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Posts Tagged ‘Mike Brown’

Top 5 Issues for Chicago Bears Success This Season

Posted by sportsmaven on August 6, 2007

The Chicago Bears have what seems to be a very interesting problem:  too much depth.  Now, I know what you’re thinking, how can a team have too much depth?  But that’s what the Bears have, so much so that they have traded last year’s starting SS Chris Harris to the Carolina Panthers and are looking to move another, reserve CB and special teams standout Dante Wesley.  I will be the first to admit that I was very hard on Bears GM Jerry Angelo in the early days, but the last 3 years, he has proven that he has not only grown into the job, but has been one of the most shrewdest GM’s in the game in that period.

Cedric Benson at Bears training camp

(Tribune photo by Scott Strazzante)

Angelo has wisely locked up core young talent early at a lesser price then they would have commanded in the open market, has drafted very wisely (has any GM drafted better from rounds 4-7?  If so, I want to know who that person is) and has built a roster that is arguably the strongest in the NFC from top to bottom.

The Bears are trying to defy recent history by returning to the Super Bowl a year after losing the Big Game, only a return is not the goal.  Winning the Super Bowl is the goal and it seems as though Bears head coach Lovie Smith has every man clearly focused on that goal once again.  For the Bears, 5 things have to happen in order to have a chance at returning to the Big Game:

1.  Avoid injuries at all cost — having the best bench depth in the NFC (and maybe in the league, west of New England) is definitely an asset, but you need your best players playing in top form all season.  If LB Brian Urlacher, QB Rex Grossman, RB Cedric Benson, WR Bernard Berrian, KR/PR/WR Devin Hester, DT Tommie Harris, or any one of the starting OL goes down, the next line of talent is thin at these positions.

2.  Offense has to make another leap in performance — The surprise of last season’s team was definitely the performance of the offense.  Nobody on the planet thought the Bears would be #2 in the NFL in scoring nor that Rex Grossman would throw 20 TD passes and over 3000 yards passing.  For the Bears to jump to the next level, Grossman must improve his completion rate.  Last season, he was at 54.6%.  This season, he has to eclipse 60% and limit his interceptions from 20 to single digits.  RB Cedric Benson is on the spot now, and must rush for at least 1,200 yards and 10 TD’s.  WR Mark Bradley must avoid the injury bug and establish himself as the #2 receiver, and WR Bernard Berrian must prove that last year wasn’t a fluke.

3.  KR/PR/WR Devin Hester must emerge as a multiple options threat — this is probably the most tenuous of all the options.  I can’t recall a return man who has excelled on the offensive side of the ball in recent history.  The Kansas City Chiefs tried KR Dante Hall at WR and that didn’t work.  Devin Hester could be one of the best open field players in NFL history, but not after one record setting season as a KR/PR.  Hester must prove that he is a threat regardless of position.  He didn’t stand out as a DB.  The offensive side of the ball is where he belongs, but yet again, he is very raw and unproven there….

4.  Defense can’t have another late season drop off — It was clear that the defense dropped off significantly in the second half of last season.  It was still a very good defense, but a dominant defense wins Super Bowl XLI and that wasn’t the case for the Bears.  The Indianapolis Colts rushed for 191 yards in the Super Bowl against a defense missing DL Tommie Harris and SS Mike Brown.  That defense stepped up against the New Orleans Saints in the NFC Championship Game, but the time for the defense to shine is in December and January.  New defensive coordinator Bob Babich must bring more energy to the table then his predecessor, Ron Rivera, otherwise the change may be for naught.

5. Young players must perform well — Of any reason listed above, the performance of young players have been one of the biggest contributors to the recent success the Bears have experienced.  KR/PR Devin Hester, SS Danieal Manning, WR Mark Bradley, when healthy, DE Mark Anderson, departed SS Chris Harris, K Robbie Gould are all young players that really turned their games on in their rookie or second years, pushing for playing time and putting high priced veterans on the bubble.  The pressure will be on this year’s draft class, particularly TE Greg Olsen, RB Garrett Wolfe, and CB Trumaine McBride to fill key roles.  If these rookies shine, expect the Bears to be even more potent.

Opening day in San Diego is right around the corner.  The time to play the Chargers might be early in the season, but this is a tough opener.  The non-division schedule is tough, with games against the San Diego Chargers, Denver Broncos, Kansas City Chiefs, Dallas Cowboys, New Orleans Saints, Philadelphia Eagles, and the Seattle Seahawks, but to be the best, you have to go through the best.  The Bears will definitely have that to deal with this championship season….

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Chicago Bears Trade For Adam Archuleta — Good Move?

Posted by sportsmaven on March 20, 2007

This just in — the Chicago Bears made an off-season move and it was actually a good one. ESPN.com has reported the the Bears and Washington Redskins made a trade, S Adam Archuleta for a reported 6th round draft pick in the 2007 draft and a reworked contract. Archuleta will make $8.1M over 3 years with $5M guaranteed.

Safety Adam Archuleta Traded To Bears
(AP Photo/Nick Wass, File)

So what do I like about this trade? The Bears pick up a talented, mis-used, playmaker at the line of scrimmage safety. I look at this deal as essentially a trade straight up for S Todd Johnson. Archuleta is more talented than Todd Johnson and only a year older, but it will remain to be seen if Archuleta will step on the field to play special teams and fill that role that both Todd Johnson and S Cameron Worrell vacated when they left for St. Louis Rams and Miami Dolphins respectively. This also provides big-time insurance for S Mike Brown as well as taking safety off the board for the early rounds of this year’s draft. Putting Archuleta close to the line of scrimmage, something the Redskins outright refused to do, brings a talented playmaker in run-support, a clear Bears weakeness in the second half of last season and especially in the Super Bowl.

I believe that Adam Archuleta will be a terrific fit for the Bears style of defense (just don’t let him cover anyone one on one too often!) and will provide a slight upgrade in talent in the safety position.

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Chicago Bears Let Super Bowl Slip Through Their Fingers

Posted by sportsmaven on February 6, 2007

I know what you’re thinking, that the Chicago Bears were thoroughly dominated statistically in yesterday’s Super Bowl XLI. I beg to differ with my own Super Bowl analysis — the Bears were actually in it until the end. So what did the Sports Maven see in the matchup between the Chicago Bears and Indianapolis Colts? I saw plenty to be disturbed about and things that are very encouraging for next season. My disturbing thoughts are:

1. The Bears played way too conservatively offensively. The Bears were 6 1/2 pt. underdogs coming into the game and had nothing to lose. When Devin Hester returned the opening kickoff 92 yards for a touchdown, first time in Super Bowl history that has happened, and the fastest score in Super Bowl history, the momentum of the game immediately swung to the Bears. When Chris Harris intercepted Peyton Manning on the Colts first offensive series, the momentum for the Bears was off the charts. I thought Ron Turner’s offensive gameplan was too concentrated on running the ball out of the gate and not using the pass to loosen up the Colts 8-9 man fronts. In their most successful offensive games of the season, the offense started by going deep early and establishing the passing game early. Then it became easier to pound the ball. I felt that Turner played into the Colts hands with his gameplan. Too many 3 and outs (15 possessions, 48 plays, for the game, and average of 12 3 and outs and 3 drives of 4 plays.) The Bears offense should have attacked after the Manning INT. Instead, it was 3 and out, momentum leaving the Bears. All and all, a ridiculously poor game plan from the offense. This play to not lose mentality has got to go. Despite all this, the Bears are still only 5 points down midway though the 4th quarter of the Super Bowl.

2. The Bears played way too conservatively on defense too. Bears played as though they were trying not to lose the game. My friends at dabearsblog.com said it best. Where was the blitz? When the Bears blitzed, Peyton Manning looked rattled. It was certainly effective, but problem was that it was rarely used. The bend but not break philosophy also has to go. Another game plan that played into the hands of the Colts, particularly Peyton Manning. Giving n Manning an opportunity to establish rhythm was the WORST thing the Bears could have done and they did it. This game was an opportunity to attach Manning, make him uncomfortable, but that never happened, as the defense played scared. I felt the Bears defense watched too many Colts players catch balls in front of them and then didn’t make plays. The Bears defense not stopping the Colts on third down was equally important as the Bears offense’s failure to run more than three plays at a time. Despite all this, the Colts couldn’t score offensive TD’s and the Bears are still 5 points down midway though the 4th quarter of the Super Bowl.

3. Third down conversions on both sides of the ball were not in favor of the Bears. The Bears couldn’t stop the Colts on third down. The Colts were 8 of 18 on third down, while the Bears were 3 of 10. Enough said on this one.

4. Turnovers and poor tackling hurts the Bears. The Bears committed 5 turnovers and missed more tackles than a Pop Warner little league team. Five turnovers in the Super Bowl? You gotta be kidding me….

5. Rex Grossman needs much work, more improvement, and some competition. Rex couldn’t hold the wet ball. Rex couldn’t take a snap, despite the fact that he took about 99.5% of all the snaps this season. Rex threw two costly interceptions, one with the Bears down only 5 points with most of the 4th quarter remaining. Rex is too much of a gambler. He wants to make the big play, and is very impatient. If there is one person Grossman should take cues from, it’s the guy across the sideline from him, Peyton Manning. Grossman is immature. He is immature in how he plays the game. He is immature in how he handles the media. He is immature in what comes out of his mouth. He needs to grow up. Shut up and play. Rex is too talented to be as wildly inconsistent as he displayed this year.

My encouraging thoughts are:

Davin Hester’s Touchdown in SB
Chris Harris Interception in SB

1. Bears return 19 of 22 starters. Nineteen of 22 starters under contract. The lone 3 are Pro Bowl OG Reuben Brown, who has expressed a strong interest in coming back, an interest shared by Bears management, Pro Bowl LB Lance Briggs, who will most likely be “franchised” if a new contract is not worked out, and DT Ian Scott, who inherited the starting DT position when Pro Bowl DT Tommie Harris went down for the season with a torn left hamstring.

2. Mike Brown and Tommie Harris will be back from injuries. The jury is still out on how they will play after injury. Tommie Harris is still young and many notable players have come back from a torn hamstring and been effective again. (Ray Lewis being one of them). Mike Brown’s Lisfranc ligament tear on his right foot is the more concerning of the two injuries, as players who have historically injured that ligament have difficult time returning to a high level of play. Nonetheless, the two stalwarts of the Bears D should be back in time for training camp.

3. The NFC North Division should once again be weak — the Bears will still have the most talented team in the division. They will not be playing a last place schedule next season, but 6 games against division foes should ease that pain. Of course, the Green Bay Packers will be improved with the announcement of Brett Favre’s return, so if anything, show up for BOTH Packer games.

4. The Bears are $23.9 million under the 2007 Salary Cap — this is a good thing, as the Bears will have a short laundry list of needs going into next season.

Urlacher SB Disappointment

So the end of a good season cut short with a Super Bowl loss….lets finish the job next year for the bandwagon for Glendale, AZ begins today. Next up, the NFL Combine in Indianapolis (of all places) and the 2007 NFL Draft, where the Bears will have the 31st pick of the draft.

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