Hey Michael...great to have you on board with ESPN Chicago now...i've enjoyed your work so far...keep it up! I was wondering from what you've seen of the workouts so far, how are the players picking up Martz's offense? I know Cutler has said there is a lot to learn, but do you see them starting to pick it up or has it been pretty sloppy so far?
Hey guys, let's get this thing rolling. I hope all is well. Anyway, Dave, thanks for hte kind words. From what I've seen thus far has been a mixed bag. At the first minicamp, there was literally only one instance of the offense having to get back into the huddle because of someone not knowing an assignment. Then there were times at OTAs where you could see the steep learning curve the offense faces. Cutler said that the goal is to have the offense down pat by the end of the training camp. I think it's a realistic goal, and one they seem to be well on the way to fulfilling.
How much motivation does the negativity surrounding this team (Cutler's Ints, Martz's high-risk/high reward offense, and aging defense) provide the players and coaches? It seems to me every time they're doubted or picked to do badly, they step up and play well.
Paul, for players, doubt is the ultimate motivation, albeit it's sometimes false motivation. Players, coaches, everyone always wants to prove the doubters wrong. The Bears aren't any different in their current situation. Besides that, let's not forget that jobs are on the line.
How is Dan Lefevour transitioning to the pro game?
Ryan, understandably, he's struggled just like any other rookie in his situation. Mike Martz's scheme is very demanding of young quarterbacks. Martz has broken LeFevour down to basic fundamentals, all the way down to the way he takes a snap, to prepare him for the pro game. Martz said earlier this offseason that LeFevour won't be much more than a spectator.
Who looked most impressive throughout the OTA's?
I'm going with Devin Aromashodu on this one. I've said it before, and I'll say it again: D.A., to me, looks more polished as a receiver than current starters Devin Hester and Johnny Knox. If one of those guys slips and somehow Aromashodu gets into the starting lineup, it's gonna be hard for someone to supplant him. I think he's poised for a big year.
WELECOME TO CHICAGO
Fahad, not there yet. But hopefully will be moving to your beautiful city next month.
Wats your take on the OL? How does Mike Tice influence better play this coming year?
Greg, having covered the Jaguars for the past four years, I've got quite a bit of experience with Tice, and I think he was a huge addition to the Bears. Under Tice, the offensive line will definitely improve. But it's hard to say how much considering the performances of offensive lines in Martz's previous offenses. It's pretty much a given that a quarteback operating in Martz's scheme is gonna eat a little more dirt than he's probably accustomed to. At the same time, the addition of Tice may go a long way toward alleviating an abundance of sacks. Tice is a straight shooter, who demands quite a bit from the guys playing under him. He's also pretty innovative when it comes to designing blitz protection schemes and run blocking schemes.
What's your take on Major Wright so far? What are his strengths and weaknesses? Thanks!
Paul, Major Wright has an infectious personality that will cause others around him to elevate their play. He's a thunderous hitter, and very instinctive. Probably the biggest knock on him would come from a pure speed perspective. He's not the fastest guy in the world, but he'll make up for it with instincts and hardnosed play.
With a new offensive coordinator and scheme, realisticaly, what kind of offensive progress should we expect to see when the Bears wrap up their training camp in August?
Travis, let's be real about this. It's not like Chicago's opponents are gonna wait on them to "catch up" so to speak. The new coordinator and scheme will have no impact on the club's expectations moving forward. You SHOULD EXPECT to see the Bears run that new offense seamlessly by the end of camp. Cutler said that's the goal. Now it's up to the Bears to make it happen. So far though, it appears as if the club is on the way to reaching its goal. Several players have said they're not thinking as much as they were initially, which is definitely a positive sign.
Will Major Wright be an impact for the secondary this year?
Brian, I definitely think so. My colleague Jeff Dickerson and I have heard some rumblings from folks inside the organization that Chris Harris hasn't exactly blown away the staff. I wouldn't be surprised if the Bears try to find a way to get Wright into the lineup as quickly as possible in some capacity. I'd expect for him to play in some of the substitution packages early on. Then, I think the Bears will gradually increase his role as the season progresses.
With the newly acquired Chester Taylor, can we expect to see evenly split repetitions between Forte and Taylor, or will one see more playing time than the other?
Mike, that's a question we'll be spending training camp trying to answer. But honestly, I see Forte taking the lead role with Taylor serving as more of a complement. The interesting part of it is both running backs seem to possess a similar skillset, although I'd say Forte is more elusive. How Forte and Taylor perform in training camp and the preseason will likely determine the distribution of carries. But even that will be a dicey situation because neither will get a ton of reps in preseason games.
Can this team with all the offseason additions win the North?
Brandon, It's gonna be tough sledding with the Packers and Vikings in the division. For some reason, the Packers are the sexy pick for all the national pundits. How the Vikings fare, meanwhile, will have a lot to do with whether Brett Favre returns. The Bears currently appear to be the third-best team in the division right now, but there's a long time before the season opens. And as you know, quite a bit can happen during a season with injuries, and other unforseen circumstances. I definitely think the Bears will be in the mix.
Why didn't the Bears sign Bulger? Is it because he stands upright like a household mustard dispenser, and has the mobility of a frozen Otter Pop??
Good stuff, Buckley. The Bears didn't sign Bulger because he wanted the opportunity to compete for a starting job, which clearly wasn't going to happen in Chicago. I think at some point Bulger realized that nobody was going to give him a shot to start, so he probably took the best deal. Having spent the money allotted by ownership to make additions, the Bears probably couldn't afford to offer Bulger a lucrative deal. So the quarterback just signed with the highest bidder, it appears.
Hey Michael, how is Caleb Hanie looking in OTA's? I have heard that JA has said that he would be comfortable going into Training camp with Haine as the back up. I personally think he is a outstanding athlete & if given the chance, he could really turn some heads!
Hanie, in my opinion, has been somewhat of a mixed bag. He looked OK during the minicamp, but seemed to be a little up and down during the OTAs. Check out Jeff Dickerson's story: http://sports.espn.go.com/chicago/nfl/news/story?id=5325392 It's believed that some folks within the organization have already informed Hanie that he'll go into camp as the No. 2.
If you see Wright coming in as free safety, do you believe that Harris will move into the SS spot and surplant Manning or do they keep manning in to see what he's made of?
Brandon, actually, I think they'd keep Danieal Manning at the strong safety spot, although Harris has said he prefers to play that position. The staff likes Manning's speed, strength, and ability to perform inside the box. If you get a chance, go back and look at what Manning did last season against the 49ers from the strong safety spot. That was a pretty strong performance.
Finally the Bears have an OC that can utilize all of Chicago's weapons. With the talent they have had on offense the past 3-4 years, it was a shame to see Ron Turner do nothing with it. Martz will spread the field, use multiple sets and motions, and utilize the speed of this offense. All these so-called ESPN experts will eat crow when this offense puts up big numbers, especially the receivers. This obviously will help the D from being on the field the whole game as in the past few years.
Ahh, but it could go the other way, too. High-octane offenses can put a defense in a bind with turnovers and three-and-outs that keep a defense on the field way longer than it needs to be. Let's not lose sight of that.
How do you think Urlacher does this year after last year's injury?
First off, he's gonna be extremely motivated to play well. Getting a chance to watch Urlacher up close and personal during the club's minicamp, I was extremely surprised with how fast the guy is. Combine his athleticism with that motivation, and you guys might have a monster on your hands.
I'm still concerned with the defense. Its seems that every year the talk is that they are finally healthy, they are running fast and now its we added some players, whats the best indication that this defense can return at least to a top 10 defense? If we dont have a good defense it doesnt matter what the offense does because I dont believe we can outscore everyone. Thanks
Jesse, you're absolutely correct. To me, good defense is an ideal mixture of pass rush and coverage. The two form a symbiotic relationship, in which one can't be its best without the other. If the Bears can't generate a pass rush, the defensive backs end up having to cover receivers too long, which results in completions, and first downs for the opponent. At the same time, if the secondary can't adequately cover, it doesn't give the pass rush enough time to get to the quarterback.
Should I be worried about Martz's offense playing in the wind and cold of a Chicago December?
Connor, that definitely was a concern of mine. But that's why Lovie Smith said the Bears can't afford to get away from the power run game. There's been quite a bit of hoopla about the prospects for Chicago's passing attack, but Smith has made it clear that the Bears plan to be a running team.
Can you tell me what the coaches are expecting out of the Bears defense, this year? They appear to have as much talent as anybody at all 3 levels(DL, LB, DB).
George, linebacker Lance Briggs said he expects the Bears to be a nastier unit under defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli. Briggs said that Marinelli basically told the unit that it's not going to fool opponents with elaborate schemes; that it planned to hit folks in the mouth and play sound fundamentals. That's the type of defense I like. How about you?
So is Major your first or second cousin?
Ummm, neither. If we were related, you know I'd definitely hit him up for a loan.
I'm still concerned with the O-line. Do you see the bears making a run for the starting LG position? And what are your thoughts on Omiyale moving to RT?
Earlier in the offseason, the Bears made some calls to a few veterans about the possibility of adding one of them. But in recent weeks, all those talks seem to have cooled. My guess is that Jerry Angelo has gotten some positive feedback from Mike Tice about the current players on the roster.
As excited as I am about the signing of Julius Peppers, I know that he is going to get double teamed quite a bit. How have Anderson and Wooton looked and do you think they will be able to take enough pressure off of Peppers for him to be productive?
Anderson looked pretty quick when I last saw him, and Wooton didn't appear to be 100 percent. Anderson definitely has quite a bit of pressure to perform given all the attention that Peppers is sure to command. But I'm still on the fence as to how Anderson will handle it. Really, Anderson hasn't done much since his rookie season.
Any chance we beat the cowboys in week 2? Seems that the bears always start well in the first few weeks but then the dwindle. Thanks
Sure there's a chance. If not, why even play the games, right? The game should be interesting with the Bears playing in Dallas' new stadium/circus atmosphere.
I know he's a long shot to make the team, but how has Freddie Barnes looked? Practice squad potential?
Of all the rookie receivers, Barnes has been the best. The key for Barnes is to carve out a niche on special teams. If he can do that, he might actually challenge for a roster spot.
Where will the Bears finish in the NFC Central? Will 3rd place mean the end of Lovie Smith? Even with the buzz Mike Martz and Mike Tice, I'm not sure we've added enough to overtake Minnesota, if Farve is healthy, or Greenbay.
On paper, it appears the Bears will finish third in the division. But that's not where games are played, are they? I'd say Smith's future would depend on HOW they finished third in the NFC North. For instance, if it's a close race that separates the top three by a game or so, Smith might actually have a shot at returning.
I know its early, but what does this team look like? One writer has them at 10-6/11-5, what do you think?
If everything goes right, I could see the Bears finishing at 10-6 or 9-7. If things don't go right, I see them hovering right at .500.
What are Idonjie chances of taking that starting role if Anderson can't perform?
Tommie, I'd say the chances of Idonjie taking the starting job would be good if Anderson can't step up and perform. Even if things go as expected and Anderson remains the starter, Idonije will be a major contributor in the rotation. In fact, it wouldn't surprise me if Anderson and Idonjie play about the same number of snaps.
Yeah that defense sounds all well and good, but with the bears last season...and previous seasons they have been pretty vanilla as it comes. I dont think having the linebackers at the line of scrimmage and sometimes rushing and sometimes backing off into coverage are "elaborate schemes" Look at the other defenses that throw exotic blitzes...Steelers and Eagles and they are great at getting turnovers. IF you ask me, the Bears defense is too vanilla and easy to plan for if you are the opposition. I am tired of this "bend but dont break philosophy"
Kyle, those characteristics you speak of are all reminiscent of the 3-4 front. While most teams have made the transition to that front, there's still a place for the 4-3. It's not as pretty as the 3-4, but teams have definitely been able to get the job done with it. Cover 2 aspects of the 4-3 may be vanilla, but the Colts beat the Bears in the Super Bowl with it not too long ago.
What's up with cb graham? Where the love he deserves?
Graham gets some love from this writer. He definitely held down the nickel spot throughout the offseason. One of the biggest questions, though, is whether he keeps it. Graham looked good this offseason, but will have to hold off Tim Jennings, Joshua Moore, Woodny Turenne and D.J. Moore during training camp.
the concern for Bulger was the fact he was just too beat up after only a few years with Martz. How does this effect Cutler's durability going forward?
DJ, I was just discussing this the other day with one my editors (Roman Modrowski) and Jeff Dickerson. It's a valid question. Cutler was sacked a career-high 35 times last season. Well, Martz's offenses over his last 10 years have given up 40 or more sacks in nine consecutive seasons, including 63, 54 and 55 sacks over his past three years. Yes, I know Cutler hasn't missed a game due to injury. But you've got to think the extra punishment he could take might diminish his durability somewhat.
If Cutler bombs this year, how long before they start looking for another QB? I say they give him one more year, what do you think?
You do know that 2011 is supposed to be a great draft for quarterbacks, right? I'm just saying...
Michael- I read that Hester is hooking up with Bruce to learn the offense. What impact do you think this will have with him going forward?
Isaac Bruce is one of the best receivers to ever play the game. So I couldn't see extended exposure to Bruce as anything less than positive. Bruce will be a good person to teach Hester some of the finer points of the game, like how to make every route look the same regardless of whether it's a curl, slant or go. Bruce was a master of doing that during his career.
What do you see as are biggest weakness?
Depth at cornerback. Outside of the starters, which of the remaining corners on the roster would you trust against Greg Jennings, Calvin Johnson, Sidney Rice or Percy Harvin?
How many touchdowns will cutler throw this season?
Put me on the spot then, Daniel. Just kidding. Cutler has thrown 20 or more touchdowns in three consecutive years. I could see him throwing 28 to 30 TDs this year.
The bears currently have 4 ex head coaches. Shouldn't this amount to some form of competency for the coaching staff this year???!!!
It should, but that's not always the case. Head coaches - or former head coaches in this case - have strong personalities, and like to do things their way. That could lead to one of those too-many-chefs-in-the-kitchen situations.
Im tired of the defense being mediocre, I remember the days of dominance. Please give me hope that they can return to their old form.
The Bears have arguably the most dominant edge rusher in the game in Julius Peppers. Brian Urlacher is back, and highly motivated. The secondary, although there are some question marks, appears to be on the way to improving. Is that enough hope?
Do you think Devin Hester would become the beast he once was on special teams if his role as receiver was reduced? Do you think this might be an option if things don't go right during the season?
I say "yes" to the first question. The thing about it though, is the Bears have to justify the money they spent on his extension. Hester also has incentives built into his contract based on his production as a receiver. So I'm not sure Hester will ever go back to being exclusively a return man.
If the Bears lose the first game to Detroit can we officially say the poop has hit the fan?
I don't think you can say that. Detroit is going to be an improved team.
Guys, it's been fun, but I've got to run. Had fun, and I hope to see you again next week.