Bears

Lovie: It's one game and no more than that

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Lovie: It's one game and no more than that

Wednesday, Sept. 7, 2011
Posted: 5:26 p.m.

By JohnMullin
CSNChicago.com BearsInsider Follow@CSNMoonMullin
Lovie Smith gets credit for keeping a sense of perspective in place for his players. Every game of an NFL season is a big deal, but Smith also knows how to parcel out the weight of any particular game.

Like this one coming up against the Atlanta Falcons. First games are sometimes viewed as season direction-indicators, team-definers. And they are huge games. Sort of. Depending on how the Bears do.

The years weve won, Ive put a lot into it. Im pumped up about it, Smith joked. The years we havent, then its not thats important.

But seriously, folks

It is one game and no more than that, Smith said. I dont think it counts any more but it does give you an idea of where you are, because you really dont know. No team really knows.

Smith has had some practice with assigning value to a first-game win or loss. From 2005-2011, only in 2006 (Green Bay) and 2010 (Detroit) did the Bears open against a team not coming off a playoff season or beginning one that would culminate in reaching the playoffs.

Working in the Bears favor is that the Falcons have not won in Soldier Field since 1983. Jay Cutler was four months old then. It was, coincidentally, the opening game of that season.

Smith insisted you really cant think ahead. Who do we play the second game anyway?

No answer. Thats what I thought, he said.

Whoever it is, thats a long time away.

That would be called focus.

Capn Crunch

Roberto Garza is replacing Olin Kreutz as the Bears starting center. He also is replacing Kreutz in the role of co-captain, along with Cutler, of the offense. Given that Garza is the clear head of the young offensive line, this is an obvious pick.
Julius Peppers and Brian Urlacher are the returning defensive captains and long snapper Patrick Mannelly represents special teams.
He said what?

Matt Forte said Wednesday that he did not think GM Jerry Angelo lied about the desire to get something worked out before the season. But in Fortes mind, Angelo was being less than accurate in his portrayal of negotiations breaking off.

Angelo said that the decision to suspend contract negotiations with Forte was a mutual understanding; the two sides obviously had solidly different basic negotiating assumption.

He said that? Forte said. I didnt say that. I guess it wasnt mutual. But that was his decision. I cant really decide if we continue to talk or not. Hes the one we walk to, so the doors always open on my end.

Sick bay

Running back Marion Barber, bothered by a calf injury suffered in the preseason game at Tennessee, did not practice for the second day this week, raising concerns about his readiness for Atlanta.

Nose tackle Anthony Adams (calf), wideout Sam Hurd (ankle) and defensive end Corey Wootton (knee) were limited in practice. Woottons return to practice is a good sign for a defense that needs the edge rushing he was demonstrating in camp.

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.

Collecting some final thoughts on if Tarik Cohen isn't getting enough snaps for the Bears

Collecting some final thoughts on if Tarik Cohen isn't getting enough snaps for the Bears

John Fox on Friday sought to clarify some comments he made earlier in the week about Tarik Cohen that seemed to follow some spurious logic. Here’s what Fox said on Wednesday when asked if he’d like to see Cohen be more involved in the offensive game plan:

“You’re looking at one game,” Fox said, referencing Cohen only playing 13 of 60 snaps against the Green Bay Packers. “Sometimes the defense dictates who gets the ball. I think from a running standpoint it was a game where we didn’t run the ball very effectively. I think we only ran it 17 times. I believe Jordan Howard, being the fifth leading rusher in the league, probably commanded most of that. I think he had 15 carries. 

“It’s a situation where we’d like to get him more touches, but it just didn’t materialize that well on that day. But I’d remind people that he’s pretty high up there in both punt returns, he’s our leading receiver with 29 catches, so it’s not like we don’t know who he is.”

There were some clear holes to poke in that line of reasoning, since the question wasn’t about Cohen’s touches, but his snap count. Cohen creates matchup problems when he’s on the field for opposing defenses, who can be caught having to double-team him (thus leaving a player uncovered, i.e. Kendall Wright) or matching up a linebacker against him (a positive for the Bears). The ball doesn’t have to be thrown Cohen’s way for his impact to be made, especially if he’s on the field at the same time as Howard. 

“They don’t know who’s getting the ball, really, and they don’t know how to defend it properly,” Howard said. “… It definitely can dictate matchups.”

There are certain scenarios in which the Bears don’t feel comfortable having Cohen on the field, like in third-and-long and two-minute drills, where Benny Cunningham’s veteran experience and pass protection skills are valued. It may be harder to create a mismatch or draw a double team with Cohen against a nickel package. It's easier to justify leaving a 5-foot-6 running back on the sidelines in those situations. 

But if the Bears need Cohen to be their best playmaker, as offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains said last month, they need to find a way for him to be on the field more than a shade over one in every five plays. As Fox explained it on Friday, though, it’s more about finding the right spots for Cohen, not allowing opposing defenses to dictate when he’s on the field. 

“We have Tarik Cohen out there, we're talking about touches, not play time, we're talking about touches so if they double or triple cover him odds are the ball is not going to him, in fact we'd probably prefer it didn’t,” Fox said. “So what I meant by dictating where the ball goes, that's more related to touches than it is play time. I just want to make sure I clarify that. So it's not so much that they dictate personnel to you. Now if it's in a nickel defense they have a certain package they run that may create a bad matchup for you, that might dictate what personnel group you have out there not just as it relates to Tarik Cohen but to your offense in general. You don't want to create a bad matchup for your own team. I hope that makes sense.”

There’s another wrinkle here, though, that should be addressed: Loggains said this week that defenses rarely stick to the tendencies they show on film when Cohen is on the field. That’s not only a problem for Cohen, but it’s a problem for Mitchell Trubisky, who hasn’t always had success against defensive looks he hasn’t seen on film before. And if the Bears are trying to minimize the curveballs Trubisky sees, not having Cohen on the field for a high volume of plays would be one way to solve that. 

This is also where the Bears’ lack of offensive weapons factors in. Darren Sproles, who Cohen will inexorably be linked to, didn’t play much as a rookie — but that was on a San Diego Chargers team that had LaDanian Tomlinson, Keenan McCardell and Antonio Gates putting up big numbers. There were other options on that team; the Bears have a productive Howard and a possibly-emerging Dontrelle Inman, but not much else. 

So as long as Cohen receives only a handful of snaps on a team with a paucity of playmakers, this will continue to be a topic of discussion. Though if you’re looking more at the future of the franchise instead of the short-term payoffs, that we’re having a discussion about a fourth-round pick not being used enough is a good thing. 

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Who might be the next Bears head coach?

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SportsTalk Live Podcast: Who might be the next Bears head coach?

Hub Arkush (Pro Football Weekly/670 The Score), Teddy Greenstein (Chicago Tribune) and Danny Parkins (670 The Score) join Kap on the panel. Fox Watch continues. Is his dismissal a foregone conclusion? And how many other coaches will be fired after this season? Plus, the guys discuss Jerry Jones vs. the NFL and the latest installment of “As The Bulls Turn.” 

Listen to the full SportsTalk Live Podcast right here: