Moon: Garza staying put at center


Moon: Garza staying put at center

Wednesday, Sept. 14, 2011
Posted: 10:52 a.m. Updated: 5:02 p.m.

By John Mullin Bears Insider Follow @CSNMoonMullin READ: Urlacher leaves team following mother's death
READ: NFC North makes a statement in Week 1

The play of Roberto Garza at center has helped with at least one new decision on the offensive line

Right guard Lance Louis injured right ankle, hurt during the Atlanta game, has him decidedly questionable for next Sunday. Chris Spencer, who replaced Louis during the game, split reps with Edwin Williams in Louis spot as the Bears will leave Garza in place after a near-flawless game of directing the line. Stability and experience at that position also become crucial in a game where noise makes offensive line play dicey at best.

The most pleasing thing and really something that came into my decision, am I going to make one move or two moves? was the fact that Roberto had no mental errors against Atlanta, said line coach Mike Tice.

Garza has played primarily at right game through his career. But he has developed a strong chemistry with quarterback Jay Cutler in addition to taking charge of a group of offensive linemen with fewer than half combined career starts (53) than he has (125).

Pancake chef?

Lance Louis was having perhaps his best game as a Bear when he suffered his ankle injury. In the span of 20 plays, Louis had five different Falcons on the ground with his blocks. He played physical and with great confidence, Mike Tice said.

Planning ahead

Strong-side linebacker Nick Roach typically takes a few reps each week at the middle-linebacker spot, where he is Brian Urlachers backup in addition to rookie Dom DeCicco. If Urlacher is unavailable because of the death of his mother this week, expect Roach to move to the middle and Brian Iwuh to start in Roachs spot.

We have a backup plan, coach Lovie Smith said, then deadpanned. Id like to be able to talk about that, but you can understand why Im not going to. Hopefully well have Brian ready to go this week. But if he cant, we feel good with our next plan.

What'd you say?

The Seattle Seahawks Qwest Field is generally considered the NFLs noisiest. But the Superdome is in the team photo for din level and the Bears are preparing for a noise situation.

Common remedies are silent snap counts started by a pre-arranged signal, hand-holding to assure simultaneous get-offs by the offensive line and others. That will include practicing inside the Walter Payton Center on Thursday with speakers maxd out with crowd noise when the offense is working on its game plan.

We got to be able to hear something, so well work on different types of counts and stuff, said center Roberto Garza. Obviously the tomorrow will get us ready for that. But obviously, were going to have to communicate and make up some calls or by hand signals or whatever we have to do, to get the job done.

Of course, there is one very successful big-picture way of curing the New Orleans noise problem.

It depends on how the game is going, said tackle Frank Omiyale, a member of the Atlanta Falcons playing the first game in the rebuilt Superdome after the damage done by Katrina. You can even be outside the stadium and if the crowds rocking, it can be rough. The best thing is to score and take the crowd out of the game.

Eye on the new guy

The football hope for the Bears is that Brian Urlacher is in a place to play Sunday in New Orleans after the passing away of his mother at her home in Texas this week. Because if Urlacher is somehow forced by family business to miss the game against the New Orleans Saints, the Bears are beyond thin behind him.

The Bears are a combined 7-16 in games without Urlacher, including the2009 opening-day loss at Green Bay when he broke his wrist andmissed the second half when the Bears could not come up with a latedefensive stop to hold a lead on the Packers. They were 0-7 in 2004when Urlacher was inactive at three different times with various legissues.

Urlacher is expected back but rookie undrafted free agent Dom DeCicco right now is listed as the No. 2 and only other middle linebacker on the roster. And DeCicco played almost exclusively at safety for Dave Wannstedt at Pitt, with a handful of starts at weakside linebacker his only linebacker experience.

Ive never played linebacker so this is really the only scheme I know as a linebacker, said DeCicco, who is a key figure in coverage units of special teams. So this is all I know so I cant really compare.

On the plus side, he certainly wont have to un-learn a whole lot of bad habits or tendencies.

Id say the thing thats benefited me the most is knowing the formation and knowing your keys on every play, DeCicco said. As long as you know your key, it seems like you can play that position pretty well.

Saintly behavior

If it seemed to the New Orleans Saints that their new center, Olin Kreutz, was up and running awfully fast, it wasnt just their imagination.

After contracts between Kreutz and the Bears broke off the first Saturday of training camp, Kreutz went to visit the Saints. He clearly liked what he heard and, unbeknownst to the Saints, was planning on sticking around.

Hed watched practice, met with folks and went back to his hotel before a flight scheduled that night for 7 p.m. The next day, a deal was worked out with the Saints and agent Mark Bartlestein, and the question was, when can Kreutz be back to begin work?

The answer was that he had never left the airport hotel, said Saints coach Sean Payton. He had purposely not gotten on the flight and two hours later he was at practice at center.

Sick bay

The No. 1 units on both sides of the ball were without key figures Wednesday as guard Lance Louis (ankle) and receiver Roy Williams (groin) were held out of practice, and safety Chris Harris (hamstring) was out along with Urlacher.

Running back Marion Barber (calf) practiced on a limited basis, as did cornerback Zackary Bowman (hamstring) and linebacker Lance Briggs (knee).

The Saints will be without receiver Marques Colston (shoulder), and safety Roman Harper (ankle) was out of practice along with kicker Garrett Hartley.

Urlacher wins award

As he was after the first time he played the Atlanta Falcons, Urlacher has been named NFC Defensive Player of the Week for the havoc he visited on various Falcons.

Urlacher recorded 10 tackles, one tackle for a loss, one interception and returned a fumble 12 yards for a touchdown in the 30-12 victory last Sunday.

About the only worry was whether or not a couple of Bears teammates would cost him the award by virtue of their own performances. Defensive end Julius Peppers posted 2 sacks, one to force the fumble that Urlacher toted into the end zone, broke up a pass, had 4 pressures of quarterback Matt Ryan and recovered another fumble.

Defensive tackle Henry Melton had 2 sacks, 6 pressures of Ryan and 3 solo tackles in a disruptive debut as a starter.

Urlachers fumble return touchdown marked the fourth score in his career and the first since an 85-yard interception return on Dec. 23, 2007 versus Green Bay. It was the first fumble return touchdown for Urlacher since a 90-yarder at Atlanta on October 7, 2001, a game after which he also was named NFC Defensive Player of the Week.

His other touchdown came on a 27-yard reception at Washington on December 23, 2001. Urlachers interception was the 19th of his career, third most in franchise history among linebackers. He has recorded an interception in nine of his 12 NFL seasons. Since joining the NFL in 2000, Urlachers 19 interceptions are fourth most among NFL linebackers.

This is Urlachers sixth Defensive Player of the Week Award, tied for the most in franchise history with Pro Football Hall of Famer DE Richard Dent.

John "Moon" Mullin is'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.

Plenty of possibilities loom ahead of Bears' draft pick

Plenty of possibilities loom ahead of Bears' draft pick

As the Bears begin to fill out their draft board in earnest, they’ll do so by evaluating the players they like and the players they think will be available when they pick eighth in April. And what players check both those boxes and go into their draft “clouds,” as Ryan Pace calls them, will depend largely on how many quarterbacks are taken ahead of the Bears’ pick. 

With about a month until the draft, it seems clear two teams will take a quarterback with a top-seven pick: the Cleveland Browns and New York Jets. The Browns own the Nos. 1 and 4 picks; the Jets traded up from No. 6 to No. 3, and teams rarely invest that kind of draft capital to not draft a quarterback. 

That leaves a few hinge points in how many quarterbacks are picked by the time the Bears are on the clock:

New York Giants (No. 2 overall)

The Giants still have an aging Eli Manning but could move to use the second pick to draft his long-term replacement. Or, alternatively, they could use this deep class of top-end quarterbacks as an avenue to trade down, add some picks and build out a young core that way. Either of these scenarios would be good news for the Bears, as we’ve seen Penn State running back Saquon Barkley, N.C. State defensive end Bradley Chubb and Notre Dame guard Quenton Nelson connected to the Giants at No. 2 as well, if they were to stay there. The Buffalo Bills could be motivated to trade up to No. 2 to make sure they get the guy they want with quarterbacks almost assuredly going off the board at Nos. 1 and 3. 

Cleveland Browns (No. 4 overall)

If the Browns get their quarterback with the first pick — Sam Darnold? — they could be sitting in an ideal spot at No. 4. If the Giants draft a quarterback, Cleveland could play hardball and tell teams they’re fine keeping the fourth pick and drafting Barkley with it. That could create a bidding war between the Buffalo Bills (No. 12) and Denver Broncos (No. 5) to trade up and draft the last of the four clear-cut top quarterbacks in this class. In this scenario, Cleveland adds a bunch of picks to an already-sizable stash and accelerates their growth through the draft. 

If the Giants were to trade out of the No. 2 pick, let’s say to the Bills, it may lessen Cleveland’s desire to trade down from No. 4 unless a team in need of a quarterback like the Arizona Cardinals (No. 15) or Miami Dolphins (No. 11) starts lurking around. But as we saw last year with the Bears trading up one spot to draft Mitch Trubisky, teams don’t want to leave things to chance if they have conviction on the quarterback they want. So that brings us to the…

Denver Broncos (No. 5 overall)

The Broncos signed Case Keenum to a two-year deal and still have 2016 first-round pick Paxton Lynch on their roster, though he hasn’t shown much in only five games as a pro. Does Denver absolutely, positively have to draft a quarterback? No. They’re probably in the same boat as the Giants in that regard. But what if they really like Josh Allen and/or Baker Mayfield, both of whom their coaching staff worked with at the Senior Bowl, and one of them is still on the board when the Browns’ pick comes up at No. 4? Or what if Josh Rosen has been their guy all along? 

In that case, John Elway may make an aggressive move to guarantee he gets the quarterback he wants, and not risk losing that guy if a team were to cut the line by trading with the Browns. 

The other scenario is less positive for the Bears: Maybe the Broncos only have one or two quarterbacks out of this group they want, and they either can’t find a trade partner to move out of No. 5 or don’t want to. If three quarterbacks are drafted in the first seven picks, the Bears may not have the opportunity to draft one of Nelson, Chubb or Alabama defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick. That’s not necessarily a bad thing — Virginia Tech’s Tremaine Edmunds, for example, is a super-talented prospect — but we seem to be moving toward a consensus that Nelson, Fitzpatrick, Chubb and Barkley are the four best non-quarterback prospects in this draft. And in all likelihood, the Bears will only be able to draft one of them four quarterbacks are taken before they pick. 

The wild card here is Nelson, given his position (guard) is rarely seen as worthy of being a top-10 pick. But those who saw him up close in college believe he’s a future perennial Pro Bowler, possibly beginning as soon as his rookie year. The Bears’ fit is obvious, with Harry Hiestand coming to coach the offensive line from Notre Dame and the team — as of right now — still having a fairly clear need for another interior offensive lineman. Perhaps Nelson falls to the Bears even if there are only three quarterbacks off the board before they pick, but having four go off the board would make things a little less stressful at Halas Hall in late April. 

Indianapolis Colts (No. 6 overall) and Tampa Bay Buccaneers (No. 7 overall)

The Colts already traded down once, and likely did so with the confidence that Chubb would still be on the board at No. 6 to help their limp pass rush. Fitzpatrick seems to be a good fit with Tampa Bay, though a player of his caliber would be a good fit anywhere. Either of these teams still could be persuaded to trade down, especially if the Giants and/or Broncos pass on a quarterback.

Chicago Bears (No. 8 overall)

If four quarterbacks are off the board by the time the Bears pick, that’s ideal for Pace. If three are, he still could get someone from his No. 8 pick “cloud” and be content staying there. If only two are — and this doesn’t appear to be a likely scenario — that means the Bills haven’t found a trade partner and may want to leapfrog the Dolphins at No. 11 to get their guy. More likely, if the Bears are able to trade down from No. 8, it would be because a team like Arizona wants to make sure the quarterback they want isn’t snagged by an opportunistic team ahead of them. 

But Pace's draft history has seen him trade up far more frequently than trade down. If someone who's in his draft cloud is available when the Bears go on the clock, chances are he'll pick that guy and not trade down. 

Plenty can and will change between now and when the draft begins on April 26. But for right now, the landscape ahead of the Bears suggests only positive things setting up for their first-round pick. 

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Will Cam Meredith return to the Bears?


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Hub Arkush (Pro Football Weekly/670 The Score), Mark Grote (670 The Score) and Mark Carman (WGN Radio) join Luke Stuckmeyer on the panel. Quenton Nelson works out at Notre Dame’s pro day. If he’s still on the board at 8, should the Bears take him? Plus the panel talks about the Cubs outfield heading into 2018 and if it’s time to shut down both Jonathan Toews and Lauri Markkanen.