Bears

Inexperienced tackles holding their own in Bears' O

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Inexperienced tackles holding their own in Bears' O

Thursday, Sept, 15, 2011Posted: 10:45 p.m.

By John Mullin
CSNChicago.com Bears Insider Follow @CSNMoonMullin
Right tackle Gabe Carimi declared during this years NFL Scouting Combine that he considered himself the best of the tackles in this draft class. If you back it up, its not bragging.

And Carimi wasnt bragging.

I didnt feel out-matched, Carimi said. I feel like I can have a solid game against opponents.

The performances of Carimi and bookend partner JMarcus Webb, against two of the better defensive-end rushers in the NFC, were definitely not out-matched.

The record will show quarterback Jay Cutler sacked five times by the Atlanta Falcons defense. That record will not be the full story.

Only two of the sacks were directly traceable to failures on the offensive line, following a trend that began almost unnoticed last season when the O-line became a punch line and punching bag after the debacle against New York on national TV.

This becomes particularly significant for two crucial reasons:

Elite competition

The performances, particularly those of young tackles Carimi and Webb, came against Atlanta defensive ends John Abraham and Ray Edwards, who accounted for a combined 21 sacks in 2010.

They will face few more difficult end tandems this season.

I felt good, Webb said. My coaches and teammates felt good about me and supported me. Mistakes are going to be made and youve got to learn from it and give it your all the next time.

The next time comes Sunday in New Orleans against two defensive ends Jeff Charleston, Turk McBride who each have fewer career sacks than Edwards alone had last season.

Domino effect

The second major reason is because tackles who can handle their edges, without jury-rigging the protections to cover for or help, loom as perhaps the single biggest difference between the Mike Martz offense of 2010 (30th yardage, 21st in scoring) and the one that put 23 points against an Atlanta defense that ranked fifth in the league in scoring defense.

The ability of the tackles to handle Abraham, Edwards and reserve Lawrence Sidbury was vital in freeing Matt Forte to get out of the backfield and into the passing game. Indeed, 14 of Cutlers 32 pass attempts went to running backs and tight ends, two for TDs.

They played well; those guys played well, Cutler said. They have to continue to do well.

Can you hear me?

The noise of the Superdome has been amply chronicled. Theres certain parts of the field youre not going to be able to hear a thing, line coach Mike Tice.

The task, particularly for young players like Carimi and Webb (Roberto Garza and guards Chris Spencer and Chris Williams have a combined 234 NFL starts), is to dial down the angst that comes with not being able to hear. That situation is exacerbated for players out on edges.

The bottom line is youre not going to be able to hear crap, Tice said. Were going to get edgy. Hopefully on those plays where we get edgy, we get the ball out fast Hopefully there wont be too many of those.

Youve got to talk them off the roof. Its happened and itll happen long as footballs football. You just dont want to compound errors.

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.

Bears roster lacks veteran cut candidate

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USA Today

Bears roster lacks veteran cut candidate

The Bears battle for the 53-man roster doesn’t have many contentious positions entering training camp.

Ryan Pace and Matt Nagy brought back largely the same roster from their breakout 2018 season, finding replacements for the few players gone in free agency.

Outside of kicker, the entire starting lineup is pretty much set for Week 1, and the main competitions to stick with the team are at the bottom of the depth chart.

It leaves the roster with no notable veterans that stand out as candidates to be cut. ESPN’s Jeff Dickerson was asked to name one for an article, and he couldn’t come up with any.

He mentioned Taquan Mizzell, who made the move from running back to wide receiver this offseason, but as Dickerson pointed out “Mizzell is hardly a well-known commodity around the league.”

Former third-round pick Jonathan Bullard hasn’t lived up to his draft status, but the Bears have seemed comfortable keeping him around in a backup role.

The Bears roster has very little fat to trim. The only other player who could potentially qualify is cornerback Sherrick McManis, since the team has so many young players at his position, but he’s been working at safety to increase his value, and he’s one of the team’s best special teams contributors.

The trim down from the 90-man roster shouldn’t have too many significant surprises, which is why so much of the attention this offseason continues to go to the kicker position.

Alex Bars is ready to take his shot with Harry Hiestand and the Bears

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USA Today

Alex Bars is ready to take his shot with Harry Hiestand and the Bears

Alex Bars was cleared to practice last week, allowing him his first chance to put on a helmet since tearing his ACL and MCL Sept. 29 while playing for Notre Dame. The undrafted guard was able to participate in veteran minicamp, allowing him to shake off some rust before his real push for a roster spot begins in training camp next month. 

Many speculated Bars would’ve been as high as a mid-round draft pick if not for that devastating knee injury. It didn’t take the 6-foot-6, 312 pound Bars long, though, to decide where he wanted to go after not being picked in April’s draft. Call it the Harry Hiestand effect. 

Bars played under Hiestand’s tutelage at Notre Dame from 2014-2017, and said he always wanted to wind up with the Bears to work with his former coach — just as 2018 top-10 picks Quenton Nelson and Mike McGlinchey hoped to as well. 

“I remember talking about that, because they both wanted to play for him,” Bars said. “They understand where he can take you and how phenomenal a coach he is, so they both wanted that. And I’m just the same way.”

While Nelson transformed the Indianapolis Colts’ playoff-bound offensive line and McGlinchey showed plenty of promise with the San Francisco 49ers, the reunion of Bars and Hiestand carries some intriguing possibilities for the Bears. Bars has always had upside — he was a four-star recruit out of Nashville in 2014 — and getting to work with Hiestand may be the best way to tap into that potential. 

“He knows me very well, I understand his technique very well,” Bars said. “So having that connection, that player-coach connection all four years through college is huge.”

Hiestand called Bars after his injury last fall and offered some words of encouragement, which only furthered Bars' wish to play for his former college coach in the NFL. 

"That meant everything," Bars said. "He cares so much off the field as well as on the field. That’s who he is."  

Bars wasn’t able to participate in OTAs or rookie minicamp, but Hiestand doesn’t see that as putting him in a tough spot to make the Bears' 53-man roster. And there will very much be an opportunity for Bars to make a push during training camp, given 10-year veteran Ted Larsen only has $90,000 in guaranteed money on his one-year contract. 

It may not be the more eye-catching roster battle during training camp, but the Bears hope they can find interior offensive line depth through competition in Bourbonnais. And Bars, now cleared to practice, will get his shot. 

“He’ll have the chance because he’s smart, he understands the technique, he knows what to do,” Hiestand said during OTAs, when Bars hadn’t practiced yet. “He’s learning the offense even though he’s not doing it. But when we put the pads on that’s when you make or don’t make the team.” 

It’s often unfair — yet far too easy — to place high expectations on undrafted free agents. For every Cameron Meredith or Bryce Callahan who gets unearthed, there are dozens of anonymous players who struggle to stick on an NFL practice squad. 

But Bars is among the more important undrafted free agents on the Bears given his connection with Hiestand and the position he plays. While Kyle Long is healthy, he hasn’t played a full season since 2015, underscoring the Bears’ need for depth on the interior of their offensive line in the immediate future. 

And the Bears would save a little over $8 million against their 2020 cap if they were to make the difficult decision to cut Long in a year. If Bars develops into the kind of player plenty in the NFL thought he could be before his knee injury, that would make releasing Long a little easier to swallow at Halas Hall. 

For now, though, Bars is just hoping to make the Bears. Anything else is a long ways away.

“I’m excited to be here, thrilled for this opportunity and it’s all about productivity,” Bars said. “Just need to be productive and prove you belong on this team.”

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