Q: JD, much has been made of the defense this offseason and the number of picks made in both the OTA and minicamp. Should I be concerned with the offense at this point? How has Jay Cutler looked and how has his decision-making appeared? -- Corey, Denver
A: At this time of the year, the defense is always ahead of the offense. The mistakes witnessed on the practice field are more magnified during these offseason workouts because, to put it simply, the Bears are learning a brand new offense, while the defense has been playing in relatively the same system since 2004. I'm not saying you should enjoy reading about Cutler and Caleb Hanie throwing picks, but put it in the proper context. Wouldn't you rather see them tossing interceptions in May and June, rather then October and November? It would be foolish for any Bears fan to just assume the offense is going to work perfectly under Mike Martz, but give these guys a little time before coming to any drastic, negative conclusions about the direction of the offense.
As for Cutler, he's looked fine on the field. It's not like he is facing live action, so it's difficult to offer up an accurate evaluation of his decision making, but the guy can make every throw in the book. It's never been about talent with Cutler. The biggest issue: Will he continue to buy in to Martz and the new offense? So far, Cutler has been a new man in that department, working extremely well with his new offensive coordinator. If that continues, I expect a much better season from the starting quarterback in 2010.
Q: Jeff, I've seen you and other writers say Chris Harris is "better suited" to play strong safety. Please explain? -- Arie, Gurnee, Ill.
A: First of all, Harris publicly stated his preference to play strong safety during an interview with ESPN 1000 on the day of the trade. On top of that, there was genuine concern in Carolina that a previous knee injury robbed Harris of the speed and burst necessary to handle certain coverage assignments, which made him expendable from the Panthers' point of view. Taking all that into consideration, I think Harris can be a very good player for the Bears, because the defense sorely needs leadership at the safety position. Think of Harris as the quarterback of the defense, much like Mike Brown back in the day. It's important Harris remains on the field, but the Bears need to be careful they don't get exposed in coverage. I would not be surprised to see Danieal Manning and Harris periodically changing roles on the field, with Harris moving up into the box on certain plays. I've always taken issue with the whole "our safeties are interchangeable" philosophy, but this year, they better be -- at least if Harris and Manning remain starters.
Q: You keep mentioning the fact that Josh Beekman is taking reps exclusively at center. How has he looked at that position? Olin Kreutz only has a few years left in the league, so is it possible that Beekman could be the center-in-waiting, so to speak?-- Mike, College Station, Texas
A: Not to sound like a broken record, but without any live contact, it's tough to fairly judge any linemen during OTAs and minicamp. However, I think Beekman has a future at center if he stays with the Bears. Beekman is entering the final year of his original rookie contract, but with all the uncertainty surrounding the collective bargaining agreement, it's unclear when he will actually reach free agency. If the Bears continue to hold his rights as a restricted free agent, then perhaps he sticks around long enough for Kreutz to retire. But if he somehow got cut loose, I think Beekman could certainly find a job at guard somewhere in the league. It would just have to be in the proper blocking system, one that places a premium on speed, pulling and cut blocks. Unfortunately for Beekman, it sounds like the Bears want a larger body to play left guard this season, decreasing his chances to fairly compete for the job in training camp.
Q: I've always admired Pisa Tinoisamoa, but all I'm hearing about is how Nick Roach is the starter unless Pisa can highly impress. Is this because Pisa has lost a step and doesn't bring what he did last year? -- Jake, Fontana Calif.
A: Jake, I really don't think that's the case. Roach is just a quality player, described by coaches as extremely quick and highly intelligent. In my opinion, the only knock against Roach the last two years was inexperience. He only played eight games his final year at Northwestern (2006), then had to wait almost two years before taking the field in a defensive capacity -- he played exclusively special teams at the end of 2007 and beginning of 2008. After starting 24 games the past two seasons, experience is no longer an issue. If Roach stays healthy, this should be the best of year of his NFL career. However, Tinoisamoa isn't going to simply roll over and concede anything to Roach. I've written this before: Strong side linebacker should be the best competition of training camp. But right now, Roach sits atop the depth chart because of his ability, not because Tinoisamoa has lost a step.
Q: What ever happened to the Bears' version of Adrian Peterson? Did he sign with somebody? -- Alexander T., Peoria, Ill.
A: Peterson remains a free agent after his contract with the Bears expired at the end of the 2009 season. It's probably just a matter of time before he gets another job, but his age and pay grade might be working against him. Running backs over 30 years old have a certain stigma attached to them, and Peterson turns 31 in early July. Plus, as an eight-year NFL veteran, Peterson's veteran minimum salary in 2010 would be substantially higher than a rookie or undrafted free agent back-up runner. Still, Peterson was always a solid special teams contributor, outstanding teammate, and talented change of pace running back. If he doesn't make a roster this year, then something's wrong with the system.