Here's our latest mailbag installment. We'll look to do another one on Tuesday.
To the mail:
Do you see Jamar Williams as only a special teams player this year barring injury? What about him switching over to Hunter Hillenmeyer's side?
Brent Dempsey, Parts Unknown
BRAD SAYS: Barring an injury, I think it will be tough for Williams to get much work on defense. He had been groomed for two years to replace Lance Briggs on the weak side his opening closed hen Briggs signed a six-year contract. While Williams is listed on the depth chart as the backup on the weak side, he's more like the No. 4 linebacker. If anything happens to one of the starters, I expect Williams to step on the field. He can play will, he can play strong and in the event something happens to Brian Urlacher, I'd expect Hillenmeyer to slide inside and Williams to play on the strong side. There's always a small movement out there to replace Hillenmeyer and he was one of the more productive players on defense last season. Consider Hillenmeyer was third on the team with 101 tackles and was on the sideline for a lot of the action as he came out in the nickel package.
Why is Nathan Vasher back to return a punt in the second half of an exhibition game? If he gets hurt someone should be fired.
Steve H., Oak Park
BRAD SAYS: When Vasher is on the field to return punts in preseason, it's usually with the instruction to simply call for a fair catch. He's the backup to Devin Hester and they want to get him experience catching the ball in a game situation without putting himself in harms way. Vasher doesn't have a return this preseason. Along these lines, don't look for Hester to return any kicks or punts Thursday night at Cleveland. It's my best guess they keep him out of those situations entirely to maintain his health.
What are your feelings on Jerry Angelo's last couple of drafts? It does not look like Dan Bazuin, Mike Okwo, Mark Bradley, Garrett Wolfe or Jamar Williams will help this team in the near future if at all not to mention Rex Grossman, Dusty Dvoracek [injuries] or Terrence Metcalf will either.
Rick P., Arizona
BRAD SAYS: My initial feeling is it takes at least three years to really get a good handle on a draft class. That being said, the 2007 class is not showing a whole lot right now after tight end Greg Olsen. Injuries play a part in that. But I would expect Wolfe and Williams to be core special teams contributors. Dvoracek will play be a steady member of the rotation at tackle provided he stays healthy. That's been one of the bugaboos for Angelo. He seems to come up with some health risk guys from college who are health risk guys in the NFL as well. Bradley is one of those players, too, and a member of the disappointing 2005 class. You said recent drafts, so Metcalf (2002) doesn't count. With 2008 top pick Chris Williams out at least half the season, Angelo needs running back Matt Forte to step up this year. That's for sure. It looks like he's got a pretty good player in defensive tackle Marcus Harrison, the third-round pick.
The names I would reference when mentioning the draft history, however, are Haynes and Benson. Those are more alarming misses than those named above. What's going on with Danieal Manning also? He was the top pick in 2006 and may be out of a job as the nickel back now.
I often read about other NFL teams bringing in free-agent players for a workout. Rarely, do I read about the Bears doing the same. With as many holes and lack of depth on both sides of the ball, wouldn't this be a smart thing for the Bears to do? Or, do they just do a good job of covering up these visits?
Jeff J., Parts Unknown
BRAD SAYS: Typically, free-agent tryouts are not advertised. The Bears did have three long snappers in after Pat Mannelly was injured and chose Thomas Gafford as the temporary replacement. They had two wide receivers in during the beginning of training camp also. I'm not aware of any other recent workouts. Usually when a player is on the street there is a pretty good reason.
Where is Lance Briggs and who is wearing 55 for the Bears? Maybe they should've kept franchising him to make him play hungry. On a touchdown run in the San Francisco game from the one-yard line, I watched Briggs rush to the pile, turn side ways and give a wimpy effort at hitting the pile. Very evident on replay.
Greg K., Parts Unknown
BRAD SAYS: Don't limit your criticism of the linebackers in preseason to Briggs. The group as a whole has been coming up short when it's been time to make plays. The Bears would have courted with disaster had they tried to tag Briggs multiple times and that gets to be an expensive proposition. The second time you tag a player he gets a 20 percent bump on the previous year's salary.
A lot has been made of the dismissal of Ron Rivera for Bob Babich. What are the main differences between the two, both on the field and off the field?
Mike C., Washington, D.C.
BRAD SAYS: Besides Lovie Smith's relationship with Babich that spans 25 years or so? Smith and Rivera was an arranged marriage when the coaching staff took over in 2004. The hope was Rivera would have landed one of those head-coaching gigs he interviewed for and then the organization could have patted him on the back as he departed and Babich could have moved into place. Instead, there has at least been an appearance that things were not as warm and fuzzy. The bottom line is that it's Smith's coaching staff and he will make moves that he is most comfortable with, that includes all staffing issues. Babich is more upbeat in practice while Rivera was a little more reserved. Players talk about Babich being very detail driven, but that's not to suggest Rivera didn't have an eye for the little things. They don't let me in the meetings, so I cannot give you a lot of insight off the field.
What you think about the Kevin Jones/Matt Forte combination? Are the Bears considering Jones as a starter in the future or has Forte done enough to secure his job spot? I saw a lot of potential in the last game from Jones. He seems really hungry and eager to prove people wrong.
R.J., Parts Unknown
BRAD SAYS: The longer Jones has been around the more it looks like his signing in early July was a good move. If he stays healthy he should be able to contribute this season. Teammates have been impressed with his ability and that's the best sign of all because as they say, players know players. Forte is secure in the starting job, however. He has draft status, has looked solid and Jones is on a one-year contract. I don't know if he so much desires to prove people wrong as he wants to prove that he's healthy and ready to roll after two serious injuries.
I understand it is the pro football writers who decide who gets into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. So I have two questions. First, do you have a vote? Second, why do you think Richard Dent is having such a hard time getting his rightful due, induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame? Dent seems to becoming the new Art Monk.
Kevin A., Parts Unknown
BRAD SAYS: Dent has been a finalist on the ballot four times and has been eligible for six years and has yet to come up with the necessary numbers to have his bust put in Canton, Ohio. He fell short this past year while two other pass rushers--Fred Dean and Andre Tippett--were elected. The MVP of Super Bowl XX retired after the 1996 season with 137 1/2 sacks, which ranked him third at the time. You would certainly have to believe he has the credentials to break down the wall eventually. One challenge he will face is Bruce Smith becomes eligible for the Hall of Fame next year and Derrick Thomas, who has been eligible for four years, is another pass rusher with a strong resume. I don't think it's a matter of if for the Colonel, but rather when. That's hard to handicap.
I do not have a vote for the Hall of Fame. That distinction for Chicago belongs to the Tribune's Dan Pompei, the former Sun-Timesman who also worked as a national writer for Sporting News. When it comes time for the clandestine annual selection meeting held the day before the Super Bowl, it's fair to say Dent's candidacy is in good hands but in a room full of nearly 40 people with 40 different backgrounds anything can happen. We'll see if things turn in Dent's favor this year.
It's no secret that Terrance Metcalf has been a huge disappointment and a borderline bust. Now he is nursing a knee injury and Josh Beekman has replaced him in the starting line up and has shown positive signs so far. Is there any way you see the Bears cutting Metcalf once he is cleared medically so they don't have to pay his hefty salary he gets for doing squat?
BRAD SAYS: Borderline bust? Metcalf was a third-round pick in 2002 and "bust" is a difficult label to put on anyone drafted below the first two rounds in my opinion. Has he been a disappointment? Sure, I think it's fair to say there were expectations that Metcalf would have several seasons of starting experience under his belt by now. But if he was the Bears' biggest problem, they'd be in pretty good position right now. No, I do not expect Metcalf to be cut. He could resume his role as a starter too.
Are Garrett Wolfe and Mark Bradley really good enough to make the Bears think about keeping only two quarterbacks? I would think some team would sign Caleb Hanie off of the practice squad.
Greg, Parts Unknown
BRAD SAYS: Keeping Wolfe and Bradley doesn't have a lot to do with the decision to keep Hanie or not, in my opinion. It comes down to whether or not the Bears feel Hanie is worthy of a roster spot. Let's consider general manager Jerry Angelo's history--he keeps his draft picks. Wolfe is a lock to make the roster and has developed a role on special teams. Bradley is likely to be on the final roster also. The former second-round pick is entering his fourth season and must produce. Hanie has demonstrated some ability but it's come against a group of players who will all be unemployed soon. Certainly it's fair to be skeptical when it comes to the organization and its handling of the position but more teams every year seem to be going with two quarterbacks on the 53-man roster. Remember, keeping Chris Williams for half the season while he recovers from back surgery is the one move that is really going to cost someone a job.
Is there any chance of Marc Colombo coming back? I think his contract is up at the end of this year.
Sean, Unknown Parts of Pa.
BRAD SAYS: Never say never, but you would think the Bears have already missed his best football. He turns 30 in October and one of the reasons Dallas hasn't extended him is because of concerns about durability. The Bears need to stop patching holes with older players on the line and start finding draft picks who can hold do the job well so they don't have to overspend for starters in free agency. I'm not sure Colombo would want to return here either. Remember, the Bears gave up on him when they essentially determined he could no longer play.
What are the rules for other teams signing players off the Bears' practice squad? Can other teams just sign one of those players without the Bears having any recourse to keep that player? I'm just worried about some team stealing Caleb Hanie if the Bears put him on the practice squad.
Cliff H., Clifton, Ind.
BRAD SAYS: Teams can sign players away from another's practice squad by signing them to the active 53-man roster. The Bears would have the opportunity to promote their own player first. Seems like Hanie is being built up as the next Tony Romo around here.
Is Mike Brown OK? He is not playing at a very high level in preseason. Also, is Danieal Manning going to get it done at nickel? Again, it doesn't look that great right now.
MS Bears Fan, Parts Unknown
BRAD SAYS: Brown has been healthy throughout training camp and the preseason. It's only natural to wonder about his range though. He's 30 now and has dealt with three serious injuries to his legs/feet the last four years. Brown never had the greatest range when he was healthy, but it was decent and he is such a smart and instinctive player that he was able to diagnose plays a step or two quicker than most. As far as Manning goes, we'll get a better look Thursday night in Cleveland, but he's been relegated to a backup role for now in the nickel.
Do you think it is the failure to stock and staff the offensive line that is more to blame for the Bears' offensive woes or is it the utterly predictable Ron Turner scheme that is at fault? Turner still tries to establish the run first and if it works you can then pass. But, with the weak line you can't run on anybody and then you can't protect the passer either. Perhaps if we made teams defend the whole field we could open up some running lanes.
BRAD SAYS: Which came first? The chicken or the egg? The Bears had some of their finest passing seasons under Turner in his first go-round when Erik Kramer played quarterback. There is a lot that needs work with the offensive line and the failure to bring in some young offensive linemen the last several seasons has caught up with the franchise. The Bears had a successful, veteran-built line for a few years but it fell apart before the club expected. That's for sure. Angelo talks of needs vs. wants when it comes to the draft and he could be in need of more linemen come April.
Why aren't the Bears making more use of tight end Greg Olsen?
Seedy Backlash, Parts Unknown
BRAD SAYS: I think we'll see plenty of Olsen this season. There will be a greater emphasis on double tight end formations this season and I expect his numbers to improve over last year. Considering he missed two full games and then played sparingly in two more after his knee sprain, his rookie campaign of 39 receptions and two touchdowns was decent. That's a tough position to come in and star at immediately. I think he needs to show improved blocking this season. The pass-catching end of things will sort itself out.
Why is it that we never see trades during the regular season? Have the Bears been in any rumored trade talk during preseason?
Chitown Bear, Visalia, Calif.
BRAD SAYS: Is is tough being a Chitown Bear when you're not in Chitown? There just aren't many deals made by clubs in-season. It's a little different learning a football playbook than it is a basketball one. This isn't baseball where you can plug in a relief pitcher in late July or add a left-handed hitting outfielder. The Bears probably wish they got some value for Ricky Manning Jr., but it was so evident for so long he would wind up being released, why trade a draft pick for someone you can just sign? If fullback Lousaka Polite doesn't make the 53-man roster, he potentially could attract attention from a team in need. Fullbacks are becoming seemingly more scarce every year though.
What do you think of the Bears secondary? I look at it and relying on Mike Brown is looking more and more like a mistake, Peanut Tillman has been off his game so far, and the remaining safeties seem like a lackluster group. Also why do you think Peanut does not get moved to safety, his natural position? I think it would elevate his game and really help out the defense. I know we would be losing a corner but he tends to have up and down games a lot.
Creighton, Parts Unknown
BRAD SAYS: The Bears secondary is better off with Brown on the field this season than the options the club has on the roster behind him. Plans have to be in place to address the position in the offseason as both he and Brandon McGowan will be free agents. Remember, this was a poor year for safeties in the draft. Certainly, I'd expect it to be a top need for 2009 along with offensive line, wide receiver and maybe quarterback. Who knows how the draft will shake out. For more on Brown, see above.
As far as moving Tillman to safety, that's an idea I've heard for some time and it makes no sense whatsoever to me. If you take your best cornerback and move him to safety, you're weakening your secondary. Corners are at a higher premium, much higher premium, and Tillman is the best the Bears have. You're trying to solve one deficiency by creating an even bigger one. I, for one, think he's better suited as a cornerback. Tillman is one of the more underrated corners in the league. He's got nice size for some of the tough matchups and that's not easy to replace.
The offensive line played terrible against Seattle, but was part of that because Rex Grossman was the quarterback? It seems like teams love to blitz Rex, and they usually have good results forcing turnovers and sacks and what not. I know he's just a backup now but I'd still like to know, is Rex just not good at recognizing a blitz coming or what is the problem there?
Adam P., Evansville, Ind.
BRAD SAYS: By Grossman's own account, he missed one hot read that led to a busted play. When I watched the game, and re-watched it, I saw linebackers coming untouched at times. There was a mass communication breakdown and everyone played a part in it. The book on Grossman has always been to pressure him, especially up the middle.
What is the status of Ruben Brown? With the left guard position still in flux with Josh Beekman and Terrence Metcalf, would it not be prudent to cut Metcalf and sign Ruben for another year?
Dahillama, Parts Unknown
BRAD SAYS: Brown is on the street as a free agent. The Bears are not going to cut Metcalf. They would be better off trying him or a young player than bringing back Brown. Remember, the line needs to get younger. Not older.
You've got the naysayers who believe the Bears will win two games this year, and then the hopelessly delusional who think we'll go undefeated and that Rex Grossman will make it to the Pro Bowl. I'd like to hear what someone with a college education thinks on this. What are your predictions for the 2008 season?
Kenn, Parts Unknown
BRAD SAYS: My college transcript doesn't look too pretty, so I don't think that qualifies me to do much here. There have been so many changes on offense and some of it remains unsettled--wide receiver for starters--that expecting the unit to come out and mesh from the start seems unrealistic. The plan on the offensive line didn't take shape following Chris Williams' injury. Kyle Orton could be a pleasant surprise for those who are only recalling him from 2005 but, again, I think it could take some time for the offense to click and I think Orton will have to pass defenses out of eight-man fronts that are going to load to stop the run. It's no longer a young defense and the offense will have to control the ball to rest an undersized unit that has had its issues during the second halves of seasons the last few years. Let's let them line up and play the games.
Do you think the Bears would consider picking up Chris Simms if/when he is cut on Saturday and release Rex Grossman?
Joe, Parts Unknown
BRAD SAYS: I think the Bears would have interest in Simms if he was on the open market. There are a few issues the Bucs have run into in trying to deal him. First, he hasn't played in two years and there is a looming health question. Second, he's under contract for $2 million this season, too much to pay a No. 3 quarterback. Third, his contract runs out after this season so you would be trading a draft pick for a guy you want to develop but might not be able to because he is coming out of contract. No, I don't believe the Bears will cut Grossman. He knows the playbook and is one play away from being needed. While Grossman might relish the opportunity for a fresh start elsewhere now, coaches always lean on experience and he can at least provide that.
Thanks again for all the questions. We'll do it again soon.