By Dan Pompei, Tribune reporter
6:17 p.m. CDT, October 17, 2012
How do you think this year's defensive unit compares with the '85 Bears? -- Mike Litwin, Chicago
Let's not get carried away here. This is a good defense. It can't touch the '85 Bears though, which many regard as the greatest defense in modern NFL history. Remember a couple of things about the '85 Bears defense. First, every member of the starting lineup was in the absolute prime of his career with the exception of Gary Fencik, who was 31 at the time. Second, that defense had a cutting edge scheme that left opponents cross-eyed. The 2011 Bears have a scheme that is easy to figure out from a mental standpoint. Opponents, with the exception of the Packers, have not been able to physically beat it. If I had to pick a starting defense from among the 1985 Bears and the 2011 Bears, I might not pick a single member of the 2011 Bears. Julius Peppers is a fine player at 32, but 25-year-old Richard Dent had 17 sacks in 1985. Peppers' career high is 14.5, and that was four years ago. Brian Urlacher in his prime arguably was better than Mike Singletary, but 34-year old Urlacher wouldn't be better than 27-year old Singletary. If I were playing the Cover 2, I'd take Charles Tillman over Mike Richardson. But not if I were playing the 46 defense the Bears played in 1985. The hardest call might be Lance Briggs versus Wilber Marshall. Briggs is playing some of the best football of his life through five games. But Marshall was at the height of his game and one of the most athletic linebackers to ever play the game. Marshall was probably better for that scheme, and he likely would have been outstanding in the current scheme as well.
Do you think the Bears could win the Super Bowl? -- Orlando Nunez Jr., Chicago
Absolutely. Why couldn't they? I'm not saying they will win the Super Bowl. But they are certainly capable. They have had a Super Bowl caliber defense through five games. Their quarterback has the ability to get them there. They can run the ball and operate a diverse offense. They have a special return man. I don't mean to cop out on your answer, but at this point I would say most teams in the NFL could win the Super Bowl. No one can determine who will win the Super Bowl based on September and October. But the Bears have a better chance than many of their competitors. The only teams I would say that have no shot, based on what they have done up to now, are the Browns, Colts, Titans, Jaguars, Raiders, Chiefs, Panthers and Saints.
Unless he has a remarkable resurgence the likes of which I've not seen before, I can't see Brian Urlacher continuing to play after this season -- he just is not the same guy. Not even close. With that assumption (and it might be a huge assumption) along with Luke Kuechly looking like he's now "the guy" in the middle for the Panthers and making Jon Beason the odd man out. Is there a scenario where you see the Bears and Panthers making yet another trade in the offseason with Beason coming to the Windy City? -- Dave Bentley, Charlotte, N.C.
I think you are making a lot of assumptions with Urlacher. I would not be surprised if he makes progress and signs a new contract with the Bears. Remember he has a value to this team that goes beyond making tackles. His leadership is valued greatly by Lovie Smith. That being said, it's also not out of the question that this could be his last year in Chicago. And if the Bears have to replace him, their options may be limited. The group of middle linebackers with expiring contracts is not very enticing. A trade with the Panthers could make sense, though the Bears already are without third and seventh round picks for next year. This is a team that needs an infusion of young players, and trading away more draft picks for a linebacker who will be 28 years old might not be the best way to go. The decision the Bears might have to make at the end of the year is re-signing Urlacher or moving Nick Roach to middle linebacker and replacing Roach at strong side linebacker So even if Urlacher is not a perfect world option next year, he very well could be the Bears' best option.
With all the talk about Henry Melton getting a contract extension, why is there no talk about one for the best player on the other side of the line, Lance Louis? Louis has been the most dependable, consistent offensive lineman this season by far and should be a cornerstone for the future. Agree? -- Danny Jones, Iowa City, Iowa
Good point Danny. Just because we have not heard any talk about extending Louis' contract does not mean there hasn't been any talk behind closed doors. And even if the Bears have not spoken with Louis' agents about an extension, that does not mean they won't prioritize re-signing him before he hits the open market. The thing about Louis is he is a developing, emerging player. So it might make sense for all parties to wait until after the season to best gauge his value to the team. But he clearly is not a player the Bears should allow to leave. They can't afford to let a good offensive lineman walk after spending four years developing him.
Since Johnny Knox is a free agent after this year what are the chances the Bears will resign him even though he may never return to his pre-injury form or may never be 100 percent again? -- Vince Dance, Gary, Ind.
It's a good question and there are a lot of variables as to whether or not Knox has a future with the Bears beyond 2012. The first issue is his health. The second issue is determining his value. The third issue is whether or not there will be an outside market for his services. I'll say this though: the Bears have a lot of respect for Knox, what he has gone through and how hard he has worked to come back. They also know he is a fine player when healthy, and one of their own. If he can come back, I will be very surprised if the team does not make a reasonable attempt to keep him around.
You think Bears would take Denard Robinson in the draft as a RB/WR hybrid? -- @JamesInMI, from Twitter
Not as long as Devin Hester is around. We don't really know how the Michigan quarterback is going to shake out as a pro prospect yet because of his anticipated position switch, but my suspicion is he will be a very similar player to Hester. And you wouldn't need two players like Hester.
Is there any chance the Bears will look at Minnesota to find ways to utilize Devin Hester the way the Vikings are using Percy Harvin or take some plays from Green Bay and their utilization of Randall Cobb? They all seem to have the same skill set but the Vikings and Green Bay seemed to have figured out how to use their dynamic players, and if they haven't considered it can you please suggest they do so. Devin Hester taking direct snaps out of the backfield would be awesome. -- Isaac Sykes, Woodbridge, Va.
I'm sure the Bears have studied how the Vikings use Harvin and how the Packers use Cobb. These are three different players though. Harvin is much stronger and more difficult to tackle than Hester. Cobb has a better feel for the game than Hester. And Hester may be the fastest of the group. So you really can't use Hester quite the way the Vikings use Harvin or the way the Packers use Cobb.
I know the rumor around the league is that there is a shortage of starting-caliber quarterbacks, but I would beg to differ. Do you think the real shortage in the NFL is on starting caliber offensive linemen especially tackles. And this is not just a 2012 thing, this has been an issue for several years now, but for some reason it is coming more to light in this season. Here is a list of teams with playoff ability across the board except for at the O-line position: Patriots, Bears, Cardinals, Eagles, Cowboys, Steelers, Jets (not really a playoff team, but they could be better). Don't you think these QBs would fair a lot better if they got at least good protection? Maybe we wouldn't be so quick to give up on some young QBs if they could get a chance to just set and throw. Your thoughts? -- Siron Glover, Phoenix, Ariz.
I agree there is a shortage of starting-caliber offensive tackles. And there is a shortage of superior offensive tackles. But there also is a shortage of quarterbacks. The biggest problem is there aren't enough good players to stock 32 teams. But offensive linemen have not kept pace athletically with defensive linemen, which exacerbates the problem. This is what Giants general manager Jerry Reese told me about the phenomenon: "Offensive line play probably is not as good as it used to be because, more than ever, all the best athletes play defense. You see it at the combine. The height, weight, speed difference between the lines is pretty dramatic."
Last week at Jacksonville, Matt Forte had over 100 yards rushing and Brandon Marshall had over 100 yards receiving in the same game. When was the last time this happened with the Bears? -- Jim Bostler
It is a fairly uncommon achievement. Forte and Marshall are the first Bears teammates to have 100-yards rushing and 100-yards receiving in the same game since Thomas Jones (113 rushing) and Muhsin Muhammad (123 receiving) did it on Nov. 12, 2006 against the Giants.
Can you explain why every team has to have inactive players on game day? This rule has never made any sense to me. If you're healthy and on the roster, you should be able to play. There's no such rule in baseball or basketball. Do you know when this practice started and does the NFL have any official explanation for it? -- Carl Dreyer, Rock Island
There has been talk of doing away with the inactive list, but there is a purpose for it. It's a way for teams to carry injured players on their 53-man roster. If a team didn't have injured players and carried 53 healthy men, it would have an unfair advantage over a team with only 45 healthy bodies. So having an inactive list is a way to even the playing field. Having eight inactives also helps NFL teams develop and maintain younger players who might not be ready to play. The alternative to having eight inactives on game day probably would be a smaller roster size.