Chat with Michael Wright
Welcome to ESPNChicago.com! On Friday, our Chicago Bears reporter Michael Wright makes his weekly appearance.
Wright joined ESPNChicago in April 2010 after spending the previous four seasons covering the Jaguars. He also covered the Redskins for two seasons. A native Texan, Wright was a four-year football letterman at West Texas A&M University. He covers the Bears for both ESPNChicago.com and Chicago's ESPN Radio 1000.
Send your questions now and join Wright Friday at noon CT/1 p.m. ET!
Michael (1:00 PM)
Hey guys, let's get this chat started prompting. It will be ending a little earlier than usual today because the workload is a little heavier. So fire away.
Greg (Lincoln Park) [via mobile]
Hi Michael, most teams have some sort of o-line problems, but which team do you think will have most issues? i think this will be the key to who losses, who least dominates.
Michael (1:02 PM)
Greg, I can only go off what's happened so far this season. Over the past three weeks, the Bears have given up more sacks (14) than the Texans have all season (10). But what's telling about Houston is the fact that seven of those sacks have come in the last three games. So the Texans have shown some vulnerability in the pass-protection area. But my guess is the Bears will have more problems in that area than the Texans in this game.
Am I right in thinking that containing JJ Watt is the key to this game? Limit him like they did with DeMarcus Ware, Bears win. Let him take over the game like Clay Matthews, Bears lose. Too simplistic?
Michael (1:05 PM)
Jon, I think that's one of the keys. But I also think the Bears will need to take some chances down the field because the Texans play some aggressive/risky schemes on the back end. So the Bears need to deploy more targets into the routes to take advantage of those schemes. But at the same time, offensive coordinator Mike Tice has to strike a balance between taking chances such as what I referenced above versus utilizing max pro, three-step drops and other things to keep Jay Cutler adequately protected. If they go overboard trying to protect Cutler, the Bears won't be able to take advantage of Houston's aggressive scheme. If they put guys out into routes all the time, though, they run the risk of getting Cutler hit. So it's going to be a tough call for Tice to make. But to me, that's one of the biggest keys to this game.
I asked this question of JD, but I would love your perspective. Why do so many people at ESPN 1000 [Harry] seem to hate J'Marcus Webb? I think that his play has improved and he is definatly not in the conversation for the worst LT in the NFL.
Michael (1:09 PM)
Darryl, I guess that depends on who you talk to about Webb. I'm with you. I don't think he's been as bad as he was last year. As I've said since the beginning of the season, Carimi has performed the worst and you've also got to consider that he's not going against the opponent's best pass rusher the way Webb is, which is particularly concerning. Webb definitely needs to become a more consistent player. But I think the same can be said of nearly every member of that offensive line. Webb hasn't been horrible, but to me, he still hasn't been good enough to be the guy long term to protect the quarterback's blind side.
Can the Bears please line up Bennett exclusively, or dang close to it, in the slot? That's where he is most effective, and when I watch this offense it lacks a presence in the middle of the field. I know Jeffrey is out but it's obvious.
Michael (1:11 PM)
JK, you're absolutely correct in what you're seeing. If you look closely at Jeffery's numbers, you'll see that when he was in the mix, most of his damage was coming down the middle of the field. Since Jeffery has been out, the Bears have missed that element of the passing offense. The tight ends haven't gotten it done in Jeffery's absence, and none of the other have either. But I'm with you: the Bears should be using Bennett more in the slot. I wouldn't mind seeing Devin Hester there as well.
Harold (South Bend)
How much is Gabe Carimi going to struggle on Sunday night against Watt, Reed, Barwin and Mercilus? To me his play has been siginificantly worse than Webb's.
Michael (1:14 PM)
Good question, Harold. Unfortunately, I don't have the answer to that. I think the Bears would be smart to help him out some with personnel packages and schemes. But I'm not sure that will be enough. I think Carimi's play definitely has been the worst of all the linemen. But at this point, in my opinion, it's too late to try someone else at the position. The best way to help Carimi is to establish the run to put the Texans on their heels somewhat.
Hey Michael,Do you think the Bears should utilize the screen pass more this week to offset the blitzes, specifically regarding Watts?
Michael (1:14 PM)
Adam (phoenix) [via mobile]
Why do the Bears get overlooked even when they have a great team? I hear all the time about how their schedule is weak, but compared to ATL and GB, it's not much different. Yet both of those teams are "much better" compared to some. It makes no sense.
Michael (1:16 PM)
Are they, Adam? Or do you just take a little more offense to this perceived slight? I've heard Tony Gonzales complain quite a bit about Atlanta not getting any national recognition. I really don't think any of this matters until February.
davon (washington DC)
How do you think the weather will play into the game? Right now they are forecasting showers throughout the entire game.
Michael (1:17 PM)
On that great turf (sarcasm) at Soldier Field, I definitely think the weather could be a major factor. Apparently, the Texans do too, considering they've been working all week at practice using wet footballs.
Rich (Missouri State Line)
Are the Bears still talking to Henry Melton about a contract extension? What do you expect the numbers to look like on that deal?
Michael (1:21 PM)
Rich, I doubt the talks are ongoing. General manager Phil Emery has said that he prefers to take care of that type of business at the end of the season so there are no distractions. My guess is the deal will be pretty lucrative because top defensive tackles don't come cheap. Because of Melton's age, I could see the Bears trying hard to make sure the deal is somewhere in the five-year range. I don't see him making the type of money Matt Forte received in his extension. But it'll definitely be somewhere in the range of $8 to $10 million guaranteed (but the Bears could have major competition here). I could be wrong here, but that's my best guess.
Patrick ((at work))
My wife and I were at the Bears-Titans game, which might as well have been a home game. Witnessing, in person, what Peanut was able to do was amazing. I mean every time he was around the ball we held our breath. Do you think this phenomenon "Peanut Punch" alters the Texan's plans to target A. Johnson or anyone in Peanut's time zone? Thanks.
Michael (1:24 PM)
Patrick, I don't think so. My guess is the Texans are pretty confident about their chances considering they've given up a league-low six turnovers through the first eight games. Since 1991, only the 1991 Cleveland Browns and 2011 Detroit Lions turned the ball over fewer times than this year's Texans team. Besides that, Texans coach Gary Kubiak has said that protecting the ball will definitely be a point of emphasis this week. That's probably the case with every team the Bears face, yet no team has really truly been successful at protecting the football. The Texans could fall into that boat, too. But I doubt the threat of turnovers changes Houston's game plan.
Michael (Roanoke, VA)
What seed will the Bears be entering the post season?
Michael (1:24 PM)
That's too far away to predict and there are too many variables involved.
Matt (The Windy City)
I keep hearing that Alshon Jeffrey is getting better but then I hear hes still being held out of practice, any word on his progress? Keep up the good work, love the chats.
Michael (1:25 PM)
He is making progress, Matt, and there's a slight chance he could play this week. We've heard the Bears would rather sit him to be cautious before bringing him back for the San Francisco game. But remember, there's a chance -- albeit slight -- he could be back this week.
Darth Ditka (Destin, FL)
This game has me worried, cuz we still can't pass block. (Guess it wasn't all Martz like some tried to push.) I'm hoping the weather can help us out some. Any stats on how Houston performs outside in under 40 temps...or whatever the forecast is?
Michael (1:27 PM)
Well, Darth the Texans actually came out to Soldier Field back in 2004 and defeated the Bears 24-5. During that game, the Texans played in the second-coldest kickoff temperature (12 degrees) in team history.
Lance L (Lake Forest)
Michael when do you think the Bears will extend me? Have I not been our best OLmen all season?
Michael (1:29 PM)
Just as with Henry Melton, the Bears will probably wait until the season comes to an end before getting into serious discussions about an extension for Louis. I agree, Louis has quietly been the most consistent player on the offensive line this year.
Michael (1:29 PM)
Folks, that's my time. We've got to cut today's chat short. Hope to see you next week.