First Look: 2011 Chicago Bears offense
First Look: 2011 Chicago Bears offense
By John Mullin
The Chicago Bears’ offense finished the 2009 season ranked 23rd in yardage and produced 319 points under then-coordinator Ron Turner. In 2010 the Bears dismissed Turner and all but two of his staff, brought in Mike Martz as coordinator and finished 30th in yardage, dropping to 28th in passing yardage, and totaled 310 points.
Not the direction the Bears had in mind, although they did score 24 or more in five of the seven games before meeting Green Bay and the NFL’s No. 2 scoring defense in the NFC Championship.
[READ: Part 1 - Coaching, draft, free agency]
The Bears did not stand pat last offseason and they won’t this year. The changes are not expected to be sweeping in terms of free-agent acquisitions or even the draft, but the 2011 Bears will differ markedly from the 2010 edition.
“In order to win 12 games in this league you have to have some power on the offensive side of the ball,” coach Lovie Smith said. “We made a lot of progress. As we look at our future -- what Matt Forte will be able to do this coming year, of an offensive line fighting through injuries, but to finish that way, our receivers, our quarterback -- I'm excited about the direction our offense is going.”
In the second in a four-part series, CSNChicago.com examines the position groups on offense and what is likely to play out in the months before the 2011 season opens:
Jay Cutler is set. Caleb Hanie is a restricted free agent and the only question there is level of RFA tender. The Bears have gone with two quarterbacks during recent seasons and likely would have last season had Hanie not suffered a shoulder injury in preseason.
“Jay led us to 12 wins,” Smith said. “We had a heck of a year. Finished short but we had a heck of a year. He’s our quarterback and done a lot of great things for us. I can’t wait for our future together with him leading our team.”
Matt Guiterrez was signed to a futures contract and should have a second training-camp stint with the Bears but Todd Collins muddied the waters as far as Mike Martz and a must-have veteran backup.
The organization will not rush into an extension for Forte, who had a career year in 2010 and has one year remaining on his rookie contract. But franchises like hungry players, Forte has had one super year but two OK ones, and the Bears will not be in a rush to do anything with Forte early.
One source told CSNChicago.com that Chester Taylor would be cut after his one disappointing year at huge money, and at 32, Taylor’s arrow is definitely not pointing up. But the team has paid him already and is not under money pressure at the position because Forte and Taylor combined are far below elite money.
Look for the Bears to bring in a veteran wide receiver, possibly one that will jump over Devin Hester or Johnny Knox and into the starting lineup. The Bears will be one of the teams looking at Plaxico Burress when his prison stint finishes, and others like Roy Williams from Dallas or the Jets’ Braylon Edwards will be under consideration.
But price will be a factor and the Bears are not going to overpay for less than a sure thing. They spent heavily for Muhsin Muhammed and got value as well as contributions to two playoff appearances. But while none of their current receivers is at an elite level, all have improved enough to keep this from ranking as a desperate need, particularly with the group moving with Cutler into the second year in a potentially explosive offensive system.
Greg Olsen developed into a serviceable all-around tight end and is entering a contract year. As in Forte’s case, however, the organization will not bid against itself for Olsen even though Brandon Manumaleuna contributes little beyond blocking and not even that at special levels.
Desmond Clark will leave Chicago with some mileage left, just no chance to use it under Mike Martz.
The 2010 Bears line achieved some cohesion after the midseason off week and had the same starting line of left tackle to right, Frank Omiyale-Chris Williams-Olin Kreutz-Roberto Garza-J’Marcus Webb.
It is entirely possible that none of those five will be in those positions to open 2011, and the result could be a significantly better offensive line. Spending as many as two of their first three picks on offensive linemen is possible depending upon the vagaries of free agency. The team is expected to add a veteran, likely a guard, to the mix of the starting five.
With a year of his own tape to watch on linemen running the new system, coach Mike Tice will make adjustments, possibly even radical ones.
Left tackle: The organization made a decision that it could and would live with the learning year for J’Marcus Webb. The result was sufficient evidence that the seventh-rounder is an NFL tackle, perhaps the best one on the roster. With his size and upside, the organization is expected to look at him first at the most critical line position.
“This league is so intricate now, so many different blitz packages, personnel packages, and fortunately he’s a good student, he’s very smart, and he’s got good veterans around him,” Tice said. “Roberto Garza, Olin Kreutz and Kevin Shaffer have taught him how to study.”
Omiyale survived at the position but not well enough to establish himself and he projects to be in the competition at right tackle.
Left guard: Williams performed the best of any suitor for this position last season but he was a right tackle for the early part of 2009 and is better suited for the outside. This is a need position and free agency will offer alternatives.
Center: Olin Kreutz has played through three contracts with the Bears, virtually unheard of in the current NFL. But he has not been extended and he’ll be 34 in June. The organization has Edwin Williams in reserve and can slide Roberto Garza from guard to center.
Right guard: Garza’s return from knee surgery was a turning point in ’10 and he will open at one of the interior three spots. Lance Louis was a disappointment when he had his opportunity and the team has to be satisfied as to whether he has learned how to play through minor injuries. The Bears were well served by Garza and Ruben Brown but guards have been supremely expensive in free agency.
Right tackle: Omiyale or Williams will be in a competition at that spot, along with veteran Kevin Shaffer, although Shaffer’s role has evolved into swing tackle over the past year.
How really significant is this position group? Consider: For all of the injuries sustained by key figures this season, four of the five offensive line positions for the Green Bay Packers had the same starter for all 19 games, including playoffs. The fifth was right tackle, and when veteran Mark Tauscher went down, his relief was Bryan Bulaga, the Packers’ No. 1 pick in the 2010 draft.
The 2006 Bears went to the Super Bowl with the help of an offensive line that saw four of five start all 16 games and the fifth, John Tait, start 17 of 19.
The 2010 Bears were 7-2 leading to the playoffs when the front five settled out with Omiyale-Williams-Kreutz-Garza-Webb. A significant focus of the OTA’s, training camp and preseason will be on clarifying the best five and getting it in place as soon as possible.
Those O Line comments are odd. I have never heard that Webb is moving to LT over Williams or OMG. Not that I necessarily disagree with it, just never heard it. He is reporting it as it is a done deal. Even throwing OMG and Willims into competition at RT.
Do they really think the Line can go through that much turmoil and still improve?? I guess if they land a couple of blue chippers in the draft, but that is a crap shoot at best with our high position in the draft.
yeah think more Mullin's own thought's- than anything with the team, have NEVER heard tice mention it, and until he does, think more about just a writer's opinion
Originally Posted by jnastorer
And IMO, Webb more the protypical RT, with the huge size for run blocking to the right side and size but not quickness for pas rush... not sure he has the quickess to play left size agains the faster DE's
and seems biggs doesn't think Webb is going to LT:
Bears positional analysis: Offensive line
Third in a 10-part series
If the offensive line wasn't the Chicago Bears' most scrutinized group during the 2010 season, it will be this offseason.
The Bears charged veteran coach Mike Tice with making a cohesive unit out of the assembled parts general manager Jerry Angelo collected over the last several years. With four of the same starters the team used during 2009, the Bears allowed 21 more sacks and the high-volume playbook of new coordinator Mike Martz is a big reason why.
In fact, there shouldn't be anything surprising about the sack total that Bears quarterback Jay Cutler took this season. It was right in line with what Martz's teams have done recently:
2010 Bears: 56 sacks
2008 San Francisco 49ers: 55
2007 Detroit Lions: 54
2006 Detroit Lions: 63
2004 St. Louis Rams: 50
The difference is Martz's offenses have not produced points like they did when he was in St. Louis. But pressure on the quarterback is a constant in the scheme. It's a timing-based offense and a lot of times the quarterback is asked to hold the ball until the last moment before he's hit.
Even though the sacks totals come with the territory with Martz, the Bears still need to invest in the line. It has to be a priority for Angelo, who traditionally has avoided using high draft picks on linemen. In nine drafts, Angelo has selected an offensive lineman three times in the first three rounds -- Chris Williams (Round 1, 2008), Marc Colombo (Round 1, 2002) and Terrence Metcalf (Round 3, 2002). Seven defensive linemen have been drafted in the first three rounds during Angelo's tenure, as he has relied heavily on shrewd free-agent additions on the offensive side of the ball.
While plenty of speculation focuses on guard Logan Mankins of the New England Patriots, it's unlikely the Patriots will allow him to leave without compensation. He will turn 29 next month and the best guess is New England will place the franchise tag on him if a long-term contract cannot be worked out. It would be surprising if Angelo decided to trade first-round picks for this year or next. Other options should be available but you don't find many anchors in free agency.
Roll call: Roberto Garza, Olin Kreutz, Lance Louis, Herman Johnson, Frank Omiyale, Kevin Shaffer, J'Marcus Webb, Chris Williams, Edwin Williams.
2010 overview: Tice made his first significant change upon arrival when he moved Frank Omiyale from left guard to right tackle, getting the 2009 free-agent signee on the outside where he was more comfortable. His second major move came at the start of the second week of training camp when Roberto Garza, who started every game at right guard from 2006 through 2009, was shifted to left guard. That moved was made to create a spot for Lance Louis, the 2007 seventh-round pick, at right guard. Louis got four starts and didn't necessarily cover himself in glory. He's powerful, physical and athletic, but got thrown into the mix before he was ready. When a minor knee injury forced him out Oct. 3 against the New York Giants, he never made it back into the lineup.
The real shuffling began in Week 2 when left tackle Chris Williams suffered a hamstring pull at Dallas. Omiyale flipped to his side and Kevin Shaffer was temporarily inserted at right tackle. Left tackle is the position Omiyale was most comfortable with from his days in Carolina and college. He got 14 starts there and while he's not headed to the Pro Bowl any time soon, he was adequate and better than some of the other options the Bears have tried over the last decade. Omiyale has long arms and he settled in as the season went along.
When Williams made it back, he was moved to left guard, a position he hadn't played since his sophomore season at Vanderbilt. He made 11 starts at guard and never looked completely comfortable. Williams might not have the base and power needed to play inside. That raises the question of what to do with him in 2011 because if Tice wanted him at tackle, he would have found a way to move him back there. What the plan is for him moving forward will be interesting to see.
Williams' injury and the shuffling of the line opened a spot at right tackle for seventh-round pick J'Marcus Webb. The Bears were high on him entering the 2010 draft because he possesses all the tools you look for in a tackle. Webb performed well at times and looked like an overmatched rookie at others. Of the collection of late-round picks from the last few years, he's certainly the project with the most upside in the eyes of the coaches. Webb needs to make a jump in Year 2, though. Martz gushed when talking about Williams. We'll see what's in store for him in the coming months.
Garza got back to his more familiar right guard position after arthroscopic surgery to repair a torn meniscus that he played on for 2 1/2 games. His return coincided with the offense improving after the off week, so it's fair to say they might have taken Garza for granted. Edwin Williams had a chance to play for three weeks after Louis went down but back spasms cost him. He's another strong, physical interior option but doesn't have a lot of experience, and when you collect a lot of sixth- and seventh-round picks, you often end up with a collection of fringe players. Ultimately, Edwin Williams might be an option at center, but it's difficult to envision him being prepared for that role in 2011.
Olin Kreutz returned from surgery to repair his Achilles tendon and was better than he looked in 2009 with more strength. He was one constant on the line over the course of the season but after 13 seasons he's an unrestricted free agent. Kreutz isn't the same player physically he once was but he's the undisputed leader of the locker room and the impact he has on the field as a leader can't be minimized.
Free agency/draft priority: In a perfect world the Bears would add two new starters to the mix, one a veteran and one a rookie who is ready to step in immediately. The Bears hold the 29th pick in the first round and there is no guarantee there will be a player who fits their needs available at that spot. Angelo says he hates to be held hostage to a position in the draft, but how is he not a hostage here? Mankins doesn't seem like a realistic option and while he'd be a huge upgrade for the Bears, he's angling for $8 million annually and guards don't win Super Bowls. Hopefully, the Bears can find one interior addition, one with the ability to play center, and a tackle. That's got to be their goal. It's the biggest priority of the offseason for a team that has struggled to draft offensive linemen.
Player to watch: Maybe it's perception, but it looks like the Bears consider Webb to have a higher upside than Williams, the 14th pick of the 2008 draft. How Webb develops with a full offseason, even if it's one that includes a lockout, will be interesting to watch. If he can make significant strides, maybe Tice has found a project that will pan out for the Bears.
Looking ahead: Kreutz probably will be brought back on a short-term contract. Garza drew big praise from Tice when the season ended and it's fair to imagine him being a part of the plan for next season. After that, there's Webb and a bunch of players who will be given chances to compete. One of the nice things about watching Tice work is he isn't afraid to try things. If something isn't working, he'll change the lineup in a heartbeat and that's not something all coaches will do. Shaffer likely will be cut loose, but this is more about who comes in than who leaves.
Bottom line: Angelo has his work cut out for him. The Bears assign one person to be a crosschecker for each position in the draft, an overseer if you will. Angelo has been that man for the offensive line. The draft is his baby and the line has been his position. It's time to produce.
Coming Thursday: Linebackers.
11. Todd Collins "led" us to the win over Carolina.
Originally Posted by dabears54
well the offense was ranked a stellar 30th in the league. It is nothing new for us we are used to it. Hello gm JA you see your offensive rankings since being the gm here well are offensive. It shouldnt take much to improve from 30th lets hope with a new scouting department we have a fighting chance
Knowing this doesn't make me feel any better. In Tice we hope (hope he tells Jerry to stay the hell away from the OL this year!).
Originally Posted by dabears54
actually that would be forte, collins didn't lead us to a thing,except maybe some hair pulling out..
Originally Posted by Jimmors
High Fives / Like - 1 BEAR DOWN!, 0 Dislikes
I know...hence my "air quotes"
Originally Posted by dabears54
Tumoil? they suck, and next year they will suck too. It's like an island village, with houses made of twigs. The flood is coming, and one of those twig houses might remain intact Might move downstream, but for all practical purpouses, it's intact.
Originally Posted by jnastorer
So, do you move into that twig house? After all, it did survive the storm.
Last edited by GlobeOfFrogs; 02-03-2011 at 12:11 PM.