Our friend Kevin Siefert over at ESPN. com had a couple of interesting items on Wednesday that we do not want to overlook. First, as part of a series that included one selection from each division, he named Bears' defensive tackle Tommie Harris as the veteran player on the hot seat in the NFC North.
We think it's an interesting selection and probably a pretty good one. We can't think of a veteran in a critical spot in Detroit other than maybe left tackle Jeff Backus. Seifert points out that Green Bay left tackle Chad Clifton is another potential choice considering the rebuilding taking place on that line. Sticking with that theme, it's probably fair to say the Vikings need a bounce back season from left tackle Bryant McKinnie, but is he on the hot seat?
Harris makes sense for all of the reasons that are outlined. The Bears expected great things from him when they signed him to a $40 million, four-year extension last summer, one that looks more like a $34 million, four-year extension now given the requirements for the de-escalating roster bonus in 2012. Still, there are big things expected of Harris and he didn't exactly deliver in 2008 when he said offseason distractions were an issue at times. The Bears have to generate a pass rush with the front four to effectively run Lovie Smith's scheme and that starts with Harris.
The Bears need a focused Harris and just as important a healthy Harris. The fear is they might not ever get the latter even if the team says he's checked out medically. Harris was held out of the end of the team's minicamp in March. He's never going to be full go on the practice field any longer. It makes us wonder seriously about a key thing general manager Jerry Angelo said about the draft. Let's go back to April 22 and review:
"Last year we made a conscious decision and we talked about it as an organization and [college scouting director] Greg [Gabriel] and I spent a lot of time on this too, but yes, we are looking at that and we are going to be more disciplined in our approach to taking players with medical concerns, and I want to emphasize that. ... We have to do a good job of being more disciplined because we've had some issues.''
Knowing what the Bears do now about Harris and his balky left knee, we wonder if the Bears would do the contract they over again. Perhaps the approach Angelo discussed when referring to the draft carries over to contracts for current players and free agents.
We're not suggesting Harris' knee is to a point where he will not be an effective player. Everyone expects he is capable of returning to dominant Pro Bowl form. But he'll have to be monitored and he's simply not going to be on the field all of the time.
*** Seifert also introduced us to a stat called the forced drop. Apparently that is an uncontested pass that a receiver should have caught. That means the defender didn't break up the pass, jar the ball loose or do anything else to make the play. Picture Jackie Smith in the back of the end zone in Super Bowl XIII for Dallas. Muhsin Muhammad on the goalline vs. New Orleans in 2007. You saw Rashied Davis do it a handful of times last season. We're talking about a plain ol' drop.
Well, this story analyzes how cornerback Charles Tillman was the defender who was responsible, however he can be, for the most forced drops in the league last season with 10. If that's a little confusing, check out Seifert's explanation. Basically, Tillman was the man defending on 10 pure drops last season. What's the old saying? Sometimes it's better for the man you're covering to drop the ball than for you to make the play and miss? Something like that.
*** Sun-Times contributor Matt Bowen, the former Glenbard West standout who played seven seasons in the NFL, summarizes his recent conversation with general manager Jerry Angelo in a good read on NationalFootballPost.com. It's worth your time.
A couple of the highlights:
1. Angelo refers to wide receiver Juaquin Iglesias, the third-round pick, as ``that big guy across the middle.''
2. Angelo reminds Bowen and everyone else not to leave out tight ends Greg Olsen and Desmond Clark when considering the team's wide receivers.
"When you talk wide receivers, you have to count the tight ends," he said, something he discovered when talking with Patriots coach Bill Belichick about the struggles the Patriots had trying to contain Chargers TE Antonio Gates.
3. On Lovie Smith's comment that the Bears landed the top available talent in free agency in defensive line coach Rod Marinelli: "Coaches are harder to find than players," Angelo said.
"If you want to be great, [Marinelli] is a blessing, and if you don't, he is a curse," Angelo said.
4. On the situation at safety in the league as a whole: "It's the poorest-played position in football right now," Angelo said. "It's very hard to find a safety that can tackle high to low.''
We don't know about comparing Olsen or Clark to Gates, or Olsen and Clark to Gates for that matter. But Angelo's point is taken.
*** Bears assistant special teams coach Chris Tabor was inducted into the Benton (Mo.) High School Wall of Fame this past weekend. Here is a video highlight of the event. We've covered some prep football in Missouri when Tabor was an assistant on the Benton staff in 1993, but we saw the team from the other side of town--St. Joseph Central--so we can't provide much more insight than that on Benton.
*** Gene Chamberlain, who formerly covered the Bears for the Daily Southtown, among other publications, suggests here that the acquisition of wide receiver Anquan Boldin from the Arizona Cardinals would quickly solve the Bears' single biggest position battle. That wouldn't be all he would solve, but the Cardinals are going to have to engage the Bears in conversation first.