Biggsy's Mailbag

Discussion in 'Chicago Bears' started by BradMustersGhost, Nov 9, 2013.

  1. BradMustersGhost

    BradMustersGhost Veteran

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    Enjoy, fellas. As usual, Biggsy provides some good info.

    http://www.chicagotribune.com/sport...s-biggs-mailbag-20131107,0,6157922,full.story

    I've seen a lot of praise for Marc Trestman's decision to go for it on fourth down in the fourth quarter and deservedly so. My question may be a hindsight-bias issue, but do you think Trestman should have challenged the spot of the ball as opposed to taking a timeout before going for it? Television camera angles seemed to show a bad (or at least questionable) spot on third down and the Bears used a timeout anyway. If you challenge, worst case scenario is you lose a timeout, but you could possibly save the timeout and get the first down without the risk of going for it. I know it's a tough decision to make in the moment, but it seems like a slightly better option. -- Ben G., Baltimore

    This was the most popular question in the mailbag this week, by far. Hindsight certainly does bring things into focus for us, there is no question about that. The decision Trestman made was a pivotal one and you can only wonder how things would have played out for him if Matt Forte had not picked up the first down. But it worked out well. Trestman was asked about challenging the spot of tight end Martellus Bennett, who fought through three defenders to gain eight yards on the previous play. Quarterback Josh McCown told me it was the play of the game, in his mind, as Bennett broke free from cornerback Casey Hayward before finally being brought down by safety Morgan Burnett and defensive lineman Datone Jones.

    “The guys upstairs said, ‘Don’t even challenge it. We’re not going to get the spot,’” Trestman said on Wednesday. “That doesn’t mean I couldn’t have or shouldn’t have, I just decided not to. From my perspective, I couldn’t tell how close it was, so I had to trust the guys upstairs, and they were right. Not by much, but they were right.”

    After the fact, Trestman thinks the assistants in the coaches’ booth made the right recommendation.

    "From the TV perspective, I did,” he said. “From my perspective on the sideline, there was no way for me to know whether he was three yards, two yards, one yard from the spot. The guys said off the tape they thought there was clear indication that he was down.”

    I think it is important to keep in mind that officials are often hesitant to change the spot of a ball on a challenge. In my opinion, it seems like a call has to be way off for the referee to make a change. Now, had Trestman known he was going to need a little time to make the decision to go for it -- originally it looked like the Bears would punt -- certainly challenging the call would have made sense. But he was processing a lot of information in that brief period of time and the Bears wound up using a timeout to come to a final decision on what they would do. It worked.

    Do the Bears give Jay Cutler more time to heal with Josh McCown playing as well as he has and how long do they ride the hot hand? -- @steveoatms from Twitter

    Certainly that is one train of thought that many people have suggested. But Cutler will likely participate in at least portions of Thursday’s practice and you cannot rule out the possibility he starts on Sunday against the Lions. McCown has played extremely well in his absence as the offense has scored 51 points in six quarters and he has not committed a turnover. But there is no “hot hand” debate here. When Cutler is deemed physically ready to play, he’s the starter. Period. Brandon Marshall, among others, says that will happen Sunday.

    To what do you attribute the improved pass rush that the defensive line showed Monday night? Was it a scheme thing or did they just come to life? I understand the Packers offensive line is dinged up and have had to do some shifting of positions, but to the tune of five sacks? I am hoping that this is something that the Bears can continue with, because in my mind, it's the only way they are going to be able to get off the field on third down and ultimately have a legitimate playoff hope. -- Jason, Moline, Ill.

    You hit on some valid points there. I think the pass rush was directly tied to the success on third down as Green Bay converted just one of nine opportunities and that has been an area where the defense has really struggled. But defensive coordinator Mel Tucker isn’t going to tell you there was some scheme adjustment. The Bears came out and they executed. You’re right, the Packers have faced injuries on the offensive line and they lost talented guard T.J. Lang to a concussion early in the game, forcing more moves. You shouldn’t underestimate the loss of quarterback Aaron Rodgers either. Four of the sacks came against backup Seneca Wallace and I don’t believe the Bears would have fared quite as well against Rodgers, who is so good at getting rid of the ball quickly.

    “I think it was a combination of rush and coverage working together,” Tucker said of the successful pass rush. “That was huge. Guys have worked extremely hard with the coaches in terms of their rush and the technique and the get-off and the pad level.”

    Now, the Bears have to carry over the pass rush into Sunday’s game against the Lions because that is the first thing needed to corral Calvin Johnson.

    With the problems in the secondary should the Bears consider having Charles Tillman move to free safety and insert Isaiah Frey into starting cornerback role? If not, what are other options? I know some of the problems stem from the defensive line and linebacker lack of production but there is still no excuse for missed tackles and poor technique. -- Kash K., Frisco, Texas

    This was a popular topic several years ago when Lovie Smith was operating a carousel at the safety position. I’ll repeat now what I said then: Moving Tillman from cornerback to safety is going to make the defense weaker at a more important position. Cornerbacks are more important to the success of the defense than safeties. If you have any doubt about that, follow the money trail. Which position gets paid more? This isn’t a move the Bears would consider in-season, either. It’s not as simple as taking a guy and sliding him from one position to the next. There are some legitimate durability concerns with Tillman right now and moving him to safety would only heighten those issues, in my opinion. I don’t know if Frey will project as a possibility on the outside for the Bears in the future. The other options are Craig Steltz and Anthony Walters and barring a dramatic shift in the thinking of the coaches, I don’t think a change is coming this week. But I’ve been wrong before. Steltz would probably be the one to get a shot but he lacks the range of Conte. If the Bears had Major Wright and Steltz at safety, it would create some issues in pass coverage. Conte has made too many mistakes in recent weeks but he’s got more upside than Wright and he’s also signed through next season unlike Wright, who will be an unrestricted free agent after this season. I sense the Bears are hoping Conte shakes out of a slump and begins to play more consistently. He was never in a funk like this for an extended period in the past. He’s got the measurables you would like in a free safety. I think confidence is an issue for him right now. That’s a tough thing to deal with as the last line of defense.

    I was really surprised in your previous mailbag when you didn't list Charles Tillman as one of the most important free agents to re-sign. He's only the best defensive back this franchise has ever had in 90-plus years. I know the plan on defense is to get younger but I don't see how letting Tillman walk after this year makes the Bears a better team considering not only what a great player he still is on the field but also what a great leader, teammate and person he is off the field. I think he still has three good years left and just like Brian Urlacher he should retire a Bear. -- Mike F., Ava, Ill.

    I believe I listed a few players and made the point that it was a long list of players that were coming out of contract. Tillman is on that list. He has been a terrific player for the Bears since arriving in 2003 but his place in franchise history (and the Bears have had some terrific safeties over the years in Dave Duerson, Gary Fencik and Richie Petitbon) has nothing to do with considerations for a contract. Players are paid for future performance not past performance and there is no time to be sentimental when roster decisions are being made or deals are being negotiated. That’s just not the way it works in the NFL. Tillman has been battling a right knee injury all season and while he’s been remarkably durable throughout his career, he’s showing wear and tear this season. He’s slowing down. It’s hard to advocate getting younger on defense while also pushing for a player who will be 33 this offseason to be re-signed. I’m not saying the Bears will not make an effort to bring Tillman back. It is certainly a possibility but the Bears are going to have to see where he is at when the season is over before they explore the matter. Tillman will have decisions to make himself because he will be an unrestricted free agent and that makes it a two-way street. He played very well the last couple seasons for the Bears to keep him at $8 million this season. Teams are wary of cornerbacks as they get older because one day they just can’t run anymore. In a Cover-2 scheme, Tillman can probably be effective for a few more seasons if his knee issue can be resolved. But at what price? These are questions for the offseason.

    Why in the world is Eric Weems the blocker on the punt team? Isn’t it usually someone who is much bigger (linebacker)? I ask that knowing that I don’t believe he was responsible for the blocked punt but I found it odd that he is back there anyway. -- Mike R. from Twitter

    You are referring to the personal protector. A lot of teams will go with a defensive back in this position and the key trait here is having someone mobile that can move into position to pick up a block. Former special teams coordinator Dave Toub used running back Garrett Wolfe in this role and Weems is bigger than him. The personal protector also needs to be someone fast to get downfield and cover because often he will not be blocked at the line of scrimmage and you want a player that can take advantage of this.

    The constant criticism of the safeties puzzles me. Yes, the Bears defense gave up huge yardage to the Packers, but didn’t Eddie Lacy have to go past the defensive line and the linebackers to get to the safeties? -- Ted T., Wadsworth, Ill.

    Chris Conte and Major Wright have not played well in the last two games. With an off week between facing the Redskins and Packers, it created more room for criticism of them. You make a valid point. The Packers rolled up 199 yards rushing and that is more of statement about the performance of the front seven than it is safeties or secondary. But Conte and Wright both made glaring errors on long runs and Conte was also out of position on the longest pass of the night to Packers wide receiver Jordy Nelson. I don’t think these players were atrocious before the game at Washington, but they’ve made high-profile mistakes in the last two games and that is what is most recent in everyone’s memory. The pass rush that was non-existent in the first seven games was a much bigger problem overall. We’ll see if Conte and Wright can rebound in the games to come. If they don’t play better Sunday, Calvin Johnson could put up some big numbers. Here is what defensive coordinator Mel Tucker said about the safeties on Wednesday:

    “I think we made progress in some areas,” he said. “Our third down was better and that was huge. Our mental errors were down. Our missed tackles were actually down and we had more guys to the ball. That’s something that you have to do to get better. That was a huge point of emphasis -- those things. The guys came out very determined during the week of preparation and it just carried over to the game.”

    I know there are a lot of questions regarding switching to 3-4 and a lot was made of Mel Tucker adapting to the Bears’ existing scheme. But if there was a change to be made, what kind of defense would Tucker install? Does he have a signature defense that has a specific scheme or attacking personality? Because it would worry me if he was just the type that could go along with anything as opposed to having a “Mel Tucker Defense.” -- John, Ann Arbor, Mich.

    Tucker doesn’t strike me as the kind of guy who is going to proclaim he’s got his own “signature” defense but I understand what you are getting at here. I think the best coaches adapt to the personnel they have and play to the strengths of the players on the roster. So, the best coaches have flexibility with what they do. Tucker has worked in a variety of schemes before and he can’t be pigeon-holed as being a guy who runs a certain scheme. I don’t think a shift to a 3-4 is coming next season. Maybe the Bears will consider some changes to what they do after the season but it’s got to start with the players they have.

    Do you think the Bears would look at Nnamdi Asomugha to either play nickel cornerback or change him to a safety and help there? -- @Papa_85Bears from Twitter

    Asomugha is not the same player he was when he wore a Raiders uniform. It seems like a long time ago and that was as recently as 2010. He is 32 and two teams have given up on him recently now. He’s also not a fit for the Bears’ scheme and is no way a possibility as a safety. I don’t think Isaiah Frey has been bad as the nickel cornerback. He was productive in the win at Green Bay too.

    Is Mel Tucker going to remain on the sideline? -- @sief77 from Twitter

    Yes.

    “I’m not sure how much it helped,” Tucker said. “You would have to ask (the players). I decided to go down because I thought I could help with the communication, get the call in quicker. It was actually a different group of guys out there than when we first started so I just wanted to be down there to help some of the younger guys and facilitate some of the things on the sideline and just speed up the communication and some of the adjustments and that’s why I decided to go down.

    “You get the call in a little bit quicker. It came directly from me. There’s advantages to both, being up and being down and I’ve done both before in the past. I just thought with this particular group of guys at this particular time I thought it would be better for me to be with them on the sideline. It was just as simple as that.”

    Looking ahead to next year are there any top-end free agent safeties available? –@tvran23 from Twitter

    Sure. That list will be headlined by Buffalo’s Jairus Byrd, who is playing on the franchise tag this season. Provided the Bills don’t tag him for a second time or work out a new contract with him, he will be one of the top defensive players on the market. Byrd, 27, is a terrific player and will certainly command a big pay day. My guess would be general manager Phil Emery would first look to invest big money in the defensive line, but Byrd could appeal to him. Whether Byrd would come to the Bears shortly after the team fired Lovie Smith (and Byrd’s father Gil, who was the assistant defensive backs coach), I don’t know the answer to that. My guess would be no but money talks, right?

    Cleveland’s T.J. Ward, who will turn 27 in December, will also be a free agent. The Browns drafted him 38th overall in 2010, 37 picks ahead of the Bears’ Major Wright. Ward is a nice player but he’s no Byrd. Donte Whitner, or Hitner as he would like to be called now, is also slated to become a free agent. He’ll be 29 next season, though, and Emery will be looking to make the defense younger. Right now, the Bears want to work with Chris Conte moving forward. He’s signed through next season and they want to see him flourish. A poor stretch of a few games isn’t going to lead the Bears to give up on him. But Conte’s presence wouldn’t preclude Emery from doing some shopping either. We’ll see what happens with Major Wright. He will be an unrestricted free agent.

    When is the last time the Bears had longer than an 18-play scoring drive like they did in the fourth quarter Monday night? – Kathleen B., Seattle from email

    The Bears put together a 19-play drive four years ago in a 31-7 loss at Baltimore on Dec. 20, 2009. Unfortunately, that 73-yard drive resulted in no points as the offense turned the ball over on downs. There have been four 18-play drives in the NFL this season. The 49ers and the league’s two winless teams -- the Jaguars and Buccaneers -- have all had an 18-play drive. The Niners were the only team of the bunch to get a touchdown out of their effort and their drive lasted 9 minutes, 32 seconds -- 34 seconds longer than the Bears’ possession.

    Since 1999, the Bears have had two other 18-play drives. One in a 2009 loss at San Francisco (ended in an interception) and one in a 2007 win over the Packers (ended in a field goal).

    Michael Bush hasn't looked good. Any chance Ford earns some PT down the stretch? -- @SportsGuyJoe from Twitter

    I don’t know that we’ve seen enough of Bush in action to make a fair judgment. He’s had only 31 carries this season and got seven at Green Bay, gaining 25 yards. He also made a physical 15-yard reception, knocking the helmet of Packers linebacker A.J. Hawk off in the process. Bush failed to score on one carry from the 1-yard line but Green Bay is one of the more difficult defenses in the NFL to run up the middle against. While Bush has gained only 69 yards on 31 carries (2.2 average), you have to consider a lot of his chances have come in short-yardage situations where it is difficult to put together big statistics. I don’t believe Ford will be used in place of Bush anytime soon. But Ford or a newcomer will likely get a good chance to win the backup job in 2014, in my opinion.

    Brad, first off let me say that I am a huge fan. Don't you think Chad Pennington is one of the greatest/most underrated QBs in the history of the league? Personally, I think he could really help this team if he decided to come out of retirement. What do you think? - Henry Burris @dabears.com

    No.
    As always folks, thanks for the questions. Please keep them coming. Until next week...

    bmbiggs@tribune.com

    Twitter @BradBiggs
  2. tbear1

    tbear1 Veteran

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    BMG, Did you edit that? Way too funny real or not.
  3. little bear

    little bear Assistant Head Coach

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    lol, very good one. :D
  4. DavidL

    DavidL Pro-Bowler SuperFan

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    So, is this going to end all the Chad Pennington bullshit around here?
    • Winner Winner x 1
  5. BradMustersGhost

    BradMustersGhost Veteran

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