Bears

Moon: Garza staying put at center

538057.jpg

Moon: Garza staying put at center

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

By John Mullin
CSNChicago.com 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 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 mailbag: How can the offensive line be fixed? How will Foles vs. Trubisky look?

Bears mailbag: How can the offensive line be fixed? How will Foles vs. Trubisky look?

Thanks to everyone who tweeted at me for the mailbag - we'll do one of these again here soon. On to your questions...

@RichNilsenPHD: Are the Bears gonna go get Kelechi Osemele?

@Sam_Gutterman: What do you think about the Bears pursuing Kelechi Osemele to fill the void at right guard?

Unfortunately, Cordarrelle Patterson’s recruitment attempts haven’t landed any of their targets. But Kelechi Osemele actually responded to his tweet, tagging his agent in a response, hence the pair of questions here:

Osemele, on the surface, looks like a good fit, right? The 30-year-old was one of the NFL’s best guards as of only a few years ago, and should come cheap seeing as he’s still available in free agency. 

But two mitigating factors here that I can see: First, Osemele is coming off season-ending shoulder surgery — which caused a rift with the New York Jets that led to his release last October. The Bears can’t get their medical team to examine Osemele, so committing what’s left of their cap space to a guy who may or may not be healthy carries a lot of risk here. 

Also, speaking of what’s left of that cap space — per Spotrac, the Bears have $709,733 left to spend. That’s not much! They have ways to create more cap space, of course, but unless Osemele is willing to sign at a significant discount, it’s hard to see him being a fit in Chicago. I still expect the Bears to draft an interior offensive lineman to compete with Germain Ifedi/Rashaad Coward/Alex Bars, though (more on that in a bit). 

@Terrence_J_Naus: I thought bringing in DeFilippo would help Trubisky but with the off season programs likely limited, how will they be able to make up ground?

This is a good question! The Bears can't plan on having new quarterbacks coach John DiFilippo work with Mitch Trubisky at Halas Hall any time soon, maybe not until training camp (and even then, we don't know what camp will look like). It'll be an intense coaching challenge for DiFilippo to make up for that lost time with Trubisky. Or: He won't have much lost time with Nick Foles, who he worked with in 2019 with the Jacksonville Jaguars. 

That being said, DiFilippo is respected as a quarterbacks coach, though his stints as offensive coordinator (Cleveland, Minnesota, Jacksonville) have been short-lived. He does a good job of helping quarterbacks think before they react, which has been a hurdle Trubisky has struggled to clear. Maybe he and Trubisky still can click over the summer without the benefit of time together in the spring. 

@CoachDengel: What does your ideal Bears draft look like?

@Mattoon02: In your opinion, where will the Bears go with their two second round picks? WR, Oline, secondary?

I think you nailed it. Ryan Pace often says he’s a “best player available” guy, but a lot of his top picks lately have wound up being at positions of need. The Bears needed an interior offensive lineman and a wide receiver in 2018 and took both with their second-round picks, and in 2019, running back was their biggest need going into the draft. Even inside linebacker was a “need” in 2018 — this was before Nick Kwiatkoski emerged as a guy deserving of getting paid, after all. 

So the Bears biggest remaining needs are what you listed — wide receiver, offensive line, cornerback and safety. I think that’s where both of the second-round picks come from (meaning: No quarterback). My ideal draft, then, would look like this:

2nd round (No. 43): Interior O-lineman
2nd round (No. 50): Wide receiver
5th round (No. 163): Safety/cornerback
6th round (No. 196): Safety/cornerback
6th round (No. 200): Quarterback
7th round (No. 226): Running back
7th round (No. 233): Offensive tackle/inside linebacker

Note that what happens in the sixth/seventh rounds is nowhere near as important as what's done with the first three picks.  

@FelicelliJoe: With Bray back in the mix, do you think that gives Pace a pass on drafting a QB this year, or do you think it makes no difference? Shouldn't make a difference, but it feels like Pace will use it as an excuse to pass on the developmental guy this year in favor of 2021.

@DMANR0CK: Will the Bears go after a QB in the NFL Draft despite trading for Nick Foles?

@DerTonMeister: With the addition of Foles and the return of Bray are the Bears done making changes to their QB Room?

A lot of questions about the quarterback room, and understandably so! I get why the Bears brought Bray back — with the high likelihood of there not being an offseason program (OTAs, minicamps), having a third-string quarterback who knows the offense will help the Bears better evaluate the 10 players around him when practices do begin. 

In other words: The Bears will barely any time — maybe no time — to teach a third-string quarterback the offense, so Bray makes sense in that he won’t need to learn anything. 

As for drafting a quarterback, I think the Bears should still go that route — just not until the sixth or seventh round. The Bears’ most valuable resources right now are their two second-round picks and their fifth-round pick, and those need to go to players who can actually contribute in 2020. A quarterback won’t. 

So if the Bears do add another quarterback to the mix, expect it to be someone drafted very late, or not drafted at all. 

@b_satnan: How many draft picks will be devoted to the O-line? Because it probably should be all of them.

At the least, how about two? The Bears would do well to draft a guard who can contribute immediately and then a tackle who could compete for a job in 2021. 

Realistically, the Bears need their offensive line improvements in 2020 to come from within — that means settling on a position for James Daniels (again) and getting better tackle play out of Charles Leno Jr. and Bobby Massie. Maybe Juan Castillo can help, though Harry Hiestand is one of the more highly respected offensive line coaches around the game — if he couldn’t wring better play out of this group, it’s fair to wonder if anyone can. 

@ls_ia_craigt72: What are they going to do about the left tackle position? Can't keep depending on a guy that gets 3-5 penalties a game!

While we’re on the subject…Leno is your guy to start 2020 at left tackle. He’s not getting 3-5 penalties a game but was penalized too much last year — 13 times, tied for fifth-most in the league (new signing Germain Ifedi also had 13 with the Seahawks). Leno, though, wasn’t wrong in saying some of those penalties were “bulls—t,” seeing as there were a couple in there he didn’t deserve. 

Leno’s contract is structured to allow the Bears an out after the 2020 season — they could save $6.212 million in cap space if they cut him in a year and absorbed a little over $5 million in dead cap. The same goes for Bobby Massie. But because of their contracts, neither are going anywhere this year, though maybe the Bears will add a little more competition behind them than they had last year in Cornelius Lucas. I wouldn't sleep on Ifedi being the Bears' backup swing tackle, and while he didn't make good on his first-round upside in Seattle, maybe he could in Chicago. 

@DrewHoltz: How close will the battle be for the starting QB job?

I think it’ll be close, at least to start training camp. But I won’t be surprised if a clear leader emerges early on — and, let’s be honest, that’s more likely to be Nick Foles than Mitch Trubisky. Foles doesn’t have three years worth of film in Chicago working against him; Trubisky does. 

I still think the Bears’ best-case scenario is Foles not playing a single down in 2020, meaning his mere presence vaulted Trubisky into being the guy Pace hoped he was getting three years ago. But my feeling is the safest bet is on Foles to grab hold of the QB1 gig sometime in August.  Pretty low. Nagy said at the NFL Combine he still plans on calling plays, and if the Bears’ offense starters inking again, I’d expect him to try to bail the water out himself. Who’s going to take over? Bill Lazor? Dave Ragone? John DiFilippo? Of those three Ragone would make the most sense, but I don’t see Nagy giving up playcalling. 

@chrisb0hl: What are we going to do with our tight end situation?

There are a few ways to take this. Let’s start with Trey Burton: I don’t think it makes sense to release him, even with a June 1 designation (that would spread his $7.5 million of dead money around, leading to more 2020 cap space). The Bears need to get Burton to training camp and see if he’s healthy — and can stay healthy — before making a decision on if he’ll be on the 53-man roster. 

While Burton’s 2019 was undoubtedly frustrating, let’s not forget that he was pretty solid in 2018, catching 54 passes for 569 yards (10 1/2 yards/reception) and had six touchdowns. The Bears need to see if that version of Burton is still in him. If not? He could be a cut-down weekend casualty. But that’s the time it would make sense to part ways with him, not now. 

Also, I don’t think it makes a ton of sense to draft a tight end with one of those two second-round picks. For better or worse, Pace went with an all-in on 2020 strategy during free agency; drafting a tight end with an eye on 2021, then, doesn’t fit. Rookie tight ends rarely make significant impacts. 

Drafting a tight end makes sense, but maybe wait until later in Day 3 to snag someone to compete for depth purposes. 

@DavePracz: I know Trevathan is a leader on the team, but in retrospect, since their contracts are nearly identical, wouldn’t it have made more sense to keep Kwiatkoski? Especially considering their ages and Kwiatkoski’s upside.

I don’t think so, but I understand why you’d value Kwiatkoski given he’s younger than Trevathan and has been more durable in his career. But here’s the thing: Trevathan is a better football player than Kwiatkoski, in addition to his leadership skills being tough to replace. 

That’s not to say I don’t like Kwaitkoski’s game — he’s a solid thumper in the run game and has a nice knack for hitting home on blitzes. But Trevathan’s speed, physicality, football IQ and leadership set him apart. I’m also not too worried about his age — off-ball linebackers do have a decent track record of being productive into their 30’s (just ask ageless wonder Thomas Davis). 

@KevinJo77206474: A more answerable question.... What basis do you have to think ANY QB can thrive in this franchise. History has told us it doesnt matter who the Bears bring in......the franchise will screw it up.

In today’s NFL, you have to hit on a draft pick to find a franchise quarterback. The Bears have used three first-run picks on quarterbacks in the last two decades: Cade McNown, Rex Grossman and Mitch Trubisky. Pace, since saying in 2015 he’d like to draft a quarterback every year, has only drafted one. 

I’m in the camp that every team without a young superstar quarterback still on a rookie contract — so that’s every team but the Chiefs, Texans and Ravens — should draft a quarterback every year. Is it likely you’ll unearth a Russell Wilson or Kirk Cousins with a mid-round pick, or a Tom Brady with a late-round pick? No. But you won’t know unless you try. The Bears haven’t tried, outside of 2017, and just three years later had to make a trade to try to correct that mistake. 

@KingsleyEllis: did you really say tickle to khalil mack

Cam,,, yes

Are the Bears really the 2020 offseason's biggest loser? Bleacher Report thinks so

ryanpace.png
USA Today

Are the Bears really the 2020 offseason's biggest loser? Bleacher Report thinks so

Would you describe the Bears' free agency plan as disastrous? 

Bleacher Report would, apparently. In a lengthy piece titled 'Chicago Bears Are NFL Offseason's Biggest Losers So Far,' B/R's Brent Sobleski lays out his case for why the Bears have bungled every move they've made since the season ended in December. Sobleski's take boils down to the idea that "the Bears simply failed at the start of the new league year and had the offseason's worst overall effort." He starts off with, if you can believe it, some Mitch Trubisky commentary: 

The organization dug its proverbial heels in when it came to Mitchell Trubisky ... So, the Bears GM left the door slightly open, and less than a month later, Chicago flipped the 140th overall pick in April's NFL draft to the Jacksonville Jaguars for Nick Foles. 

Sobleski then goes on to say that the move makes sense on the surface, which is sort of a weird place to start, but OK. It's pointed out that Foles couldn't beat out Garner Minshew in Jacksonville after returning from a broken collarbone, and that either way, Cam Newton – health concerns aside – would have been the better choice. Huh! It was, according to Sobleski, a market misjudgment. 

He then runs back the same argument with Jimmy Graham, which, well, yeah. 

The kicker is a wary warning about Robert Quinn, who reached double-digit sacks for the first time since 2014 prior to signing a five-year, $70 million contract with the Bears. Sobleski argues in favor of younger options like Shaq Lawson or Dante Fowler – neither of which have had better sack numbers than Quinn in any season they've played, but whatever. 

So is it possible the Bears' offseason plan ends up being a disaster? Sure! But also, look around the league: the Patriots just lost the greatest quarterback of all-time to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Texans' one-man front office traded a Hall-of-Fame wide receiver – and good friend of their franchise quarterback – to the Cardinals for a running back who's past his prime and attached to an cripplingly large contract. The Titans gave Ryan Tannehill 62 million guaranteed dollars! Are some of Pace's decisions curious-if-not-questionable? Probably, yeah. That's free agency. But given how bonkers the NFL has been the last month or so, rolling the dice on a few depth moves doesn't quite feel like a disaster.