Fire

Audibles working even with 'strangers' up front

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Audibles working even with 'strangers' up front

One of the changes brought to the offense with the installation of Mike Tice as coordinator was the license for quarterback Jay Cutler to audible. One of the most impressive elements in last Sundays win over the Minnesota Vikings was Cutler being able to use audibles despite a makeshift offensive line that had three new players by the fourth quarter.

Coach Tice came in with a good game plan and we had some good audibles if we got an unfamiliar defensive package, said Jonathan Scott, starting his first game as a Bear at right tackle. Jay did a great job controlling that environment. We had some second- and third-down conversions that really changed the game.

For his part, Cutler was not going to audible to a play with complexities beyond the capabilities of a group still getting to know each other. And against Seattle, ranked No. 7 in sacks per pass attempt, that will remain the order.

We just have to be careful what we ask those guys to do, make sure theyre on the same page and protect them, Cutler said. You dont want to do a lot of sevens step drops and chuck the ball 40, 50 times. Theyre not programmed for that. Theyre in new positions. Some guys havent even played guard. We just have to be smart with it.

Not lost in translation

A second novelty was the thought process that both Gabe Carimi and Edwin Williams went through translating plays from their usual positions to the assignments with the new ones.

Carimi, a tackle was playing his first game at guard. After the call in the huddle, Carimi made a quick mental adjustment from the tackle assignment that was second-nature to the one for a guard.

The plays are different so you have to know what the play calls are because youre doing different blocking, Carimi said. There were a couple things where I was a little off about but it went pretty well.

Of course, Carimi had a translator immediately to his left: center Roberto Garza, whose responsibilities include knowing every assignment on the line.

He was telling me what to do, Garza said, with a wink. No, Gabes a professional, he knows what hes doing, has played offensive line a long time, and he did a helluva job stepping in.

Williams practice position has been primarily center this season, with Lance Louis, Chris Spencer and Chilo Rachal comprising the depth chart at guard. With them out, Williams had to do some translating of his own, although he has played guard in each of the past two seasons although with Tice as his position coach and Mike Martz as coordinator.

You make the changes but once you get into the rhythm you dont have to think about it too much, Williams said.

Bears Pulse

In case I forget to mention it (again), check out Bears Pulse on game days at CSNChicago.com. Its bringing together a lot of Bears coverage from everywhere and its where Ill be covering the Bears-Seattle Seahawks in-game via Twitter (@CSNMoonMullin). Lots of fun and lots of action.

Whats particularly fun about it is that I can pass along side info about game happenings as we learn about them in the press box and from material you cant find in just any book.

Joao Meira spills the first news of the Fire's offseason

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USA TODAY

Joao Meira spills the first news of the Fire's offseason

The wait to find out which players have their options picked up or declined by the Fire might still be a couple weeks, but the first news of a player move in the Fire's offseason came via Twitter.

Defender Joao Meira announced he won't be returning to the club in 2018.

Meira signed with the Fire just before the start of the 2016 preseason after being out of contract in Europe. The Portuguese center back signed a one-year deal with a club option for the second year.

After he played 28 matches with 26 starts in 2016, the Fire picked up his option. He became even more of a fixture at center back in 2017, beating out Jonathan Campbell for the other starting spot alongside Johan Kappelhof. Meira played in 30 regular season matches and made 27 starts, finishing fourth on the team in minutes played (2,412).

That Meira won't be back isn't a major surprise for a few reasons. First, he was out of contract. He was one of two players, along with Bastian Schweinsteiger, on the Fire's roster that the team had no control over for 2018. On top of that, the 30-year-old had made it clear that he wanted to be closer to his home and family in Portugal.

Meira's departure leaves a gap at the center back position for the Fire. Kappelhof, who enters the third year of a three-year guaranteed deal in 2018, and Campbell, who will likely have his club option picked up, enter as the only healthy center backs in 2018. Christian Dean was added in August via trade, but is coming off a broken foot, an injury that has plagued him before. His status for the start of the 2018 season is unclear.

Grant Lillard, a potential homegrown signing and a senior at Indiana, could compete for time at center back next season. He is one of the top rated players in the country for the Hoosiers, which are the No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament. While Lillard could step in from a numbers perspective and would add size to the Fire's back line (Lillard is 6-foot-4), he wouldn't be able to replace Meira's ability on the ball. Meira wasn't as effective of a defender as Kappelhof, but was arguably the best passer among the Fire's center backs and helped alleviate pressure at times.

Bears-Lions prediction: Will special teams continue John Fox's NFC North woes?

Bears-Lions prediction: Will special teams continue John Fox's NFC North woes?

Only three of John Fox’s 12 wins as Bears coach have been against NFC North opponents, while 12 of his 29 losses have come against divisional opponents. 

That’s a recipe for back-to-back-to-back last place finishes in the NFC North. And if the Bears can’t beat an Aaron Rodgers-less Green Bay Packers team, why could it beat a Detroit Lions team that has a healthy franchise quarterback?

The positive end of that answer is the Bears do have wins over two playoff teams (Pittsburgh and Carolina) while six of their four losses have been by eight points or fewer. Sunday’s game will probably be close, again (if it’s not, and the Bears are on the losing end of it, it would raise some significant concerns about the state of Fox within the locker room). 

So if the game is decided by one possession or less, this could be the difference: Detroit has one of the best special teams units in the NFL, ranking second in Football Outsiders’ DVOA, while the Bears are 28th by the same measure. 

Getting Sherrick McManis back this week should help solidify Jeff Rodgers’ special teams units, but Jamal Agnew has two punt return scores and is averaging 18.3 yards per return. 

“Tough guy — he’ll return inside and outside,” Rodgers said. “He’s got multiple longer returns against people this year. it’s not just, ‘I had a long return in Week 2 or Week 1,’ and kinda held onto that. he’s been productive in a lot of games. certainly a guy that we’ve gotta do a good job against.”

If the Bears don’t do a good job bottling up Agnew, though, he could be the reason why the game flips to Detroit — or, at least, why the Lions keep the Bears at arm’s length. 

Prediction: Lions 24, Bears 16