Am I correct in observing that in the Bears offense, passes are virtually never timed to hit a receiver immediately coming out of a break. Even on the 4-yard crossing patterns, the receiver makes the break and then runs 5 or 6 yards before the ball arrives, giving the defenders time to catch up (if they were ever behind). And it seems to me that on the sideline patterns, the receivers usually never make a break at all. They either stop or fly.
George Vernon, Monroe, Wis.
Chris Chandler was less familiar with, coming from many different offenses but none exactly like this. And he was not as familiar with his receivers here as he was with ones in Atlanta or anywhere else he'd spent more time. That's really almost to be expected. Also, you'd need to look at some cases specifically to be sure the receiver was where he needed to be, something that wasn't always the case, certainly last season. Your observation about never making a break at all is a good one; if the receiver doesn't sell his route, he's not going to set himself up for some separation, and if that's not there, the quarterback is going to look elsewhere, regardless of break.
What is your take on Rosevelt Colvin's overall play as a linebacker? In my opinion, he is one-dimensional but unfortunately that one dimension is the Bears' biggest need -- a pass rusher. But can the Bears afford to pay a one-dimensional player the kind of money he is asking? How many more times do we have to see Colvin get beat by a tight end in the end zone or any other place on the field for that matter?
Neil Logsdon, Brownsburg, Ind.
Colvin is underrated as a linebacker, although I'd agree that he is not as good a linebacker as he is a pass rusher. He has worked extremely hard to make himself a better linebacker, not better demonstrated than what he did to beat out Urlacher for the 'Sam' spot in '00; he simply made himself better. The negative I guess that stands out is the TD pass at Miami to the tight end against Colvin, and it was not a great job of coverage. But Colvin's forte is the rush, much the same as Peter Boulware's in Baltimore and Bryce Paup's used to be in Green Bay and Buffalo. Offenses will always take a strong-side linebacker isolated on a tight end in space. I'm not sure the Bears can afford Colvin period, regardless of dimension. But I'm also sure the Bears will have a hard time finding a replacement who can average double-digit sacks every every year. Maybe Bryan Knight, but Colvin would be a loss.
Brian Urlacher's original contract is a five-year deal. Based on what Ray Lewis got from the Ravens, the signing bonus in his next contract will exceed $20 million. Should the Bears get him signed to an extension this offseason, or should they wait another year in order to get other key players signed to long-term deals?
Scott Hanneman, Elgin, Ill.
Re-signing Urlacher is a priority and already has been talked about, although there are always discussions with players' agents; it's just a matter of whether serious money is put on the table. That will happen with Urlacher. At this point, just my opinion, I would get Urlacher done. There are really no other key players to re-sign, not of that magnitude certainly, and getting him done will establish what you've got left to spend.
Part of our offensive line, Big Cat and Villarrial, are holdovers from the former power blocking scheme of Tony Wise. When Crowton and Wylie came in, they started a more finesse blocking scheme. Where are we at now? Power or finesse? Where are we going in the future with it?
Bill Guilfoil, Plainfield, Ill.
I don't think anyone would really characterize the blocking as finesse,
although you're right that it is a different system and technique than the zone-blocking scheme that Wise brought from Dallas. The system under Wylie hasn't changed and is based on getting all the linemen angled as close as possible to the same way to prevent gaps. They use a kind of drop-step to accomplish that, which leads to the finesse tag. Two things, though. Teams like the Denver Broncos do pretty well with a so-called finesse scheme. And schemes are kind of like diets. They pretty much all work pretty well if you execute them precisely. No one would accuse the Bears of that this year.
"The nucleus of our football team is one where we can compete and should be a playoff team," Angelo said. "Because we have [had] a poor year, that doesn't mean you can't come back and have a very good team next year. And you're seeing that all over the league. Our window of opportunity is still alive." OK...ummm, what exactly is the nucleus of the Bears?
Olof Palme, Muskegon, Mich.
A reasonable question after the way this year has gone. Look at where the money is and you'll have your answer, at least as far as whom the Bears regard as their core players. Olin Kreutz and Rex Tucker on the offensive line. Marty Booker and David Terrell outside. R.W. McQuarters and Bryan Robinson on defense, plus clearly Brian Urlacher and Warrick Holdman, at least to this point. And Mike Brown. Phillip Daniels was given a big contract when he came and still can be considered a core player. Running back and quarterback are the two biggest that are questionable situations. Jim Miller is in place with a good deal but a young quarterback is something the Bears want to build around as core in the future. And whether they think Anthony Thomas is core is something you'll likely know better on draft day. Obviously
you can question whether certain individuals were worth the money, and
probably the Bears do too. But GM Jerry Angelo has a framework for his cap dollars and it involves targeting only so many players for core money.
John Mullin's answers
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