Chicago Sun-Times

Recently in Josh Bullocks Category

SAN FRANCISCO--Veteran Josh Bullocks will make his first start with the Bears as a right shoulder injury will sideline rookie strong safety Al Afalava.

Bullocks has been inactive the last two games, and has been used pretty much just on special teams when he has dressed. Kevin Payne, another option at safety, is also inactive as he has a back injury.

Bullocks was chosen over Craig Steltz, a fourth-round pick in 2008.

Wide receiver Devin Aromashodu is active for the game with running back Garrett Wolfe sidelined with a kidney injury.

Now that the dust has settled, sort of, on the Gaines Adams trade, let's examine the roster move the Bears will have to make Saturday to add him to the 53-man roster.

Adams will come aboard after he passes his physical Saturday morning after arriving from Tampa. The Bears will have to release a player to make room, and with no significant injuries it is unlikely anyone will be placed on injured reserve. The club has not announced its intentions.

You don't have to look too far to find some candidates. We'll list some possibilities with a reason why they could be cut, and a reason for them to stick around. This list is in alphabetical order, not the order in which I see it playing out. Go ahead and make your own choice known.

Josh Bullocks. Why: The Bears have an excess with five safeties on the roster. Why not: Bullocks is starting to figure into the special teams mix, especially this week with running back Adrian Peterson out with a knee injury.

Michael Gaines. Why: The fourth tight end was a luxury to make the 53-man roster and he's barely been used. Why not: The broken rib suffered by Desmond Clark is a clear sign of how tough it is to keep players healthy at this position.

Juaquin Iglesias. Why: The third-round pick has yet to be active this season and did not perform well in training camp and preseason. Why not: He's a third-round pick and Jerry Angelo is unlikely to give up on a third rounder when he just traded a second-round pick.

Lance Louis. Why: He's a project who was one of the final players to make the roster and could probably be waived and re-signed to the practice squad. The misdemeanor assault charge against him in San Diego doesn't help. Why not: Louis is a young lineman who was used at guard and tackle in preseason, and the Bears need to develop youth on the line.

Darrell McClover. Why: The Bears are starting to get healthy at linebacker and he plays a role on special teams only. He was added just three weeks ago and would seem to be expendable as a seventh linebacker. Why not: The Bears added him because they needed a boost on special teams. Adams might add to the defense, but he's not going to help special teams.

D.J. Moore. Why: Moore has yet to be active and if the rookie fourth-round pick cannot carve out a role for himself on special teams, he's not going to contribute this season. Generously listed at 5-9, he's not big enough to be an every-down cornerback any way. Why not: Like Iglesias, Angelo doesn't want to get rid of a draft pick when he just traded one away to weaken his 2010 draft. Moore sticks because he's a developmental project.

Matt Toeaina. Why: Adding Adams gives the Bears 10 defensive linemen and Toeaina is the least used of the bunch. Why not: Tackles are impossible to find this time of year and just like you can't have too many pass rushers, you can't have too many tackles. He's needed for depth.

apete.jpg

My final cuts are in.

Sorry, no refunds for a lack of accuracy on this one. Got a chuckle with David Haugh from the Tribune when we e-mailed back and forth about undertaking the same project. Our selections are pretty similar, and we didn't share notes.

Here is my list, and you can find the story from the print edition here.

Quarterback (2): Jay Cutler, Caleb Hanie

The Bears will find a practice squad quarterback and it could be Brett Basanez.

Running backs/fullbacks (5): Matt Forte, Kevin Jones, Garrett Wolfe, Adrian Peterson, Jason McKie

Two weeks ago, Peterson would not have made my cut.

Wide receivers (6): Devin Hester, Earl Bennett, Devin Aromashodu, Rashied Davis, Juaquin Iglesias, Johnny Knox

I hope Brandon Rideau gets a shot somewhere because the guys does the right things, says the right things and probably can play. Draft picks who won't play block his path here.

Tight ends (3): Greg Olsen, Desmond Clark, Kellen Davis

Just didn't see enough of Michael Gaines in preseason.


Offensive line (8): Orlando Pace, Frank Omiyale, Olin Kreutz, Roberto Garza, Chris Williams, Kevin Shaffer, Josh Beekman, Dan Buenning

The Bears didn't expect to keep Lance Louis when they drafted him, although he's done plenty to stick around on the practice squad. On paper, it's the deepest line Jerry Angelo has had with the Bears.

Defensive line (10):
Alex Brown, Anthony Adams, Tommie Harris, Adewale Ogunleye, Mark Anderson, Henry Melton, Israel Idonije, Marcus Harrison, Jarron Gilbert, Matt Toeaina

If they drop down to nine here the final cut is between Melton and Toeaina. And for my money Toeaina is the player they will need more this season.

Linebackers (6): Brian Urlacher, Lance Briggs, Pisa Tinoisamoa, Nick Roach, Jamar Williams, Hunter Hillenmeyer

Tried to find a spot for special teams man Darrell McClover but couldn't make it happen. I could be wrong. Undrafted rookie free agent Kevin Malast will get a job somewhere, even if it's just on the practice squad.

sheed.jpg

There is throwing darts against the wall, taking a stab at something, giving it the ol' college try and taking a shot in the dark.

Somewhere amongst those exercises falls my effort to select the Bears' 53-man roster before it is selected by the men who make the decisions--Jerry Angelo, Lovie Smith and their staffs. The best guess after evaluating training camp, preseason, past history and everything else that goes into trying to enter another man's mind will appear in Thursday's edition of the Sun-Times. We'll lay it out here on Thursday for continued discussion, a much worthier topic than what you're actually looking forward to seeing in the preseason finale vs. the Cleveland Browns. Final cuts, by the way, are due to the league office by 5 p.m. Saturday.

But I'll list some bubble players here, some that made my 53 and others who didn't:

Offense

Adrian Peterson: A coach once called the veteran running back a security blanket for his ability to stick around. He doesn't do anything particularly well where he jumps out at you, but he does everything the right way and is about as reliable a player as you will find on the roster. In my estimation, a roster spot comes down to him and tight end Michael Gaines (more on that in a little bit). Peterson ran hard and ran well last Sunday in Denver, prompting one scout from another organization to inquire about what kind of guy he is. If the Bears let Peterson go, he's likely to find work elsewhere. The obvious plus to keeping a player like Peterson is his ability on special teams, but he wasn't quite as strong in that phase last season as he was in previous years.

Devin Aromashodu: From the looks of things there are three wide receiver battling for two roster spots. Yes, it strikes me as odd that the team that gets off the bus running is going to keep six wide receivers, but that's what happens when they draft three and plan to keep two--Juaquin Iglesias and Johnny Knox. Aromashodu has the least special teams value of the wide receivers on the bubble, at least based on his use in preseason. But he's a big target who Jay Cutler started referencing early in training camp before anyone knew who he was. When Aromashodu is on the field, Cutler looks his way. if the quarterbacks gets a vote, and boy we know he'd like one, he sticks.

Rashied Davis: Of the wideouts who circulate through with the first team, none got less action than Davis. He's trying to regain some momentum after a 2008 season in which he was used completely out of position by the coaching staff. Davis simply hasn't done much on offense and Cutler has not thrown a pass to him in preseason. But if you were starting to cross him off your list, he made tackles on the first two special teams plays of the game at Denver. Davis also has experience in the slot, even if Earl Bennett is getting most of the work there right now, especially in some of the packages where tight end Greg Olsen is flexed out wide.

Brandon Rideau: He opened the preseason as the No. 3 wide receiver on the depth chart and he's remained in that spot as he was the first one off the sideline when the Bears went to three at Denver. But Cutler has not looked his way like he has Aromashodu. Rideau, however, scores points because he's been more active on special teams than Aromashodu. They are both about the same size and offer something different for the quarterback in the system.


Michael Gaines: Signed to be a blocking tight end and an H-back who could also line up in the backfield, Gaines just hasn't gotten a lot of action in preseason. It's hard to justify keeping four tight ends on the roster unless there is going to be a specific duty for each one on Sundays. Typically, the Bears keep a fourth tight end for practice purposes on the practice squad, and the expectation is they will do that again this year. Gaines could help, though, because Jason McKie is the only fullback expected to make the roster. Having Gaines would give the team some flexibility if they needed help at the position during a game.

I've spent four weeks here analyzing some of the things I'll be looking when when the whistle blows at 3 p.m. Friday and the Bears get rolling with their first practice of the season. Now it's time to turn over some space to the trained eye of Tom Thayer, who lists his occupation on his IRS paperwork every April as a "football describer.''

Thayer, the color analyst for WBBM-780 AM, will be at training camp and will offer daily updates for the Bears' flagship station. Here is what Thayer offered:

"There are three things I will be looking at and one of them is the free agents, the newcomers, [Jay] Cutler, Pisa [Tinoisamoa], [Orlando] Pace, big Frank [Omiyale], [Kevin] Shaffer, [Josh] Bullocks, these guys that came in. I want to start looking at those guys and see if they really are what they are, if they're going to fit in, what they're going to do to the team and how they're changing it. Then, I have a key selection of veterans who have been here already who are on the roster who I really want to pay attention to to see if they re-emerge, if they're playing like they did last year, if they're not involved in the betterment of the football team the way they should be due to their position on the roster and with the team and all that. My guys here are [Nathan] Vasher, [Brian] Urlacher, Tommie [Harris], Kevin Jones, Wale [Ogunleye], Nick Roach.

"And then [Johnny] Knox, [Juaquin] Iglesias and D.J. Moore are some rookies I want to watch. I think Moore may have a place. He is one of the three guys of the rooks I am looking at who may need to come in and just provide interest. Just to see if they can help in any way. There is a specific group and positioning of players that I am interested in looking at first. Then I think if you are looking at a position specifically, I still have concerns about the safety position. I like Kevin Payne but there is a battle for all other interior defensive back positions. Payne is only going to be pushed by himself. He is a guy who has to stay healthy. You can go out there and Kevin Payne can show flashes of brilliance and then he can pop his head in there and come out, get dinged, and you're back to square one. My only issue with Kevin Payne is durability.''

We're going to reach into the mailbag for some Four Down Territory before camp gets going. There aren't any major issues hanging in the balance. A year ago, you had Brian Urlacher's contract getting done just before camp and Devin Hester seeking a new contract. In the past, there was a Thomas Jones stakeout to see if he was going to show up. First-round picks have been far from signed at this point in previous years. All is quiet now. The Bears are just getting ready for football. Here we go.

Q: I read your preview for the wide receivers and you don't seem to be giving them much of a chance. Why? I see a talented group of young wide receivers and there's no reason to believe they can't flourish. Eddie Royal was a second-round pick. Brandon Marshall was a fourth-round pick. Shouldn't these guys get a chance with Jay Cutler?

Michael, Parts Unknown

A: The Bears found a talented and productive wide receiver in the third round of the 2004 draft when they selected Bernard Berrian out of Fresno State. Otherwise, the club's track record at the position under general manager Jerry Angelo is a series of misses, some bigger than others. It happens to be one of the more difficult positions to evaluate for the draft, and as Angelo has pointed out previously, the majority of the true No. 1 wideouts in the league are, guess what, first-round picks. The Bears haven't tried a wide receiver in the first round since David Terrell in 2001, and that was two months before Angelo came aboard. We're not suggesting the Bears will be unable to find help from their rookies and unproven players at the position, we're simply pointing out that after Devin Hester and Rashied Davis, that is the only thing the Bears have to lean on. If they try enough players, one of them might work. Bringing in a veteran with marginal and eroding talent would prevent a possible talent from blossoming. All of these players have a different tool box and it will be interesting to see which one(s) step forward in the three weeks of camp.


Q: Is there a veteran on the roster that will be in jeopardy of being cut? Maybe a surprise cut that could be coming?

Alex, Gurnee

A: I don't know if there are any major surprises coming. Sure, there will be some healthy competition for spots at the back end of the roster, but this team is pretty well set. There is not going to be a lot of turnover in the starting lineups and that's usually where you get your surprise cuts. There aren't any players carrying bad contracts that the team will want to unload. Linebacker Hunter Hillenmeyer will be in a tough spot, particularly if he's still hampered in his recovery from offseason surgery to repair a sports hernia. If healthy, he deserves an opportunity to be on the roster. Running back Adrian Peterson could be pushed for a spot as it's expected the Bears will at least consider going with three running backs. Even though Rashied Davis is the only wide receiver other than Devin Hester with real NFL experience, he'll probably need to perform well. Defensive tackle Dusty Dvoracek has become Mike Brown without the long history of production the former safety had. He'll be pushed and he has to stay healthy. No one is guaranteeing jobs for tight end Michael Gaines or safety Josh Bullocks. None of these strike as potential surprise cuts. All could have a role on the 2009 team.


payne724.jpg

Continuing with our position-by-position breakdowns as we close in on being a week away from the first practice of the summer at Olivet Nazarene University, we focus on the safeties.

Projected starters: SS Kevin Payne, 6-0, 212, 3rd season, Louisiana-Monroe; FS Craig Steltz, 6-1, 210, 2nd season, LSU

Others

Al Afalava 5-11, 212, Rookie, Oregon State
Josh Bullocks 6-0, 207, 5th season, Nebraska
Dahna Deleston 6-0, 211, Rookie, Connecticut
Glenn Earl 6-1, 212, 5th season, Notre Dame
* Corey Graham 6-0, 198, 3rd season, New Hampshire

* Graham was listed in the cornerback preview also. The Bears list him on their Web site as a safety but that move might not be permanent at this point.

Projected depth chart

SS: Payne, Bullocks
FS: Steltz, Graham, Bullocks

2009 salary cap numbers

Al Afalava $335,150
Josh Bullocks $1,200,000
Dahna Deleston $311,666
Glenn Earl $540,200
Corey Graham $502,575
Kevin Payne $502,700
Craig Steltz $501,676

Number of safeties on the roster at the start of the 2008 season:
5 (counting Danieal Manning)

Projected number of safeties on 2009 roster at start of the season: 4 (counting Graham but excluding Manning, who is listed with cornerbacks)

The skinny:
Safety might be the position where you find the most legitimate and real competition for a starting job going on in camp, certainly on the defensive side of the ball. Nothing is locked down here but Payne will probably emerge as the strong safety and he played well there at times last season. The switch with Mike Brown in midseason when Payne was shifted to free safety didn't play to his strengths. Payne is a physical player who had offseason shoulder surgery a year after missing most of his rookie season with a broken arm, so he needs to stay on the field to create a longterm future for himself. Remember, it was the addition of Payne in the 2007 draft that was the leading factor in the team trading Chris Harris away to Carolina. Payne has a decent nose for the ball and does well when he has it in his hands, a product of his early days in college when he was a running back.

What will happen with Steltz? He's been labeled strictly a strong safety by some in the organization but it was the fourth-round pick from 2008 who spent a lot of time at free safety during the offseason program. Steltz doesn't have the range you'd like there, but he's intelligent and is a strong communicator and those attributes right there might given him an edge. We're interested to see how it plays out in the opening days of camp and who goes where. Of course, how they open in July isn't always how they open in September. Remember, the Bears moved the secondary all around before the final preseason game last year, promoting Payne, benching Brandon McGowan and in doing so taking Danieal Manning out of the nickel role.

mbrown03.jpg


One safety with Chicago ties is expected to announce his retirement today.

Another will look for a new place to continue his career.

Rodney Harrison, the Markham native and former star at Marian Catholic, is expected to reveal on a conference call that he will move from the secondary to the broadcast end of the business. Meanwhile, ex-Bear Mike Brown will make a free-agent visit to the Kansas City Chiefs today, a league source told the Sun-Times.

One of the most popular players in post-Super Bowl XX franchise history, the Bears bid goodbye to Brown after this past season when his contract expired. Five years younger than Harrison at 31, Brown is looking to catch on with the Chiefs, who have been re-tooling their defense but lack depth in the secondary. A contract offer is possible and the timing would be ideal as Kansas City's mandatory minicamp is this weekend. Jarrad Page and Bernard Pollard are the projected starters but Brown could push them for a job immediately.

Whether he was in San Diego or New England, Harrison was considered a leader, and no one questioned Brown's unquestioned status as the leader and pulse of the Bears' defense for most of the past decade. The only time Brown didn't lead was when he was sidelined by injury, something that happened more than anyone cared for over the last five seasons. Brown missed 44 regular-season games from 2004 to 2008, but was so indispensible when he was on the field that the Bears kept going back to him. A calf muscle injury cut last season short for him by one game.

Need No. 2--Free safety

Players on roster

FS Josh Bullocks (signed through 2009)
S Craig Steltz (2011)
S Glenn Earl (2009)
S/CB Danieal Manning (2009)
S/CB Zack Bowman (2011)

Need

The Bears thought they were selecting an athletic safety with the skills to man the position for some time when they used their first pick in 2006 on Manning. He's started 28 games at the position and that has been enough for them to determine he's not a fit for them there. The most athletic member of the secondary gets caught out of position too often and part of the problem has its roots in the coaching staff's desire to move him all over the defensive backfield. The Bears are content now leaving him at nickel cornerback where he started last year and excelled after coach Lovie Smith took over the position. Smith is adding that position to his growing list of job titles and that is probably a good thing. It's too bad because Manning has proven to be durable and that is one trait the team has not been able to find at safety. Bullocks figures to be the man for the job right now. A former second-round pick, he had a nice rookie season in New Orleans but from there the progress stalled. The hope is that new surroundings will make a difference for him, and he looked good in minicamp, but the easiest way to judge a team's faith in a player is by his contract. Bullocks has a modest one-year deal.

As we wait for word to come on the 2009 schedule let's get into another round of Four Down Territory. Here we go.

Q: I do have a question about the job security of Jerry Angelo, Lovie Smith and the coaching staff. Before the Jay Cutler trade, I could sense the leash on Angelo and company was tightening. Certainly the team, especially Lovie's defense, has been in steady decline since the loss in the Super Bowl, including several dubious coaching decisions (Danieal Manning, the end of the Atlanta game, etc.). I would think another year missing the playoffs this year would have put Jerry and Lovie squarely on the hot seat. Does the Cutler trade as the center of the most aggressive offseason in memory buy Angelo more time? Angelo's boldness in actually bringing in talented players seemingly has given him the leeway for another few years at the helm, but with talent finally in place on offense and Lovie taking the reigns on defense, is it time for these coaches to produce another playoff appearance? Hopefully the team will succeed with a truly talented quarterback, but these are the Bears after all. Will there be more pressure on the coaching staff this year, specifically offensive coordinator Ron Turner? Will another mediocre season mean ousting Turner and/or Bob Babich as scapegoats?

Ryan Y., Columbus, Ohio

A: Did the acquisition of Cutler buy Angelo more time? Angelo agreed to an extension following the team's appearance in Super Bowl XLI through 2013. I don't think he is going to be buying himself more time. Let's keep in mind the franchise we're talking about here--the Bears. The bold move to deal for Cutler was not the kind of move you are accustomed to in these parts. You're also not accustomed to the organization eating the contracts of high-powered employees and paying them to go away. It doesn't happen. Prior to the Cutler deal, I could not envision a scenario in which the Bears would have lost in 2009 and then Angelo would have been on the hot seat. I just didn't see any way the McCaskeys would have paid Angelo to not work for them in 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013.

Here is our final edition of Four Down Territory for the week. We'll get back to the mailbag on Monday, so make sure you get your questions in over the weekend with two weeks until the draft. Here we go.

Q: What do you think the chances are that the Bears will select Rashad Johnson of Alabama in the second round to play strong safety and wait until later in the draft to get a receiver like Ramses Barden and let him learn under a veteran like Torry Holt? I think Johnson has the ability to be an Ed Reed type of safety who can play center field. I also see Barden having the ability to possibly develop into a Marcus Robinson type receiver. What are your thoughts?

Nick D., Orlando, Fla.

A: Johnson is an interesting guy who had a very successful college career, particularly after Nick Saban arrived at Alabama in 2007. A former walk-on, Johnson turned into one of the best defensive backs in the SEC. No one is going to be drafting him to play strong safety though. He's strictly a free safety and there are some questions as to whether or not he will be able to hold up at that spot as well, but more on that in a little bit. Johnson thrived under Saban and made 11 interceptions over the last two seasons to go with 19 passes broken up.

Full day of football activity as the owners meetings wrapped up in Dana Point, Calif. We're going to do one more Q&A this week on Thursday and then we're going to take a break with the mailbag until next Wednesday. We'll roll through some questions that day. Don't worry, Four Down Territory isn't going away but we've got a few things we need to knock out. So keep the questions coming. Let's get to it.

Q: Is the money the Bears are paying Kevin Shaffer starting money or backup money? It feels like backup money. Is the plan now to move forward in the draft without placing a high pick on a tackle (first three rounds) and address other needs instead? Or should I not try reading anything into this signing? Your thoughts?

Dave, Parts Unknown

A: I think it is probably fair to characterize Shaffer's pay day as being near the bottom of the wage scale for an experienced starting right tackle, or as a very solid pay day for an experienced swing tackle. That probably reflects how the Bears view him--as a guy who can man the position capably until they have a young player ready to take over. When that point comes, he'd be a nice veteran piece to have in the mix.

Twitter updates

Categories

About this Archive

This page is an archive of recent entries in the Josh Bullocks category.

Josh Beekman is the previous category.

Josh Freeman is the next category.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.