth, buck up and win a fight.”
- The Bears' intent on offense was pretty clear. They opened the game with an extra tackle, Jonathan Scott, and rookie Evan Rodriguez lined up at fullback, and desperately wanted to establish the run with quarterback Jay Cutler sidelined. I get that. But that approach provided no alternative when the 49ers took the early lead, and I remain stunned at how poorly the Bears adjusted. Forced into passing situations, they put tackles J'Marcus Webb and Gabe Carimi in matchups they had already proved they couldn't win. It was absolutely criminal to stand by and let 49ers linebacker Aldon Smith beat them for 5.5 sacks. There is no doubt Smith is an elite pass-rusher, but the Bears needed to suck it up at some point and double-team him. Each sack came when the 49ers sent four or fewer rushers, meaning there was always someone available to help out if assigned. Instead, the Bears let Smith have a better game against them than any opponent in their history. In fact, Smith's sack total has been bested in a single game only four times in NFL history. Reggie White never had 5.5 sacks in a game. Neither did Bruce Smith, Lawrence Taylor, nor Mark Gastineau. Why? Because even on their best days, they faced more opposition than Smith did Monday night. I'm not sure any adjustment on Smith would have changed the outcome of the game, given how well the 49ers' offense played, but yikes. That was an eye-opening red flag from offensive coordinator Mike Tice, who was promoted in part because his background as an offensive line coach figured to minimize such jailbreaks. The Bears' scheme was as much, or more, to blame for Smith's night as was the poor play of Webb and Carimi.
- Jason Campbell's performance gets something of a curve given the pressure he faced. All told, he was sacked six times and hit on five other occasions. But in the bigger picture, I wouldn't say the Bears got their $3.5 million out of him Monday night. The point of making such a commitment on a backup quarterback was to give themselves a chance to win a tough game under adverse circumstances when the starter isn't available. Based on their initial game plan, the Bears didn't appear interested in putting the game in Campbell's hands. And when they had no choice, Campbell fell far short. He threw two interceptions, fumbled twice, and per his career history, rarely pushed the ball upfield. Of his 22 attempts, only six traveled more than 10 yards past the line of scrimmage. He completed two of them for a total of 24 yards. Again, Campbell was in a tough spot Monday night. But the bottom line is the Bears are now 1-7 in the past eight games that starter Cutler has either missed or has left early. It appears Cutler is on track to return for Sunday's game against the Minnesota Vikings. He is scheduled to host his radio show on ESPN 1000 at 1 p.m. ET.
- Cutler has alluded on several occasions to his role in keeping receiver Brandon Marshall mentally engaged and emotionally in check, and it was instructive to see how quickly Marshall got chippy and eventually combative without Cutler on the sideline with him. Television cameras caught center Roberto Garza putting him in a bear hug to settle down an altercation with an unnamed Bears player late in the game. "I have to a do a better job when I am frustrated of not letting it show," Marshall said. In the end, Marshall only saw four passes thrown his way. He caught two of them, including a 13-yard touchdown. Six of Marshall's eight touchdowns this season have come when the score differential was at least 17 points.
What happened to the Bears' defense? Part of me wants to tip my cap to 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick. It was fair to expect a conservative game plan and a few mistakes when facing a quarterback making his first start. We all thought Kaepernick would give the Bears a chance to add to their long list of takeaways this season. But Kaepernick was poised and stunningly accurate downfield against a Bears team that only blitzed on nine of his 23 attempts. Kaepernick gashed the Bears' standard pressure by completing 10 of 14 passes against it, including two that gained at least 30 yards. The 49ers also burned the Bears' defense by rushing for 94 yards between the tackles. Time will tell, but the Bears' defense -- like most -- was not nearly as good when it couldn't cause turnovers.
Once again the Bears might face life without Cutler, who suffered a concussion against the Houston Texans on Sunday night. Is the veteran Campbell, with 70 NFL starts under his belt, up to the challenge of beating the 49ers on Monday night in San Francisco if Cutler can't go?
Our panel weighs in on that and more:
Fact or Fiction: The Bears can beat the 49ers with Jason Campbell at quarterback.
Jeff Dickerson: Fact. One of Caleb Hanie's biggest issues was the fact he had no NFL starting experience when he took over for Cutler late in 2011. Campbell does not suffer from the same problem. After starting 70 games for the Washington Redskins and Oakland Raiders, Campbell is more than qualified to run the offense if Cutler is sidelined due to a concussion. Granted, Campbell needs to perform better than he did against Houston, where he looked somewhat indecisive in the second half. But a full week of practice should help that, not to mention a decent game plan from the coaching staff that doesn't restrict Campbell from attempting longer throws down the field if the play is open. The Bears haven't won in San Francisco since 1985, so knocking off the 49ers even with Cutler at quarterback would be a difficult task to accomplish. But Campbell should give the Bears a decent shot, which is really all you can ask for from a backup quarterback.
Michael C. Wright: Fact. Give Campbell a week of real preparation time, and he should be perfectly capable of filling in for Cutler against one of the league's top defenses on the road. Observers point to the tentative nature in which Campbell performed in the loss to the Texans in assessing his skillset. But that would be a mistake, considering how ill-prepared Campbell was due to limited practice reps. Campbell isn't Todd Collins or Hanie. He's a former first-round pick with a .443 winning percentage as a starter that should be taken with a grain of salt since he played for horrid teams in Washington and Oakland before joining the Bears.
Scott Powers: Fact. Part of the equation depends on whether quarterback Alex Smith plays for the 49ers. If he doesn't suit up, the Bears can definitely beat the 49ers. But even if he does play, the defense should keep the Bears in the game. The Texans possess arguably a better offense than the 49ers, and the Bears held them to 13 points. Matt Forte will have to produce more than he did last week, and Campbell is better than most backups the Bears have had in the past. The offense should be capable of getting in the end zone once or twice and setting Robbie Gould up for a few field goals. If the Bears' defense is its normal self, that should be enough.
Jon Greenberg: Fiction. Well, I mean they can beat the Niners with Campbell by running the ball with their two top-tier running backs and the Bears' typical defensive dominance. But I think the spirit of the question is "will" they beat them, and the answer is no. I'm pretty sure the Bears would lose with Cutler, and probably in a more awful fashion. San Francisco, which operates out of a base 3-4, has the No. 1 rush defense, according to Football Outsider, and in traditional statistics, it ranks seventh in yards per game (95.3) and tied for third in fewest rushing touchdowns (three). I can imagine the game plan will be to stack the box and deny Forte the outside. I foresee a 13-10 win for San Francisco, but hey, maybe the Bears' defense will score three touchdowns and pull out a win.
Like the Packers, the Bears have the personnel to exploit single-high safety looks.
- Will the Texans give the Bears the same look?
- If so, will the Bears protect quarterback Jay Cutler enough to capitalize?
Texans defensive coordinator Wade Phillips told reporters -- jokingly, I assume -- that the Texans will double-team receiver Brandon Marshall on every play. Phillips made the convincing argument that the Bears "haven’t thrown it to the other guys very much except the running back," but if form holds, Marshall will get more opportunities than he might ordinarily to make big plays downfield early in this game.
"We've been pretty good against single-high teams," offensive coordinator Mike Tice said this week. Added Marshall: "I'm going to get some single coverage."
As we noted earlier this week, five of Marshall's seven touchdowns this season have come with the Bears leading by at least 17 points. Facing a deficit, opposing defenses have assumed the Bears would run to eat time off the clock and are bringing one of their safeties close to the line of scrimmage. That leaves the other safety in a "single-high" look that limits the attention paid to Marshall.
If the Texans open the game that way, the Bears could be in business if Cutler has enough time to throw. That's a big "if," of course, and not just because Cutler has been sacked 28 times this season. The Texans have arguably the NFL's best pass defense, allowing a league-low 17.4 QBR to opposing quarterbacks. Their standard four-man pass rush is averaging one sack per 11.7 dropbacks, the second-highest total in the NFL, and defensive lineman J.J. Watt has 10.5 sacks and nine tipped passes on his own.
With this game now two days away, I feel comfortable spending more time focusing on the Bears' offense than the rest of their team. Way back in training camp, as we noted, the Bears' confidence this season was based not just on their defense or special teams, but that they would finally have an offense to match those two long-running elite groups.
The Bears have started 7-1 without the strength of a consistently high-performing offense, but they are about to hit a stretch of games -- beginning Sunday night -- that will require the offense to be better. If the Texans play their single-high safety look, and the Bears protect Cutler, the offense has a great chance to do its part.