The Tribune's Bears columnist answers readers' questions about Mike Tice, pass blocking, Jason Campbell and that fake field goal.
By Dan Pompei, Tribune reporter
12:07 p.m. CDT, September 20, 2012
Everybody says great things about Mike Tice and his great coaching of the offensive line. Since he was hired three seasons ago our offensive line has been anything but great. It seems to me he's not all that. What gives? Gary M., North Highlands, Calif.
Trust me when I tell you Tice is an outstanding offensive line tutor. He gets the best out of his blockers. Sometimes, the best he gets out of them isn't good enough.
Can you tell me why the OL does not use cut blocks when pass blocking, especially when they are facing speed rushers? It seems like if J'Marcus Webb would have used a cut block a few times on Clay Matthews he could have slowed him down considerably. He would at least force him to jump or move to his side rather than having him just run right past him. Gary K.
Cut blocking is a technique the Bears coaches do not endorse except in select circumstances. Most NFL offensive line coaches prefer that their blockers stay on their feet, though there is a pocket of coaches to rely heavily on cut blocking. The big problem with cut blocking is the same problem with swinging for the fences. If you don't connect, you strike out. And the other problem is once you are on the ground, you are of little help to your team. Bears offensive linemen often are asked to come off their initial block and get to a second defender.
I know this is unorthodox but why not play Chris Williams next to J'Marcus Webb as an extra blocker on the left side occasionally in place of the tight end? That would still allow for four playmakers: three receivers and a back. Felipe M., Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco, Mexico
If the Bears did that on passing downs and I were an opposing defensive coordinator, I would keep an extra pass rusher on the field and overload the right side of the offense. That would either force the Bears to keep the back in to block, or leave the quarterback with about one second to get rid of the football. And it also would render Williams useless.
I am wondering if the answer to the Bears offensive line problem is to just ignore max protection and maybe do just the opposite. If they were in a max-attack-type offense I think Cutler would be able to find the open receiver and/or communicate with Brandon Marshall/Earl Bennett for hot reads. It seems too often when they only had two receivers in patterns Cutler was waiting too long for them to get open. Some of Cutler's best games were when he has had options to throw to, he can slide or even jump up to get the ball out to the open man. What do you think? Grant M.
I think what you suggest can be a part of the Bears offense, and it has been to a degree. But the Bears would not be able to make a living playing empty backfield with four or five wide receivers running routes. Part of the beauty of the Bears' personnel and schemes is the offense is somewhat unpredictable. To beat a good defensive coordinator like Dom Capers, you need to be able to do a number of things well, and do them at times when he isn't expecting you to do them. Playing the type of personnel groups and formations you suggest would make them highly predictable. It also would be a high risk approach. It would probably result in more big plays, but also more interceptions and more sacks.
Dan, over the years offensive lineman have been getting steadily bigger. I presume this was primarily aimed at improving run blocking. Yet today's game focuses on passing. Can you explain why tackles are gargantuan -- which I expect reduces their quickness and mobility -- when their greatest challenge appears to be pass blocking smaller and more mobile DEs and OLBs? Glen H., Monument, Colo.
A bigger offensive lineman may be less quick, but he still may be more difficult to get around because of his size and reach. The bottom line is the best offensive linemen in the league tend to be very large men. Smaller offensive linemen usually have deficiencies in terms of length and power that are difficult to overcome. Even if an offensive tackle were, say 6-foot-2, 280 pounds, it is likely he still wouldn't have anywhere near the athleticism of Clay Matthews or Julius Peppers. If he did, he'd be trying to sack the quarterback, not protect him.
Some talk in preseason was how Evan Rodriguez was going to be used to create mismatches with his speed over linebackers and safeties. Just wondering when we might start to see that or if at all? Isaiah, Hope, Minn.
We have to remember Rodriguez is a very inexperienced player with a lot on his plate. He basically is learning to play two positions. So I believe Bears coaches will take it slowly with him. Initially, his most important job is to block well, and he's done that. As time goes on, I expect he will be acclimating into the passing game more and more. But I definitely believe it will come.
I must be the minority here, but I didn't mind at all that Jay Cutler bumped J'Marcus Webb on the sidelines. I want my team leader to be fired up and get in guy's faces. What bothered me about Cutler is how he crumbled after that, throwing up prayers and seemingly not able to adjust to the Packers defense. This seems to be a bigger indictment of lack of leadership, would you agree? Rik, Chicago
True leadership isn't about what you say. It's about what you do. Show me a quarterback who gets the ball in the end zone, overcomes big odds and steps up in the clutch and I'll show you a leader.
Given the emergence of receiving tight ends in today's pass-happy NFL, what are the chances of the Bears trying to get Greg Olsen back? I've been following him ever since we traded him to Carolina, but he really hasn't done much there. Since run blocking seems ill-suited to his skill set, is there a chance the Bears could/would reacquire him on the cheap? Brandon H., Lansing, Ill.
From everything I've heard, the Panthers remain pretty high on Olsen and have no intention of trading him, let alone trading him without getting something of great value in return. Furthermore, tight end is not the problem with the Bears in my opinion. There are plenty of players to throw to. Would it be nice to have another weapon? Always. But this team has a problem on the offensive line that needs more immediate attention.
II think QB Jason Campbell was a great addition to the Bears but do you think it would be wise to try to trade him for another LT or any other significant upgrade to the OL since other teams still consider Campbell a starting QB. Brandon A., Wisconsin
If other teams still considered Campbell a starting quarterback, he'd be starting somewhere. Remember, he chose to come to Chicago as a backup because there was no interest in him as a starter. It is possible that at some point a team will become desperate for a quarterback because of an injury situation and come sniffing around about Campbell. But I could not see any team giving up a starting caliber left tackle for a quarterback who they are viewing as a band aid to get them through the season, especially since they obviously would be intent on winning this year. If anything, a team might offer a draft pick for Campbell. But I doubt the Bears would accept unless it was a lopsided offer in the Bears' favor. In the offseason the team decided it needed a better insurance policy against injury at the quarterback position. Nothing has changed that would make them believe they no longer need that insurance policy.
Since Lovie Smith took over Da Bears it seemed to me that the defenses had caused a lot of takeaways in the opponents' fourth quarter drives. Are these stats that are recorded? Chuck D., Guilin, China
Yes they are, Chuck. In the fourth quarters of games, the Lovie Smith Bears have had 50 interceptions. Only seven teams have more. And they have 31 fourth quarter fumbles recovered. That ranks second overall. So the Bears have 81 fourth quarter takeaways under Smith, which is third most in the NFL behind the Colts and Patriots with 87 and 86 respectively. In all four quarters, Smith's Bears have 273 takeaways, which is most in the NFL during his tenure in Chicago. They rank third in interceptions with 161 and second in fumble recoveries with 112.
Was the fake field goal by the Packers actually a good call? It worked, but on fourth and 26 what were the actual odds it would work? Smart or just lucky? @Quickjones81 (from Twitter)
It was brilliant because no one suspected it on fourth and 26. In fact, when they lined up for the field goal, I had already gotten up out of my seat to make a dash for the restroom at Lambeau. It was all or nothing for the Packers. If the Bears had sniffed it out, they would have tackled Tom Crabtree far short of a first down and taken over. But because teams usually don't attempt such fakes with little to no hope of getting a first down, the Bears went all in on trying to block the kick, and got burned. Of course there was a huge element of risk involved for the Packers. If the play had failed, we'd all be saying, "What the heck were they thinking?"
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Sounds like Larry's mailbag is mostly oline questions...
I had to laugh at some of those suggestions.
Trestman - Kromer - Tucker - DeCamillis
I'm looking forward to seeing these guys coach. Hope they're good.