Chicago Sun-Times

Four Down Territory, May 4: Does Ta'ufo'ou spell shot at the roster?

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Things have slowed down a little with the conclusion of rookie minicamp but the mail is still being delivered. We'll make it Five Down Territory for today after a long weekend. Let's get right to it.

Q: So I'm starting to come down from draft overload and I looked up a few things on this fullback Will Ta'ufo'ou the Bears signed. People seem to be pretty high on him. Does this kid have a shot to unseat Jason McKie?

James T., Charleston, Ill.

A: You might be aiming a little high to begin with. Let's focus on Ta'ufo'ou's chances to make the 53-man roster, first. He's an interesting guy who got a decent amount of publicity before the draft as the blocking back at Cal the last two seasons for Jahvid Best and Justin Forsett. Only two fullbacks ended up being drafted according to and that left Ta'ufo'ou looking for an opportunity. A league source said he turned down more lucrative free-agent offers elsewhere because of the possible opportunity the Bears offered. The Bears remain happy with the veteran McKie, who started eight games last season but missed the final five with a bad quad pull. He's been banged up a little bit the past two seasons but there are not plans in the works to replace him as far as we know. Don't forget Jason Davis is on the roster also. He started three games while McKie was sidelined and played for offensive coordinator Ron Turner at Illinois, so he's familiar with the offense. To make the roster, Ta'ufo'ou is at least going to have to leap frog Davis. We say "at least'' because there is no guarantee the Bears will keep two fullbacks on the roster. They've gone with one at times, and they have done so recently because they lean heavily on double tight-end formations, which provide them with some able blockers. One thing Ta'ufo'ou has working against him is his size. He was listed at 5-11, 253 pounds in school, and after watching him in minicamp over the weekend, he might not be that big. Not according to this eye test, any way. So that is going to be an issue. Ta'ufo'ou was productive in college, he's considered a good leader and strong worker, so we'll see what happens. It's a position with a lot of injuries and anything can happen. At this point, we don't see McKie being beat out but there is a long way to go.

Q: I know that the Bears aren't allowed to speak about players under contract with another team, so I know this won't be published, but I'm wondering why the Bears don't look into acquiring Kassim Osgood from the San Diego Chargers. Apparently Osgood is upset with the Chargers due to his lack of opportunities in the passing game, and the Bears could offer players such as Israel Idonije, Dusty Dvoracek or Matt Toeaina who play defensive tackle in the 4-3 scheme but could fit the Chargers' 3-4 defense. Osgood is one of the best special team performers in the NFL and he could get an opportunity in the Bear's passing game with his large frame at 6-5, 220 pounds. This might be an underrated move, but definitely something I'd wish the team would investigate.

Carlos S., Monterrey, Mexico

A: The Bears might not be able to talk about Osgood but we can and we already did, touching on this issue back in March. Osgood was put on the trading block after the season and the Chargers were seeking a fourth-round pick in exchange for him. If that's what they set out as the asking price it's fair to assume they would accept less, maybe a fifth rounder, and the draft came and went with no one stepping up to the table. He's an interesting player but let's call him what he is--a special teams player. The Bears would not make a play for Osgood with the idea of him becoming a fixture in their offense. He has made four receptions since 2005. He's a special teams player, and a darn good one. He's not going to be a productive wide receiver. Could Osgood still be dealt? Sure, the Bears picked up Brendon Ayanbadejo after the draft in 2005. But Osgood is what he is, and he wouldn't cost Idonije to get. I doubt the Chargers would want a player in return and I don't believe Idonije, Dvoracek or Toeaina could handle the nose in a 3-4 scheme.

Q: Can you give me the scoop on the Bears possibly signing a veteran wide receiver. Also is it still possible they try to make another offer for Anquan Boldin? I think Devin Hester is a great athlete but he's not a No.1 receiver. He's the lightning in their special teams which has declined due to him playing wide receiver. I like Juaquin Iglesias but I think they need a veteran receiver to bring it all together. What can you tell me? Hopefully its good news.

John O., New Jersey

A: General manager Jerry Angelo came out following the draft and said he was more comfortable with the receiver position after the draft and therefore less inclined to seek veteran help. There isn't a lot out there either and we've covered what sits in the discard pile pretty thoroughly. As far as making a trade for Boldin--what are the Bears going to offer? They tried peddling their second-round pick to the Cardinals for him the day of the draft and Arizona had no interest. The Bears have been adding to their defense and aren't going to take from it in order to acquire Boldin. Besides, the Cardinals want to keep him. Hope you don't consider all this bad news, but that's the way we see it. We think a veteran receiver would make sense, but we don't make the decisions.

Q: I realize the Bears have only so many numbers to assign new players but was there no other number for D.J. Moore than No. 30? I don't expect them to retire Mike Brown's number or anything but given his contributions for nine seasons with the team and his being such a great leader, could they not have waited at least a year to put his number on someone else's jersey? Or is that just the Bears' way of erasing all doubt as to whether or not Brown might still return?

Mike, Virginia

A: I don't believe there ever was any doubt about Brown returning when the Bears let him enter free agency without pursuing him. The door was shut then on one of the most popular and valuable (when he was on the field) players the Bears have had over the last two decades. Knowing Brown, I don't think he'd care one bit that they handed his old number to a rookie. He's a football player and a competitor. Defensive backs must be assigned jersey numbers between 20 and 49 according to NFL rules. With 79 players listed on the roster currently, 45 is being used by two players (fullback Will Ta'ufo'ou and safety Dahna Deleston) and the following numbers are not represented:

28--Retired for Willie Galimore
34--Retired for Walter Payton
40--Retired for Gale Sayers
41--Retired for Brian Piccolo
42--Retired for Sid Luckman

So, yes, the Bears could have assigned 49 to Moore, or given him another available number and given 49 to someone else in order to keep 30 open. Traditionally, the Bears assign cornerbacks numbers in the 20's and 30's though. Nothing is permanent but Moore didn't seem to indicate he had a problem wearing 30.

Q: Any news yet on whether Derek Pegues will be offered a contract? I think he would make the best free safety on the roster with his range and incredible ball skills. I'm looking forward to hearing if he get's a contract.

Bill H., Parts Unknown

A: Pegues was considered a third-round talent by some before some off-field character concerns combined with a disappointing 40-yard dash dropped him straight out of the draft. He was in for the rookie minicamp on a tryout basis and to this point--28 hours after camp ended--none of the 25 tryout players have signed contracts. That's a good sign none of the 25 tryout players have been offered contracts. Pegues is expected to participate in a camp with the New York Giants this week. No doubt he would have received a chance had he kept his nose clean in school but there could be more than just two arrests that teams are considering. I don't know that to be the case but it doesn't look like he'll be the best free safety on the Bears' roster, the worst free safety or anywhere in between at this point. It's probably fair to assume if the Bears thought he would be their best free safety, they'd at least roll the dice on a free agent they could sign for nothing.

Thanks for all of the participation and thanks as always for reading. We'll get to Four Down Territory again on Wednesday so get your questions in now.

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What's with the love affair for McKie? He's an average FB at best and for a team that "gets off the bus running!" the Bears should be looking to fill the fullback spot with a legitimate steam roller.

Who was the guy we had on our practice squad last year that the Dolphins picked up? He was a great runner and the Dolphins benefitted greatly from his presence on the field.

Also I don't think that executing run plays from the two tight end set is such a great idea. Olsen is not a good blocker.

I believe most people watching the Bears are not impressed with McKie. I bet he is a well-liked guy. Although it is not a critical position in the offense, we have to fill the positions with the best we can.
It did seem like Lousaka Polite was a better blocker and short yardage back, but he didn't have great hands. Hopefully, someone realizes how many catches McKie had and wonder if it would be better to have some of those 4th and ones and better lead blocker in the I-sets.

The love affair exist because there are not that many great FBs in the NFL like people seem to think. A few weeks ago people were on this blog talking about Matt Suhey and Roland Harper being these Legends when in fact the only thing they did was get out of the way of one player more than they actually blocked for him. They act like these guys were mountains of men who pancaked players left and right for Walter. Plain and simple: they were so below average to what was out there at the time. But they had the luxury of playing with Walter. Same thing with just about anyone else on those offenses when Sweetness was playing. Why do you think no one will mention any one of them as being a potential hall of famer? Not a peep and all of them have been eligible for over 15 years. Playing with Walter and that great defense got all those wins. They won't even waste the committees time trying to act like anyone else on those offenses are even deserving. It's not to say that they were crap or worthless but they just don't stand out. Not a one. Now to mention FBs in today's game: name a FB on every team that made the playoffs and all the ones who played in games against the Bears? You really can't without looking it up. No one stands out. I think Mckie has suffered just like everyone else has because of so many below average players on offense over the last few years. He's not great and he's not bad. His average isn't hurting the team. Just like Olson is a great receiver who is below average at blocking. He isn't hurting the team.

By William R. Donald on May 4, 2009 7:03 PM

"Same thing with just about anyone else on those offenses when Sweetness was playing. Why do you think no one will mention any one of them as being a potential hall of famer?"

Thats a bit extreme, you make it sound as if the only good players to ever play the game are in the HOF. You do not need to get to the HOF to be considered a great player. Matt Suhey had a very good Career, so did Jimbo Covert, Jay Hilgenberg, Mark Bortz, Keith Van Horne, and Tom Thayer. By your standard the only good player on defense was Mike Singletary. Thier are only two HOF players from the 85-86 Bears, 1 on offense and 1 on defense.

By William R. Donald on May 4, 2009 7:03 PM
"Now to mention FBs in today's game: name a FB on every team that made the playoffs and all the ones who played in games against the Bears?"

Well this is almost correct, the FB position has seen a decline over the years, but it is not do to bad play or lack of talent. Teams have replaced fullbacks with change of pace backs for the most part. We see this with the Giants who have Brandon Jacobs come in on short yardage downs and use him as a lead blocker as well he is 6-4 264 pounds. We also see this in Atlanta were Mike Turner who was a FB for the Chargers was converted to RB but at 5-10 244 he can still do what a FB needs to do. Baltimore had Le'Ron McClain who a lot of people were talking about last year as there FB, just as a lot of people were talking about Turner in 2007. You will not find a classic lead blocker type like Greg Jones in the Bears WCO. The WCO is not taylored for a FB, Roger Craig played FB for the early part of his career with the 49ER'S, but he was anything but a lead blocker.

The Bears are not really the running team they claim to be, they are really just a classic WCO with one exception. Turner changed his offense to include a power O running game. This is very strange as it does not mesh well with the WCO he uses but that has more to do with the line than anything else. A WCO usually uses a Zone scheme with more athletic lineman. The 80's 49'ers used a zone scheme. The 80's and 90's skins used a big powerful man blocking line. Turner has attempted to combine the two. This combination is one of the reasons Olsen and McKie get exposed. It also makes the linemen have too work a lot harder because they have to be both a zone blocking team and a Power run team.

Anonymous, Good point, but you forgot Dan Hampton......

Anonymous that was well said and that's why the Bears run game is not what it should it's rare to find big guys to do it and the league is going to super-sized DT's to counter it, right now the old Washington Redskins style would be appropriate the counter trey would work well in this present time especially with the Vikings size and D-Line make up and the others going to a 3-4 scheme counters and cut-backs are the ticket.

Anoymous: Ditto, I agree whole heartedly.

Suhey was very good and complimented Walter with his style of play. No he was not a hall of fame fullback but he was pretty dam good.

Maybe this new guard they signed thinking he would be a tight end but moved him back to guard will line up in the backfield on short yardage situations. Some one has to be better at the 1 yard plunge play than McKie that worked maybe 30% of the time last year. I hope this kid from Cal comes in and makes some noise at camp.

Mckie should not get all of the fault for this play not working, how about every team in the league knowing it was coming including the Bears fans watching the games when it was 4th and 1. I cringed last year in these situations and said to my friends OH NO, here comes the 1 yard plunge again. It would also help if the line had more push but when the other team knows its coming it like having 8 in the box at the line.

Tom Rathman, Suhey, kleinsaucer, Sleissenger, That guy on the chargers, all the leadblockers I seen take out urlacher with a lead block. Mckie could'nt carry their jockstrap.

anonymous for one I only mentioned the offense. Everyone knows that the defense actually had more hall of fame players than the offense. I asked you to name a FB who is playing today. I'm sorry but mentioning guys who aren't even playing today doesn't say much about what is asked of a FB in the league TODAY. There are 32 teams in the league and you can't name one who is playing but two. And then you mention a FB playing for a team and can't even place his name. And I'm not that much of a homer to think that Suhey was actually a anything more than an average FB even for those standards. Name a game where he actually plastered guys? He didn't. Walter liked him and what Walter wanted he got. Please stop acting like every single person who laced up Ponys in 85 actually was a great player. The man ran like he was stuck in quicksand. He wasn't a ram. He caught the ball a tad better than Benson. Look up those lofty stats. He didn't even rate well against FBs during that time. I can't stand how guys like to down 2009 players with standards they set from 85 and then elevate players from 85 into deity status. Next thing you know Henry Waechter and Mike Hartenstine will be called the best backup d-linemen who ever played for the Bears. I guess Tillman sucks in most peoples eyes because he can't carry Mike Richardson's jock either.

Forgive them William for they no not what they do, they haven't had a real winner since 1985 so they have nothing to relate to. It's amazing how they forget the 86 version who was statistically better but didn't win it. P.S. Suhey never made it to the Pro Bowl and after 86 I don't even remember if he was still playing.

There was a kid by the name of Ryan Poles out of Boston College who was given a tryout coming off a major injury last year after the draft, and he didn't stick. Did he ever get attached to another team? He was considered a more talented player than Beekman in most scouting circles prior to the injury, and had some NFL potential. Just curious to see if he showed up anywhere.

Also, while we haven't signed anyone from the rookie minicamp tryout list, we do have some players who obviously will not make it through camp still on the roster. There will have to be some turnover on the bottom 1/3 of the roster regardless, if for no other reason than to boost special teams play. Offensive line and defensive line spring to mind, where we added Pace, Omiyale, and Shaffer to the mix on offense, and Melton and Gilbert on defense. Drafting 3 WRs also puts some pressure on that position group, and we re-signed Kevin Jones, making us heavy on running backs. Who are the guys you think are in the crosshairs of the numbers crunch?

Deputy and William:

I respectfully disagree with you about Suhey. Albeit Suhey was not all pro or hall of fame material, he was still a very good fullback for the Bears in the 80's with about 9 years on the team.

Remember that the fullback position was a different position back in those days. During that time Suhey's career stats are pretty good with the BEARS.

Rushing Yards = 2,946 yards and 3.6 yards per carry
Receiving Yards = 2,113 yards and 8.1 yards per reception.
Total yards = 5,059 yards and 25 touchdowns

Suhey had 20 rushing touchdowns and 5 receiving touchdowns during his career. Roland harper was also pretty good along side Payton but suffered some injuries.

As for the 86 Bears they should have won it all, their Offense was not as good as 85. If I remember correctly, a slant and a punt return for a TD in the Washington playoff game was a big part of their demise and the D did not have the turnovers and sacks that the 85 Bears had despite total points allowed were their best ever.

Since I have been a Bears fan since 63, I have seen some very good and very bad players and Suhey was a very good one.

I will bet if you asked Ditka he would concur.

Ditka never speaks ill of his players. He's old school like that. Far as he is concerned everyone was great. Only player he ever disrespected was Dent by calling him Robert as some sort of motivation. And it worked because Dent had a great game the next week. Now those plays you mention Dali came because we had a QB who couldn't complete a quick slant or many passes on the goal to surprise anyone. Bunching at the line keeps anyone from being a decent short yardage team. Cutler will change a lot of things for the whole team and fans should try to give them a cleaner slate in regard to questioning their abilities. Heathier players give you a healthier outlook. One big superstar can make even a semi-decent player look good.

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This page contains a single entry by Brad Biggs published on May 4, 2009 4:25 PM.

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