Chicago Sun-Times

Will this be Lovie's last stand?

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It's quiet here at Bears' camp this morning. Cool, spitting rain. First practice isn't until 3 p.m. I know some of you prefer to read stories here, so here's a copy of the piece I wrote for Friday's editions. Also be sure to check out Sean Jensen's piece on Devin Hester. It's very insightful.

BOURBONNAIS, Ill. -- It's unavoidable, even if some players wish it wasn't. It's the biggest question looming over Olivet Nazarene University as the Bears begin training camp, even if the person it directly involves would rather talk about his optimism for the coming season instead of what could happen if that optimism proves blind.

Will this season be Lovie's last stand?

It was the question on many minds as players reported to training camp on a breezy summer afternoon even if the answer will likely not reveal itself until deepest, darkest winter.

''Lovie is one of the best coaches I've been around, and I know that everyone on this team has a great amount of respect for him, as he does for us,'' quarterback Jay Cutler said. ''He treats us well. I know that some of the guys who have been here longer than me definitely have a lot of ties with him and want to go out there for him and play well. You never know what's going to happen this year, if we don't go out and perform, if Lovie is to stay or not. So, that's definitely a question in the back of everyone else's mind. But we can't worry about it.

''We have to play hard, and if we do that, everything else will take care of itself.''

Ted Phillips said changes could be made if the team doesn't meet expectations. What the team president's expectations are remains to be seen.

The playoffs would appear to be a reasonable measuring stick, although injuries could play a role in Smith's future, as could the possibility of labor unrest jeopardizing the 2011 season.

''I feel the same pressure every year, the pressure to win the Super Bowl, that's what we feel right now,'' Smith said. ''The pressure to put the best team we can on the field the first game. Pressure to have a good practice every day. No more than that. But that's enough right there.''

How quickly players not only learn but begin to successfully execute new offensive coordinator Mike Martz's schemes will play a big role in how prepared the team is to start the season and therefore will be a good indicator of how they may fare when the season starts.

It will take time for it to become second nature. Mistakes will be made, interceptions thrown, protections blown. What's most important is those growing pains occur in camp and not once the regular season begins.

''We've got to get as much done as possible,'' Cutler said. ''I've got to take as many reps as I possibly can, with this group, and this offense, because that's what it's about. It's about seeing things. It's just repetition, and seeing it over and over again until you feel comfortable with it.''

Defensively, it's about playing together, with one unit complementing the next. It's also about playing with the energy and ferocity that was once the trademark of Smith's defenses but has been mostly missing since 2006.

''Every day everybody has to get better,'' defensive lineman Israel Idonije said. ''Just trusting the guy next to you. We put the system in. Guys know the system. Everybody knows what they're supposed to do. It comes down to getting that energy and watching everybody run around and play at a high level. I want to see 11 guys to the ball every snap, a real high level of play and consistency.''

If the Bears can accomplish those primary goals during camp, who knows what they might achieve during the regular season.

If not, expect Lovie's job security to be a seasonlong story line, even if coaches and players don't like it.

''When you have a great coach like that, you put everything on the line,'' Tommie Harris said. ''We've been an injury-stricken team for the last couple years since the Super Bowl. This is our turn to turn things around. I'm not much about words these days. It's all about actions. That's what I'm looking forward to.''

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Tommie Harris says he's all about actions these days, hopefully he can show us something this season from his under tackle position.

If Tommie Harris continues to play at the level he has the last couple of seasons, Chicago is gonna need a plan b option at the position. Who will it be? We know Isarel Idonije is moving back outside, I think he's better suited to play outside anyways. Only time will tell if second year player Jarron Gilbert and Henery Melton are ready to contribute? We'll see in camp when the hitting starts how ready they are.

To me, this years plan b option is probably gonna be Marcus Harrison. I've read that the 6-3 310lb DT is gonna be getting reps at both the nose and under tackle position, and that he's gonna be getting a lot of action at both positions. I think he's gonna be key, the guy has got the talent, the motivation seems to be the lacking element in his game. The consensus seems to be that Tommie Harris has simply lost it, if thats the case, and again, only time will tell. Marcus Harrison needs to come to play this year, on paper he has the talent to do so, we'll see GO BEARS!!

If Coach Smith's job is on the line here, then fire him now. If the Bears beat the Lions in week 1, the best they will be is 6-10. However, don't be surprised if the Lions sweep the Bears and the Bears finish fourth in the division this year.

The WRs are fine, it's the O-line that will sink us. Although Chris Williams is a stud. I'm tired of all the idiots saying the Bears need WRs. It starts up front, not close to the sideline.

Neil, I'm already very tired of the Smith-job story line. You and others have been beating that drum since last season. Let's report on what's happening now and quit spectulating about whether every incident will mean the end of his job at the end of the season. PLEASE FIND ANOTHER SUBJECT!!!

Kevin how did you travel from point A an article on the future of Lovie Smith to Point Z writing about a plan B for Tommie Harris. I am trying to find the connection fro mthe article to what you wrote.

You really have been going off about this Tommie Harris thing. Well as for Harrison, he is not really an UT he is not quick enough or athletic enough for that position. He is also not a DT in the Tampa 2 as he is not good enough eating up the run. After watching him play I would say Harrison is best suited to play End in a 3-4. He is a decent pass rusher and decent against the run but does not excell at either.

If you want to bring the Tampa 2 into the future and out of the past then both defensive tackle positions will have to change. My guess is a huge nose tackle ala Ted Washington lining up over center but a huge run stuffer who can puch the pocket and eat up two blockers instead of a undersized nose tackle like Adams. Then the Under Tackle needs to be a tweener DE/DT like John Randle or Kevin Williams, rather than the Tommie Harris, Warren Sapp type.

Its like a 3 end system with a huge NT as the anchor, rather than the UT being the main cog. The Vikings have a similar line right now except Williams is even a little small and Williams has become more DT than end. But still they put together the best Tampa 2 line sense probably the steel curtain. If Pat Williams was in his prime they would be scary.

Either way the Bears need a big NT. Adams is a nose tackle but at 305 pounds he is a bit small for the position. Thats why he didn;t workout in SF he was to small to be a true NT in a 3-4. He is also more athletic than powerful. But because he knows how to play over the Center and eat up two blocks because he is a NT, he works out better than Harrison at the position. Lovie is still to obbsessed with 4 down linemen thats why his defense can only gear to do one thing at a time. They either sell out to the run or they sell out tot the pass. Put a big NT in there and they won't have out sell out to the run anymore. Other things need to be changed too though. His offense is geared to beat the Walsh system and these deep threat spread style systems that we see today are more than capable of chewing up his defense.

Lovie is done. He is not a great coach he is not an inovator, he does not develop players, and he does not have a good eye for talent. He adapts slowly to change and is resistant to it to begin with. The only thing that can save his job is Martz and Cutler. No playoffs, no Lovie.

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This page contains a single entry by Neil Hayes published on July 30, 2010 10:52 AM.

Tommie, Lovie says DT is ready to practice every day was the previous entry in this blog.

Lovie trying to bring "Monsters" back is the next entry in this blog.

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