Time to sound the alarm? Bears' defense says no


Time to sound the alarm? Bears' defense says no

Friday, Dec. 31, 2010
3:27 PM

By John Mullin

Throughout most of this season the Bears defense has been little cause for concern. Yardage allowed has been no worse than 10th since the off week. Points allowed has ranked no worse than 10th since week two. The rushing defense has been no worse than No. 4 since week four.

And yet...

The Bears have held just one of their last five opponents to fewer than 20 points per game. That compares with allowing just one of their first five opponents in 2010 to score as many as 20 points in a game. The yardage-per-game ranking that was No. 4 (300) after the second Detroit game has fallen to No. 10 (316). Only the Minnesota Vikings in the Monday Night snowfest (273) totaled less than 300 yards.

I wouldnt say that its time to sound the alarm, linebacker Lance Briggs insisted. Everything weve done is correctable. Plus at the end of the year, offensive coordinators have all years worth of tape to study and scheme off of us. Theres been some good schemes, good game plans against us the last couple games, and its really good for us to see those kinds of things.

We have an idea how teams are going to attack us, whats been successful and what teams are going to continue to do. Weve seen things this year alone that we havent seen in the seven years weve been playing this defense.

The Bears have no plans of any sort to modify dramatically their defensive scheme or even their approach.

The reason is that the sense is not so much that teams are outsmarting the Bears, but rather that the Bears are not playing like the Bears.

I just think that when there are breakdowns, usually theyre our own, said defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli. And they attack us and all of those things. Thats all part of the game. But usually, theyre all correctable and we can adjust to them. And we have our little wrinkle here and there, but basically weve got to go out and really execute well, which were planning on doing.

Sunday would be a very good place to start, even with several starters likely to be pulled at some point of the game. The Packers gained 379 yards on the Bears in their first meeting, fifth-highest output against the defense this season.

Only Tom Brady (351) and Tony Romo (374) passed for more than the 316 yards Aaron Rodgers threw for against the Bears, who did not sack him even once.

Sick Bay

Wide receiver Earl Bennetts ankle improved enough to allow him some work at practice but Bennett is being listed as questionable for Sunday in Green Bay and could be held out of that game to ensure that he is fully recovered when the playoffs start for the Bears two weeks later.

Green Bay placed guard Marshall Newhouse on injured reserve and declared defensive end Cullen Jenkins, safety Atari Bigby, linebacker Frank Zombo and fullback Korey Hall all out with injuries.

No other Packers were listed as anything less than probable, including tackle Chad Clifton, cornerback Charles Woodson, linebacker Clay Matthews, safety Nick Collins and defensive end Ryan Pickett, all of whom were limited in practice at one time or another this week.

Party animal

Lovie Smith isnt making any lavish plans for New Years Eve, just planning on spending the night watching TV in the basement with wife MaryAnne. No game film allowed.

No video, he said. Im going to take tonight off and just spend it with her tonight. Looking forward to that.

But if there isnt any excessive celebration in the works, it doesnt mean that there isnt a true sense of accomplishment as the calendar year comes to a close. Its a great feeling to go through what we have, Smith said. Everybody is upbeat because of what we have accomplished so far. And then to have an opportunity to play against our rival.

Smith clearly likes the idea of facing a team that creates an edge for his own. Indeed, he endorses the NFLs idea of having final games of seasons against division opponents. But even more than that, everyone should play against their main rival the last game of the season, always, where you have a lot to be pumped up about, Smith said. Were looking forward to going up to Lambeau. Weve had some success up there. We hear theyre anxious for us to get up there, and we cant wait to go, too.

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.

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


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

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.

Could Quenton Nelson increase his value by playing tackle?

USA Today

Could Quenton Nelson increase his value by playing tackle?

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Quenton Nelson hasn’t met with the Bears yet during this pre-draft process, and doesn’t have a local visit scheduled with them. But maybe that’s not too surprising.

Harry Hiestand has better intel on him than anyone else after coaching him for the past four years at Notre Dame, after all. 

“Coach Hiestand, he’s known me since I was an immature freshman that wasn’t good at football, until now being a lot more mature and responsible and doing the right thing and a good football player,” Nelson said. “He knows everything about me.”

Could part of that intel provided by Hiestand be that Nelson has the ability to eventually play tackle?

Nelson might be the closest to a “sure thing” prospect in this year’s draft, with his reams of dominant film and off-the-charts work ethic projecting him as an All-Pro for years to come. But that he plays guard is a stumbling block, given interior positions generally don’t hold as much value as tackles in the NFL.

So here’s a potential scenario for the Bears: They draft Nelson at No. 8 — which is still "high" for a guard — and plug him at left guard in 2018. They then, under the careful watch of Hiestand, slide him to tackle in 2019. 

“I’m pretty convinced that Q could do whatever he sets his mind to,” Mike McGlinchey, a first-round tackle in his own right who's Nelson’s ex-Irish teammate and workout buddy, said. “If that’s what teams want him to play, I’m sure he’ll take that head on and perform to the best of his ability.” 

Nelson, to his credit, is confident he could make the switch to tackle (he was recruited by Hiestand as a tackle, and began his college career backing up Zack Martin at tackle). He said the only team that’s asked him about it so far is the Cincinnati Bengals, though it’s unlikely he’ll still be on the board when they pick at No. 21. 

But maybe the thought of guards being significantly less valuable than tackles is slowly becoming antiquated in today’s NFL. Four of the top 10 highest paid offensive linemen, by total contract value, are interior linemen. Three of the top 10 offensive linemen with the most guaranteed money are guards, led by Andrew Norwell, who inked a five-year, $66.5 million deal with the Jacksonville Jaguars earlier this month with $30 million guaranteed at signing. Only one offensive lineman — Nate Solder, who just signed with the New York Giants — is guaranteed more money. 

Following the money, if teams are willing to splash down loads of cash for the best guards in the league, a team may be willing to spend a top-10 pick on a guard who could immediately be among the best at his position in the NFL. Or the calculation for whatever team drafts him may be this: Would you rather have him as a perennial All-Pro guard or "merely" a solid-to-good tackle? 

Regardless of where he ends up playing, though, Nelson is one of those supremely-talented players who takes the right approach to his craft — in other words, one of those guys you just want to get in your building. And while Nelson said he’d love to play for his hometown New York Giants — who could be interested in him with the No. 2 pick — he said getting to link back up with Hiestand would be an incredible opportunity, too. 

“That would be amazing to play for him,” Nelson said. “He’s the one that made me into the player I am today. I wouldn’t be here without him or be in any conversations in the draft without him, so it would mean a lot to play for him again.”