Bears

Moon: Packers game critical step towards a big goal

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Moon: Packers game critical step towards a big goal

Sunday, Jan. 2, 2011
11:50 a.m.

By John Mullin
CSNChicago.com

They were the new guys back in 2006, the young guys, and it came almost too easily.

And now, Devin Hester and Danieal Manning, rookies in 2006, and Chris Harris, who went to the playoffs as a rookie in 2005 and a Super Bowl the next year, are in a position to do what many of the greats of the game, including many, many Bears never did: return to a Super Bowl.

Dan Marino went in his second, lost and never went again. Wilber Marshall and Ron Rivera went to playoffs as rookies, a Super Bowl in their second year, and never got back there.

Its tough, Harris said. You have some guys with great careers, Hall of Fame players, who never played in a Super Bowl.

Hester didnt think getting to a Super Bowl was necessarily easy but I didnt think it would go like that, he said, shaking his head at the memory and at the thought of not even getting back to the playoffs since then. The team we had the Super Bowl I thought would be good for a long time.

Its a long season and every year something happens, every year it seems like theres a different team.

Julius Peppers, Brian Urlacher, Lance Briggs, Charles Tillman, Olin Kreutz, Tommie Harris all know what it means to reach a Super Bowl and lose there.

And they are part of the reason why the Bears are unlikely to make the mistake of not treating the Green Bay game and the two weeks that follow as critical steps toward a goal that will never be taken for granted.

Its a long journey for this team, Hester said. This year, weve been doing pretty good. The record is looking pretty good right now. The bye, and everything is starting to show up. Our team is starting to do some great things, as far as offense, defense and special teams. We got a good shot.

Arguably the single most important player in the Bears playoff saga, Jay Cutler, has never been in uniform for a playoff game. He has never had the experience of anything beyond regular-season playing speed.

But his motivation should be perhaps greater even than for his teammates who have been there but lost.

I dont think anybody in that locker room is gonna be satisfied until we win a Super Bowl, Cutler said. So theres a lot to be done yet. But weve got to keep getting better. Weve got to keep working. Weve got to keep coming to work. Keep the drive.

That makes Sunday in Green Bay important. If the Bears lose the drive, they will lose before they ever make the Super Bowl that some thought would have come again by now.

Gone but

If the Bears were hoping to see more of Juaquin Iglesias in the future, theyll likely have their wish after the 2009 third-round pick was signed off the Bears practice squad Saturday by the Minnesota Vikings. Iglesias showed flashes back in training camp but was unable to demonstrate enough consistent playmaker ability to warrant a spot of the regular roster. Iglesias was inactive for all but one game in his rookie season.

Iglesias joins fellow No. 3 pick Jarron Gilbert on the former-Bears list, leaving the Bears with neither of their top 2009 picks. Its unlikely the organization is going to have serious laments on a bad draft, however.

Henry Melton (fourth round) is a force in the defensive-line rotation and possible successor to Tommie Harris as the three-technique in the Bears scheme. D.J. Moore, the Bears second pick in the fourth round, is the No. 1 nickel back and has 4 interceptions. Johnny Knox (fifth round) needs just 40 yards Sunday to pass 1,000. Guard Lance Louis has settled into a backup role but has shown some promise.

And the Bears No. 1 and first No. 3 picks of that draft? They went for Jay Cutler, who has begun to look every bit like the franchise quarterback the trade was intended to secure.

And one more thing.

I didnt make a call on this game earlier because I really didnt know how much the Bears would put into it, in terms of effort, personnel and both. The Bears really dont have anything to play for except what really matters, that being playoff preparations.

They have a quarterback who has never played beyond a regular season since high school and needs to not only stay sharp, but also needs to be better than he has been, because thats what playoffs are about quarterback play. The only player close to a starter that the Bears made inactive was receiver Earl Bennett and that because of an injury.

The other thing that playoffs are about is play on defense, and the Bears group has played progressively worse into this fourth quarter of the season. The Bears kept linebacker Pisa Tinoisamoa active despite his chronic knee issues, if thats any indication of intent. The Bears had their usual list of inactives: defensive backs Craig Steltz and Joshua Moore; running back Khalil Bell; offensive linemen Herman Johnson and Edwin Williams; and defensive lineman Marcus Harrison.

The Bears will definitely take this game seriously, at least through the first half. But I dont think thatll be enough to beat a resurgent and overall very good Green Bay team.
Packers 27 Bears 21

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.

Pro Football Focus: Bears should sign Jameis Winston

Pro Football Focus: Bears should sign Jameis Winston

Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston had one of the most polarizing seasons in recent NFL history when he threw for 5,109 yards, 33 touchdowns and 30 interceptions in 2019. He was the first quarterback to throw for more than 30 touchdowns and 30 interceptions in the same season.

His hard-to-figure-out year makes his pending free agency even more confusing. Does Tampa Bay have enough confidence in the former No. 1 overall pick to lock him up on a long-term deal? Are they better off using the franchise tag and buying another year of evaluation? Or should they just turn the page and move on?

Those decisions are far from being made at this point, but if Winston is allowed to test the open market, Pro Football Focus believes the Bears should go all-in on signing the big-armed yet mistake-prone passer.

Trubisky has struggled to generate any positive plays and is in Winston’s realm as far as negatively graded play rate. Winston’s decision making absolutely needs some work, but at his best, he is “ballin.'” Chicago isn’t in the position to grab a high quarterback prospect in the draft. They could get themselves Jalen Hurts in the second round, but that’s the best they’ll do. A one-year trial is the best option for the Bears, so buckle up and get ready for the ride Chicago — what’s the worst that could happen?

Winston's strength -- pushing the ball down the field -- would be a welcome site in Chicago, especially after Trubisky's brutal 6.1 yards per attempt last season. Winston, in theory, would take advantage of what wide receiver Allen Robinson does well, too, with an aggressive mentality that's led to high-end production for pass-catcher Mike Evans.

But are the Bears really going to invest more than $25 million on a one-year deal for a player as turnover-prone as Winston? Chicago doesn't have much salary-cap space as it is, and cheaper options like Bengals veteran Andy Dalton (albeit via trade) seem more realistic.

If Chicago is truly going to apply the Titans' model from 2019 to their offseason plan this year, Winston wouldn't make sense. But as we've learned with the way this front office has handled the quarterback situation over the last few years, not much seems to make sense anyway. 

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Bears gather intel on Temple center Matt Hennessy at 2020 Senior Bowl

Bears gather intel on Temple center Matt Hennessy at 2020 Senior Bowl

The Bears have an obvious need along the interior of the offensive line after the retirement of guard Kyle Long and the average-at-best play of his replacement, Rashaad Coward, in 2019.

The 2020 Senior Bowl kicked off its second day of practices Wednesday with the North team (coached by the Lions) beginning the afternoon with an aggressive session. It offered a great opportunity for Bears scouts to get a long look at some of this year's top senior offensive line prospects. 

RELATED: Top 30 free agents of 2020 NFL offseason

One player who stood out in one-on-one drills was Temple center/guard Matt Hennessy. He was arguably the best offensive lineman on the field and consistently stonewalled opposing defensive lineman regardless of their rush move (power, speed or a combination of both). Chicago took notice.

Hennessy was the target of several teams who used their post-practice on-field time to gather more intel; the Bears were one of them.

Hennessy has had some injury issues during his tenure as an Owl, but he's been a quality starter (center) for Temple over the last three seasons. Here's what The Draft Network's scouting report of Hennessy lists as his positive traits:

Possesses good size and length at the position. Football intelligence jumps off the tape each game. One of the most consistent pass blockers in the country. Excellent coordination with his hands, eyes, and feet. Consistently plays with good balance. Projects well to a zone-blocking scheme. Effective at walling off second-level defenders and reaching three techniques.

The Bears had issues at center last season when former second-round pick James Daniels went through some midseason struggles. It eventually led to a position switch with Cody Whitehair, who stabilized the interior (at least a little). 

But Hennessy, who started the week as a likely Day-3 pick, would be an ideal selection for a Chicago team that needs to just add talent to the position group. 

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