Chicago Sun-Times

Q&A: Who is No. 1 receiver?

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Q: Since Martz envisions Devin Hester as a slot receiver, who is the true No. 1 receiver now on the team? --- Rick Maldonado

A: It wasn't Tony Dungy who decided that Marvin Harrison would be Peyton Manning's top target for all those years. Manning decided that. Likewise, Jay Cutler is the person who will decide who the team's No. 1 receiver will be, and based on what we saw last year, it seems clear that he has a connection with Devin Aromashodu. Remember how Cutler signalled to Aromashodu and then threw back-shoulder passes against Charles Woodson and the Packers. That's the type of communication that a quarterback has with his No. 1 receiver.

Q: Even with the departure of Kevin Payne, the Bears still have 6 safeties: Chris Harris, Major Wright, Craig Steltz, Josh Bullocks, Danieal Manning and Al Afalava. Assuming none of them get injured or traded and the team must trim down to five, which one is least likely to make the 53-man roster?

A: Chris Harris is a lock to make the final roster. So is Wright. Manning's chances are excellent because he can also play nickel and is a dangerous returner. That leaves Bullocks and Afalava. As a second-year player with starting experience, Afalava has more upside. Bullocks will need to have a great camp to secure a roster spot.

Q: Which member of Chicago's famed 85 defense do you think was the key member? --- Kevin Armstead

A: Since you picked Dan Hampton later in your e-mail, which is a rock-solid choice for many of the reasons you mentioned, his ability to play dominate at end and tackle ranking high among them, I'll take Mike Singletary. He was the guy in the middle, reading formations, directing traffic and making plays all over the field. The lick he put on Eric Dickerson in the playoffs that season is one of the most underappreciated tackles in in memory. He should have a statue erected for that play alone. It was a text-book example of how a middle linebacker should fill a hole.

Q: Do you really think the Bears are content with the left guard situation? What about the Justin Smiley speculation? --- Timmy B

A: The Bears are content with their left guard situation. Offensive line coach Mike Tice said as much during the recent minicamp. Smiley is the one veteran, however, that interests the Bears. Smiley is expected to be released by the Dolphins. When that happens, expect the Bears to take a long look. Based on what I'm hearing, he's their best shot at adding a veteran.

Q: In retrospect, how big a factor was Brian Urlacher's absence last season? It seems to me Urlacher's absence, while symbolically significant, was not too much of a factor considering the depth we had a linebacker. --- Bears Geoff

A: The Bears were ranked 28th in the league in total defense in 2007. They were ranked 21st in '08. That was WITH Urlacher. Without him, they finished 17th last season, which is why those who like to conveniently blame last season's woes on Urlacher's absence aren't thinking things through. Despite losing Urlacher's considerable talent, the linebacking corps wasn't the unit's biggest weakness last season. Urlacher's return will help but the defensive line needs to rush the passer and the secondary needs to cover people.

Q: Whatever happened to Adrian Peterson? I remember talk of the Bears were going to release him, but don't remember them doing it. And do you think Garrett Wolfe gets cut this year? They'd be foolish to use him instead of Kahlil Bell. --- Shaun

A: Peterson is a free agent. While it's possible that the Bears could still re-sign him and bring him to training camp that they haven't do so already would seem to indicate they are prepared to move forward without him. In my opinion, Peterson is a solid special teams player who is no more than a third-string running back. It's also my opinion that Wolfe's roster spot is in serious jeopardy. The Bears overvalued the ex-NIU star, as they have done to several draft picks in the recent past. The problem is, he has struggled with pass protection, which makes him a liability.

Q: When does training camp open? (I've been asked this question by several readers)

A: The Bears aren't saying, at least not yet. They want to make sure they have all the details ironed out before making an official announcement later this month. My guess: July 29.

Q: With Dez Bryant, the Cowboys are loaded at wide receiver, and I hear rumors that Patrick Crayton is on the block. I know Jerry Angelo & co seem to think all is well at wide receiver, but this guy is worth taking a look at. What are the chances of the Bears making an offer? --- Anders Rune

A: You wouldn't want to make a living predicting what the Bears will do, not after the Cutler trade and the Julius Peppers acquisition. Angelo has been consistent in his praise of his wide receivers. He doesn't want to sign/acquire a veteran because he's afraid it will retard the development of what he believes is a talented young core. Martz backed him up on this during the recent minicamp. Given all that, I don't see them making a move.

Q: I know Mike Martz is a huge fan of Cutler publicly. But have you heard anything from others on the team that make you believe he really believes Cutler is the most physically gifted quarterback he's ever been around? --- RJ

A: He told me so himself. I asked him that question point-blank before he even took the job. Not only did he say "yes" but there was no hesitation.

Q: Do you think Dan LeFevour has a shot at the Pro Bowl this year? He'll be wearing a Bears uniform, after all. --- Kevin Bumstead

A: As Bill Swerski might say, If he was playing with 10 Mike Ditka's, he'd make the Pro Bowl every year.

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9 Comments

Aromashodu seems to be the closest to fit the mold of a true number 1, although after the league has time to analyze his game and tendencies, Aromoshodu may not be nearly as effective as he was the last few games of 2009.

Bullocks seems to be on the hot seat although he is clearly more of a free safety type than the others like Alfalava that favor the Strong safety position. Could be between Steltz, Bullocks and Alfalava, with one of those three cut.

The Bears despite the best comments of Tice to politically support the Bears position still need help at guard, that core interior is where they need the most help and Smiley would be a nice fit and starter from the get go if they can make it work once he is cut by the Dolphins. Lets face it, Cutler is now the franchise and you better put some beef with movement in front of him to protect him as best they can, otherwise the Bears are playing with fire.

Go BEARS?!!?!

I couldn't disagree more on the safety question. Josh Bullocks is the only true free safety this team has. Major Wright was projected as a strong safety in the NFL and putting all your hope on a rookie would be ridiculous. Harris immediately will be the Strong Safety and be backed up by Afalava. The Manning experiment at safety needs to cease and he permanently be relegated to Nickelback, returner and 3rd-string free safety. That leaves Craig Steltz on the out. He should never have made it this long.

Neil,

Nice Q & A with one glaring exception. You really weren't fair about Urlacher. He was hurt most of the last three years and you didn't mention his importance as a leader on the field. That doesn't get talked about enough in blogs. Although you can't undervalue pure talent, leadership and team chemistry can be nearly as important in playing playoff football. I loved Mike Brown but it was leadership that was the key, not amazing athletic talent.

Urlacher isn't the beast he used to be but he is a big upgrade in leadership when he's on the field.

Neil here: You make a legitimate point. But I still think the pass rush and not the linebacker play will be the key to defensive success in 2010.

Hey da crotch, bullocks SUX! But maybe you like that about cetain guys???? Manning is a better FS than he is which says a lot.

Coach, I agree with Neil that Josh Bullocks is gonna end up being the odd man out at safety. Unless he comes to camp this summer and shows the team something he evidently didn't show them last year. I think Bullocks was brought in last season, in hopes, that he would solve the teams problems at free safety. But for whatever reason just didn't get it done. Heck, even rookie Al Afalava got on the field more than Bullocks, and the recently traded Kevin Payne saw more action than Bullocks last year also. Again, for whatever reason he just didn't show the team enough to get on the field that much last year.

As far as Craig Steltz, he actually finished the season on a high note. Steltz only had 12 tackles last year, but 10 of them came in the final two contest. Steltz started the Vikings game at strong safety, and the Lions game at free safety. The coaching staff was impressed with his play in those two games, I think if the season started right now, Steltz would probably be the starter at free safety. From what I've been reading on different sites, the teams pretty high on Steltz right now. With that being said, I still think rookie Major Wright will be given every chance to start at free safety. If he's not ready, don't be surprised if Steltz ends up the starter at free safety GO BEARS!!

Our number one receiver is whoever wants to be our number one receiver. Talent-wise they all are mediocre.

umm i actually think marvin harrison decided he was going to be the number one receiver, peyton didnt decide that. Marvin harrison got open all the time so manning threw him the ball. The receiver who gets open most often, who makes the most plays becomes the number one receiver.

Neil you ducked my questions about the offensive line and kept pounding that dead horse about the only real strength the team had last year in the LB corps. You answered about a total non-factor last season in Bullocks and passed on id-depth response on the most important key to success or failure this season and that is the trenches or is it an area you have no knowledge of? You are usually more rounded in the areas you answer what happened. Smiley would be a major mistake he hasn't proved durable for the last two years I see a trend wait to long and it would be hard to get that continuity a line needs. And lastly why was Garza rated so highly when all short yardage plays ran his way were STUFFED?

BST,

Intelligent, well-thought out response. I would expect nothing less from you.

Kevin,

Steltz is entering his 3rd year and so far has proven to be an in-the-box strong safety at which Chicago is loaded. The only thing that will keep him in a bear uniform is that he was a 4th-round pick and Angelo loves him some draft picks even when it's clear they cannot play.

Steltz started at FS against the Lions and made all of 2 tackles. The 2-14 Lions passed for 250 on 23 of 34 passing. Not exactly a monster game for our secondary. That was also at the time when Lovie was telling us that they viewed their safeties as interchangeable which really meant "we have no playoff hopes so we're gonna throw stuff at the board and see what sticks."

Steltz does not have top-end speed or instincts that you need at free safety. So that leaves him as a run-stuffing strong safety on a team with Harris, Afalava, and now Wright. Chicago will give Wright every possible opportunity to play FS so Steltz, who started 2 games last season will now be the backup FS or do you want to see them keep trying to shove Afalava into that position?

Granted this is really not much of a point because of you have to depend on Steltz or Bullocks at Free Safety this season then we can all wave goodbye now to Lovie and company.

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This page contains a single entry by Neil Hayes published on May 7, 2010 7:30 AM.

Angelo on backup QB, his new role was the previous entry in this blog.

Bears backs not very "elusive," according to PFF is the next entry in this blog.

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