Q: Which wide receivers appear to be on the bubble at this point? Has Mark Bradley's knee been holding him back any?
Adam P., Parts Unknown
Adam: This is going to be an interesting area to look at. The team that gets off the bus running kept six receivers on the 53-man roster last season and actually finished the year with seven after picking up Brandon Rideau at season's end. The Bears list Devin Hester as a returner on their roster, but make no mistake about it, he's a receiver. But the Bears never dressed more than five receivers with Mike Hass being inactive on game day 15 times.
One way of thinking is that since the Bears are not a passing team, there is no need to keep six receivers. Typically, they're only going to use four in a game any way, and remember tight ends Desmond Clark and Greg Olsen are expected to be heavily involved in the passing game. So, again, does the team that gets off the bus running need six receivers and two quality receiving tight ends? Keep all this in mind when you consider who is on the bubble at receiver.
Here is how the depth chart released earlier this week looks right now:
Rashied Davis and Hester are co-starters at one position followed by Hass, Rideau and Ryan Grice-Mullen.
At the other spot, Marty Booker and Brandon Lloyd are co-starters followed by Bradley, Earl Bennett and Marcus Monk.
That's 10 receivers for, at the most, six slots.
Absolute locks: Davis, Hester, Bennett. The first two guys got contracts and Bennett is a third-round pick.
Probables: Booker, Lloyd. Booker hasn't shined in camp but he's always been that way. He performs on Sundays. Offensive coordinator Ron Turner seems delighted with Lloyd.
Good shot: Bradley. Remember, Jerry Angelo believes in nine lives for his draft picks and Bradley was a former second-round selection. To answer your second question, he's looked a little gimpy on occasion and hasn't looked as explosive coming out of breaks following arthroscopic surgery on his right knee in May, This is a make-or-break season for Bradley here, there's no doubting that. You have to go off the team's history in keeping its draft investments around when evaluating the roster possibilities. If Bradley shows a couple open-field flashes in preseason, there's little question he'll stick around.
Outside looking in: Hass, Rideau. Neither have been able to carve out a niche on special teams. Your fourth and fifth and sixth receivers must find homes there. They might need injuries to enhance their possibilities and quite frankly a change of scenery might help Hass, who has been here two years. It's tough to change someone's perception of you after that long although I would like to see him get some quality reps with the first team to see how he does against top cover men in live action.
Practice squad possibilities: Monk. He needs to get stronger.
99 to 1: Grice-Mullen. You're looking at the longshot.
Q: I have not heard anything about Marcus Monk so far in camp. Has he done anything to give himself a chance at a roster spot?
Joe F., La Crosse, Wis.
Joe: See above. He's mostly been running with the threes. I think he needs to get stronger. He's rail thin and struggles getting off press coverage.
Q: Has Ryan Poles played at all in camp? How does he look? Also, so you have information about the breakdown of the contracts for Devin Hester and Tommie Harris? There are many different reports of the size of the bonuses and incentives.
Patrick D., Parts Unknown
Patrick: With some of the injuries hitting the offensive line, Poles has had the opportunity to work some at guard with the second team although most of his work has been concentrated with the threes. He's got Boston College pedigree, which is a plus for any lineman. He's worked his way back from an Achilles tendon injury and could be a prospect for the practice squad.
Q: Who do you think has looked better Rex Grossman or Kyle Orton?
Creighton, Parts Unknown
Creighton: I think Orton probably had a better start to camp than Grossman, but Grossman has come on lately with the exception of the Soldier Field practice. The timing inconsistencies that plagued both quarterbacks early, and the interceptions have become fewer and fewer. The defense still dominates most sessions but there haven't been glaring quarterback errors that stand out. You're only going to learn so much when the action is not truly live. This needs to be settled in in the preseason games, and an answer could come after the Seattle game Aug. 16.
Q: How many touchdowns have Rex and Kyle actually scored in practice? Any idea? After all it's about points winning games. Any idea how many passing yards accumulated by each? Yards per catch? Any thoughts on that aspect? Who is more mobile, accurate with throws, surveys the field best?
Sherry B., Parts Unknown
Sherry: It's really impossible to chart such statistics when there is no legitimate pass rush--the orange QB jerseys mean off-limits--and there is no tackling. There was a great celebration of Hester hauling in a Hail Mary pass from Grossman earlier this week. The only thing is the defense was instructed not to defend the pass so there were defensive backs standing in the end zone who let Hester make the catch. Mark Bradley had a knee injury scare on a Hail Mary in a previous training camp when a mass of bodies collided going for the ball so the Bears wisely refrain from such any more. So tracking TD's, yardage and the such is impossible.
Who is more mobile? How about neither. Both can move around a little but neither is in the running to be the next Bobby Douglass. More accurate? It's something both need to work on. Grossman probably has more success with the deep ball. Surveys the field better? Maybe Orton. Let's let the numbers in preseason speak.
Q: Last year most of the media reports out of training camp were about how awesome the Bear's offense looked. I even remember reports saying that the Bear's defense was getting beaten by the offense much of the camp. That being said, the regular season started and the offense was absolutely atrocious. Can you please provide an objective evaluation of how the offense looks thus far in training camp and whether or not it has a chance to be above average this year?
Jeff R., Parts Unknown
Jeff: Turns out both the offense and the defense were bad last season. The offense has looked shaky at best, in my opinion, given the uncertainty on the offensive line. Neither quarterback will succeed if that unit doesn't get straightened out. Just look at how many question marks remain on offense. They don't know who is going to start at five positions right now--receiver, receiver, left tackle, left guard and quarterback.
Q: Is Hunter Hillenmeyer a lock as the starting strong side linebacker, or does one of the young backers look to supplant him?
Roscoe, Parts Unknown (Hazzard County perhaps?)
Roscoe: There always seems to be a little undercurrent of fans wondering when Hillenmeyer will be replaced. I don't get it. He graded out as well as any defensive player last season and I would not be surprised if the Bears go with their base defense a little more than using nickel in situations they would have in the past. Hillenmeyer is locked in and Jamar Williams is pretty set for now as the fourth linebacker.
Q: I read an article in the Sun-Times that basically said the Bears plan to use Garrett Wolfe as a third-down back. This worries me, as Wolfe is very small and I'm concerned that having him pass protect against 250 pound blitzing linebackers at full speed may not be such a great idea. Are the Bears seeing something I'm not seeing here?
Jimmy B., Parts Unknown
Jimmy: Third-down back, change-of-pace back, the Bears need to find some way to get Wolfe involved or he might as well not be on the roster. I think you want someone with some elusiveness for this role and the ability to pick up some yards in the open field. It's not something we've ever seen Adrian Peterson be particularly adept at. Let's keep an eye on how he's used in the preseason. Wolfe's ability to master the offense certainly had something to do with his limited playing time last season. Smaller backs can pick up blitzers. Most of the work is being properly positioned.
Q: Since nobody else has asked, I will. Why aren't the Bears making a play for Brett Favre? Do you think he would be a better quarterback than Rex or Kyle? Also, do you think the Bears fans are getting sick and tired of the Bears never spending any money to get superstar players?
Jon, Parts Unknown
Jon: Perhaps the Bears believe they are more than a quarterback away from being a Super Bowl contender. There are many more issues on offense than at quarterback and quite frankly I don't see Favre being interested in joining the Bears with question marks at receiver and on the offensive line. Do I think he would be better than Rex or Kyle? I think at his age he would be the best quarterback in franchise history. The Bears are reticent to spend money on free agents but they have lavished their own with some dough, dropping more than $185 million on 10 players since February. There's no doubt any pursuit of Favre, which will not happen, would require the green light from ownership. Cheap for not pursuing Favre? Maybe just not ambitious.
Q: How has Josh Beekman looked when he has played guard?
Kevin A., Parts Unknown
Kevin: Beekman has looked OK. It's difficult to evaluate line play when it's not live action. In 9-on-7 drills, the defensive linemen know the run is coming. They're digging in for it. Let's see Beekman play in some space in a game situation. His size--he's listed at 6-2, 310 pounds--is a concern. Offensive line coach Harry Hiestand explained while it can help him with leverage, he said it forces Beekman to be perfect with his footwork and knee bend. He doesn't have room for error because he's not a rock like some guards, say former Bear Chris Villarrial. Right now I think it is fair to call Beekman a stop-gap measure.
Q: Why do the Bears have this undying commitment to Terrence Metcalf? What has he ever done worth keeping him on the team this long?
Mike, Parts Unknown
Mike: Well, he is a former draft pick. And the Bears also invested moderately in Metcalf with a $12.2 million, six-year extension. Primarily it has to do with the lack of depth on the interior of the line. The Bears did not draft a linemen in the first three rounds from 2003 through 2007, rebuilding the line through free agency in that period. Consequently, there really hasn't been anyone to challenge for spots. His arthroscopic surgery is a setback in a final bid to nail down a starting job. The Bears are going to need to make guard and tackle high priorities in next year's draft even if Chris Williams has a successful season. John Tait will be entering the final year of his contract in 2009.
Thanks for all of the questions. I got to as many as I could. We'll do it again soon.