Bears

Moon's Notebook: Will Bears spy Michael Vick?

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Moon's Notebook: Will Bears spy Michael Vick?

Wednesday, Nov. 24, 2010
5:53 PM

By John Mullin
CSNChicago.com

Michael Vick isnt pointing fingers with respect to his problems, including the ones on football fields where he has been an underachiever based on being a No. 1-overall draft choice and one of the great all-around athletes of his era.

Hes pointing the thumb.

Not being more successful before this season didnt have anything to do with the coaches, Vick said. It was pretty much me.

You have to have the desire to want to be great. Your coaches can only talk to you about it, inform you of things you can and cant do. Its up to you, at the end of the day. And basically I didnt take advantage of the time that I had, and the opportunities that I had.

So I had to just start from Ground Zero.

Fort Knox

The Bears may not have a classic No. 1 wide receiver but Johnny Knox continues to do an awfully good impersonation of one.

The second-year wideout, an accidental starter as a rookie only because Devin Aromashodu was injured in training camp, has caught 37 passes through 10 games. The rate of reception (3.7 per game) is up slightly from the 3.0 he averaged in 15 games as a rookie, although he has only one TD vs. 5 last season.

But the real difference in Knox is showing up in big plays. Knox is averaging 18.2 yards per catch this year after a surprisingly modest 11.7 last year; surprising, because Knox is possessed of more speed than anyone else on the roster (Devin Hester and Danieal Manning may dispute that). And it is giving his quarterback a new level to which to throw.

Hes the kind of guy youve got to quietly account for him defensively, because if not, hell get going, said quarterback Jay Cutler. Hes got so much speed in that second level that hell get away from you in a hurry.

Knox came into the league from Abilene Christian (Tex.), the same school that gave the Bears Manning. When he arrived the Bears were deep into the Ron Turner version of the West Coast offense. Now he has switched to Mike Martzs program.

I think hes getting better and better with his routes, Cutler said. Hes getting better and better at learning the offense. Hes still a young player in the league, so to have to learn two different offenses as quickly as hes had to learn them is tough.

Spy games

Vick noted that teams seldom any more resort to the spy system, assigning one defensive player to be locked onto him at all times during a play. The Washington Redskins did that for several plays and Vick annihilated the Redskins in perhaps the greatest performance of his career, throwing for four touchdowns and running for two.

The Bears did some of that way back in the early years of Brian Urlachers career, and they limited Vicks Atlanta Falcons teams to one TD in three games. They certainly could use that approach again but their favored defense makes it almost redundant.

All of our players will know where he is most of the game, coach Lovie Smith said. We probably play more zone coverage than we do man. One of the benefits of playing zone coverage is you have everybody looking at the quarterback.

But whether we spy, well know where he is most of the time. Hes not really hard to know where he is.

Sack man

Defensive end Julius Peppers was named NFC defensive player of the week after recording 3 sacks and deflecting a pass that was intercepted by cornerback Charles Tillman in the Bears 16-0 shutout victory at Miami in Week 11. The three sacks by Peppers tied a career-high and marked the eighth time he has had a three-sack performance since entering the league in 2002, the most by any player over that span.

Peppers three sacks were the most by a Bears player since Adewale Ogunleye had three at Oakland in Week 10 of the 2007 season. The honor is the fourth of Peppers career and his first in a Bears uniform. It is the third Player of the Week award for the Bears this season: Matt Forte (offensive, week 1) and Hester (special teams, week 10).

Sick bay

The Bears and Eagles are headed into Sundays game as perhaps the two healthiest teams in the NFL. The Bears had only linebacker Pisa Tinoisamoa limited in practice while the Eagles had only defensive end Juqua Parker (hip) and cornerback Asante Samuel (knee), the NFL leader in interceptions, held out of practice.

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.

Even without practicing, Allen Robinson is making a strong first impression with the Bears

Even without practicing, Allen Robinson is making a strong first impression with the Bears

Before Bears wide receivers coach Mike Furrey met with the media on Wednesday, Allen Robinson was curious what his position coach would say about him in public. 

“I just told him, I don’t know you,” Furrey quipped. “Who’s Allen Robinson?”

Furrey, of course, knows who Robinson is. But the point behind that joke is that Furrey, the Bears’ court wide receivers coach in four years, is still getting to know all of his receivers — let alone the one who hasn’t participated in a practice yet. For all the positivity that's easy to find around Halas Hall these days, the Bears' biggest offseason acquisition hasn't taken a rep yet. 

The good news for the Bears, of course, is that Robinson’s past play speaks for itself. He combined for 153 catches, 2,883 yards and 20 touchdowns in 2015 and 2016, and has been adamant he’ll return to that high level of play when he’s cleared to practice. The Bears were confident enough in Robinson’s medicals to guarantee him a little over $25 million in March, per Spotrac, about a month before they let Cameron Meredith sign with the New Orleans Saints largely over medical concerns (Meredith’s torn ACL was viewed as more serious than Robinson’s, in short). 

So the getting-to-know-you phase for Furrey and Robinson is largely taking place off the field in the meeting rooms of Halas Hall. 

“What a great young man,” Furrey said. “He’s come in here, obviously, rehabbing and doing all those things. But he’s alert, he comes to meetings, he’s ready to go. Really, really smart, you can tell that from the beginning and he’s a professional.”

What Furrey, in particular, likes about Robinson is that he’s an “alpha,” but is far more than all talk and no action. 

“And a lot of times that alpha talks a lot and they don’t really put it out there,” Furrey said. “He kind of has that alpha quietness to him. He understands what’s going on, you can look at him and you just kind of get that feel of he has a great understanding of how to approach this game at this level. Obviously he’s been highly successful for a couple years with some big numbers, but he doesn’t act like that. He’s still hungry, he wants to learn, and I think he’s got a chip on his shoulder, which is a good trait to have too. So we’re excited about that.”

The expectation all along has been for Robinson to be cleared to fully participate in training camp practices. So while coach Matt Nagy said last week Robinson is “ahead of the game,” that may not mean he takes part in the final round of OTAs next week or veteran minicamp the first week of June. 

But while Robinson can’t prove himself to his new coaches on the field yet, he’s doing the right things off the field to make a positive first impression. 

“He knows you gotta come in early, he knows you gotta be the last one to leave, he knows you gotta study,” Furrey said. “It doesn’t matter five years in, six years in, you gotta take notes. It doesn’t matter if you hear it 10 times, you just gotta keep taking notes. He’s been really good at that, and I’ve been really impressed with that. I’ve been able to get on the field with him a little bit, just kind of throwing some balls to him, and I didn’t know he was that big. But obviously we’re excited for it to happen out there.” 

Protection Issues: Bears O-line ranked 21st in NFL

Protection Issues: Bears O-line ranked 21st in NFL

Mitch Trubisky has been set up for a huge season in 2018 with all the firepower the Chicago Bears added on offense. Allen Robinson, Taylor Gabriel, Anthony Miller and Trey Burton will give the second-year quarterback a variety of explosive targets to generate points in bunches.

None of the headline-grabbing moves will matter, however, if the offensive line doesn't do its job. 

According to Numberfire.com, the Bears' starting five could be the offense's Achilles heel. They were ranked 21st in the NFL and described as poor in pass protection.

Last year, the Bears ranked 26th in Sack NEP per drop back and 23rd in sack rate. These issues were especially apparent after Trubisky took over. In the games that [Kyle] Long played, their sack rate was 8.2%. It was actually 7.2% in the games that he missed. They struggled even when Long was healthy.

The Bears added Iowa's James Daniels in the second round of April's draft and he's expected to start at guard alongside Long. Cody Whitehair will resume his role as the starting center, with Charles Leno, Jr. and Bobby Massie at offensive tackle.

If Long comes back healthy and Daniels lives up to his draft cost, they should be a good run-blocking team from the jump. But Long has played just 18 games the past two years and is entering his age-30 season, so that's far from a lock. On top of that, the pass blocking was suspect last year and remains a mystery entering 2018.

The biggest addition to the offensive line is Harry Hiestand, the accomplished position coach who returns to Chicago after once serving in the same role under Lovie Smith from 2005-2009. He most recently coached at Notre Dame and helped develop multiple first-round picks. He's going to have a huge impact.

The good news for the Bears is they weren't the lowest-ranked offensive line in the NFC North. The Vikings came in at No. 25. The Packers checked-in at No. 13, while the Lions were 16th.