Its always a great chat with Mike Florio over at ProFootballTalk.com and today was no exception. Few reporters have as strong a sense of the NFL overall, and Mike and I have successfully visited on the Bears in the past.
Among the issues Mike brought up and we covered on ProFootballTalk Live!:
Brian Urlachers status, injury and contract-wise
Urlacher is getting time off from full practice to do some rehab running on the knee injured during the final week of the season. A leg injury of any sort is a concern with a veteran player, especially one whose speed is key in his play and the defenses, but Urlacher and the Bears are being smart about this and he will be used judiciously throughout training camp. Id be surprised if he plays at all in game four, possibly even in game one of the preseason.
The Bears have taken care of Urlacher contractually with a couple of extensions. Best guess is that they will not send him into free agency when his deal is up after this season. Thats just bad PR with a pillar of the franchise.
And the Bears also have no succession plan in place, and that's perhaps another indicator of where they envision being with No. 54. Nick Roach can plan the Mike spot but thats a second-tier option. Nothing is done until its done, but an added year for Urlacher will make sense, as well as something for Lance Briggs as well.
The new Bears offense
Mike noted that some speculation is that the offense under Mike Tice will resemble the Minnesota offense when Tice was head coach there. He then added, Im not sure that would be a good thing.
Mike also wondered about the Bears becoming a more pass-oriented offense, which is a reasonable thought given the addition of receivers Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery and quarterback coach Jeremy Bates, who was with Marshall and Jay Cutler in Denver.
But as Ive noted before, and Marshall did as well, that Denver offense didnt win anything. The numbers were big; the key wins were not.
Lovie Smith is in a must-win year (another topic Mike raised) and he is not going to allow the offense to lose its compass as it did at the outset of both years under Mike Martz. The Bears now have the clear ability to be a big-game passing team but Smith wants sanity and balance. Tice brought that the past two years, and its unlikely the offense sets out to be an airshow.
But its a comfort for the Bears to know that they could be.
Biggest area of concern?
Based on this being the end of the offseason, with minicamp through Thursday, Mike wanted to know what was perhaps the one biggest area of concern. He and I have discussed in some depth the offensive-line situation, but I said that the tackle position on offense is not the one of most concern.
It would be the defensive tackle situation.
With Gabe Carimi, JMarcus Webb and Chris Williams, the Bears may not have incumbent Pro Bowlers. But all three tackles have started.
One defense, however, where Smiths scheme demands interior disruption from the three-technique, the Bears have only Henry Melton, Stephen Paea and Matt Toeaina. Melton is in a contract year and flashed at times last year (seven sacks) and Paea started to show up later in the season.
But it is a perilously thin depth chart at a crucial spot, and Paea had knee problems last training camp. Best guess is that the Bears will be looking hard a cuts later in August for a fourth player, a veteran, to fortify what they have in front of Urlacher.