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!
Jessse (Midland, Texas)
Michael, I know in the past when keeping up with the Bears they always used the whole offseason to prepare for the first team. They did this against Colts in 2008. Any chance the Bears are preparing for the Cowboys a little early since the are familiar with the Lions, the first game of the year? Thanks
Michael (1:06 PM)
Sorry I'm late. Had trouble logging in. But to answer your question Jessse, I'd say the Bears aren't looking past the Lions. There's a fine line between the good and bad teams in the NFL. Parity is indeed real. Plus, you've got to think the Lions will be an improved team. In addition, it's a division game. Those are extremely important.
Who do you predict to have a breakout season in the WR group? Why?
Michael (1:10 PM)
Patrick, at first I expected it to be Devin Aromashodu because he appeared to be the most polished of the receivers during offseason work. But after taking in some workouts at camp, my money would be on Johnny Knox. Former Bears quarterback Brett Basanez made an interesting observation about the Abilene Christian product on a radio show with my colleague Jeff Dickerson. Basanez said that Knox is the best of the receivers at controlling his elite speed. In Martz's timing-based offense, that's a key element for a receiver to possess. Perhaps that's why Jay Cutler has thrown more to Knox than any other receiver so far at camp.
Tommie Harris....can we really expect anything from him this year? For the whole season?
Michael (1:12 PM)
B, let's hope so. Interesting that you mention Harris. Spoke with him recently, and just finished writing a piece on him that you'll see something up on our site about him sometime today. Anyway, the good news is that he's participated in EVERY session. Coach Lovie Smith is giving a lot of the veterans days off to rest. But Harris hasn't been one of them. So he's getting plenty of work at camp. Harris told me he feels really good. He said he's not even getting camp legs yet.
Zac (Kansas City)
Much has been made of Cutler with his propensity for interceptions...and rightfully so. The Bears' bigger problems however, was the offensive line's putrid play. With Olin Kreutz all but washed up (he was horrible last year), suspect talent at 1-2 other positions, and little in the way of upgrades, how is this unit going to be better? Don't say Mike Tice as we all saw how much effect Marinelli had with the d-line. They were equally as bad.
Michael (1:15 PM)
Zac, I share your concern. All I can say is that Kreutz was banged up all last year. So having him back healthy will be huge, considering his importance as sort of the traffic controller up front. But I'm kind of like you about this. How can the Bears expect to be so much better up front with the same personnel as last year in an offense that historically gives up tons of sacks? I think the Bears are kidding themselves on this one.
Do you think with Urlacher back in the middle. That the Bears have the best Linebacking corps in the league?
Michael (1:18 PM)
I'm not sure about "best". But I really like it. They're a very athletic and deep group. Urlacher and Lance Briggs get all the publicity, but I really like what I've seen out of Nick Roach and Pisa Tinoisamoa (the Bears will have a tough call on this one). They're a little smallish, but both can fly, and you definitely hear pads pop once they arrive.
What up MW. There's been a lot of rotation at S due to some minor injuries. Have to think Chris Harris will lock down a spot as the wily vet, but which young guy starts with him Wk 1?
Michael (1:21 PM)
Don't be so sure to make Harris a starter just yet. The guy tweaked his back in a walkthrough and hasn't been able to practice since. I still think Danieal Manning will get the start at strong safety. But I'd be lying if I say he's struggled a little thus far at camp. I saw assistant defensive backs coach Gill Byrd chewing Manning out just yesterday for allowing a tight end to make a catch in front of him. If Major Wright can get back on the field soon and show the staff what he's capable of, I could see him cracking the starting lineup eventually. It's my guess that at some point, either Harris or Manning could be out of the starting lineup.
Any update on the status of Major Wright? He was impressive in training camp and as a rookie, needs all the reps he can get. Do you believe the scenario of Wright/Harris starting safey combo is likely barring health?
Michael (1:23 PM)
Luigi, I believe a Wright/Harris combination at safety could happen if Manning continues to struggle. As for Wright, I think if it were the regular season, he'd be able to go. The Bears are just being cautious with his injury so he can play plenty of snaps in the preseason games.
Christian (Highland, IN)
What record do you predict the Bears get this season?
Michael (1:27 PM)
I'm not exactly sure why I feel this way -- call it a hunch -- but I think 8-8 would be a worst-case-scenario record for the Bears. There's quite a bit of young talent on this team. The issue is whether they can put it together in time for the club to click when it counts. I could see them going 10-6 if the o-line holds up, and if the defensive front seven can generate enough pass rush to take pressure off the secondary to cover.
Michael, why does Omiyale get some many passes? Last year I watched him time after time getting manhandled and getting flagged on false starts. I have no confidence whatsoever on the right side. All I hear is that he continues to have false starts this year. Can you tell me if he blocking has at least improved on the right side this year?
Michael (1:31 PM)
Kelly, he's definitely not getting a pass from me or my colleague Jeff Dickerson. In fact, yesterday, Jeff and I sat down and counted four consecutive plays in which Omiyale whiffed on Julius Peppers. Granted Peppers is an elite pass rusher, Omiyale still has to at least be able to get a hand on the guy. I wish I could tell you that blocking has improved on the right side, but it's hard to tell with Julius Peppers wreaking so much havoc there. But please keep in mind, that A) it's Julius Peppers, and B) most teams are gonna have extra protection on Peppers' side, which isn't the case for the Bears right now at camp.
I read somewhere that Harris, Peppers and Wooten have gotten a lot of pressure on cutler. Do you see Wooten starting at some point this year? If not, at least getting a lot of playing time?
Michael (1:33 PM)
Wherever you read that -- hopefully ESPNChicago.com -- nailed it, correctly. Those three guys put so much pressure on Cutler the other day, that the quarterback launched one pass at a hospitality tent, and another at Harris' feet. When Wootton first came in, I thought he'd still be working to recover from his college injury. But he's come right in and opened some eyes. I could see Wootton becoming an important member of that D-line rotation as a rookie. I'm not sure about starting, though.
Who do you think will be the biggest impact rookie for Chicago this yr?
Michael (1:34 PM)
If he gets back on the field soon, I'd say Major Wright hands down.
Paul (Gary, Indiana)
I was asking myself what I wanted more...Devin Hester to return to his old form or the defense. Which has the better chance of returning to its old form and if its the defense, any chance it can return to a top 5 defense. That would be great!
Michael (1:37 PM)
Paul,I'd go with the defense. Julius Peppers, I think, will make a huge difference because he'll give the Bears flexibility to make diverse calls. A diversity of calls -- if they work -- will keep defenses guessing, in addition to causing more turnovers. One hallmark of top 5 defenses is the ability to force turnovers. Why do you think they moved Zack Bowman to the left corner spot? The Bears anticipate forcing some turnovers this season, and want their best corner over there reaping the rewards of plentiful interceptions.
Over/under on Hester 80 catches, 900 yards and 8 td's? What is your prediction? And how do you think Knox's number will compare?
Michael (1:38 PM)
Give me the under, and I see Knox's receptions being higher, but Hester having a better yards-per-catch average.
Michael, its well chronicled that in Martz offensive system timing and precision is of upmost importance. How have the receivers handled and adapted to the plays in training camp so far, and do you anticipate this offense launching itself close to full speed by the time week 1 comes around?
Michael (1:41 PM)
Corey, the receivers have actually handled all the timing elements of the offense suprisingly well. You can especially see it with Devin Hester, who in minicamp, seemed to be in too much of a hurry, which often caused him to not be on the same page with Cutler. Also, I do see the offense being capable of clicking on all cylinders once the season starts. The big question, though, is that offensive line. They've struggled at camp, but that should change once the team puts in specific protections for opponents, blitz pickups, etc.
Rick (San Antonio, Texas)
Has there been any quiet grumblings or worries by the coaching staff regarding anything in training camp? I believe so much stuff happens behind the scenes, its hard for the media to cover everything.
Michael (1:44 PM)
Rick, that's the thing that baffles all of us covering the Bears. The staff acts as if everything is perfect. If I based my opinions on what they've told us, I'd be bracing for a perfect 16-0 season. You're correct that a lot happens behind the scenes. We in the media aren't immediately made privy to it due to competitive reasons. But if you dig around long enough, you find things.
SteveFitz (Chicago, IL)
Can't wait for Family Night tonight at Soldier Field. Any interesting fights amongst the players this year. Good battles?
Michael (1:45 PM)
I've only seen two minor skirmishes, and in both cases, there were so many people in the middle of it, I couldn't make out the jersey numbers of the guys actually involved. For the most part, it's been quiet on the fight front. But there are some great positional battles going on at linebacker, safety, and -- to a lesser degree -- receiver.
Heather (Colorado Springs)
Michael, give me a good nugget on the Bears. Something no one has talked about yet regarding this team.
Michael (1:47 PM)
The euphoria/newness of training camp has worn off for the players. Camp legs have definitely set in. You could see it as the guys filed into the cafeteria yesterday. They're beginning to get a little fatigued and agitated. My guess is we're about to start seeing some good training camp skirmishes. So you should come out.
What kind of influence will Bruce have at all on the young WR's...will he suit up at all? It's almost like the acquired a vet but don't have to worry about paying him big bucks or playing him.
Michael (1:48 PM)
Chris, oh no. Bruce isn't suiting up. His job is just to teach the young receivers some of the nuances of the system he flourished in. No more than that. Devin Hester swears by Bruce. If the other receivers buy in, it should be beneficial.
Zorich97 (Kansas City)
I am not hearing much re: Kevin Shaffer. How has he been performing in contrast to Omiyale? He appears to me to be a more polished technical player.
Michael (1:49 PM)
Trust your eyes, Zorich. I agree. In addition, I think Shaffer is more physical.
8-8 worst case? Have you looked at the schedule? Between the packers and vikings there COULD be 4 losses right there, then you throw in the Cowboys, Pats, Jets, and others the whole divison will have their hands full every week.
Michael (1:52 PM)
Hey man, I told you it was just a hunch. I just see that offense putting up lots points, and the defense being able to pressure people. You're correct that the schedule is tough. But we can't -- because of all the factors involved -- necessarily base this year's predictions on what these teams did last season. Would you say the Vikings will be the same team this season without Brett Favre?
Of course the guy from Wisconsin is picking the bears to lose all 4 of those division games. Cand wait till we break your Qb's leg fool
Michael (1:53 PM)
I don't have an answer for this. It was just funny. Love to see the fans go at it as much as the actual players.
Derek (Lubbock, Texas)
I get the feeling that Mike Martz holds back on Jay Cutler, am I correct in this assumption? He seems to be hard and yell at everyone but him...
Michael (1:55 PM)
I think he does publicly, Derek. I'm not sure about how things go down behind the scenes. If you talk to either one of them, it's a full-blown bromance between the two. In my opinion, Cutler does seem to have a crybaby element about him, which means Martz will have to coddle him.
Will this offense be ready week 1?
Michael (1:59 PM)
It's gonna have to be, Andrew. Let me give you a glimmer of hope, though. Yesterday, Jay Cutler dropped back, and launched a pass on a corner route. As soon as he let the ball go, he turned around and walked back to the huddle. As Cutler walked off, Devin Aromashodu came down with the ball in the end zone for a touchdown. It was a pretty cool scene, and gives you an idea about how much of a feel Cutler seems to have for this offense. It's been impressive, actually.
Jay and Mike (ONU)
We got a nice little Saturday lined up...going to the Home Depot and Bed, Bath & Beyond..
Michael (2:00 PM)
Sounds a lot like my days before I had to report to camp.
Michael (2:01 PM)
Guys, I've got to get going. But I'm going to take one last question before I get outta here.
erik (behind enemy lines)
If the bears start poorly, how many games before lovie would get the ax? An 0-5 start? Not to be doom and gloom because I am optimistic, but I'm not a fool either.
Michael (2:05 PM)
Hate to be the bearer of bad news, Erik. But there's a small chance Smith could stick for another season if this season is bad. First off, he seems to have tons of support from ownership. Second, with situation concerning the collective bargaining, if you're the Bears would you want to be conducting a coaching search with no way of knowing whether there's even going to be football in 2011? I'm just playing devil's advocate here. But if the Bears have a bad season, don't be surprised if Smith sticks around for another year.
Michael (2:06 PM)
Guys, thanks so much for taking the time to send your questions. I'm headed to Soldier Field tonight to check out practice, then back to Bourbonnais over the weekend. If you see me on the sidelines, be sure to say hello. Take care.
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