Chat with Michael Wright
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Michael (1:00 PM)
Hello everyone. Just sitting here at the team hotel in downtown Charlotte getting ready to cover preseason game No. 1, which is set to kick off at 7 p.m. CST. It's Marc Trestman's first game as an NFL head coach, which should be interesting. But don't expect to see many snaps from the starters. My guess is the starters will play 10 to 12 snaps at most. Anyway, let's get to your questions.
H. Kamersmith (Seattle)
We haven't heard much about #3 QB Blanchard since rookie camp. What have you seen from him so far in camp? Can we expect a real QB battle for the No. 2 QB spot on the team? What could Blanchard do in the game tonight to move up?
Michael (1:02 PM)
Matt Blanchard has played well, and Marc Trestman likes him. What I like about Blanchard is his confidence and ability to make quick decisions with the ball. Will he battle for the No. 2 spot? I doubt it. He lacks the experience necessary to unseat a veteran like Josh McCown. Blanchard will definitely get plenty of snaps in the preseason, though. The Bears want to get a thorough evaluation of Blanchard, just as they'd want with anyone else. Trestman has raved about how quickly Blanchard has picked up the offense. So finally, we'll get a chance maybe to see him put all that work into practice on the field.
Patrick (Tallahassee, FL)
Haven't heard much about running backs. Is there anyone challenging the top 3 or anyone having a good camp who we should look for tonight?
Michael (1:06 PM)
Patrick, during OTAs and minicamps I was pretty high on Michael Ford, an undrafted free agent out of LSU. He wears No. 32. But so far in training camp, he hasn't flashed the way I expected. Maybe he'll show something once the lights come on. Armando Allen has looked good. I think the Bears are really searching to find a multi-dimensional role for him because of his elusiveness and ability to make things happen out in space. Harvey Unga is the only other player listed as a running back on the roster aside from Forte, Michael Bush, Allen and Ford. But for the most part, he's been playing fullback at training camp with some snaps as the deep back sprinkled in there. So there's a chance we could see Unga in some at running back. Remember, Unga was a seventh-round pick in the supplemental draft back in 2010, but we haven't seen much out of him. For whatever reason, he's stuck around on the roster. He's fully healthy now, and I believe he's running out of time. He's got to show something now.
When do the Bears have to start cutting down roster spots? Thanks.
Michael (1:10 PM)
The Bears have to cut the roster down to a max of 75 players before 3 p.m. CST on Aug. 27.Four days later, the rosters have to be cut to 53 players by 5 p.m. CST.
Josh (Mt. Vernon) [via mobile]
Trestman took the worst o-line in the CFL and made them the best in terms of sacks allowed. Based on what you've seen in camp, can he do something similar with the Bears oline?
Michael (1:13 PM)
Josh, there's a big difference in the CFL and the NFL, and obviously the rules are different, too. I can't tell you that I've seen a vast improvement during practices. But that's more a function of the controlled environment of practices. We haven't seen the guys go full-bore against one another in team drills. I've also seen Cutler and the other quarterbacks scrambling too much at practice to say I've seen a vast improvement in the offensive line. But as I've said, all we've seen is practice. Things are much different in a live game situation. I'd say the first 10 to 12 plays on offense will be telling for the offensive line. At the same time, I've got to wonder how much cohesion the group has built since all of the starters haven't spent a ton of time at camp working together because of injuries.
Klaus Dammen (Tiburon)
Does the coaching staff planning on pulling all the first stringers after a series or two or will some of them play longer than some of the key position players?
Michael (1:14 PM)
Trestman said it all depends on the flow of the game. But I'd anticipate them pulling guys like Cutler, Forte and Brandon Marshall pretty quickly, while letting that offensive line get a little more work. I don't anticipate starting LT Jermon Bushrod playing tonight because I don't think it's worth the risk given that this is only the first preseason game.
I love the fact that Bostic will get max reps with the 1st team at Mike, but I haven't heard a ton about Greene at WLB. Is he slated to be Briggs' backup, and if so, is there any competition? And has he played on ST a lot so far? In my opinion, his penchant for forcing fumbles could be monster when covering kickoffs and punts
Michael (1:17 PM)
Jeff, I'm sorry, there's no competition on the weak side. You're talking about Green vs. a future Hall of Famer that is still playing at a high level. Green definitely doesn't look the part so to speak in terms of physical attributes. But I've definitely seen him out there making plays. He's been a standout at camp. Yes, he's playing some special teams, too, as all linebackers do. Special teams will be Greene's niche early on. He's going to have to wait behind Lance Briggs for a while.
Bob G (Lockport)
During this preseasn, do you expect Trestman to show tons of looks and formations all over the place to make defenses prepare for everything? Or do you think he keeps it vanilla and not show any cards?
Michael (1:18 PM)
Bob, Trestman has already said that the plan is to keep everything very basic. So no, I don't anticipate seeing a ton of formations. Even when the regular season kicks off, I don't see a ton of exotic looks. There is some diversity in the formations from what I've seen so far. But nothing has been what I'd call exotic.
B. Young (Indianapolis)
Do you think some of the practice restrictions included in the new CBA have contributed to the rash of major injuries we've seen during training camps across the league this year?
Michael (1:19 PM)
I don't see it that way because less practice shouldn't be leading to more injuries in my opinion.
Tim (Chicago, IL)
Does Shea M. look more like an NFL DEF End this year in person? He looked much to small last year to make an impact.
Michael (1:21 PM)
Tim, McClellin's been a strange bird. He put on weight during the offseason, then lost it, and now it looks like he's gaining some back. It's just my opinion, but he's still a work in progress. Having talked to some people within the organization I trust, the thought is McClellin is a very good football player. People like to equate that first-round pedigree with someone like Jared Allen or one of the other top dogs at the position. McClellin isn't at that level, but still a very good football player who has a good chance to get there if he keeps trending the way he is.
Shouldn't Cutler and the offense get more snaps? I understand that this is the first preseason game, however, I am tired of the offense looking rusty and out-of-sync during games. Cutler needs to get this offense going earlier than what I have seen in prior years, especially with a new offense.
Michael (1:24 PM)
You don't want to run the risk of injuries though, which I'm sure is a difficult thing to balance for coaches around the league. I'm with you because this group needs a lot of work. From what I've seen so far, the timing just isn't there. But you've also got to realize that these games are used for evaluation purposes for that back end of the roster. The starters will progressively get more work as the preseason progresses, and they'll play the most in Game 3 before sitting out the exhibition finale.
keith (downers grove)
What do you think will be the verdict on Cutler this year, If he lives up to the hype of what Trestman has been saying do you see a contract coming his way like Flacco? Or is Jay on the edge of being booted out of town?
Michael (1:25 PM)
Keith, in my opinion, it's 50-50. But the Bears have options. Let's say Cutler does live up to the hype in 2013. If I'm the Bears, I wouldn't sign him to a new deal. I'd franchise him, and make him prove he can do it again.
Chris (San Diego, CA)
Do you see James Anderson as an upgrade over Nick Roach and does Greene have a shot of taking his position at least?
Michael (1:26 PM)
Chris, James Anderson is more athletic than Nick Roach. But I think Roach was probably a more cerebral player. Greene isn't getting into the starting lineup this year unless someone is injured.
Blake (Crown Point, IN)
We all saw what happened with Joe Flacco last year with his contract situation. Do you see if the Bears do make a serious run, and Jay's stock goes up, he leaves during free agency? Isn't that a concern of the front office? Nothing like finally having a guy prove himself to leave!
Michael (1:27 PM)
You've always got the franchise-tag option.
Steve (Dallas, TX)
Given Harden was 3rd round pick last year, how much does that affect who stays and who goes? And in your opinion, who is the 4th & 5th best safety on team?
Michael (1:31 PM)
Steve, it definitely affects who stays and goes. Someone very high in the organization once told me that anytime you give a guy money (which is what you're doing when you draft a guy and pay him a signing bonus), you give him every opportunity to make the team. So yeah, you'll see the team give Hardin more chances than they would other guys. As for the fourth and fifth safety, it's a tossup in my opinion. I think Anthony Walters and Craig Steltz are No. 3 and No. 4 (although they're probably tied as the third best on the roster). After that, you've got guys like Hardin, Tom Zbikowski, Cyhl Quarles and Tom Nelson. It's difficult to judge Zbikowski and Nelson because they haven't been given any reps really at camp. That's why these preseason games are going to be so important.
Michael C Wright (Chicago)
my favorite TV show right now is...
Michael (1:31 PM)
Breaking Bad. It starts Sunday.
Is Harvey Unga real? and if so do you see him making the team
Michael (1:32 PM)
Rich, he's real. And even though I don't think he'll make the team, I won't count him out because of his versatility. He can play running back, h-back and fullback as well as contribute on special teams.
Phree (Oak Lawn)
If anything, do you think we will be able to get an insight to the new offense tonight even with no to limited minutes for starters?
Michael (1:34 PM)
I think we'll glean a little from what we see, but not enough to make any definitive statements. So right now, I'm going to encourage everyone reading this chat to not put too much stock in what you see tonight. Too many times we all overreact to the first preseason game. I'm going on record now to say that I refuse to do that. It's still way too early.
What do you think about the NFC North this year....Lions are supposed to be going for broke, kind of like their city..........
Michael (1:35 PM)
That's cold, Dawn. Ouch. I think the division will be very competitive, and it'll come down to the Bears and Packers. Still, that title has to go through the Packers. In my mind, they're the favorite.
Antonio (Chicago, Il)
Is JWebb really in danger of losing his position to Eben Britton?
Michael (1:37 PM)
There's a chance it could happen. Britton has been pretty consistent throughout camp playing in Jermon Bushrod's spot, and Webb has been up and down. Let's not forget that Britton was an early second-round pick when he came out that could've easily been taken in the bottom of Round 1. Over the years, injuries and bad technique hurt him in Jacksonville. Now that he's learning under Aaron Kromer and Pat Meyer,Britton says he's finally starting to "get it" and that he was a "bull in a china shop" in the past.
Kevin (Cincinnati, OH)
Will Bostic play with 2nd team too?
Michael (1:39 PM)
Kevin, I think he will for a litle while just because of the depth issues at LB and the fact they'd probably like to get a longer look at him just in case D.J. Williams winds up missing a little more time than they thought.
Is Peppers injury serious or are the Bears just taking it easy with him during training camp?
Michael (1:42 PM)
I don't think it's anything serious. Remember, we've seen Peppers play through some pretty significant injuries over the years, whether it was a sprained knee or plantar fasciitis. He's just experienced a little tightness in his hamstring. He should be fine.
Brandon (Kewanee, IL)
Thoughts on Jon Bostic as the starting regular season MLB?
Michael (1:43 PM)
It's not happening unless D.J. Williams can't go. I want everyone to remember that Williams isn't a scrub. When he's played, he's been highly productive and one of the NFL's best at the position.
So you've been around, who do you root for? Washington, Jacksonville or Da Bears?
Michael (1:44 PM)
None of them. That affects objectivity. Obviously you develop relationships with people along the way, and to that end, I've had good ones with people from every organization.
Hello Mr. Wright, I've been a long time follower of you work. Anyhow, I'm looking forward to seeing what type of offense we will run. Even though it's the first game, everybody contributing is key because we know INJURIES are part of the game and we need to have depth. I excited to see our coaching staff make in-game adjustments. Lovie FAILED to do this and that's what ultimately cost him his job. Last year San Fran game, Russell Wilson's fourth quarter comeback, and Tim Tebow's rising. Just to name a few.
Michael (1:45 PM)
I don't know if this is a question, but I'm putting your thoughts out there because you're entitled to express them.
B. Young (Indianapolis)
Everything I've heard about Fendi Onubun indicates that he has freakish athletic ability but pans for hands. Is that accurate or is he better than advertised?
Michael (1:46 PM)
Nope, I think you've got it. He's worked hard at improving at catching the ball at camp, spending extra time after every practice catching balls off the JUGGS machine. Since they brought in Leonard Pope, Onobun has definitely kicked his game up a notch and shown improvement. Competition tends to do that to you.
Matt (St. Paul, MN)
How has the chemistry been between Cutler and Trestman thus far?
Michael (1:47 PM)
I can't tell, to be honest. Both are saying all the right things, just like how that happened with Mike Martz and Mike Tice. When it's all good, it's easy to get along. Trestman even mentioned that the true test is how they get along when things go wrong. We haven't seen anything go wrong yet.
John B (Las Vegas)
Is the DE position a concern for the Bears? With a retirement and a season-ending injury of 2 of our better ends, do you think we need to find an experienced DE to compete in camp?
Michael (1:49 PM)
I don't think it's a major concern, and if Cornelius Washington pans out the position could be a strength. When Turk McBride went down I thought the Bears would go find an experienced player to take his spot on the roster. But after talking to some folks, I quickly learned that all they were looking for was basically a camp body. Hate to put it that way, but that's what they did.
I know many consider this a "make or break" year for Cutler, but honestly, if not him, then WHO? Any possible QB free agents next year or really anyone in the draft that we can actually build around?
Michael (1:51 PM)
Jason, that's the big issue as I see it. If not Cutler, who? I haven't paid enough attention to see which guys are coming up on the end of their deals that the Bears might be able to land in free agency. And if the Bears have a decent season, they won't have much of a chance to land any of the top quarterbacks in the draft because they'll be sitting near the bottom of the first round. I think you've nailed it on the head with that question, Jason. I'm sure the Bears are or have pondered this one.
There's been a lot of talk about the O-line, QBs, and receivers during camp (not to mention the D), but there has been little written about how the running game looks under Trestman. Can you shed a little light on what the ground game will look like?
Michael (1:52 PM)
Sure, Billie. You'll be seeing a lot more zone blocking and stuff that should get Forte out in space more. With Mike Tice, you saw more of a power running game. I think you'll also see more draw plays and stretches.
Who do you see as the 2nd TE? Will Trestman utilize many 2 TE sets?
Michael (1:54 PM)
Kevin, right now Steve Maneri is the second tight end. But depending on how Leonard Pope comes along, that could change by the end of camp. And yes, you'll see some two tight end sets. You might even see three on the field on some plays.
b-eazy420 (Houston, TX)
Do you think Alshon Jeffery or Martellus Bennett can take some pressure off of Brandon Marshall as far as targets go this year? Also, how well do you think Isaiah Frey will fit in as the nickelback in the Bears defense because the offenses in the NFC love to spread it out and have very talented slot receivers?
Michael (1:58 PM)
A definite yes to your first question. The Bears were anemic down the middle of the field last season, and that was a big point of emphasis for this year after the team evaluated what they did in 2012. As for Frey, I was told before the offseason even started that this would be his year. But I didn't believe it because, naturally, I'm a skeptic. From what I've seen so far, though, Frey has been a standout at camp. I honestly can't remember one day at training camp where I didn't see Frey make a play, whether it was knocking down a pass, or intercepting it. So he looks like a good fit there. But remember, we're only watching practice. Things change during the games. But if he keeps up what he's been doing throughout the preseason, he should be the starter at the spot with Kelvin Hayden out of the year. Had Hayden remained healthy, I think Frye would have pushed him hard for the starting spot.
Michael, Cutler isn't going anywhere. Their are no good free agent QB's next season, and like you said the Bears won't finish bad enough to be in the running for a good QB in the draft. The only way he's done in Chicago is if Trestman can't deal with him. The real question is how much money will he make?
Michael (2:01 PM)
He's making $8.47M right now. So if they bring him back coming off a mediocre season, my guess is he'd be able to get in the neighborhood of $12 to $14M per year in free agency, which means that's likely what the Bears would have to pay. Even if they franchise him, it's going to be a very expensive proposition. But I would be more likely to use that franchise tag if I'm not totally committed to him being the guy for the long term.
Michael (2:02 PM)
Guys, that's my time. Thanks for stopping by to chat. I've got to tend to some other business, then get ready for this game tonight. I'm sure you'll all be watching. Stay tuned for updates tonight on ESPNChicago.com.