Schedule still favors Chicago Bears
Even without Jay Cutler at quarterback, the Chicago Bears should be able to get through the next month in decent shape.
Chances are Cutler will be back next week, and Chicago will still have a chance to be 6-2 when it gets set to take on Minnesota at home on Nov. 14. With Todd Collins in there, the Bears had better still be looking at a 5-3 or 4-4 record headed into the Vikings matchup.
Their next four opponents are a combined 4-12, with two of them (Carolina and Buffalo) still searching for win No. 1.
Now just because it looks like a nice, smooth road doesn’t mean the Bears will ride it to wins. If they play the way they did last week, they could very well go 3-5, too.
Collins not worried about line
Todd Collins, the starting quarterback for the Bears this week, is trying not to think about whether or not the offensive line — the one that got Jay Cutler sacked nine times, and concussed, last week against the Giants — can plug up the holes this week.
“If you’re thinking about the protection and the offensive line, I’ve got a lot better things to worry about than that because you simply can’t control it,” Collins said. “I’m going to let those guys do their job and I’m going to try and do mine and get that ball to the playmakers.”
Hanie staying positive, ready for action
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Caleb Hanie would like to be on the field Sunday, but the third-year quarterback is keeping a positive attitude towards the Bears' decision to start Todd Collins on the road against the Carolina Panthers.
"I'm just one spot closer to being in the field," Hanie said Thursday. "I just got to be ready. I still have to prepare like I'm going to go in and play in the game like I do every week."
Hanie, Jay Cutler's backup in 2009, will be listed as the No. 2 quarterback against the Panthers, and is therefore expected to see slightly more action at practice this week.
"With Jay not practicing, I'll get more throws to the receivers and stuff during individual drills," Hanie said. "But we usually give the starter all the reps with the offense because odds are he's going to play the whole game, unless something happens. We want him to be as ready as possible and get all the looks he needs to start the game.
"I'll be getting a lot more scout team reps that Todd and I usually split, so it'll be good to be able to work a little more on my footwork."
After Collins left the New York game with a stinger, Hanie performed well in one series of play, completing three of four passes for 36 yards. Bears offensive coordinator Mike Martz, however, prefers Collins over Hanie because of the experience factor. Collins, a 16-year NFL veteran, has played in 48 career games while making 20 starts.
"Todd is a guy who has played a great deal and won," Martz said. "He's played exceptionally well at this level, and we know what he is. He demonstrated that in the preseason that he can play at a high level. Very excited about Caleb and where he is. Caleb could easily be No. 2 right now.
"But because of experience and being in this competitive situation and knowing how to respond and manage the game ... these would be things a little new for Caleb. We know, at least I feel good about Todd in those pressure situations and would anticipate him managing the game very well and playing very well."
Ditka: Bears still can win without Cutler
October, 7, 2010 Oct 7
Mike Ditka joined "The Waddle & Silvy Show" on ESPN 1000, as he does every Thursday, and he talked about what the Bears' offensive linemen have to do to improve.
Ditka acknowledged the importance of technique, but he said there's one ingredient that's even more important.
"I just think tenacity," he said. "You have to be nasty. You have to want to thump the other guy. It's a personal thing. You can't get passed me to the quarterback."
Click here to hear the rest of Ditka's interview.
Rookie Clausen improving with time
By John Mullin
The Bears have not lost to a rookie quarterback since Atlanta’s Matt Ryan engineered a devastating (to the Bears) comeback and victory in 2008. They face one Sunday in former Notre Dame thrower Jimmy Clausen, the Carolina Panthers’ second-round pick in this year’s draft.
Clausen has improved each of the last two weeks since succeeding Matt Moore as the starter. He posted a 90.6 passer rating in last weekend’s loss to the New Orleans Saints. The Carolina offense scored just one touchdown in each of the first three games so the 14 points it produced with Clausen was a statistically significant uptick.
“He’s young,” said linebacker Lance Briggs, who might as well have been describing the Panthers as a group, with 30 players of three or fewer NFL seasons. “Obviously, he’s going to be a good quarterback in this league but he’s got a learning curve to go. He’s in this league for a reason.”
But while Clausen may be in the NFL for a reason, running backs DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart are in the NFL for lots of reasons. Thousands of them in fact.
Both rushed for more than 1,100 yards last season and combined for 2,250. In 2008 they produced 2,351. As they go, so probably does Clausen.
“With them, it starts with that running game.,” said defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli. “That takes the pressure off their quarterback. They’ve got really a fabulous running game. So we’ve got to make sure we’re on top of that.”
A player to be named later….
Teams being forced to go three-deep on the quarterback depth chart the way the Bears were last Sunday is rare. Jay Cutler won’t play at Carolina, leaving the order of battle Todd Collins, Caleb Hanie and ….
Lovie Smith held course and refused to divulge who the No. 3 option would be. “If both our quarterbacks go down,” Smith said when questioned, “we won’t forfeit the game, how’s that?”
On the line
Rookie J’Marcus Webb is working as the right tackle with the No. 1 unit and appears ticketed to start against Carolina. Coaches like the luxury of Kevin Shaffer’s ability to slide into any one of four spots on short notice rather than being set at right tackle…. Right guard Lance Louis (knee) was listed as full participation in practice….
Left tackle Chris Williams is not yet testing his injured hamstring in practice but was in a helmet and working with the training staff in controlled drills off to the side….
Like Webb's size, and he did not look out of place last week at all. He engaged well, but like most rook's did struggle with the speed rusher at times. As webb practiced with the #1's yesterday, would not be suprised at all if he starts at RT- he's been a Tice fave all of campJ'Marcus Webb is a possibility to replace Kevin Shaffer at right tackle. Both players were worked in against the Giants, and Webb has been getting opportunities here and there as line coach Mike Tice continues to search for the right combination.
Panthers hoping to cash in against sack-prone Bears
The sacks were coming at such a furious pace, Everette Brown did not have time to see what Chicago was doing wrong when he watched the Bears give up 10 sacks last week in a loss to the New York Giants.
Brown, the Carolina Panthers' second-year defensive end, just knows he wants to see more of them Sunday when the Panthers face a Bears' offensive line that was overmatched in the 17-3 loss to the Giants.
"You have to get excited. Nine sacks in the first half, you don't see that - not even at the college level," Brown said Thursday. "You're preparing for a team that has given up a lot of sacks, you just have to look for those keys, those pre-snap reads ... so you can get up the field and get the quarterback."
The Giants set an NFL record with the nine first-half sacks and knocked quarterback Jay Cutler from the game with a concussion. The Bears announced backup Todd Collins, a 16-year NFL journeyman, will make his first start in three years Sunday against the Panthers.
Collins, 38, has attempted only 16 passes since starting three games for Washington in 2007. His only season as a starter was with Buffalo in 1997, when the Bills finished 6-10.
"He's a veteran guy. He's been around the game a long time, knows how to play the position," Panthers coach John Fox said. "Whoever they put at quarterback, they're going to run their system and play within what they do
The Bears' system is similar to the one offensive coordinator Mike Martz ran when he was head coach at St. Louis from 2000-2005 - a vertical passing game that produces big plays but subjects his quarterbacks to a lot of hits. Collins followed Cutler to the bench against the Giants after sustaining a stinger.
Panthers 'pups' to grow fast
Receivers coach says he's pleased with his young players' progress. With Smith out, three rookies and new addition Clowney will be asked to pick up slack.
The Carolina Panthers know they're going into this week's game without their big dog, but wide receivers coach Tyke Tolbert said Thursday he's not intimidated by playing his "puppies" either.
With star wideout Steve Smith expected to miss several weeks with a high ankle sprain, the Panthers are down to Tuesday pickup David Clowney and three rookies: David Gettis, Brandon LaFell and Armanti Edwards.
There hasn't been a rookie quarterback to start with two rookie wideouts since 1999, but Tolbert said he's encouraged enough by the progress of his young corps to think they're capable of good things.
"These guys are like fresh puppies," Tolbert said with a grin. "They're ready to learn and go out there and they're bright-eyed and bushy-tailed in meetings. They're full speed on the field.
"I like teaching young guys; that's what I do."
Of course, puppies are also known to make a mess on the rug.
"Sometimes they do," Tolbert said with a laugh. "And you clean it up and go onto the next play."
So far this season, the passing game has struggled through a quarterback change and a lack of production outside.
Of the rookies, Gettis, a sixth-rounder from Baylor, has been the standout. He has taken over the starting job opposite Smith, and has seven catches for 87 yards. The most impressive was a fourth-and-4 toe-tapper for a first down late in last week's loss to New Orleans.
"I feel more comfortable now," Gettis said. "Now, I don't know everything, so it's still a process of me learning. But that's what you do out there, learning in a game situation."
That he rose to the starting lineup ahead of the two third-rounders is an indication of how far he's come in a short time.
"Gettis has one speed, that's full speed," Tolbert said. "He's always been a big, fast, physical guy. He's not as experienced, but he's doing what he's supposed to do every single day. That's why he's gotten better.
"His ceiling is so far up there."
The Panthers also think the more physical LaFell and Edwards, a converted quarterback, will also give them options in the future.
They just don't know when.
History hasn't been kind to receivers in their first year in the NFL. While there are exceptions such as Marques Colston, Anquan Boldin or Randy Moss, the majority of wide receivers take years to become productive playmakers.
Between 2005 and 2009, 164 receivers were drafted. Of that group, only 47 caught at least 20 passes in their rookie season (28.7 percent), and only five (3.0 percent) caught at least 60.
Tolbert said he thought the biggest adjustment they had to make was mental, as the increasingly technical nature of NFL defenses could rattle even the most polished youngster from the biggest program.
The increasing prevalence of the spread offense in college has also hurt receivers in developing their route-running.
"The defenses at this level are much more complex than it is in college," Tolbert said. "And depending on which college you come from it's even more complex, because if they come from smaller colleges that don't see a whole lot.
"There's new terminology, a new way of doing things. All those things factor in to guys at that position having a slower time developing."
At least the Panthers receivers have the luxury of learning alongside their quarterback, as fellow rookie Jimmy Clausen has been spending extra time with them since he took over Week 3.
"It just means we have to watch more film, and when we go to practice we have no veterans to lean on now," Edwards said. "We get together on our off days to watch film together. By doing that, we can get on the same page better."
They brought in Clowney. 25, this week, but Gettis said the role typically played by a veteran player is mostly picked up by Tolbert, along with Smith when he's not in the training room.
Now they just need time.
"It's definitely a loss not having Steve out there," Clausen admitted. "He's a veteran guy with a group of rookie receivers. At the same time, we can't keep looking back and saying, 'Steve's not out there, what's going to happen next?'
"Those guys are going to have to go out there and make plays. "
panther view of peppers:
Peppers clears the air
Throughout his eight years with the Carolina Panthers, Julius Peppers never had much to say.
But Peppers got a couple of things off his chest Wednesday, questioning his former team's handling of his offseason departure and claiming Panthers officials never informed him they would not re-sign him.
Peppers, the Pro Bowl defensive end who signed a six-year, $91.5 million deal with Chicago in March, took the high road for most of a 20-minute conference call with Charlotte-area media while discussing his first game at Bank of America Stadium with a visiting team Sunday.
But near the end of the call, Peppers took a couple of shots at the organization that drafted him with the second overall pick in 2002 after he starred in two sports at North Carolina.
Peppers, who conceded his decision to leave was mutual, said his lone regret was that his time in Charlotte ended a "little sour."
Asked to elaborate, Peppers said he thought the Panthers could have shown him more respect on his way out.
"I don't have a problem with them saying, 'OK, the lockout is coming up. The future of the league is uncertain, and we're going to go in a different direction. We're going to do away with anybody who was making any significant amount of money, and we're going to keep young guys,' " Peppers said. "That's a business decision. I can understand that and respect that. I don't have a problem with that.
"The problem that I had was that they tried to turn the tables to make it look like I wanted out, no matter what. And really, I didn't have the option to stay because it was never offered to stay. So that's the thing when I say it ended a little sour, I felt like it could have been a little more respectful."
Peppers said he exchanged text messages with Panthers coach John Fox, and his agent, Carl Carey, spoke with general manager Marty Hurney. But Peppers said he never spoke directly with Hurney or Fox.
"At least a phone call to say, 'Hey, it's been good. We're going a different direction. We're going to let you go.' They couldn't even give me that," Peppers said. "So that's why I say it was a little sour."
In an interview last week, Hurney said the Panthers twice made offers that would have made Peppers the NFL's highest-paid defensive player.
Peppers disputed that claim without going into specifics.
Carolina placed the franchise tag on Peppers prior to the 2009 season, when he had the most lucrative salary in the NFL at $16.7 million. Peppers earned an additional $1.5 million for making the Pro Bowl for the fifth time.
The Panthers elected not to use the franchise tag on Peppers again this year when it would have cost them at least $20.1 million.
Hurney said in a statement Wednesday that Peppers gave the Panthers "eight great years and we appreciate everything he did for us."
Fox said he expects to talk with Peppers before the game Sunday.
The 6-foot-7 Peppers collected 81 sacks from 2002-09. Only the New York Jets' Jason Taylor (88) and Indianapolis' Dwight Freeney (84) had more during that period.
But Peppers, who still owns a house in Mooresville, often was criticized for taking plays off with Carolina.
"If people look at the numbers and stop making up stuff about how I played, you'll realize I've done well and I think I really over-achieved. Not over-achieved, but exceeded past expectations when I was brought to that team."
Peppers is off to a good start with the Bears, who have used Peppers at either end. Though he has just 11 tackles, Peppers has five quarterback pressures and two sacks, one of which has sidelined Detroit quarterback Matthew Stafford with a shoulder injury for at least four games.
Peppers also has forced two fumbles and blocked a field goal for the 3-1 Bears. He said the winless Panthers remain formidable, calling DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart the league's best tailback tandem.
"That 0-4 record they have doesn't really speak to how that team is playing," Peppers said. "I know those guys. I know the character of those guys and how they play, and how they're being coached."
Peppers stays in touch with several players and enjoyed his years with the Panthers, other than the exit.
"Overall, the experience was great - with the fans, with the coaches, with the city, everything," he said. "Everything was great there. It just ended a little sour."
Here's hoping Collins can prove all the naysayers wrong, including myself. I still think other than the experience factor, Hanie brings more to the table.