Dan Pompei's Bears mailbag
Dan Pompei's Bears mailbag
Who do you feel is the most important Bear currently, who they cannot win without? Why? Graham Hotard, from Twitter
I love this question. Last year, in hindsight without a doubt it was Jay Cutler. It may be again this year just because of how good he can be and the importance of the position he plays. But there is a difference this year. The Bears have a veteran behind Cutler who has had a degree of success in Jason Campbell. They should be able to overcome losing Cutler more easily than they did a year ago, when they fell to pieces and lost five straight games. If Campbell were a Bear in 2011, there is no way the Bears would have lost all five games. I guess they would have won three of them. Over the last two years in Oakland, Campbell was 11-7 as a starter. So if Cutler is not the most indispensible Bear, who is? Brian Urlacher could be. He is the Cutler of the defense. The depth at linebacker is OK, but there would be a huge dropoff without Urlacher on the field, both from a talent perspective and a leadership perspective.
Julius Peppers could be. Pass rush means everything to the Bears defense, and he is the only established pass rusher on the team who forces defenses to adjust to him. I think Shea McClellin should be pretty good pretty fast, but until I see it I'm not counting on it. Without Peppers on the field, it's likely the Bears would have to blitz way more than they are comfortable doing, and that would leave them vulnerable in coverage. And here is my surprise candidate: Brandon Marshall. He hasn't even played a snap yet, but already he means a lot to the Bears offense. Assuming Johnny Knox is out, the Bears' receiver corps would look very thin without Marshall. If you think Cutler or Urlacher or Peppers or Marshall was the most indispensible Bear, you would not be wrong. Each could be. Given the system the team plays, I would vote for Peppers.
I can readily see why Da Bears picked up Jason Campbell as Cutler's primary back up being a top free agent QB. And I understand his signing for the good financial rewards offered . What I don't get, why did they sign him to just a one year contract? Chuck D., Guilin, China
Because Campbell would not have signed a multi-year deal. Campbell's hope is that he can resurrect his career by looking good as a Bear. He wants to be a starter again. He knows it's probably not going to happen in Chicago. But if Cutler goes down and Campbell lights it up, Campbell could get a shot with another team.
Love your work with the Bears and the NFL in general. I noticed that you are a part of the NFL Hall of Fame Selection Committee and I was wondering what are the benchmarks for a Hall of Fame-worthy linebacker? I find myself defending Brian Urlacher's eligibility for the Hall of Fame when he retires. I'd like to know how you determine if he is worthy. What do you look for in a Hall of Fame linebacker? Thank you and continue the great work. Matt Ferguson
That is a difficult question to answer, Matt. The problem is hall of fame voters have to compare players from different eras, different systems and difference circumstances. So there are no specific benchmarks that I say -- if he has these, he is a hall of famer. Generally speaking, I'd ask this question: did he dominate? Did he make teammates better? Did he force opponents to change their gameplans because of him? Did he have sustained success? Those questions aren't always easy to answer either. But it's the job of a hall of fame voter to answer them.
Dan, can you tell me why offensive linemen can go an entire game without being substituted for but defensive linemen have to have a rotation in every game? Are the guys on the O-Line simply superior athletes than the guys on the D-Line? Jay Pyle, Twin Falls, Idaho
It has nothing to do with athleticism. It has to do with energy. Defensive linemen expend a lot more of it than offensive linemen on a given snap if they are doing their jobs right. Pass rushers have to go all out on every play. Offensive linemen usually are asked to move less. Defensive linemen frequently are subbed so they can stay fresh and a defense can continue an all out attack on the offense throughout the game. Another important point is offensive linemen are more tied into working with the men next to them than defensive linemen are. An offensive line would not function as well with players coming in and out of the lineup.
Every time I see the words "spinal fusion" I picture that play in which Johnny Knox was injured and cringe. I thought the guy who hurt him should have been tossed and fined. It certainly looked to me as if he drove through Knox with no regard for recovering the ball. It also defies logic how he could have expected to do what he did and not cause serious injury. It was either stupid or malicious, take your pick. I hope I am wrong about that last part. Do you have any thoughts on that aspect of the play? Greg Hack, Gurnee
I didn't think Anthony Hargrove did anything wrong on the play, and if anyone associated with the Bears thought Hargrove was out of line, I have not heard about it. Hargrove was diving for a loose football. What was he supposed to do, concede the loose ball to the Bears? You have to play football with a degree of reckless abandon. You can't play trying to avoid injuries. You have to play within the rules though. Hargrove did that. As an interesting sidebar to the story, Hargrove, who was with the Seahawks then, has been suspended for the first eight games of the season because he allegedly was one of the ringleaders of the Saints' bounty system when he was with the team in 2009 and 2010. Hargrove left the Seahawks in the offseason and now is a Green Bay Packer.
Will the Bears be able to consistently be able to go deep with the Knox's absence? David, from Twitter
Good question. I think the Bears will miss Knox' deep threat if he can't play. The only true speed receiver the team has is Devin Hester. People think of Brandon Marshall as a big play receiver, but his career average per catch is 12.6. That's lower than the career average per catches of Knox (16.6), Earl Bennett (13.4) and Hester (13.2).
We were led to believe that under the Mike Martz offense, once he called the play it had to be run, no matter how the defense was stacked, no audibles. Is that true? Under the Tice offense how much latitude will Cutler be given? Every great quarterback must be able to read defenses and audible when defenses are totally stacked against the play originally called.I came across a theory that said the three technique in Lovie Smith's position essentially requires one of the league's best defensive players--like Ndamukong Suh of Detroit. The only time the Bears' defense thrives or operates as it should, they are creating interior pressure. It's an interesting idea: Can the Bears really afford just an OK player at that position? I can't imagine anyone else playing that position the way Lovie wants, other than Suh. Darius J, Chicago
Would the Bears be better with a dominating three technique like Suh? Absolutely. Could they be a very good defense with a below average three technique? Doubtful. Can they be a very good defense with a good three technique like Henry Melton? Absolutely. It is a very important position in the Bears' scheme. But it depends what's around the three technique too. If you had 10 all pros at the other positions, you might not notice a lousy three technique.
Do you really think Chris Conte is up to the task to be a starter? Tony Bracken, Wheat Ridge, CO
Yes I do. I thought Conte played very well for a rookie and has the potential to play better. He has everything you want in a free safety, including a good feel for the game. He hasn't played enough to give a true picture on everything he can and can't do, but I like what I've seen so far.
Arguing on the internet is like winning the special olympics, even if you win your still messed up.
Restore the roar!
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Another good column by Pompei. Thanks for putting it up shorty.
Boy that question about who would be the toughest to lose is a hard on to answer. Normally I'd say Cutler but I think we'd still win ball games with Campbell even in the playoffs. A SB game? Probably not unless Campbell just played lights out. I don't think that could happen with as little experience as he'd have running the offense.
To me it would be Urlacher first and Pep second. Urlacher is the QB of that defense and we saw the effect of losing him a couple of years ago when he had that wrist injury and we had Hilly then. We have no one to backup him up now who I'd trust to do the job very well and MLB is a very key position in our defense. As a team we need to stay healthy this year but of all the players I think losing Urlacher would have the biggest impact.
His last statement about offensive lineman is spot on. No line can function well with a revolving door situation but that's exactly what we had last year. Three of the five guys who started in September were not in those positions in November. That's 60% of the line that needed to be replaced. No line would be at it's best under those circumstances.
Hester is capable of taking Johnny Knox place as a downfield threat but that's not as important in Cutler's passing game than controlling the deep middle and the zone for deep outs. Those are the passes he loves to make and those are the passes he shines on. With the size we've added to our receiving core that should be much easier to do.
Henry Melton is the best 3t DT we've had since Tommie Harris was in his prime. I'll take him over that nut job Suh everday of the week. Last year was his first playing that position and it usually takes a couple of years to master it yet he had 7 sacks last year which is a lot for a DT. Sporting News ranked him as one of the top 10 DT's in the NFL. I think if Paea gets more playing time next to him on passing down we'll have even better insider pressure than we did last year when the DT's got 13 sacks between them. Once you add Paea and McClellin to the mix on passing downs we become much better. You can't double team all of them and all four lineman are pretty damn quick and good pass rushers.
I look for big things from Conte this year. With an entire preseason to prepare he should be even better than he was last year and for a rookie that was pretty decent. I also think before the year is out Hardin will be starting in place of Wright.
I'm getting to that age where a lifetime warranty just doesn't mean as much to me anymore as an afternoon nap. Honey Badger Don't Care. Honey Badger Don't Give a Shit.
I would absolutely love to see a feel good ending to the Johnny Knox story, but I don't see good things happening there. Johnny - please prove me wrong!
To me it's Cutler.
And I'd like to see our starting safeties , whoever they might be, just stay healthy for an entire season and play solid fb.
What should you call any : Fumble , Hold , Interception , Three and out , or Sack ?
A " F.H.I.T.S " ? or a J'Marcus ?