We're entering what looks to be a pretty quiet time for the Bears. If the coaching staff and scouts have not returned from the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala., they will Saturday (the game will be televised at 6 p.m. on NFL Network). The next step in the offseason is the thorough organizational meetings that go over everything from top to bottom. This is where the coaches, scouts, and front office collaborate to shape the plans moving forward to free agency and the draft.
Four Down Territory is going to take a little bit of a break next week while we're in Tampa covering the Super Bowl, but we're going to monitor any Bears action that is going on. You can also track information on Twitter. If you're not already signed up, you can do so to get instant updates when we make them. It's free. Often times, we'll Twitter news as we're posting to the blog, delivering it to you on your mobile phone. You can also get updates sent directly to your IM. We don't expect a rash of updates soon, but as free agency and the draft approaches, we'll be active.
So, if you're interested, check out Twitter.com. Our handle is cst_bears.
On to Four Down Territory.
Q: What do you think of the kid from Ball State, Nate Davis, or Brian Johnson of Utah as potential third-round picks to bring in this season? Both have proven to be leaders and winners with teams that many fans overlook. Could one of them become a pick for the Bears?
Chitown Bear, Parts Unknown
A: Davis finished his career at Ball State with two remarkable seasons, passing for 7,258 yards and 56 touchdowns. He's got decent size and a strong arm and could be gone well before the third round. It just takes one team to fall in love with a player. Johnson is the winningest quarterback in Utah history but isn't nearly as touted as a prospect. The third round would be a real reach for him at this point and he'd be a developmental player for sure. Unless you've been asleep since the season ended, you've gotten the message loud and clear from the Bears--they believe in Kyle Orton. They believe he will take a step forward in 2009 when he doesn't have to split reps with anyone else. They trust in his ability to become the quarterback of the future all the way up until the point it comes to putting their money where their belief is. General manager Jerry Angelo has not ruled anything out, including using a first-round pick on a passer, but at this point all signs point to the team signing a veteran in free agency. Right now, Chris Simms and Byron Leftwich are considered to be the top candidates. With a young quarterback already under contract in Caleb Hanie, the Bears could go another year without drafting one.
Q: Why do you assume that if a nose tackle is on the bigger side that he is not quick enough to play in this scheme the Bears run? That is frustrating to hear you say that. I never heard anyone say that Keith Traylor wasn't quick enough when he constantly stopped the running back two or three yards into the backfield time and time again. Heck, I bet you big Albert Haynesworth is just as quick as Tommie Harris. Until the Bears get this position resolved on the defensive front, they will not be a dominant defense.
Bill H., Parts Unknown
A: I think you're comparing apples to oranges here, at least to an extent. Ted Washington was the nose tackle in that defense and it was a completely different two-gap scheme. Traylor was a productive player for many years but probably would not have been at his best in a one-gap scheme like the Bears employ. As for his constant stops in the backfield, he made 18 tackles for loss over three seasons from 2001 to 2003. Yes, the Tampa Two can be run with a dominant run stuffer. Pat Williams in Minnesota is a perfect example. There has been some talk about the possibility of the Bears adding some bulk at the nose. Anthony Adams, in one man's opinion, did pretty well down the stretch playing there. The bigger issue is Harris and getting him right. If he's playing up to his potential, he's going to make the man next to him, whoever it is, a whole lot better. If Harris is commanding a double team, someone is going to get freed up for a solo block. I'd submit the Bears will not return to dominance until Harris returns to dominating form. He's the issue more so than the nose.
Q: Why would a team that claims to get off the bus running the football continue to try to employ a West Coast style offense like Ron Turner's? I thought the whole point of the West Coast was to use the pass to set up the run. Would the better route to an improved offense be to re-tool player personnel to better suit the West Coast style, or to ditch the coordinator and scheme and actually live up to the "run first" self-image?
Michael L, Parts Unknown
A: Valid questions there. I think Lovie Smith might have wrapped his arms around the idea that the Bears get off the bus running because that was the mind-set and game plan that best served the team's defense and special teams at the time. The Bears wanted to play a field-position game and control the clock and you have to be able to run the ball to do so. Be careful sticking a blanket West Coast label on what Turner does. I don't think that's accurate. The Bears run an awful lot of power, and used as much or more than anyone in the league when Thomas Jones was around. That's not a staple of your typical West Coast offense. It's pretty apparent, it's strikingly obvious that the franchise needs to find some bona fide playmakers on offense. The kind of difference makers who can be weapons in any kind of offense. That's the missing ingredient. With a complementary back and a more level performance at quarterback, the rushing numbers would have been better last season. No question. As long as Smith wants to talk about his bus and what his team likes to do coming off it, we'll have fun with it though.
Q: Everyone likes to point out that Marc Colombo has turned into a pretty nice player for the Dallas Cowboys. What about Mike Gandy, the starting left tackle for the Arizona Cardinals? How did the Bears let a quality lineman like him get away?
Chad A., Tucson, Ariz.
A: The simple answer is it was hard to say Gandy was a "quality lineman" when he played for the Bears. He worked at both guard and tackle and at the time was an in-between guy. You didn't know if his future was at guard or tackle. He made 30 starts over his final 2 1/2 years before being cut in the middle of the 2004 season. Smith was in his first season and he knew a little about Gandy having tried to recruit him out of high school when he was at Ohio State. Gandy was battling a hamstring injury that season and had shoulder and knee issues. He was someone who was seemingly always battling one ailment or another. That being said, the 30-year old hasn't missed a start in four years now, playing two in Buffalo and the last two for the Cardinals where line coach Russ Grimm has improved his play. Sometimes it takes a jarring wakeup call--like a release--for the light to turn on. I'm not saying that's what happened here, but it's one theory. He'll enter the final season of a three-year, $14 million contract in 2009, a modest deal for a starting left tackle. As far as Colombo, his recovery in Dallas has been a feel-good story. The Bears waited and waited for his mangled knee to respond and it just never did. The Cowboys, on the recommendation of former Bears' receivers coach Todd Haley, took a chance on him and he returned to health. Colombo pulled down a $22 million, four-year extension last month and has been a fixture at right tackle in Dallas.
Thanks for all the questions. We'll do our best to get to maybe one mailbag next week so shoot in your questions. We'll return to our regular schedule after the Super Bowl. As always, thanks for reading.