Bears

Lovie: Bears have core in place, starting with Cutler

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Lovie: Bears have core in place, starting with Cutler

Friday, Feb. 25, 2011
2:05 p.m.

By John Mullin
CSNChicago.com

INDIANAPOLIS New York Jets coach Rex Ryan on Thursday issued a declaration and a guarantee that the Jets will win the next Super Bowl. That isnt Lovie Smiths style and he wouldnt guarantee much more than max effort from his team and staff.

But he was very, very clear that the core from a team that was within a score of reaching the last Super Bowl is in place.

Theres a couple of areas we need to improve, Smith said, but I think the core is in place, starting with our quarterback, Jay Cutler, leading us. I wouldnt want any other quarterback except for Jay. Im excited about him going into that second year with Mike and seeing those improvements on the offensive side.

READ: Lovie, Bears agree to extension through 2013

The sting of the 21-14 loss to Green Bay in the NFC Championship game has faded a bit by this time. Seven points. That is a deficit Smith is certain that the Bears can make up.

We know that were close, Smith said. We played the Super Bowl champions as well as anyone in the course of the year. And we need to; theyre in our division like some of our other division opponents. We feel like well make ground on them next year.

Position flux?

For all of the travail and shuffling of last season, sources told CSNChicago.com that the Bears quite possibly could open the 2011 season with none of their 2010 offensive line starters in the same places they were. Olin Kreutz is a free agent and the collective bargaining uncertainty has some of those kinds of situations on hold.

But offensive line is an offseason target area. Frank Omiyale is not a lock at left tackle, nor is Chris Williams at left guard, Roberto Garza at right guard or JMarcus Webb at right tackle.

READ: Bears, Packers shouldn't look past the Lions

I dont think you try to just pin yourself down on those things, Smith said. There are a lot of different options. What I like is when you have guys with flexibility. You mentioned Chris Williams. Hes played three different positions. That gives you flexibility. Like our safeties Chris Harris, Danieal Manning, Major Wright. All of those players can play different positions.

Enough about Jay already

A reporter who appeared to not be paying a lot of recent attention wondered if Smith was satisfied with the toughness of his quarterback. There are few things that spark an anger flash in Smith the way questions about Jay Cutlers toughness after his knee injury do.

Just to kind of hit Jay one last time, Smith said, measuring his words.No. Theres no question about Jays toughness or anything like that. For guys to even challenge that or question that dont know what theyre talking about, dont know him. Hes as tough as any quarterback in the league. Really, Ive said enough about him.

Tice talk

The Bears turned down a request from the Tennessee Titans to interview offensive line coach Mike Tice for the Titans post of offensive coordinator under new coach Mike Munchak. It was not a move out of spite; anything but. The team earlier allowed special teams assistant Chris Tabor to go to the Cleveland Browns and permitted defensive backs coach Jon Hoke to interview with the Philadelphia Eagles opening at defensive coordinator. Defensive line assistant Eric Washington also was permitted to interview and leave.

But those moves were some time ago and the vacancies were quickly filled. The Tice situation was deeper into the offseason, to the point where finding a quality assistant would have been virtually impossible.

A lot of things come into play, Smith said. As a general rule I would like to see our guys advance anytime they can. But theres a deadline a little bit there. Its a little late in the game. Mike was OK. Its not like were keeping any secrets or anything. Mikes excited about being on our staff right now. The timing wasnt right for it right then.

But you look at it. We had other coaches going out. Jon Hoke interviewed for the defensive coordinator position a little earlier in the year. We felt like it was a little late in the season and we felt we had to go with looking at whats best for the Chicago Bears.

Ill make a prediction that the guys are going to play as hard as they possibly can each week and I can take the results knowing the football team that we have. I can just guarantee you were going to play the way our players play always. Cant ask for anything more from them. Theres nothing guaranteed. But you look at our history. Weve won more games than weve lost. In our team here, weve won the division championship three times. Weve been to the championship game a couple years. Our staff knows what theyre doing. We have good players. And I like our chances next year.

John "Moon" Mullin is CSNChicago.com's Bears Insider, and appears regularly on Bears Postgame Live and Chicago Tribune Live. Follow Moon on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Bears information.

With Leonard Floyd going on injured reserve, will the Bears have a pressing need at outside linebacker in 2018?

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USA TODAY

With Leonard Floyd going on injured reserve, will the Bears have a pressing need at outside linebacker in 2018?

The Bears placed Leonard Floyd on injured reserve Thursday morning, ending the second-year outside linebacker’s season following a knee injury suffered Sunday against the Detroit Lions. Floyd suffered an MCL and PCL injury and will have surgery in the next week, coach John Fox said, and the Bears do not have a timetable for his recovery yet. But that Floyd didn't suffer damage to his ACL is potentially good news for Floyd's recovery timetable. 

Still, with Floyd on injured reserve and out for the season, the Bears’ current outside linebacker depth chart consists of two veterans (Pernell McPhee and Sam Acho) and two practice squad signees (Isaiah Irving and Howard Jones). These final six games of the 2017 season could serve as auditions for all four players for roles on the 2018 Bears. 

If every team needs at least three good pass rushers, the Bears can count on Akiem Hicks and Floyd for 2018, provided Floyd comes back healthy. But who’s the third?

The Bears could save about $7.5 million in cap space if they release McPhee in 2018; if they were to cut ties with Willie Young, who’s on injured reserve right now as well, it would provide $4.5 million in cap relief. McPhee will be 29 in December, while Young will turn 33 next September. 

The Bears won’t necessarily need the cap relief next year, and could certainly decide to keep both players, who’ve shown they’re still productive when healthy. But even if both players are back, the Bears may need to add another outside linebacker via free agency of the draft — remember, the team could’ve began the season with Floyd, Young, McPhee, Acho and Lamarr Houston as their outside linebackers; an injury Houston suffered in the fourth preseason game ended his time in Chicago. 

Needs at wide receiver and cornerback are pressing, but outside linebacker may need to be in that same conversation. If the Bears have a top-10 pick for the fourth consecutive year, plus some cap space, they perhaps could have the ability to address all three needs in March and April. 

That may be looking a little too far into the future, though. The best-case for the Bears is McPhee finishes the season strong and Irving and/or Jones shows something in the opportunities they receive in these final six games (Jones, for what it’s worth, had five sacks as a rookie with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2015). But the worst-case — and perhaps the most realistic — is that the Bears go into the offseason needing to fill at least one pass-rushing spot. 

Under Center Podcast: Can Mitch Trubisky follow Carson Wentz’s path to stardom?

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Under Center Podcast: Can Mitch Trubisky follow Carson Wentz’s path to stardom?

JJ Stankevitz and John “Moon” Mullin are joined by NBC Sports Philadelphia Eagles reporter Dave Zangaro to offer an encouraging connection between Carson Wentz’s growth and that of Mitchell Trubisky.

Check out the entire podcast here: