Chicago Sun-Times

Four Down Territory, Jan. 20: Exploring the Cassel situation

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The mailman was a little delayed today but here we go:

Q: You seem to be locked into the idea that the Bears will sign a veteran quarterback of marginal talent to come in and wear a visor behind Kyle Orton after what may or may not be a half-hearted competition during training camp. The names Chris Simms, Byron Leftwich, J.P. Losman, J.T. O'Sullivan, Jeff Garcia and on and on and on do nothing for me. I'm accepting of the fact that Kurt Warner will probably re-up with Arizona. What about Matt Cassel? Why no Cassel discussion? Didn't Jerry Angelo say he wouldn't rule out anything?

Ivan M., Wicker Park

A: Fair questions, Ivan. Certainly Cassel has to be on the radar of every team out there seeking a quarterback solution. That rules out one team in the NFC North, Green Bay. All indications at this point are that New England will slap the franchise tag on Cassel, a $14 million proposition which means the Patriots will have $27 million tied up in him and Tom Brady alone under the 2009 cap. There's considerable speculation that New England will tag Cassel with the intent of trading him, likely for draft picks as the Patriots look to infuse their roster with some youth. There are a couple of things at play here, the most significant being Brady's health. He tore the ACL and MCL in his left knee and has battled an infection as well. If Brady isn't going to be available in 2009, and we're not suggesting that is the case, then it would be difficult to see New England shipping off Cassel. Brady's status is a source of great debate these days.

If Brady is expected to be ready, moving Cassel would make sense. At what price? It's unknown what kind of market there will be for him. He had one terrific season in which he was surrounded by some top-flight talent. He's not going to recreate that success without Randy Moss and Wes Welker, is he? You'd be looking at a situation where the Bears, or any other interested party, would have to fork over a high draft pick(s) and then sign Cassel to a large contract. Trade-and-sign deals are cumbersome. Maybe Angelo has not ruled this out at this point, but just because everything is still on the table doesn't mean it's a likelihood. Mike Reiss from the Boston Globe does a nice job summarizing Cassel's situation.


Q: How good do you think Dom Capers is as the Packers new defensive coordinator? I think he is pretty darn good as a defensive coordinator. Plus, he may switch them to a 3-4 in the next year or two. This really doesn't sound like good news for the Bears.

Creighton, Parts Unknown

A: Indeed, the Packers have announced they are going to make a move to the 3-4, news Mike McCarthy shared in Green Bay on Monday. It's a big move for the organization and one that is going to take some time to take root. There's a big difference in running these fronts and it will be interesting to see how things take shape. Capers has suggested it might not be a hard shift from one to the other. There are some real personnel issues to deal with. Green Bay has to find a nose tackle and ends to drive the engine. Cullen Jenkins may adapt nicely as an end in the system but Aaron Kampman could be a little light to make the switch. Linebackers Nick Barnett and A.J. Hawk could flourish inside in the scheme, but the Packers don't appear to have a pass-rushing threat at outside linebacker. Free agency will be the first step for Green Bay and then the draft. Capers has a strong track record and the Packers have the weapons on offense to where they don't need to be complemented by a dominating defense. They just need a steady defense. Kevin Seifert of ESPN.com takes a nice in-depth look at the situation. Rest assured, there will be some type of adjustment period, however, and it's likely to be measured in years, not months.


Q: What's wrong with Caleb Hanie? I would not waste a high pick on Mark Sanchez or any other quarterback unless Peyton Manning has a son. We need someone other than "Mr. Dink & Dunk" Kyle Orton though. I'd rather develop Hanie than watch Orton underthrow everybody all season long.

Moses, Parts Unknown

A: Nobody has found anything wrong with Hanie. Judging what Angelo said recently, he likes what the undrafted free agent from Colorado State has shown to this point. Depending on what move Angelo makes to import a quarterback--the Bears will get a third passer through free agency or the draft--Hanie could very well be in the mix for the No. 2 job. Orton is expected to spend the offseason as the starter, barring something unexpected like the Cassel situation outlined above. If they go the free agent route for a passer, Hanie probably winds up No. 3. If they go after a passer in the draft, his chances of being the backup improve.


Q: Who do you think should be the NFL offensive rookie of the year? I realize my opinion is bias, being a Bear fan, but I think Matt Forte should get it over quarterbacks Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco, and running backs Chris Johnson and Steve Slaton. I'll explain. A lot of people think Ryan will win, and he probably will. But let me ask you this, not taking anything away from Ryan, but how would Ryan's numbers have looked without a runner like Michael Turner behind him [they say a good running game is a QB's bests friend], or a receiver like Roddy White? The only thing Forte had helping him for each game was a new set of cleats. As for Flacco, I think Forte's numbers as a runner were better then Flacco's as a QB. Forte was third in the league in yards from scrimmage, trailing only the Vikings' Adrian Peterson and Turner. Flacco wasn't third in the league in anything.

As for the runners, Forte blows both of these guys out of the water as far as being an all-purpose threat. Forte was the first NFL rookie to rush for at least a 1,000 yards, and catch more than 62 passes, again for emphasis, the FIRST in NFL history. Also, Forte's 63 receptions were the most by any NFL running back in 2008. Tell me again, why wasn't this guy a Pro Bowl alternate at the least? And like Ryan, both runners had advantages over Forte. Chris Johnson was spelled by LenDale White, and Steve Slaton had probably the league's best receiver, Andre Johnson, to open things up for him. In my opinion, Forte is the 2008 NFL offensive rookie of the year, hands down.

Kevin A., Parts Unknown

A: I've got bad news for you, Kevin. The hardware has already been handed out and Forte didn't win. Ryan was the runaway winner for the award, garnering 44 of the 50 votes vast. Johnson was second with three votes, followed by Denver left tackle Ryan Clady with two and Forte with one.

Now, I don't want to turn this into a Forte bashing session, or anything resembling that, but I believe the right man won the award and I believe he won by a landslide with good reason. He did what few rookie quarterbacks have been able to do and that is have real success in his first season. Ryan did so with a franchise that was not only awful the year before, but was also still reeling from the Michael Vick situation. It's the most difficult position to play in sports and Ryan excelled. Remember the final 11 seconds for the Bears in Atlanta? That had nothing to do with Turner.

Ryan is one of five rookie quarterbacks to start 16 games, ever. He's joined by Flacco on that list. Only Ben Roethlisberger won more games as a rookie (13) than Ryan and Flacco (11). The flip side to some of your arguments is that Forte was as productive as he was because the Bears didn't have anyone else to move the ball.

Forte caught 63 passes, tops in the league among backs, but for just 7.6 yards per reception. Blows Slaton out of the water? Slaton caught 50 passes and averaged 0.9 yards more per carry. If he caught 50 passes in the Texans' offense, which features Johnson as you point out, how many would he have had with the Bears? As far as Johnson, he finished with 1,228 yards, 10 less than Forte. Forte had 65 more carries. How does the presence of White detract from Johnson in that instance? White and Johnson were not on the field at the same time. Give Johnson 65 more carries, how would the numbers compare? Slaton outrushed Forte with 48 less carries.

As far as Clady, some view him as one of the best left tackles in the league already. There are no statistical comparisons that can be made but I think it's nice a lineman was recognized. I won't make a case for Flacco because I think Ryan was superior to him. Forte had a terrific rookie season. He carried the Bears' offense, particularly in the second half of the season when the passing game provided little support. Ryan was the class of all rookies.

Thanks for all of the questions. We'll jump back into the mailbag again Wednesday.

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12 Comments

Brad I am sure have read something of mine over the last year that has said I think Chris Williams will be a bust, because of his back. So I would like to double check with you on something. Am I mistaken or has Williams had 3 back injuries not 1? He admitted to playing with a bulging disk for his last two years in college. Then Angelo said on the first day of practice he hurt his back. Then Angelo said he knew about the herniated disk when he drated him. Then he said Williams hurt his back yet again with what he described as a seperate injury too the same disk he had already herniated and that this injuy was unrelated too the others. So he has had 3 injuries too his back and 2 too the same disk according too Angelo right? Or am I mistaken? Wouldn't 3 injuries over 3 years be a chronic back problem? I know he has gotten in better shape, but he has not really played yet, making him a huge Question mark.

I ask this because the draft is comming and there is a really good OT that plays both right and left tackle and I was thinking it may be a good idea to take him if he is available. It's Eben Britton who may there when the Bears draft. Oh and he has no back issues, so if you can pass his name on to Angelo and let him know that his back checks out that would be great.(

Does anybody currently on the team get a contract extension this offseason?

Capers converting the Pack to the 3-4 will be an interesting transition. I read an article in the Green Bay paper (sadly, living in Cheeseland gets me more Packers news than I ever want to see) using Greg Ellis as a comparison for Aaron Kampmann, saying Kampmann is probably a better athlete than Ellis, and has similar size. They believe he can make the switch. I would disagree, as he has never been a coverage guy, and unless they blitz him every time (which Capers doesn't do because it is too easy to defend), he will be a lot less effective.

But the guy who benefits most from this conversion is Brady Poppinga. He was a college defensive end, and a very productive one. Putting him outside in the 3-4 will elevate his game considerably, and put a lot of pressure on the offensive line of the Bears. He will be penciled in as the strong side outside backer, and should end up with 6-8 sacks in 2009.

The Pack do not have a nose tackle, but just about all of their DTs are well suited to be DEs in a 3-4. It won't take much to get them ready to use the defense quickly. The good news is the corners will not be playing as aggressively in the new system, and Harris has been slipping of late, so we should have open receivers to throw to. We just have to keep our QB upright long enough to deliver the ball. The running game will be more effective against them, as Hawk gets swallowed up when he is inside, and Barnett will be dealing with an OL every time, which puts him in the same boat as Urlacher, where he would much rather run around blocks than through them. Forte's cutback ability should serve him well on inside runs to get big gains...

Dangerous potential for the Pack, but not until they have some roster turnover, and they probably won't get it done this year. If Kampmann can make the switch successfully to OLB, we could have problems, but I think he will struggle, and we can make that worse by running Forte on flare routes to his side all day long. Make him stop and think, rather than attack. Or we just dump it over his head all day and get 6-7 yards a pop....

Brad, I realize Chris Johnson and LenDale White weren't on the field at the same time, but that was my point. The fact Chris Johnson was actually spelled by somebody, unlike Forte, was an advantage in itself. Brad, you said it yourself, "Forte had 65 more carries than Johnson." Brad, thats almost three games worth of carries by one player, that tends to wear down a runners body, especially one coming out of college. So the fact Chris Johnson was running with a fresh pair of legs vs Forte who had to carry the entire load for his team, was an advantage. Heck, LenDale White had 15 tds to Johnsons 9, that tells me the Titans didn't even use Chris Johnson on the goal line or for short yardage situations that much. I really think if Matt Forte could have been spelled by a big back, like White, all 235lbs of him, Forte could have been a more productive runner. Its the thunder & lightning effect that gave Johnson an advantage, poor Forte had to be the entire storm by himself.

As far as Steve Slaton, Brad, give Matt Forte an Andre Johnson at receiver, and I guarantee Forte is at least a 1400 yd runner. I noticed during the Texans game in week 17 that Slaton wasn't very effective until Johnson got going, rushing yards tend to come a lot easier when that 8th man is out of the box.

Brad, I also realize I might have been a little over the top in saying, "Forte blows both of these guys out of the water as far as being an all-purpose threat." But hey, I had to make my boy Forte look better. That brings me to my question.

Brad, do you think the Bears should bring in another running back, either through the draft or free agency, to spell or complement Matt Forte next season? GO BEARS!!

I have heard Cassel will be franchised as well, may as well look at QB's that will be available, as N.E. is not a stupid org. to let him get away w/o at least some compensation. They are smart enough to sign Moss, and stay at the top of the heap, even when their Top Rated QB goes down.
As far as Forte - he did a great job even with a patch line, but hey Atlanta did a better job, and while I don't feel `team' should enter into it - it does, unless the rookie just blows away the competition. I am happy that Forte is mentioned - best to forget the fiasco with Ced, and I did say patch line imagine what Forte would be capable of if JA had addressed the offensive line last year like we all wanted him to? Forte would have won hands down and we would have went far into the playoffs (see Defense)If JA addresses the line this year (and I feel he will) we will all watch Forte show them the real winner, running amok and catching passes at will. (seriously)

Brad,

Angelo and Smith always play up the "self-evaluation" phase of the off-season. I guess that is pretty self explanitory as far as it goes. What I was wondering is how they do it? For example, do the offensive coaches evaluate the defense, and vice versa? Does the scouting department play a role? Do the Bears bring in any kind of outside perspective such as retired coaches? What is the end result, a relative number, or something like "we need another cornerback"? Any info you had would be more than I have.

QB's that are out there: Leftwich= Injury prone, Chris Simms= Grossman with a weaker arm, JP Losman= Douche, Garcia= OLD and the list of sub par QB's continue. New England is tagging Cassel.

Orton is better than all of these clowns. Let him ride out his contract and if he is the guy then sign him. I would like to see the team draft someone to groom as well. Recycled QB's are never that good and are usually not the answer. Warner is the exception this year.

Trade picks for a receiver. I've been screaming this for a long time now. TJ is another Moose project, but there are several receivers that we could trade for rather than waiting 3 years for one to develop.

GO BEARS.

Brad:

I noticed that the concept of moving Tillman or Graham to safety is still somewhat out there or a possibility particularly after reading the Sun times article today? Do you really think that this could happen?

Personally, I think that Tillman would be a pefect fit at Free Safety as Graham still is growing into the Corner position and might be better suited there? Just think Tillman as an all pro free safety, Payne as strong safety, Manning at nickel and kick returner where he has flourished, Graham and Vasher at each corner with McBride and Bowman to spell relief. That simple move would allow the Bears to concentrate on a linebacker and line positions(D and O) in the draft and possibly wideouts and fullback in the later rounds. We know that drafting a QB to develop is not what the Chicago Bears do very often and there is always next year as the good QB's will be gone by #18 anyway and next years draft class at QB might be quite better than this year?

Brad, Your thoughts?

By Tomk4054

Orton is better than all of these clowns.
QB's that are out there: Leftwich= Injury prone, Chris Simms= Grossman with a weaker arm, JP Losman= Douche, Garcia= OLD and the list of sub par QB's continue. New England is tagging Cassel.

He's better than Cassel??? Is he worth 2 first round picks? No. Is he Better than Orton? Yes?

Losman is a Douche.

Cassel - victim of a system. Remember all the other system qb's - Culpepper, Plummer, White. - This team needs a qb like a hole in the head. Sign a vet backup or get another Hanie. Orton is the guy - like it or not. GET A WR - TJ in Cincy is available and waiting.

I tend to agree with Bill, but I'd go with Sims for a backup if they know he is healthy. I bet he wouldn't break the bank and at one time he was starting for Gruden. That ought to mean something. He lost his job to injury, not poor play. With a guy like Sims, if he does happen to take the job from Orton he has some experience but is young enough to be around awhile. If he doesn't impress, I think Hanie could be ready to play backup in another year.

Cassel is intriguing, but I'm not sold and New England is going to hold out for a crazy price in terms of picks.

"Cassel is intriguing, but I'm not sold...."


I agree. Cassel's deep passing was way worse than Orton's. He only had 7 completions of 21+ yards through the air (compared to 18 for Orton). Cassel was 7 for 38 on deep passes, which is an 18% completion percentage. Certainly, Cassel can improve his deep passing, but we fans should be aware that Cassel was very much a "game manager" this past season. I like his mobility and potential, but he is not yet a complete QB.

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This page contains a single entry by Brad Biggs published on January 20, 2009 9:54 PM.

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