Chicago Sun-Times

Four Down Territory, Feb. 5: Does Angelo know the value of a receiver?

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We've successfully completed this mission about three hours earlier than Wednesday night. That's progress you can believe in. Let's dive right in.

Q: Why does Jerry Angelo downplay the importance of upgrading the Bears wide receiver corps, when it is so universally believed by virtually everyone else that the Bears will never have a playoff-caliber offense until they improve this unit? Does Angelo honestly believe what he is saying and if so, what does this say about Angelo's ability to recognize even the most obvious talent deficiency on the team he is in charge of overseeing?

Tom N., Dayton, Ohio

A: It's a fair question after the Bears missed on re-signing Bernard Berrian last year and made the decision to cut ties with Muhsin Muhammad. The position was as bad as it has ever been under Angelo in 2008 and without some steps to improve it, it's not going to get better. Having two solid pass-catching tight ends in Desmond Clark and Greg Olsen is good, having a running back in Matt Forte who has good hands out of the backfield is nice. They're not gamebreaking players as receivers, however. They're move-the-chains targets and as offensive coordinator Ron Turner has expressed on more than one occasion, it's hard to drive 70 or 80 yards without picking up big chunks from time to time.

I have a feeling your observation is shaped by Angelo's end-of-season press conference when he said teams don't win because of No. 1 receivers or top backs, they win because of quarterbacks. I'm not going to try to speak for Angelo or put words in his mouth, but he may be looking to ensure he has the quarterback right before he gets the parts around him. You put Larry Fitzgerald in the Bears' offense last season and you would not have seen the Fitzgerald the Arizona Cardinals did. I'm pretty confident Angelo knows the importance of wideouts in the game today. Now, knowing that and being able to find some in the draft, that could be two different issues.


Q: I seem to be the one of the few out there that has serious questions about the performance of two Bear veterans, Olin Kreutz and Brad Maynard. In Kreutz, I see a bully, not an all-pro center. I see the inability to reliably deliver the football in the center/quarterback exchange, the reluctance to execute a "shotgun" snap, and a number of failures to move quickly and execute blocks on screen passes. I hear about the locker room, at least the offensive side, being run by Olin and I simply don't understand. In my opinion, if the Bears have any hope to develop an adequate offense to complement a hopefully improved defense the offense needs to be run by one guy--the quarterback. From this fan's understanding of the situation, Olin will not allow that to be the case and I would like to know why.

Additionally, Maynard seems to be the benefactor of a coach who stubbornly believes his defense has a better chance to score than his offense. Much was made of Maynard's league leading stat of "Inside the 20" punts, however that statistic is seldom given context as Maynard punted the second most (96 times) in the league. So, Maynard gets seemingly gets a pass but yet he has proven to lack the leg strength to ever change the field with a punt. The game at Minnesota was a prime example. Time and time again there were opportunities to deliver a big kick (60 yards) and he never delivered. His punt average of 41.2 yds was 33rd in the league this past year.

In evaluating the team, I see room for improvement in those two positions. How off base am I?

Matt M., Chicago

A: We've got two very different issues here. First, the Kreutz situation.

1) You're right, you didn't see an all-pro center this past season. That honor did not go to Kreutz. A bully? I'm not sure how. The fight with Fred Miller was just that, a fight between two men. Miller had his jaw broken. Kreutz had his head stitched shut to close a cut from taking a five-pound dumb bell upside the noggin.

2) The snaps. Kreutz plays lower than a lot of other centers to increase the leverage he can generate. The quarterbacks deals with it. You see muffed exchanges everywhere and Kreutz happens to work with more quarterbacks than the average center.

3) Reluctance to execute a shotgun snap? Maybe I missed Kreutz talking about not wanting to be in the shotgun. When did this happen? According to Elias Sports Bureau, Kyle Orton attempted 178 passes from the shotgun formation last season. That means he got 178 snaps from Kreutz. If that's being reluctant, Kreutz is guilty as charged.

4) Failure to move quickly on screens? Actually, I'd say Kreutz is one of the more athletic centers in the league. He's a little undersized, and can run into issues against big nose tackles, but the flip side of that is he can get to the second level. Granted, he's dealt with an Achilles tendon issue but he's still one of the more agile linemen in the game.

5) So which quarterback should Kreutz have handed the team over to? Henry Burris? Chris Chandler? Jonathan Quinn? Craig Krenzel? Kordell Stewart? Chad Hutchinson? Jeff George was here for a bit, how about him? I see what you're saying here, and I think we saw a different Orton this past season, one that was much more assertive on the field than he was as a rookie in 2005. Orton had control of the huddle. Orton had control of the team at the line of scrimmage. Remember all of the mini-Peyton Manning stuff Orton was doing? He was making the checks at the line, he was calling the audibles. He was in charge. I'm sure if the Bears had a perennial Pro Bowl quarterback, you'd hear less about Kreutz. That's not his fault or should we pin the failure to sign Kurt Warner or draft a better quarterback on him too?

6) When you evaluate the offensive line and what the Bears have done over the last five or six seasons, the more glaring issue to me is how they've failed to adequately develop young tackles. Chris Williams will have an opportunity in 2009 but Angelo is in a position where he almost has to spend a high pick on another tackle this year with John Tait entering the final year of his contract. You say you see room for improvement here. Kreutz is signed for two more seasons through 2010. He'll 32 in June and has 11 seasons under his belt. Where do you want to prioritize this position? Ahead of wide receiver? Ahead of safety? Ahead of an offensive tackle? There are only so many free-agent dollars and high draft picks to go around.

As far as Maynard, his skill set might not be best suited for bad weather at Soldier Field. He's a directional punter who plays half of his home games in one of the more difficult outdoor venues to kick in in the league. Let's not blame the contract extension Maynard received in 2004 that has him with the team through 2010 on Maynard. That being said, 2008 was one of the better seasons he has had as a pro. You cite his gross punting average. Gross averages are pretty meaningless. It's about net average because if a punter booms a 60-yarder and in the process outkicks his coverage team by 15 yards, setting up a 40-yard return, what's the point? The punter has a strong leg and rocks for brains.

Maynard's net average of 38.1 yards was 13th in the league.

You cite his 96 punts, second in the league, as a big reason why he led the league with 40 punts inside the 20, a franchise record. Fair enough. Using that same logic, Maynard would also have a lot of touchbacks, right? You drop the ball inside the 20 that many times, you're bound to have a fair number of touchbacks, right? He had five. Among the 15 punters with 70 or more punts during the season, only Philadelphia's Sav Rocca (70 punts, four touchbacks) and Cincinnati's Kyle Larson (100 punts, three touchbacks) had fewer. By the way, of those 15 punters with 70 or more punts, no one allowed fewer return yards than Maynard--203. That's a sign of a punter being in tune with his coverage team and using the sideline well, etc.

Would Dave Toub prefer a punter with a cannon for a leg? I'm sure every special teams coach in the league would. But a lot of times it's more about using the 9 iron when it comes to punting than the driver. And as far as the game at Minnesota, he did land five of his nine punts inside the 20. There was a 29-yarder and a 36-yarder that could have and should have been better. He struck some other balls pretty well in that game.


Q: If Beanie Wells is available, do you think the Bears should draft him? With his size, I think he could make an excellent complement to Matt Forte. The two-back system worked well for the Bears during their recent Super Bowl year and it worked well for several teams this year.

Berkshire H., Parts Unknown

A: Wells is considered one of the top backs in the draft along with Georgia's Knowshon Moreno, Pitt's LeSean McCoy and maybe Iowa's Shonn Greene. The Ohio State back is projected to be around in the first round and just might be available at No. 18 when the Bears pick. Considering the club's array of needs, do you think spending a pick on a back right there would be the best move? Wells might be talented but he's not going to solve issues at wide receiver and he's sure not going to solidify the quarterback position. I doubt, too, he can rush the passer or play safety.

When you think of some of the successful 1-2 backfields lately the one that I like to look at is what the New York Giants have had. That was put together with late-round picks. Brandon Jacobs, Derrick Ward, Ahmad Bradshaw, none of them were high picks. You can find backs on the street that can be plugged into a situation. You're not going to be looking for a "complementary'' player in the first round either. The Bears need to find a starter. They also need to give Garrett Wolfe the opportunity to be the "complementary'' guy. I'm not convinced he can do the job but I do know this--he hasn't had the opportunity yet to prove he can't.


Q: Who decides who plays on offense? Jerry Angelo (guessing not because of his Earl Bennett comments), Lovie Smith, Ron Turner, the position coaches or someone else? Why Bennett couldn't get any of Rashied Davis' minutes is beyond me. I'd like to know who deserves the "credit."

Ryan, Madison, Wis.

A: Yes, it's fair to assume Angelo would have preferred to see third-round draft pick Earl Bennett play more than he did. I think it's fair to say the ultimate decision on playing time belongs to Smith. He's the head coach. If he wants someone in the game, it happens. Smith monitors it from time to time, too. During 2006, he had a chart kept on the sideline during games to monitor how much time rookie defensive end Mark Anderson received. Obviously, Turner runs the offense and wide receivers coach Darryl Drake is heavily involved.

I think the best answer to your question is that Smith is in control. When it comes to play time for wideouts, Turner makes most of the decisions and Drake also has say. Turner is in the coaching box during games so Drake will sub players out from time to time. Sorry, it doesn't look like there is one person to "credit."

Thanks for all of the questions. We'll get to another Four Down Territory on Friday. As always, thanks for reading.

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20 Comments

If there is a likely/realistic signing by Angelo in the FA I wonder who would two players would be? One on O and one on D.

Matt M from Chicago:

Olin Kruetz is the least of the Bears problems, half of the teams in the league would love to have Olin.

All of Brads comments are right on Olin is solid get off of his back and Maynard is solid to, start concentrating on what the real problem with the Bears is and that is wide receiver and the O line of course QB but that never gets addressed so forget that one.

Brad,

I've been one of the more bigger Rex Grossman supporters that I know of(and still continue to be). One thing I never understood is why fans boo the quarterback who helped this team reach the Super Bowl for the first time in over 20 years. Can you give us a statisitical breakdown of Rex in '06? As in what he was ranked in completion percentage, touchdowns, yards? I believe he was pretty high in the majority, yet fans continued to boo him. Unbelievable. Have you heard anything about how the team supported Rex/Kyle? Was it split 50/50 between Grossman/Orton?


RJ

RJ, As another former Rex supporter, I believe I can answer at least part of your question.
Rex, by being so good when he was Good Rex, set up Bears fans for huge disappointment when he was Bad Rex. Guys like Krenzel and Henry Burris just generated disheartened sighs, or in Burris' case, embarassed laughter, among fans because they never showed us anything but bad-to-mediocre play. Rex got our hopes up and then dashed them, and thus was the recipient of more boos than most members of our storied corps of horrible QBs.

Matt M got dealt with

People, be happy that Angelo finally admitted the Bears need stability at QB. How many QBs have we suffered with? For the love of Tom Brady, I welcome his remarks. Furthermore, let's hold his feet to the fire. Anyone who thinks Kyle Orton is The Guy, case closed, and just needs some big time receivers to make the Pro Bowl, is off base.

Look, really good QBs don't miss open receivers like Orton did time and again with Hester. Sorry, but they don't. Let's compare Kyle to the two guys who slugged it out in the most recent SB. Orton is a a career 55 percent QB. Warner: 65 percent. Big Ben: 62 percent. Sorry, but the eye in the sky don't lie.

Anyone seriously think that if you put Kyle on either of those teams, with all those great receivers, the game is anywhere near as compelling?

I hope he gets better, but you have to ask yourself why the Bears would invest a ton of money in receivers if they're not convinced the guy can hit them

While we're on the subject, shouldn't the Bears seriously look at either chasing Matt Cassell or getting Mark Sanchez in the draft?

"I don't think the relationship can be repaired with the organization," Boldin told USA TODAY after Thursday's NFC practice for Sunday's Pro Bowl. "It takes more than, 'Well, we did you wrong and we'll pay you this.' It's not about the money. It was always about the principle. Guys being true to their word. I guess I was expected to uphold my end of the bargain, and it wasn't reciprocated." USA TODAY

Lets get Boldin! (clap, clap, clap, clap) Lets get Bolidin! (clap, clap, clap, clap)

More on Rex...

It's also important to realize what Rex did that was so bad because when he was bad he was REAL bad.

One word: Turnovers

missnaps, fumbles, sacks, interceptions

Not only do they kill a drive, a game, a season and a team...they can be corrected. Unfortunately, Rex did not correct them.

I was a huge Rex supporter for quite some time, even through a lot of "Bad Rex" games. However, when he continued to fail to correct the turnovers and bad plays, I just couldn't take it anymore.

by all means, get Boldin. And get a QB who can hit him. Sanchez, Sanchez, Sanchez.

Brad,

Any word if the Bears plan on using Dan Buenning next year? I thought he was brought in to be the "road grater" on the Oline that everyone knows we need for Forte to really get loose. This way we could use the 1st rd pick on someone other than an Oline guy(hopefully Mark Sanchez)


Slimtimclem

One of the biggest but most under repoted stories this week was when TJ Housmezada(I know, bad spelling) said on ESPN 1000 that he liked Rex and never understood all the bashing he recieved. Here is the number 1 free agent WR this offseason basically saying that the Bears would have a chance to sign him if the guy they are getting ready to let go was the starter. He then said that Hester would have better numbers because Rex could hit him on long passes down field. Isn't this basically what every Rex supporter said all season? If Angelo can now say Orton isn't the answer, then why the heck did we go a whole season with him when the better QB was on the bench??? What Angelo is saying is that he watches film ( and I guess free agents do too) and he realizes Orton can't get the ball down field. So whether it's Simms or Hanie, expect some competition in training camp this year.

What is all this Sanchez crap? He has played less and produced little and he is going to save the franchise? How idiotic. Give hanie a fair shot and bring in Leftwich or Simms but stop this stupid talk about a college QB surrounded by a NFL team who still wasn't #1. Ball State and Kansas State Qb's are better and have played more get real please you all sound like silly desperate goofs.

Children, Rex is gone. Deal with it.

I too was hopefully optimistic that he would continue to develop and be the Bears franchise QB. That hope died when they set the starting lineup for the fourth preseason game last year. Orton's the dude. It's time to move on.

As far as receiver I think we need to recognize that the fact that we don't know who the starting receivers are .......just means we don't know. The last few games Hester was showing a few glimmering signs that he could be something the Bears could use a #1 wideout. Does that mean another Fitz? Probably not, but the minimum you need from a #1 is that the opposing defense must game plan extra coverage for him. Hester could fill that role, but we don't know.

Turner says he still really likes Bennett, but he wasn't ready last year. That is what you would expect from a rookie, so why does everyone assume he is a bust? Don't know doesn't mean bust, it means don't know. The same applies to a couple other receivers they have been trying to develop. Are they, or arent' they? We don't know. I still don't know where Scotty beamed Rasheed Davis last year. Maybe he escapes the Klingons and comes back, we don't know.

It makes me highly nervous that I don't know what the Bears have for receivers. I really don't think they know either. However "don't know" doesn't mean don't have. We very easily could have a decent receiver corps already on the roster. Hopefully Angelo "knows" in time for the draft and free agency and does the right thing.

I can't wait until Grossman finally physically leaves this city. Then all these delusional posts (see above) will finally begin to disappear. This insistence on seeing him as the impending Second Incarnation of Joe Montana is just bizarre.

I can't wait until Grossman finally physically leaves this city. Then all these delusional posts (see above) will finally begin to disappear. This insistence on seeing him as the impending Second Incarnation of Joe Montana is just bizarre.

By MsBearsFan on February 6, 2009 3:26 PM
"Children, Rex is gone. Deal with it."

Wow look who is insulting people again. God you are a hypocrite. Are you an idiot? the Bears don't know what they have for recievers? Yes they do they actually, they saw the same games as we did, in fact they had a better view. Why do you think Turner said he wants reciever? He said that cause he doesn't know they need one. Oh and your one of those Star Trek geeks, oh this is to funny. Hey do you dress up and go play with other Trek geeks. Oh i HOPE I don't upset you or you may blast me with your laser. hahahahaha.

DeputyDawg, you mean Nate Davis and Josh Freeman. First lets start with Freeman, he locks onto recievers and his accuracy was horrible, he lacks field vision, and his intagibles have been questioned. He does have a great frame , nice feet and cannon for an arm. think a poor mans JaMarcus Russle

Nate Davis is MAC QB who did not do well against BCS schools. He only completed around 50% of his passes against IL, Rutgers and IN. He also tossed 4 picks in those games. Might be good in the pros but has a lot of question marks.

Sanchez: Solid size and adequate bulk ... Impressive statistical production in junior season ... Extremely fluid athlete ... Outstanding mobility ... Great pocket awareness and knows how to step up into and around the pocket to get the ball off ... Has the sixth sense for the pass rush ... Strong arm and can make all the NFL throws, but it isn't elite ... Very solid, consistent accuracy ... Fluid footwork ... Very quick release ... Nice touch on the football ... Throws a sweet deep ball ... Looks like a natural in the pocket and throwing the ball on the run .... Highly intelligent ... Spent four years at USC around a traditional West Coast playbook ... Field general ... Reportedly great work ethic ... Extremely high upside. Think Aaron Rogers but more athletic with a thinker frame. As for his production he had a great season and unlike Davis he looked great in his Rose Bowl Game.

Sanchez has the most upside of any QB in this class but lacks experience and needs to sit for a year, which is perfect becuase Orton is going to start for another year. He will not be there when the Bears draft and will be a top 10 pick after the combine and IWO's. If he is there Anglo will grab him without a second thought. If people are worried about a RT, don't it's a deep class and the Bears can get a top talent RT in the second rd easily. But Sanchez is not gonna be there. So maybe Britton or a WR like Britt or Nicks.

Wow don't ask Brad about Olin. Brad also forgot to mention that Olin did not give up a sack this year. He has slowed down and is not as good as he was and the Bears can look to get his replacment this year or next. There are at least 3 top talent centers this year and the Bears good grab one in round 2 or 3, Wood, Unger, Mack and even Lugis are all studs and can play OG as well while Olin is starting.


Decent thoughts out of you, again Creighton, except for the mandatory 3 paragraph insult spasm before you let your intellect shine through.

Anyway, the problem is, if Sanchez falls and we draft him, and thats a big if we are in a bind. You say we can get a second round Center, or a second round right tackle, but I know you know we can't do both. You also recommended a second round talent wide receiver. We will have options, and I know that is probably your point, but if we walk into the draft with a shopping list that says

"Our D line gets no pressure, get an end" and "our wideouts are okay but not good enough, add someone here" and "Tait has one year left and Kreutz is on the decline" maybe toss in "we haven't had a real free safety in years and its really starting to show" and then with that list, you take a QB in the first. Now whatever you get in the second is really the last pick you can count on to be semi-ready this year. So now we have a 2nd rounder and a 3rd rounder (both being 18th, so neither likely to get someone who falls some) and you have to fill...

Defensive End
Wide Receiver
Right Tackle
Center
Free Safety (or cornerback to replace the guy you convert).

Even if you count fourth round talent, that is a hell of a shopping list if you take a QB in the first.

Feel free to try and tell me any of those aren't really needs, when we were horrible at getting to QBs on defense (29th), and couldn't get Forte over 4 yards a carry on offense (24th rushing game), while all our wideouts dropped passes on third downs to kill our drives (6th worst time of possession).

Creighton,

Sorry to report that I am neither an idiot nor a hypocrite. Please don't let that deter you in your search for companionship. One has to keep on keeping on. Have you tried that e-harmony thing? They are big on compatibility. I don't really know how it works, but if they allow you to insert a question, may I suggest: "Do you have a man-crush on Mark Sanchez? - Yes or No".

Actually what I said was that WE didn't know what the Bears had for receivers. By we, I meant us mortal fans without your amazing ability. You continue to amaze us on always knowing exactly what the Bears should do without having the benefit of factual information. I went on to wonder if the Bears really knew what they had either, but was hopeful that they did.

The reason I made this post is that it seemed to be the question of the day, "Does Angelo know the value of a receiver?". Apparently somebody thought he was mortal too.

Please feel free to keep quoting me. I think it is good positive habit for you.

I was a Rex supporter too, but all this continued love for him is rediculous. He may have been able to connect with Hester a little more often then Orton, but how many more mistakes would have he made?

Rex starting= at least 5 extra turnovers, and 2 additional losses.

Jerry Angelo is correct that the quarterback is who will win big games, but football is the ultimate team sport and a quarterback can't do it without, among other things, good receivers. The Bear receivers can't get any separation, enough said. Devin Hester has potential, and Brandon Lloyd can catch anything near him IF he gets open, but even Tom Brady or Payton Manning would have a hard time with the Bear receivers, not to mention their mediocre offensive line, the latter of which is even more important. Because the Bears have been lavishing huge amounts of money on defense, they've neglected the offense for so long that they now need better and younger starters at most line positions, quarterback, and wide receiver. They also need a much better second string running back. The offense as now constituted is a big mess and I don't see how the Bears could possibly fix it in one season, IF THEY WERE EVEN TRYING TO, which they're not (we were close, etc.).

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This page contains a single entry by Brad Biggs published on February 5, 2009 7:12 PM.

Four Down Territory, Feb. 4: Asomugha for $10 million a year? was the previous entry in this blog.

Hard times lead to hard decision: Bears freeze ticket prices is the next entry in this blog.

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