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Posts Tagged ‘Ruben Brown’

“Sober” Chicago Bears Force The Rest Of Us To Drink

Posted by sportsmaven on March 5, 2008

The Chicago Bears entered this off-season with a clear goal of making the offense the #1 priority. Bears GM Jerry Angelo stressed his intentions in his season ending press conference, but the actions of the Chicago Bears to date, suggest a series of miscues that make it nearly impossible to believe that the Bears offense will be better than last season, much less believing it to be the #1 priority of this off-season.

Lance Briggs Re-signs with Chicago Bears

(AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh, File)

If improving the offense is, indeed, the #1 priority, I would have thought the Bears would have invested in an approach similar to the following:

1. Franchise WR Bernard Berrian — using the same strategy of maintaining defensive consistency by retaining LB Lance Briggs this past season, the Bears could have began by locking up their game breaker, Berrian for one season with the franchise tag. This would serve the purpose of maintaining consistency in the offense, keeping the strength of an already suspect WR corps intact, buy some valuable time in attempting to sign Berrian long term deal, and finally, taking pressure off the remaining receivers to develop immediately.

2. Pick up a stud OL OR RB in free agency — the need for free agency to shore up one of these positions is paramount in getting the offense back on track. The Bears have an aging, ineffective OL, the oldest in the NFL in average age last season. The current RB situation is dire, with RB Cedric Benson ineffective and injured with a broken ankle that doctors say may affect his speed. If you took care of one in free agency, the other would be resolved in the draft and the offense is in much better shape. Both positions are thin in free agency and abundant in the draft, with the OL standing out as a little stronger in this year’s draft, so signing a RB such as Michael Turner would be a logical choice, sending a strong message that the Bears were serious about improving an anemic running game and making offense a #1 priority.

3. Invest in improving the long term outlook at QB — the Bears QB situation is not horrible, but it’s not great either. QB Rex Grossman led the Bears to the Super Bowl in the 2006 season and took way more criticism that his performance warranted. He still has potential to be a very good QB in the league and the open competition with Kyle Orton could be a decent challenge. I am more confident about the QB situation if the first two points are adequetely addressed.

So what have the Bears done so far this off-season?

1. The Bears release OT Fred Miller, OG Ruben Brown, WR Muhsin Muhammad, trade QB Brian Griese, extend the contract of DE Alex Brown, re-sign LB Lance Briggs, re-sign QB Rex Grossman, extend the contract of QB Kyle Orton, sign WR Marty Booker, cut ties with special teams standout Brendon Ayanbadejo, lose WR Bernard Berrian to division-rival Minnesota Vikings, and lose TE John Gilmore to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Bears come out slightly ahead on defense, as the Briggs contract was very reasonable, they break even on the released players, trading Muhammad for Booker is even or a slight upgrade, but the one player they could least afford to lose on the offense was Bernard Berrian. Losing Berrian to a division rival is a double hit, weakening the Bears while strengthening the Vikings.

2. San Diego Chargers RB Michael Turner never made it to Chicago, amidst reports that he was interested in Chicago but didn’t get a sniff of interest from the Bears. Turner signed a contract (similar to what Lance Briggs signed for) to be the feature back for the Atlanta Falcons. With most of the top free agent guards and tackles off the board by this time, and no other stud RB’s left in free agency, the Bears are now forced to look at lesser free agents, or try to fill both holes in the draft.

3. The QB position is now weakened by removing Grossman/Orton’s most reliable, game breaking talent. That, combined with the lack of a game breaking RB, and a solid OL exposes the very weaknesses of both QB’s and adds further pressure to the development of Devin Hester as a WR. Hester as a WR either has the potential of diminishing his effectiveness as a kick/punt returner, or removing him from that responsibility completely. Combined with the loss of Ayanbadejo, the cascade effect of the Bears off season decisions weakens the special teams unit as well.

The remaining free agent class lacks players with the caliber to improve the Bears offense enough to call it a marked improvement on last year’s squad. This puts huge pressure on the Bears football leadership to come through in drafting immediate impact players and difference makers for the offense in the April 26-27th NFL Draft. This is an extremely tall order, given the Bears recent history of drafting ineffective offensive talent. Chicago Sun-Times columnist Jay Mariotti had it right in his article, suggesting that the Bears needed to get drunk and spend. With an estimated $30M under the salary cap (amidst a rise in ticket prices for the 2008 season), spending to fill holes and improve would seem more than reasonable.

The Bears did manage to stay “sober” in this year’s free agent market , but the potential of a 12-4 season is quickly being replaced with the potential of a 4-12 season, with the Super Bowl fading further and further away in the rear view mirror.

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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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