Moon: Taking a look at lineup changes


Moon: Taking a look at lineup changes

Tuesday, Sept. 6, 2011
Posted: 5:38 p.m.

By JohnMullin BearsInsider Follow@CSNMoonMullin
Earlier today I noted that the Bears, despite being an NFC Championship finalist, have uprooted more than one-third of their roster from last season, which likely ranks among the more sweeping makeovers ever for a conference runner-up.

Some specifics came into focus this afternoon when the team put out its first regular-season depth chart.

Didnt like the anemic offense that ranked 30th in yardage and 21st in points last year? Neither did the Bears apparently, because only four of the positions on offense have the same player starting there that started the NFC title game: quarterback Jay Cutler, running back Matt Forte, wide receiver Devin Hester and left guard Chris Williams.

The first-string fullback has the same number (86) as last years guy but that is about the only similarity between this years No. 1, rookie Kyle Adams and last years one-man jumbo package, Brandon Manumaleuna. The Bears further showed how they regard Adams when they waived fullback Will Taufoou Tuesday, presumably to clear a roster spot for a signee at linebacker, their thinnest spot.
Roberto Garza and JMarcus Webb are still starters on the offensive line. But both are in new positions, and if Webb isnt an exponentially different player than he was last year, the Bears have a bit of a problem.


Notably, newly signed Brandon Meriweather isnt being handed a starting job the way Roy Williams was on offense. Meriweather is behind Major Wright at free safety; for how long, youll probably know from what you see on the field.

Henry Melton has replaced Tommie Harris, but thats about it as far as change to a defense that mocks critics by annually ranking among the NFLs best. Nick Roach is the starter at strong-side linebacker instead of Pisa Tinoisamoa, but Roach started six of the last seven regular-season games and 18 of the last 22 at SLB, so that doesnt count as a change.

Special teams

Because there are four phases to special teams (kickoff returncover, punt returncover), IDing all of the changes there would take a long, long time. Suffice it to say, coordinator Dave Toub have implemented perhaps more total personnel changes than both offense and defense combined.

The good news: No one in the NFL has done a better job than Toub of staffing and choreographing those dance troupes.

Worth noting

Last year noted that Melton, subbing with increasing frequency at defensive tackle, was switching positions with Julius Peppers. The two had the go-ahead to switch if the All-Pro end determined an advantage to dropping down inside in pass-rush situations. Melton was comfortable at end, having been drafted at that spot out of Texas. Look for that shuffle to continue in selected situations.

How secure are those starting positions? Lovie Smiths track record of accountability says that he will make a permanent change as early as a halftime. Mike Tice directed five different offensive line combinations in the first seven weeks last season. You dont perform? Youre movin out.

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.

In moving forward with Dion Sims, the Bears will keep a mix of skillsets at tight end

USA Today

In moving forward with Dion Sims, the Bears will keep a mix of skillsets at tight end

When the Bears signed Trey Burton to a four-year contract worth a reported $32 million (with $18 million of it guaranteed), the natural thought was this: So long, Dion Sims. But the Bears are all but certainly going to hang on to the 27-year-old tight end after his $4 million roster bonus became fully guaranteed on Friday, barring a trade. 

“We like Dion Sims, a well-rounded tight end,” general manager Ryan Pace said on Thursday. “We’re excited we got him.”

Cynically — or, perhaps, fairly — Pace’s comments could’ve been interpreted as part of a play to trade Sims, who signed a three-year contract in 2017. The Bears saw Sims as a strong run blocker with pass-catching upside, but still gave themselves an out after one year that would’ve netted $5.666 million in cap savings. 

Sims didn’t show any of that receiving upside last year, though, catching 15 of 29 targets (51 percent) for 180 yards with one touchdown. Crucially, the Bears have the cap space to keep Sims, even with the flurry of signings they’ve announced this week -- and Kyle Fuller's reported four-year, $56 million extension -- and contract extensions looming for Eddie Goldman and possibly Adrian Amos, too. 

So hanging on to Sims means the Bears value his contributions as a run blocker and are willing to shoulder a $6.3 million cap hit for him to primarily be used in that role. The Bears expect Shaheen to be their primary in-line tight end, with Burton and Daniel Brown, who signed a one-year contract Friday, the more pass-catching-oriented “move” guys in Matt Nagy’s offense. But Sims will still have a role as the Bears look to maximize their production from the tight end position. 

“I think we can use all our tight ends,” Pace said. “I think the Super Bowl champions are a recent example of that, of using a lot of tight ends. They’re all valuable weapons. They’re all a little different. I think they all complement each other. It fits together nicely.”

Bears attitude adjustment already apparent in first wave of free agents

Bears attitude adjustment already apparent in first wave of free agents

The first thing you notice is some swagger, some chips on the shoulders of the newest Bears, and while that doesn’t win any games in-season, let alone in March, it’s something of a positive for a team that’d had a lot of its swagger pained out of it over the past two years in particular.

Receivers Taylor Gabriel and Allen Robinson, tight end Trey Burton, backup quarterback Chase Daniel and kicker Cody Parkey all said the requisite niceties and platitudes on Thursday, all about how much they like the coaches, the organization, all that stuff.

But I’ve seen free agents come and go since real free agency started in 1993. All levels of players coming through, and they all say right stuff. There was something else with this bunch, though, and it wasn’t always there in the past. (More on that in a second.)

So there was Gabriel mentioning how Mitch Trubisky had texted him after Gabriel had signed, and Gabriel first piping in with, “How’s your deep ball?” And Trubisky was right back at Gabriel, one of the fastest players in the NFL, with, “Are you still fast?”

Best guess — they’ll get along just fine.

Gabriel’s first comment on impressions of coach Matt Nagy? Not about his football knowledge, his enthusiasm. No, it was: “Smooth dude, man,” Gabriel said. “I like his swag a little bit.”

Robinson was described by former Jacksonville and current Bears teammate cornerback Prince Amukamara as “a nightmare” to play against because he let defensive guys, even his own, know when he’d had them for lunch. As far as now, a very high bar has been set: “I think for me as a player, it's not my job to make Mitch's job easier, it's to make his job easy.”

Two points on why this comes with a touch more relevance in the case of a Bears team coming off a fourth straight NFC North basement finish:

First, because of what developed on the other side of the football when the likes of Akiem Hicks, Pernell McPhee (describing his style of football as “violent”) and Danny Trevathan came in, even rookie safety Eddie Jackson last year. They brought in attitudes from not just winning organizations, but more important, championship organizations. And they were good enough to walk the walk, even as they struggled through injuries.

The result was that in less than three full seasons, the Bears were a Top 10 defense. Attitudes can be infectious, for good or bad, and the right attitude with the right players made the defense a force, even with its injuries.

What the Bears secured in their first wave of free agents was five players all involved in points production — two wide receivers, a tight end, a kicker and a backup quarterback, whose two mission statements consist of being ready to play winning football if he’s needed and also to be a foundation pillar for the starter, in this case Trubisky.

What makes this a speck more interesting is that Trubisky will be the biggest factor in formation of the 2018-and-beyond Bears, and it was Trubisky whom Leonard Floyd and his defensive mates dubbed “Pretty Boy Assassin” last year because of Trubisky’s give-some-smack attitude anytime he lit up the No. 1 defense just running scout-team plays.

The second observation is that this wasn’t the case last year with Markus Wheaton, Quintin Demps, Marcus Cooper, Dion Sims and certainly not Mike Glennon, last year’s main free agency additions. Some of that’s obviously personality; Glennon and those guys are simply not swagger-smack kinds of guys, and that’s OK, as long as they play with attitude.

Last year’s group, just to use them as a case in point, came from decent programs. But the current top Bears additions include Super Bowl winners (Burton, Daniel as Drew Brees’ backup), a Super Bowl loser (Gabriel, painfully in the Atlanta Falcons’ collapse vs. New England) and a top wideout who had his dream derailed by injury and missed out on his team’s drive to within 2 minutes 48 seconds of a Super Bowl (Robinson).

And while Nagy and the organization are probably wise to counsel patience in the Bears’ recovery climb, the players aren’t seeing it that way.

“You can never underestimate how important youth is and guys who are willing to learn and willing to get better, but then also you look at the city,” Burton said. “They want another championship. They want to win. They want to be winners. You look at the other sports, the Bulls, the Blackhawks, the Cubs, the Cubs just won a couple years ago.

“The city's ready for another championship and like I said, they have a great quarterback, young quarterback, and an unbelievable head coach. They're aggressive and they're ready to win right now.”