Chicago Sun-Times

Plan to stop Steven Jackson might have driven safety switch

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The Bears are making a move at the position they've changed more than any other under Lovie Smith.

No, Jay Cutler isn't headed to the bench for Caleb Hanie.

The Bears are going to do a safety dance. Again. Danieal Manning is headed to the bench this week against St. Louis and Kevin Payne will start in his place. Manning will probably return to his role as the nickel back, meaning Corey Graham will probably be the odd man out. Manning has had some issues in coverage recently. He was out of position on DeSean Jackson's long touchdown catch two weeks ago. He remains the most athletic member of the secondary, but it hasn't translated into lots of plays.

The move could be a creation of the Bears' desire to shut down the Rams' Steven Jackson, who enters second in the league in rushing. Jackson hasn't practiced for the last two days because of a back issue, but he's expected to play. His production has been terrific, especially when you consider the issues St. Louis (1-10) faces on offense. The Rams have trailed all season--they rarely play with the lead--and yet their passing offense ranks 22nd. Whether it's Marc Bulger or Kyle Boller, who will start this week, they are struggling to move the ball through the air. The speedy Donnie Avery is the only wide receiver who was on the roster at the start of the season, amazing turnover when you consider it.

So opposing defenses have loaded up against Jackson and he's still been a force. He's on pace to rush for 1,629 yards, and is averaging 4.7 yards per carry, nearly a yard better than Matt Forte did a year ago. He also leads the team with 40 receptions. He was asked if he sees a lot of eight men in the box.

"No, I see nine in a box,'' Jackson cracked.

He might be seeing some of Payne in the box on Sunday. The Bears rotate their free and strong safety, Al Afalava, and the move could be made with the idea in mind that Payne is more rugged in run support than Manning.

So, who knows at this point if the move is for the remainder of the season. But considering it's the 19th time Smith has changed starting free safeties since he arrived, rest assured the next swap isn't far off.

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16 Comments

The safety position is a joke since Mike Brown left. Here's my position breakdown:

D.Manning; very athletic but unfortunatetly lacks football smarts - we've seen it already way too often. However, he's good at nickel and kickreturn and needs to stay there.

K.Payne; average SS but no pass coverage skills to play FS in the NFL, good hitter but again not smart enough, I was hoping to see more of him this season after the 08/09 campaign but he disappered this season - definetely no nose for the ball.

J.Bullocks; could never understand why they signed him, was very miedicore during his tenure with the Saints; almost invincible during games; not a good hitter and always late in coverage.

A.Afalava; only real positive at the safety spots, however mainly because he is a rookie, below average in coverage but with potential to improve, athletic enough to become the starter at SS next season if he makes the "jump" form 1st to 2nd season.

C.Steltz; the biggest disappointment in the group. Not sure whether he has what it takes (speed) to become a starter someday. Bad coverage. Alhough, quite a ST with some nose (luck) for the ball.


I would:
Bullocks, Steltz - waive after the season

Manning - play only nickel; shut down the safety experiment

Afalava - if he improves in the offseason. give him a shot a starting SS, but forget the FS/SS switch with that guy on the field.

Payne - play him for the reminder of this season to give him a last shot; if he fails - waive or permanent backup SS and ST player at best.

Good move, Lovie! D. Manning is a joke. Did you all see him jump over Chester Taylor at the goal line? Why not try him at WR? We all know he's afraid of contact. He can catch the ball and fall down or run out of bounds as well as the next guy! (Hester)

For the most part, the failings of this defense have directly related to the lack of pressure from the front 4. Danieal Manning is playing just fine at free safety in my opinion. Is he Mike Brown in his prime? Nobody we will put back there is, but he was getting the job done. Afalava was causing more problems in the coverage scheme than Manning was from the plays I watch. Payne and Afalava? If I am Boller, I am ecstatic that not only will I have all day to throw, but that Avery and Gibson should be open downfield all day long, which will help pad his stats for next year's potential contract as Bulger's replacement.

Steven Jackson is a beast, assuming he is at full speed. Putting Afalava and Payne in the box will basically audible to a run play, and considering we still have not figured out how to jam a receiver even when we press, Avery should be free to run all over the field, and wide open most of that time.

This should be interesting. Offensive line changes for us, defensive holes....This game is shaping up to be a lot closer than I thought it would be....If we give up more than 17 points, we deserve to lose the game, and we likely will. No Briggs, potentially no Tillman, no Manning in coverage, no pass rush....not looking good...

Didn't Lovie take Manning under his wing last season and "coach him up" to use the Bears' current vernacular.

Either Manning is uncoachable -- and another example of a failed "project" -- or Lovie isn't much of a coach.

Hmmmmm. Wonder which it could be?

Maybe we need to trade Manning to another team to see what he becomes. Kinda like Chris Harris, who I believe became an All-Pro SS with the Panthers.

I have to agree with you guys. I don't care how much Mike Brown's abilities declined through the years, the Bears basically let their best FS go without identifying anybody who could replace him.

And then Manning's jump over Chester Taylor was one of the most athletic non-football moves I had ever seen on a football field.

I maintain that S on defense, and WR on offense are the Bears' weakest positions, regardless of how the other positions have struggled too.

Right on, Tripper! Manning is part of the reason the Bears are bad. Lovie and his pet projects just keep failing. Hester at WR, Archeleta, Manning at FS, C. Williams at RT, etc, etc. and now Gaines Adams. We're doomed!

Wow... Lovie must shake the magic 8 ball daily to decide his roster moves. Manning has been ruined by this idiot staff. He started as a rookie and struggled. You keep him there and let him play throught it. Nope... FS, CB, FS, NB, FS... janitor. Do we even know anything about Steltz? Good god let him play some lovie before you write him off. Same with Bullocks.. Lovie just doesnt know what to do. He has to go bottom line. Here is a classic example of Lovie's stupidity.. Idonje.. they had him bulk up last year to play DT..290-300. Good idea.. Then this year they say.. go back down to 260'ish because you are going to DE. Hes played DT the entire year at 260-270!?!?!? How does a DT at 270 hold the point against 300+ OL? I mean is Lovie really that dumb? Hes a panic coach.. put him here.. not there. I mean no put him back over there.. It has never been more obvious that he cannot handle the job of being a head coach in the NFL. All the talk and posturing by him will change nothing because he cant handle this. The Bears need to admit that and eat his contract and fire him. JA is just as bad. The two are a deadly combo that has 5-11 written all over them for the next 3 years. Damn JA.. you threw away core players in T. Jones, Chris Harris, Berrian.. Why??? 2006 was good and bad.. the good was obvious a trip to the SB. The bad.. JA and Lovie thought they were so smart. Making one horrific decision after another... Just like the Titanic.. then booomm.. a sinking boat with an entire city of fans suffering for it.. A change of the OC means nothing. As long as Lovie and JA are allowed to run this team.. we are doomed to have a bad football team. 36-10 bad!@!!!!

Joe:

For the most part, I usually agree with your analysis of the Bears, you are usually right on. I have to say that with Manning, you must not be seeing the same games that I am seeing.

Manning has been out of position quite often and is usually late to get to the receiver after the catch. A lot of good free safety's are making these receivers that catch the ball pay a big penalty and are usually there about the same time the ball arrives.

With the Bears, what I have seen the last few years after Brown's exits either through injury or to the Chiefs, is that the Bears safeties are arriving at the receivers many times after the receiver has caught the ball and started to run upfield.

The safety play of the Bears has been pathetic at best. Alfalava is better than any of the other safeties and he is a rookie. Payne has been out of position consistently at free safety, as has Manning. I do not understand that if the Bears are going to have a carousel at Free Safety, why not give Graham a shot, I think he could out perform either Payne or Manning.


Before the season started, we all knew we had a few things that worked and one of them was that Manning was a good kick returner on kickoffs and that he played the nickel well, so what does Lovie do he changes one of the few things that worked.

We knew we needed just one more good wide receiver, maybe like Chambers from KC to complement our rookies, essentially the Bears receivers are all rookies in playing time. What does Angelo do to solve this issue, he protected the receivers on the team and did nothing! Why get a QB like Cutler with top tier potential and then not give him at least viable targets and O line protection. STUPID!!!

We knew that Hester could be great in the slot(where he could still play special teams) and still have a huge impact on special teams kickoffs. Teams at one point two years ago were kicking the ball out of bounds to not allow Hester to touch it. That was a huge field position advantage for the Bears on a consistent basis.

The bottomline is that Lovie Dovie is not a good coach, plain and simple. Angelo is a ditz for not correcting the personnel issues, allowing the team to get into this position, holding onto players that simply do not perform and Turner well what can I say was given an offense that is quite offensive with very few tools to be productive, Wide receiver issues, line issues, QB issues (until this year)running back issues and Turner is really predictable and bad at play calling, whatever happened to the element of surprise?

Joe, I can't help myself, every time I start on a Bears topic I digress into an abyss that gets me going on these Bozo's that are running the BEARS.

The only running the BEARS are doing is being "run into the ground" by these so called experts; Angelo, Lovie and Turner. The fish always stinks from the head.

Are the McCheeps and Phillips simply stupid? Can't they see what is going on with the BEARS? This is the great city of Chicago with fans that are rabid, loyal and deserve a team that represents the city only in an exceptional manner, Chicago is a city of broad shoulders not weak spines!!!

I can't help myself this last three years has taken its toll on my psyche!!!!

Well this is just great. Another chicken/egg with Angelo/Lovie: Was the guy not that good a talent or has the coaching staff failed to develop him? It's probably both with the Three Stooges (including Teddie) at the top.

So you can kiss the 06 draft goodbye. Criminal. No wonder the Bears are where they are. And it doesn't help when you bring in Adam Archuleta but not Darren Sharper. Or when you let Chris Harris go. For a D that needs two-deep safety to make it work, the Bears don't seem to know how to find one or develop one. I believe Mike Brown was drafted before Angelo, so he doesn't get credit of the one outstanding safety the team has had for a decade.

I would trade both Hester and Manning in a heart beat if I could get a third round pick for Hester and a fourth rounder for Manning. We need the picks, Hester is a bust at receiver and is pedestrain returning punts, Manning still is out of position. Sure he's a good to great kickoff returner, but so is Knox and Dave Toub is the one coach who has a knack for seeing potential and developing it. We'll be fine in the return game without these two.

It was Mike Brown and Tony Parrish when Angelo arrived in 2001, Parrish was not signed the following year. Parrish was named an All Pro the following year with the 9ers and had 7int's.

2002: Mike Green and Mike Brown
2003: Bobby Grey, Mike Green and Mike Brown
2004: Mike Green, Todd Johnson, Mike Brown
2005: Mike Brown is moved to SS, Chris Harris is the FS, even though Harris is a SS and Brown is an All Pro FS.
2006: Danieal Manning FS, Mike Brown, Chris Harris Todd Johnson SS.
2007: Danieal Manning FS, Brandon McGowan and Adam Archuleta. The Bears thought Archuleta would be a better SS than Harris and let Harris go while bringing in AA even after he was benched the year before.
2008: Mike Brown and Kevin Payne, both played both positions.
2009: You all already know about this year.

Some of you don't seem to get the Bears drafting philosophy and what they look for in players. Guys like Manning, Bradley, Harris, Hester, Knox, Anderson. Its real simple and its true, Angelo and Lovie both love athletic talent above football talent. Its the Al Davis school of drafting, they often reach for speed guys and draft them well ahead of their draft position, Hester, Manning, Knox, Bradley. They love 40 times, even Harris and Anderson had great 40 times. Remember they benched Alex Brown for Mark Anderson, with little real reason. Speed was the reason, but its clear Brwon was the better player. Mike Brown was never a burner and Angelo has been trying to replace him sense he got here, thats why he drafted Manning. I don't think you guys realize that Angelo actually is from the Al Davis school of drafting, its all about measurables. Gilbert had great numbers, Loadholt didn't. They took Gilbert. Do you know why they drafted Chris Williams, they say it all the time, athletic ability. They always say that, they repeat it all the time, "we really loved his athletic ability." They don't do it with every pick, but niether does Davis, they just tend to do it early and then go for safer picks later, but if they see real speed they are all over it. Greg Olsen, really good speed decent hands, but not that great of a football player.

To be honest I don't think they are very good at breaking down film, in fact I think they are really bad at it. College film, game film you name it they are bad at it.

no arguments from me @ Creighton

drafting has always been this cute lets find a fast player from a small school and show the world how smart we are at drafting...

and there are some instances where small school talent trumps big school reliability...(Chris Johnson for instance)

but even when they DO draft from big schools they STILL get it wrong (enis, cade mcnown, david terrell, a-train, etc etc)

from the top (especially from the top) there needs to be changes...college scouts, pro scouts, gm etc...

the cupboard is bare and that is places 100% at Angelo and his staff and Lovie for his "draft input" since the SB

Funny, but I don't remember Archuleta being all that fast. He was, however, bad. He was also a FA, not a pick, but I would think the same applies to FAs, no?

OK, C., I see your point and it's a good one. I would add to it that they also seem to love projects. The reason? They see more "value." The problem with that - the coaching staff doesn't seem to be good at developing these projects. But you are certainly correct in pointing out a philosophy. And the thing about that is, these guys don't change their outlooks, they stay true to them.

You also have to contend with the philosophy of the McCaskets and Teddie, which is you give GMs and coaches a long time to succeed. That's why the Bears are seen as a great place to coach - ownership doesn't give up on you. Some call it being cheap, either way it's a fact.

I prefer the "philosophy" that your first few draft choices should be for need and they should be able to start immediately. Projects are for winners, not a team in desperate need of a turnaround.

Interesting Al Davis comparison except that Forte isn't fast. And they were very high on him over all the other 1st 2nd and 3rd round speedier backs.

Here it is in a nutshell. Our players are bad, period. There second tier talent on any other team. If it were basketball, you don't put a 7 footer on a team of Dwarfs and expect a championship. (AKA Cutler). The reason for this is management, period. They have all had a hand in it, they make the decisions. Its up to ownership to realize this and shuffle the deck. Angelo, Lovie and his crew have got to leave. If they stay around the humiliation will just be prolonged. Lovie is living off the super bowl year, when we had the easy schedule and Hester running back punts for touchdowns and luck catches in the end zone and a pretty good running back (Jones). Now it's a mess by there doing. The Defense is the same, just three years older and the offense is a mess. They let this happen . Remember Lovie after Super Bowl, Trust me!

You can call for a GM and/or coaching change all you want, but the only way the fans can have any say is to hit the team in the pocketbook. Listen, I would love to see bags in the stands or a lot of empty seats, but NO ONE is going to boycott the G.B. and Minny games. And I would never tell a fan to stop watching his favorite team. That's a personal decision.

So what else can shake up the team? A loss to St. Loo would be huge. Losing out would probably do it. But as much as I am tempted, I could never hope for that. No real fan could. Losing is a bad thing and it gets in players heads.

Like it or not, this is what comes along with being a Bears fan. So you might as well stop calling for heads to roll. You don't get to decide and the powers that do have made it clear through the years that it takes something monumental to get them to pay some people to relax in FL or AZ on their dime.

Yeah Creighton, All the guys I asked for are starters elsewhere, Duane Brown, Carl Nicks, Phil Loadholt. Wouldn't Brown or Nicks look good here, Just wishful thinking. Well while I'm at it I wish this whole regime would go away.

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This page contains a single entry by Brad Biggs published on December 4, 2009 12:06 AM.

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