Chicago Sun-Times

Four Down Territory, Jan. 14: Could Bears go free-agent route for safety?

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The combination of life's curveballs and some other work we'll get to later on has delayed us once again in getting to the mailbag until the second period of this Blackhawks game we were supposed to be attending tonight. Oh well. So, without any further delay, let's get to it.

Q: With Taylor Mays deciding to return to USC, the already shallow talent pool at safety may have just emptied out. Next to a pass rusher, which I think the Bears can address in Round 1, don't you think free safety is a huge need on this defense? Do you think the Bears will look to shore it up in free agency? Players like O.J. Atogwe or Jermaine Phillips would make a lot of sense for a porous last line of defense.

Dan, Wicker Park

A: It came as somewhat of a surprise that Mays is headed back to school. After talking with some scouts and agents, both were expecting him to come out after being a three-year starter for the Trojans. But one scout I spoke to specifically about Mays said he looked like Tarzan but didn't necessarily play like Ronnie Lott. He thought Mays needed to get better at tackling in the open field. Maybe that is something Mays will work on. For a look at underclassmen who have declared early, here's a relatively up-to-date list.

I would agree with you wholeheartedly that the Bears need to address free safety. They've been operating without a free safety for some time and unless they want to move Danieal Manning there and leave him there, then they need to seek some outside help. You bring up a couple of interesting prospects. The St. Louis Rams have already stated they want Atogwe back. Of course, the Rams have yet to name a head coach, and you would have to imagine that man will have something to say about how the roster is shaped.

As far as Phillips, there are a couple of issues in play. First, Tampa Bay has an absolute abundance of salary-cap room. That doesn't mean they'll earmark a pile of it for him, but they have the resources. Second, when Phillips was lost to injured reserve in December with a broken right arm, it gave the sagging Bucs a good idea of just how much they missed him. He's said he'd like to return and so I'm not convinced it's a sure thing both of these players reach the free market.


Q: I'm curious as to how the other top rookie offensive tackles did this past year. I know Ryan Clady, Branden Albert and Jeff Otah all started most or all of the season, but how did they perform? Can that be any kind of small indicator as to what we can expect from Chris Williams?

Adam, Evansville, Ind.

A: A total of eight offensive tackles were selected in the first 26 picks last April and all but Williams made starts as rookies. Michigan's Jake Long went No. 1 overall to the Miami Dolphins and if there was going to be a re-draft, Bill Parcells and Co. might go with Clady. Denver snagged him No. 12 and he quickly stepped forward as one of the top young left tackles in the league. That's not to take anything away from Long, who had a fine rookie season, but Clady is already regarded as one of the league's elite players on the quarterback's blind side. Kansas City's Albert, Detroit's Gosder Cherilus, Carolina's Jeff Otah, Atlanta's Sam Baker and Houston's Duane Brown all showed promise. Not all of them are going to be studs, but they got significant playing time as rookies.

From that standpoint, yes, I think that bodes well for Williams. It's never a good thing when a player undergoes back surgery, but he's billed as being as good as new and is expected to step in as the starter at left tackle next season. Williams got stronger in the weight room after the surgery and I think we'll see a reshaped player come spring time when the team takes the field for OTA's and minicamp. He needs to get stronger in his upper body but by all indications he's the kind of guy who is willing to put in the work. But I believe tackle is still a priority for this team in the draft. The Bears think they have an idea of what Williams will be, but they don't know, and right tackle John Tait is entering the final year of his contract and he turns 34 the week of the Super Bowl.


Q: I have seen a couple of suggestions that Charles Tillman could be moved to free safety and that Brian Urlacher could moved to the strong-side linebacker. If those moves were viable it would appear to offer a few more interesting options in the draft like Illinois' cornerback Vontae Davis or one of the three stud middle linebackers that may still be available at the 18th pick. Are these suggestions realistic?

Gregg, Parts Unknown

A: It's interesting you bring up the Tillman situation because I worked on something today addressing that very issue. Tillman has heard the buzz too, and healthy and recovered from shoulder injuries, he could very well be a quality safety. But the problem such a move raises is why are you going to create a void at cornerback to fill a hole at safety? Cornerback is by far the more valuable of the two positions. Just look at the vast disparity in pay for the positions. Safeties are just as important as corners until it comes time to cash those checks.

Yes, a young player like Davis could potentially come in and fill a hole, but the bigger issue to me is whether or not the Bears can get veteran former Pro Bowler Nathan Vasher back on track. If so, they could have a solid pair with him and Corey Graham. If not, you're looking at Graham, who we still need to see more from, and a rookie. When coaches make big moves like these and they backfire, that's when they get in big trouble. As far as Urlacher, I think he's at his best position and will remain there. When linebackers get older and start to lose range, they move them inside, not outside.


Q: With rumors surfacing that Herm Edwards will be canned in Kansas City, do you think there is room for another Lovie Smith friend on the Chicago Bears staff?

Paul, Steger

A: A lot of people in NFL circles are surprised that Edwards has not been launched already by the Chiefs, but an interesting thing developed in Kansas City. Edwards and owner Clark Hunt were on the same page about tearing down what the Chiefs had and going the young route in efforts to rebuild the franchise. That led to some disagreements with general manager Carl Peterson, who has since departed. It could be that Edwards gets another year because of the strategy that the organization took and Hunt agreed to, but we'll see. This is all from some reliable league source. We'll see how that goes over with newly signed general manager Scott Pioli.

If Edwards gets the heave-ho, I would be surprised if he lands here. His expertise is as a defensive backs coach and Jon Hoke was just hired to coach the secondary. Smith was adamant that Bob Babich will remain the defensive coordinator, if in title only. The Bears didn't replace Lloyd Lee, the ousted linebackers coach, and that can be viewed as a cost-cutting measure. There's no way they would take on an assistant who would command high pay like Edwards.

Thanks for all of the questions, comments and critiques. Start firing in questions for Thursday's Four Down Territory. Above all else, thanks for reading.

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17 Comments

Hey Brad, thanks a bunch for doing these Q&A things.

I'm a bit confused on the changes made at various coaching positions. If I'm understanding this right, Babich will still retain the title of defensive coordinator, but in reality has been demoted to linebackers coach. Meanwhile Smith, with the title of head coach, will be the actual defensive coordinator. But while Smith is busy with the defense, Turner will have full control of the offense and either Turner or defensive line coach Marinelli, who is also the assistant head coach, will take the role of the head coach when the actual head coach isn't available for important calls such as challenging a play or going for it on fourth and short?

Yeesh. Anyway, what do you make of this, this jumble of multiple positions and titles? And is it somewhat common for other teams to go this route? And most importantly, are they successful?

I'm already going to declare it a partial success for Lovie because if the team flops yet again, the fans won't know who to blame.

Thanks!

Mike, Who wants to know?, IL

Brad the Bears are talking defense, and addressing defense to the point were they went and got Marinelli. In Tampa Rod Marinelli struggled to develop several 1st round draft picks such as: Regan Upshaw, Marcus Jones, and Eric Curry into reliable pass rushers, this eventually forced Tampa to go out and sign Pro Bowler Simeon Rice in order to get an edge rusher. Any chance with all this attention being put on defense they go out and try to get Julius Peppers or Terrel Suggs if there available or do they expect Marinelli to make the line that much better with what he has?

Mike to answer your question, I give you Robert Shaw. It's a metaphor.

Quint: [seeing Hooper's equipment] What are you? Some kind of half-@$$#* astronaut?
[examining the shark cage]
Quint: Jesus H Christ, when I was a boy, every little squirt wanted to be a harpooner or a sword fisherman. What d'ya have there - a portable shower or a monkey cage?
Hooper: Anti-Shark cage.
Quint: Anti-shark cage. You go inside the cage?
[Hooper nods]
Quint: Cage goes in the water, you go in the water. Shark's in the water. Our shark.
[sings]
Quint: Farewell and adieu to you, fair Spanish ladies. Farewell and adieu, you ladies of Spain. For we've received orders for to sail back to Boston. And so nevermore shall we see you again.

I think the coaching chnages are good ones and they are getting a little overblown in regards to who is in control of what.

Lovie is the head coach....... He has the final say in everything in regards to coaching decisions, hiring and firing of the coaching staff, which players start ect...ect...ect... The fact that Lovie has decided to get mnore hands on with the defense and be solely responsible for the defensive play calling really doesn't surprise me.

Around the league through the years there have been plenty of head coaches performing dual roles as coach and play caller. The majoity have been Offensive play calling but a head coach calling the defense is not unprescidented.

Lovie is a defense orientated coach so him taking over his sinking ship is a good thing. It's his system so he might as well take control of it and try to repair the broken parts.

As far as Ron Turner goes it should be status quo. Lovie stayed away from the Offense anyway, play calling wise so Ron having full control of the Offense was already in place when Lovie hired him. Turner still is an assitant head coach as is newly aquired Marinelli. I doubt that Lovie will be so busy during the game that he will not be involved in those critical plays that pop up. In fact, I beleive Lovie will be his usual self on the sidelines, stiff and calm with that big Motarola headset on.

He will certainly rely on Turner to manage the Offense and Marenilli to manage the communication between players and position coaches during possession changes so Lovie can effectively be involved in his normal way and still manage the extra roll as defensive signal caller.

Brad, with the recent surge of two back running teams such as Jacobs & Ward, White & Johnson, Turner & Norwood and Tomlinson and Sproles, what are your thoughts on the Bears dumping A.P and Kevin (MRI) Jones and in the early second round drafting a Rashad Jennings to give Chicago that "dominant" running game we so highly embrace. Jennings is 6'2 and 237 lbs, a real load to bring down. He is a North/South runner who keeps his legs churnning at all times. Many scouting reports I have read are calling Jennings "this years Matt Forte" of the draft. This would allow shifty back Garrett Wolfe to be more effectively worked in (ala Darren Sproles) as that change of pace guy.
I also think Chicago should try and move up out of the third round and sneak into the late second round and make a move for WR Robiskie if he is still available. Robiske is a huge target with decent speed, great hands and runs good routes. He is also the son of a WR's coach and has been schooled in the proper work ethic, team attitude and team commitment. A positive role model and security blanket for a developing QB of the future. He would also command more attention from opposing secondaries potentially freeing up Hester on the deep routes while exposing Davis or Bennett in the slot.
Finally, Booker has seen better days and I'm afraid it is time to part ways with him.

Thanks

Dan
Connecticut

Brad, as of right now, who do you think the Bears will draft in the first round at #18 this april? Also, what do you think of Missouri safety William Moore, I think he would be a great addition to the Bears secondary with his ability to cover, as well as come up and play the run, any thoughts on Moore coming to Chicago? GO BEARS!!


Hey Brad thank you for reading my messages. I had a question about the wide recievers in this years draft, being that there's always the problems with the quarterbacks on this team, and we always hear the the first priority to address in the off season is at quarterback, my question is shoulbn't this team be looking at the wide receiver's instead? shouldn't the Bears be looking at drafting Jeremy Maclin out of Missouri? He' got great hands, speed, and at 6'1, 200lbs, he would fit in with Devin Hester, both guys with breakaway speed. This could change the thought of bringing in a quarterback on this team.

Thanks for the reponse Creighton. My deepest apologies but I don't recognize the allusion. Could I look it up with the power of the internet? Probably. Will I? I dunno, it's just one of those lazy days.

"I think the coaching chnages are good ones and they are getting a little overblown in regards to who is in control of what."

B.P., I brought up my question after reading this article (www.suntimes.com/sports/hayes/1377059,bears-lovie-defense-neil-hayes-011409.article) by Neil Hayes. I think he raises some good points on why Lovie's involvement with the defense could turn out to be a bad decision.

Hey Brad i didnt think we needed another saftey?Mike Browns healthy and dont we still have Manning?And mcgowan and a bunch of other cb's that were converted.Shultz? i dont understand i thought the secondary was the best part of the def last yr?Ill have to go look at the roster but i really thought we had an excess of cb's and safties?

Brad, Have you talked to Rex Grossman lately? Is it a done deal is is gone? I like the guy, but think a fresh start will be better for him and the Bears.

Brad. Do you think the Bears will look to Free Agency or the Draft (or both?) to bolster the Quarterback competition? The Free Agent list is pretty lackluster as a whole. What are your thoughts on Josh Freeman of Kansas State? I think this kid has the tools to be a great quarterback in the NFL. He's flying under the radar at the moment, but I have a feeling once he gets to the combine, he could be this year's Flacco, with rare, size/speed/arm strength.

mike in ft wayne you might want to get a new television :) the bears secondary was terrible last year. granted the pass rush was virtually non-existent at times, but the proof is in the pudding and the bears ranked #30 against the pass last year. bottom of the barrel.

mike brown hasn't played a full season since 2003 and shouldn't be counted on. danieal manning is still making the same mistakes he made two years ago at safety and looks better suited to play nickel. shultz? i assume you mean steltz. if you think steltz showed anything on defense i encourage you to re-watch the green bay & new orleans game, he was horrible.

watch the texans game and see if you still feel the secondary is a strength. the bears secondary was abused that game, and for the majority of the season.

Brad:

what is the status on practice squad o-linemen Balough? Is he in the plans for next season I saw you mentioned the age of Tait, this kid has size and could develop into a solid right tackle like Scott Gragg did for the Giants from Montana?

Mike I read the same article. The Shaw quote is from Jaws 1975. Quint thinks Hoopers great idea to get in a little cage in the water with a giant man eating shark in suicide basically. It's a metaphore for really bad ideas and so Shaw(Quint) sings goodbye.

Mike shame on you for not knowing. It's a lazy day for you, go watch Jaws on youtube or something.

Mike I read the same article. The Shaw quote is from Jaws 1975. Quint thinks Hoopers great idea to get in a little cage in the water with a giant man eating shark in suicide basically. It's a metaphore for really bad ideas and so Shaw(Quint) sings goodbye.

Mike if it's a lazy day for you, and you have never seen that movie, which I will be surprised if you have not. Then check it out.

Mike, don't worry I understood his "Jaws" quote perfectly. It still had nothing to do with the Bears coaching situation or safety position.

It was probably the most recent lucid memory he has left. Also remember that the guy with the smart mouth and bad singing voice (Shaw) is the one who actually got eaten by the shark. The guy he was mocking is the one who lived to swim back to shore with big Roy.

The movie was released under the title "Bait Fish" in Mississippi. The ending was rewritten to involve a deep fryer.

Brad,

Does BLESTO V still exist? I know there have been a lot of changes made in the coaching dept., but what about the scouts? Who was the scout that said we had to have Cedric Benson? Is he still employed by the Bears? What the Bears need are more scouts not coaches.

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This page contains a single entry by Brad Biggs published on January 14, 2009 9:41 PM.

Harris' relationship with Sapp goes back to his college days was the previous entry in this blog.

Bears' CB Tillman on the mend from shoulder surgery is the next entry in this blog.

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