Reader Q&A: Chicago Bears Huddle Inbox

Reader Q&A: Chicago Bears Huddle Inbox
Is Rod Marinelli trying to turn Shea McClellin into Brian Urlacher 2.0?

Bears fans beware: the next few weeks are going to suck . . .

Yep, it’s the grind of the NFL off-season, but—thank the Lord for small favors—we’ve got some pretty good questions this week. That in mind, let’s get to it! As always, you can read the entire off-season Q&A series here.

. . .

How do teams, like the Bears, determine how many players to keep on the roster at each position at final cut-downs? Is there a standard across the league? – Brian Rainey, via email subscription

Love this question, Brian, because I think the answer is probably a little more in depth that fans might think. Let’s get into it a little . . .

. . . It’s all about the way coaches evaluate players—whether that be based on talent, position, potential, size, and/or athleticism. It would be a really simplistic approach to set your numbers in advance, based on the NFL limit, and then plug in the best players until someone gets left off, but that’s just not how teams do it. Some measurables are valued more highly than others. For example: big guys (guys with good size but maybe not great talent) are often evaluated higher than skill position players. Lovie Smith in particular likes athletic players, so guys who show that high level of athleticism will ultimately be evaluated higher in his system.

Teams will, in fact, set limits on how many players they will keep at a position—a floor and ceiling thing. For the Bears, they may head into final cuts knowing that they will keep no less than five wide receivers on the roster and no more than six. When it comes to more interchangeable positions, like offensive and defensive linemen, they may technically only keep three or four defensive ends, while knowing that some of their tackles can step in if needed. So those positions are a little more open-ended.

Finally, teams have to protect their talent, and so, many times, the goal is to keep as much talent as possible, while also staying within your range at each position. Take the Bears’ wide receivers, for example again: I tend to think they might actually keep six this season. Why? Because if they only keep five, they have to cut someone like Devin Thomas or Eric Weems, and that’s even if they send Johnny Knox to IR. Because both guys have more than four years of service, neither would be subject to the waiver wire as vested veterans, and both would be free to sign with any team (clarification: after the trade deadline, veteran or not, every player is subject to the waiver process). By doing that, the Bears risk losing a very talented special teams player to a team potentially in their own division. And divisional opponents love to pick the brain of a guy who’s just spent all off-season with their competition and who can also contribute. You don’t want to giftwrap your game-plan for the opponent.

All these things factor in to the final roster, and the Bears have their work cut out for them this season with some potentially tough decisions to make.

Do you see Shea McClellin being a future replacement for Urlacher or Peppers? – Thomas Smith, via Twitter

Here’s what I see: I see him being the Bears’ starting left defensive end this season. What I don’t see is the Bears attempting to mold their first-round Draft selection to fill a need he was not chosen to fill. The idea that he might be a future replacement for Brian Urlacher seems more born from the fact that he’s a white guy (sorry) than it does any real evaluation. Shea McClellin’s not a middle linebacker. More than that, the role that Urlacher has on the Bears is fairly unique around the league. More so still, we don’t know what the Bears’ defensive scheme will be a year from now. If Lovie gets canned and the Bears, say, move to a 3-4, McClellin would move to outside linebacker. So, in that scenario, he would not take the place of a middle linebacker or a defensive end. The bottom line is this: fans should stop thinking in terms of who he is going to replace. He was brought to Chicago to fill an existing hole at left defensive end. That’s his position.

If Matt Forte does not sign a long-term deal before the deadline of July 16 passes, but he does sign his franchise tender, when can the Bears re-open contract talks? – Chris Krogman, via Twitter

Great question. The bottom line is that whether Forte signs the tender or not, if he and the Bears do not enter into a contract agreement by July 16, they will not be allowed to do so until 2013, and Forte will only be allowed to play under the tag designation this season. They could still “talk,” sure, but the Bears would have no real incentive to do so. It will be interesting to see what happens in a few weeks. As I’ve said, Forte has zero reason to sign the tender before the deadline, and it’s possible that he accepts whatever the Bears offer currently is at the last minute. It’s also entirely possible that he decides to hold out of training camp and the preseason, thereby limiting his exposure to injury, although he would be fined for it. He would still, however, be paid his full salary. He won’t hold out of regular season games.

I know you hate predictions, but can you predict the starting offensive line at week one, eight and 17? – Chris Krogman, via Twitter

Damn you.

Week one through 17, barring injury:

LT – Chris Williams
LG – Chris Spencer
C – Roberto Garza
RG – Lance Louis
RT – Gabe Carimi

Do you see Jay Cutler reaching the 30 TD mark this season? – Jeff Glawe, via Twitter

Jay Cutler has averaged 1.5 TDs per game throughout his career. On a 16-game season, that puts his numbers right a 25. He came closest his first year in Chicago, throwing for 27 TDs (but tacking on 26 INTs to boot). I’m not sure if he adds five more to that average this season or not. I think the Bears want more out of Matt Forte in the scoring department, and I think they will get some goal-line contributions from Michael Bush. I also think, as most seem to agree, that the passing game will be vastly improved. So the potential is there for sure.

With all the new additions, why did Phil Emery fail to address the offensive line? Jay still seems to have doubts. – Jason Henry, via Twitter

It won’t go away, will it?

Here’s what I think Phil Emery likely saw when he came to Chicago: he saw a team that has ignored the need for a true No. 1 receiver for that last . . . well just about forever. He saw a team that has drafted two offensive tackle in the first round of the Draft the last four years. He saw a team whose window of opportunity was closing, and an offensive line that has seen as many configurations as there are lineman in the last couple seasons. He saw an offensive line that, despite some real tough injuries, managed to improve as their season progressed. I think he didn’t want to disrupt that chemistry—something an offensive line so desperately needs—by adding a new player when that window was so close to closing. It’s a tactical move, and it could pay off in spades, or bite the Bears in the rear. Cross your fingers, Jason.

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  • Great read, Adam!

    - Webb will start at LT (sorry Mouser)

    - Cutler = 37 TDs (14 INT)

  • In reply to Alpha79:

    Thanks! Glad you enjoyed it.

  • In reply to Alpha79:

    Well Webb may start...nothing I can do about that. If the coaches think he is better than Williams, Cutler better take out some good life insurance....I hope I am wrong; I really do but I don't think I am and I have history on my the last pick the Bears took in round 7 to play offense/defense who was a starter and received a second contract? I will answer that will be shocked and that alone, will be enough to make us all worry about Webb as our starter.

    I look to see the Bears sign Marcus McNeil as some insurance before camp begins. He has had a history of injury, but played at a very high level at LT before injuries hobbled him. He won't start, but this would add insurance behind the biggest potential embarrassment of the Bears organization.

    At DT, I still look for them to ink Tommie Harris between now and training camp...maybe after because he could come in and know the defense right hasn't changed. There is one of the DT's they signed that was drafted high but is likely to be the second coming of Vernon Gholston since he hasn't started. The players they have at DT, I like very much but there is no depth and I think DT to a position that is key so injury could wreak havoc on our defense if we have a couple of bad injuries...and Chi fans know what that is all about.

  • In reply to Mouser:

    Wouldn't be shocked at all at the last seventh-round starter. Doesn't happen very often in the league even.

    They'll definitely sign some guys closer to and during camp, but I'm not so sure about the ones you mentioned. DT depth is a concern, though.

  • Next year on the offensive side of the ball the Bear's will need a LT,C and a RB. I suggest a free agents at Center.

    On the defensive side of the ball the Bear's will need a CB (over 6foot) DT SLB. free agent at SLB

  • In reply to mcrann1:

    Just curious ... why would you predict they'll need a RB and C next season?

  • now the answer to my question...who was the last seventh round pick to turn into a starter with a second contract worthy of starter pay? I have to use a little judgment here, but I would say the last player you would agree with me was selected in the 10th round in the 1984 draft...a player by the name of Shaun Gayle. I could not find a 7th round pick that met that criteria going back to 1980.

    In 1983, the Bears selected both Richard Dent and Mark Bortz in the 8th round....I quit looking beyond 1980...too depressing.

    From 1988 to now, the Bears have picked 36 7th rounders (in 24 years). News flash Bears fans...accumulating low round picks does not work! That has much to do with why Angelo is gone...his philosophy was was wrong and his drafts, trading down to pick up extra picks is wrong and led to multiple seasons with winning records somewhere between 7-9 and 9-7...

    GM Mouser defines player success in that second contract and team success with a winning record of 10-6 or better. Pretty objective.

  • In reply to Mouser:

    Based on my objective scale of team success, I compiled the following data points...going back to the beginning of the disaster (circa 1989) to last season, the Bears have had the following:
    Record of 10-6 or better: 6 times
    Record of 9-7 to 7-9: 8 times
    Records of 6-10 or worse: 8 times

    Really, when you consider the sports venue that Chicago is and its great tradition, the last 22 years of football have been mostly mediocre to bad in Chi-town. I think it is time to change our losing ways.. I am sooo happy to see Angelo gone and Emery in...Emery hasn't done anything yet except give us hope but I know my dissatisfaction for the status quo far outweighed my fear of the unknown. Time will tell, it always does. Keep Emery and Angelo on a short leash and lets never go a GM's tenure (5 year contract) with sub par output again...10-6 or better in 50% or more of the seasons...that is the objective goal I would lay out for any GM before shelling out millions and I would not tolerate many, if any seasons below 7-9.

  • In reply to Mouser:

    so would you bet that our 7th round pick...a man by the name of JMarcus Webb will get a second worthy of starter pay...a 4 year extension?

    If he does, he will have beat all the odds. I would put down a great deal of $ on that bet. He will not make it. Chris Williams might as his blocking on the interior was quite good...maybe his experience will allow him to take the step he needs to in order to get his second contract...a starter's contract.

    Please sign Marcus McNeill do not want Bear nation to mutiny on you and if Webb and Williams are who we think they are...a mutiny will be exactly what you will need to expect.

  • In reply to Mouser:

    Patriots are known for accumulating low-ish picks, too. And most would probably be surprised to find out how little it's worked for them. They've hit on some really nice third and fourth-rounders, and, of course, Tom Brady may be the best sixth-round selection of all time. But, for the most part, you're right, it's not a philosophy that works often enough to be fruitful.

  • In reply to Adam Oestmann:

    I don't have any way of measuring it...but I think the Patriots get waaay too much credit for their drafting brilliance. We are watching, maybe the best ever, qb to play the position. The reason he was picked in the 6th round because nobody thought he could play the game...remember the statistics I posted. You don't draft starters in the 7th round...the 6th either but I didn't put that info together. The QB is the one...and the only one position that touches the ball on every offensive snap...except when you get cute. Brady is the best in the business and a great qb can cover up a lot of hickies.

    Can you imagine the Bears of the mid 80's with a good qb...3 rings...with Tom Brady...maybe 5 rings. With McMahon...1 ring and 0 rings with the other trio of qbs combined with the greatest defense in modern times. A lot of non-bear fans forget that the 86 Bear defense was better than that 85 bears. No McMahon and Flutie running around like a chicken with its head cut off...I can't let it go!!!!

  • In reply to Mouser:

    I agree about Pats' drafts, but you can't not give them credit for picking Brady even though no one knew what he'd become. They did pick him, and he did become one of the best. Props well deserved for probably the greatest steal in NFL Draft history.

  • In reply to Adam Oestmann:

    A blind squirrel finds a nut every once in awhile... I give the pats credit for being lucky and that is about it. If they thought he'd be really good, they wouldn't have waited till the 6th round. The fact that they did, means they thought of him as a developmental pick and one that is not likely to pan out....same for the Bears with Dent.

    Bears selected Shea McClellen much higher than others thought because Emery thinks he will be really good...better than most others think he will be... I can't wait to see how this pick pans out.

  • Fans need to understand when your 1st rounder best skill-set is getting after the QB, you don't make him into a MLB who drops into coverage a large percentage of the time.

    He played the position a little at Boise State but in a totally different scheme in even then he was mainly blitzing to get after the QB from that position. Agree completely that he's a DE in the 4-3, and a outside rush LB in a 3-4.

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