Readers Q&A: Dan Pompei's Bears mailbag
Readers Q&A: Dan Pompei's Bears mailbag
On the NFL
4:37 p.m. CDT, May 29, 2012
With all the information we know about the many knee injuries to Matt Forte, if you were Phil Emery, would you offer him a long-term contract? Ben Mac Beth, Montreal, Quebec
Good question. In his column Sunday, David Haugh wrote that a source told him that a major sticking point in negotiations with Forte could be concern over how long Forte's knees will hold up. Forte's agent Adisa Bakari responded by saying it is absurd to question Forte's durability. I would look at it this way. Forte has been in the NFL for four years. He came into the league as a back with pretty high mileage on him out of Tulane. He has had three significant knee injuries that we know of. He plays a position that grinds up players. He is probably not going to be playing at the level he played at last year well into his 30s. Eventually, those knees are likely to be a problem. However, I would not expect his play would be seriously affected for the next three or four years, when he still is in his 20s. Virtually every NFL player who has been in the league awhile has some sort of physical problem. Often, one of the problems is a knee. But many still are able to maintain a high level of play. I don't think Forte's knee issues are a reason not to sign him to a long-term contract. But I do think knee issues are part of the big picture that helps define his value.
Why do the Bears draft so many linemen with bad knees? Did Gabe Carimi have knee surgery in college? Dan Robuck, Springfield
The Bears have drafted some linemen with bad knees because it's hard to find linemen with good knees. Anyone who plays the line for very long usually has some knee issues. Carimi had some knee issues in college, but many NFL teams thought his knees were fine and were not concerned about drafting him from a medical perspective.
Jay Cutler is one the highest-rated QBs in passes out of play-action rollouts. With the Bears being a solid running team, do you believe that Mike Tice will utilize this? During his time with Minnesota he did not utilize this but he also had a different kind of team with them. At Denver they rolled him out and used play action a lot, but for whatever reason Mike Martz did not implement this very often. Randy Wiesner, LaPorte, Ind.
Early indications are that the rollout and pocket movement will be a significant part of the Bears' offense. Of course, we've heard that song before. But Tice seems genuinely committed to take advantage of what his players do best. And the presence of quarterbacks coach Jeremy Bates, who worked with Cutler in Denver, also would appear to bode well for rollouts. Quarterback movement makes sense on two fronts: First, it will enhance Cutler's athleticism and ability to make plays on the move; second, it will help the offensive line in pass protection. It would be shortsighted not to utilize more quarterback movement.
Even though Jay Cutler has not been provided top-tier WR, OL and offensive scheme support in the past, it still does not address the fact that Cutler in past years has made many poor decisions in both the offensive and defensive red zones. In addition, Cutler's overall offensive rankings are middle-of-the pack in the NFL. The question is: Do you really think that Cutler will move into the elite QB status with Tom Brady, the Mannings and Drew Brees and will he ever be able to hold up a jock strap with the super greats of all time like Joe Montana? Dahlillama, San Francisco
I doubt that Cutler ever will be mentioned with quarterbacks like Tom Brady, Peyton Manning and Joe Montana. But I also doubt that he has played his best football. I still expect him to get better. And he was playing at a very high level last fall before getting hurt. He undoubtedly would be further along had he not been forced to change offenses four times in four years, including the current change. Look at it this way: Cutler just turned 29. Brees started to be considered a great quarterback when he was 29, in his second season in New Orleans. It is not completely uncommon for quarterbacks to take their game to a higher level at the age Cutler is now. Most of the Hall of Fame-caliber quarterbacks start to show Hall of Fame potential earlier in their careers, however.
About six years ago, J'Marcus Webb was regarded as one of the best OTs in the country -- in high school. He ran into academic trouble in college and ended up with about two years of solid experience, which resulted in his being picked low in the draft. Apparently, Mike Tice saw something special in this young man and entrusted him with the responsibilities of RT and LT in consecutive years. Should we be giving up on J'Marcus so quickly? James Westbrook, Chula Vista, Calif.
Last I checked in OTA practices, Webb was the starting left tackle of the Bears. So no one is giving up on him so quickly. The Bears are sticking with him and giving him another chance to prove he should be in the lineup. But Webb needs to play better than he did one year ago. I'd say this is somewhat of a make-or-break season for him.
How much have the new additions added to the strength of the Bears, especially in terms of starters? Has anyone been added who is likely to be a day-one starter other than Brandon Marshall? Or have the signings been more about strengthening the team as a whole due to the key losses to Cutler and Forte last season? Mark Duxbury, from Facebook
Things may change, but from the looks of it now, the Bears will have two starters in 2012 who weren't on the team in 2011: Marshall and Shea McClellin. I would give Kelvin Hayden a chance at starting as well. But you are right: Most of the offseason acquisitions were made to improve depth and help special teams. There is no doubt this is a deeper team than it was a year ago. That's significant not only in terms of replacing injured players, but also in terms of being able to increase competition for jobs, deploy sub packages and use players in waves.
I read that Dom DeCicco is filling Brian Urlacher's role at MLB with the starters during Urlacher's absence. Can we interpret this to mean that the Bears brass envisions DeCicco as the heir apparent when Urlacher decides to hang up his Bears cleats? They're the same height, but Urlacher has a good 30 pounds on him. Between Urlacher's final college game and going to the NFL draft combine in 2000, he was able to pack on an additional 20 pounds and has stayed at that weight essentially ever since. So, adding on that kind of bulk is not out of the question. Am I reaching here? Dave Bentley, Charlotte, N.C.
It is way too early to determine if DeCicco can be the heir apparent to Urlacher. He isn't even the backup to Urlacher. If Urlacher were injured, the Bears middle linebacker would be Nick Roach. But DeCicco is taking the snaps at middle linebacker in OTAs while Urlacher is out. DeCicco is a developmental player who doesn't have anywhere near the kind of physical ability Urlacher has. But the Bears like him because he has good instincts, toughness and ball skills. He has put on some weight since the Bears signed him, and he has the ability to put on more. But he'll always look small next to Urlacher.
I was wondering if anyone had made a comparison between Alshon Jeffrey and Anquan Boldin. Both are second-round picks who had short college careers. Boldin had Larry Fitgerald on the other side of him (though not during his spectacular rookie year, I don't think), and Jeffrey will have Brandon Marshall. Jeffrey is a little taller and faster than Boldin, but both seem to have very good hands. Rookie receivers can have a hard time adjusting. Boldin might have had the best rookie receiver season in the modern NFL, but even 1000 yard rookie receivers aren't terribly common. What are reasonable expectations of Jeffrey this year? Chris Goodacre, Sugar Grove, Ill.
I have not seen that comparison and would not make it. Jeffery and Boldin are not the same kind of player physically, and they don't have the same type of football character. I also would not expect that Jeffery will produce anywhere near as much as Boldin did as a rookie. Boldin was considered more NFL-ready than Jeffery. I think you are going to have to be patient with Jeffery and let him learn and adjust to the pro game.
I know that the inexperience in the safety position played a role in having Chris Conte or Major Wright or both play a little more deep than usual. Do you see them going with that strategy more this year in an effort to keep the big plays under control but limiting their chances to make plays or vice versa? Robert Joseph Boers, from Facebook
I would envision most teams playing safeties deeper in passing situations, because the big play on offense never has been a more significant part of the game. Unless you don't mind giving up numerous downfield throws, you have to play a little conservatively with the safeties. It also helps to have some speed at the position, and the Bears have that with Conte and Wright.
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To Dan of Robuck, Springfield who asked why the Bears draft so many lineman with bad knees? Its so rare to find any college lineman that hasn't had some type of knee injury or leg injury. When you play football its going to happen at some point.