Chicago Bears

15 on 6: Urlacher proves his greatness

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15 on 6: Urlacher proves his greatness

Tuesday, Nov. 23, 2010
6:33 PM

By Jim Miller
CSNChicago.com

I remember when the Bears selected what scouts and analysts dubbed "an extremely athletic safety" out of New Mexico.

Everyone thought he was too big to excel at safety in the NFL and would be converted to linebacker. Head coach Dick Jauron did just that immediately declaring strong side linebacker may be Brian Urlacher's ideal spot.

I also remember guys on the team somewhat frustrated that our first round draft pick was going to be a project.

When he arrived, we all saw the athleticism, but we also saw tight ends shredding him at the line of scrimmage in minicamps and through training camp. It was all new to Urlacher as he had not experienced being in the box face up against a tight end. It wasn't just the release techniques of tight ends Brian struggled to adapt to early, it was fullback iso's and releases, wide receivers crack blocking or guards pulling to kick out block. Urlacher kept plugging along but ultimately lost a hard fought training camp to Roosevelt Colvin for the starting job.

Since that time I have witnessed him fill the "A" gap on a playaction iso fake and still get to 15 yards depth in coverage to break up the pass to a tight end on a middle read. Brian stays vertical or attacks middle.

It wasn't long before injuries started to deplete the depth at linebacker. Barry Minter was a team leader, good player and our starting MLB, but went down with injury forcing Jauron and the coaching staff to throw the young buck in there. His true position had been found by accident.

Urlacher was amazing to watch while as he was out there simply reacting and flying to the football. I remember defensive coaches and teammates coming out of the defensive meetings buzzing about what Urlacher was putting on tape.

I was even more impressed competing against him following his initial training camp, but now as our starting MLB. He and I would mess with each other, each winning our individual battles, then letting each other know about it. He was now confident and becoming a true stud at his position in the NFL.

All of the success has never has gone to his head because he has always respected the game too much.

It is now time to pay him our respects as the bears all-time leading tackler. He is truly one of the greats who has changed the game - the mold of MLB - and is headed for Canton.

Just for the record, he could of done it as a safety too!

Jim Miller, an 11-year former NFL quarterback, is a Comcast SportsNet Bears analyst who can be seen each week on U.S. Cellular Bears Postgame Live. Miller, who spent five seasons with the Bears, analyzes current Chicago QB Jay Cutler in his "15 on 6" blog on CSNChicago.com and can be followed on Twitter @15miller.

WATCH: Deonte Thompson channels inner Devin Hester with 109-yard return in Bears preseason game

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AP

WATCH: Deonte Thompson channels inner Devin Hester with 109-yard return in Bears preseason game

It's been a while since Devin Hester electrified the city of Chicago with his touchdown returns, but we got flashbacks of that Saturday night.

Deonte Thompson took a page out of the book of arguably the best returner in NFL history by returning a 109-yard missed field goal to the house as the first half expired during the Bears' second preseason game in Arizona.

It gave the Bears a 17-7 lead, and even had John Fox going crazy on the sideline:

Deonte Thompson, you are ridiculous?

Five Bears who can improve their stock Saturday night against Arizona

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USA Today Sports Images

Five Bears who can improve their stock Saturday night against Arizona

1. QB Mike Glennon

The Bears’ first team offense as a whole could be included under this subhead, whether it’s the offensive line creating holes for a running back (Jordan Howard won't play with a minor corneal abrasion) or the receivers creating more separation to get open. But the onus is on Glennon to be better than he was Thursday night and prove that 0.0 quarterback rating was the product of a small sample size and not a sign of more serious issues. On the other side of things, a bad game from Glennon only would lead to further questions about his ability to succeed as the Bears’ starting quarterback. 

“I mean, (this game is) bigger than the first but not as big as the third,” Glennon said. “I don’t really know how else to say it. Everything gets more amplified Week 1 to 2, 2 to 3 and then ultimately the season opener. Obviously I want to go out and play well but I don’t want to make too big a deal and put too much pressure on a preseason game.” 

2. WR Kevin White

Cameron Meredith can do a lot to help Glennon’s case, but the Bears have a good idea of what they have in the third-year receiver who’s been one of the more steady performers during training camp. Kevin White is in a different position, having not been targeted at all against the Denver Broncos and still needing to prove plenty going into his third year in the NFL. White’s growth this year may be slow, but he needs to show some signs of that growth during preseason games to build up some confidence for Sept. 10. 

“Anytime you go through some injuries, there’s a whole mental game that plays a part of it,” fellow wide receiver Victor Cruz (more on him in a bit) said. “Just talking to him – I think he’s over it. He understands those things are behind him. His confidence is back in his body with the things that he can do. You’re starting to see that out there on the football field. He’s really hitting another gear, catching these balls, going deep down the field and putting pressure on these defensive backs.”

3. WR Victor Cruz

It was a little jarring to see Cruz, a Super Bowl-winning former Pro Bowler, playing until the final snap of Thursday’s game — even if that had something to do with the Bears not having Daniel Braverman available and losing Rueben Randle and Joshua Bellamy to injuries during the game. But Cruz hasn’t seemed to significantly push Kendall Wright for the No. 1 slot receiver job over the last few weeks, and could find himself on the roster bubble by the end of the month. A good showing Saturday night could provide a nice boost to his chance of avoiding that bubble.  

“I've been impressed with him,” Fox said before the Bears’ first preseason game. “He's got a great feel for the game. Sometimes it might not be just how fast they are physically but how fast they play, and he seems to be that type of guy. He's still got plenty of gas in the tank and we're excited to have him.”

4. DE Jonathan Bullard

Bullard is the only player on this list who flashed last Thursday, with an impressive tackle for a loss probably the Bears’ second-best defensive play of the day behind Leonard Floyd’s first-play-of-the-game sack. He’s had a solid camp, too, showing some promising signs after struggling to show much of anything a year ago. For Bullard, Saturday night will be about keeping his arrow pointing up, perhaps to the point that he could start at defensive end opposite Akiem Hicks in Week 1. 

“He’s definitely stronger, faster,” Hicks said. “He was already explosive, right? He has picked up the game to a point where he can play within the scheme now and see things come and be able to predict the play in order to get a step on the guard or the tackle, whoever he’s playing against. Just the things that come with getting more reps.”

5. CB Kyle Fuller

No player may have a better opportunity Saturday night than Fuller, who should be in line to take first-team reps with Bryce Callahan out and Prince Amukamara missing practices this week with a strained hamstring. What Fuller does with this opportunity could be a major deciding factor of whether or not he’s part of the Bears’ 53-man roster — this coaching staff and front office didn’t draft him, and his fifth-year option for 2018 was declined in the spring. 

“It’s a new year,” defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said earlier this month when asked about Fuller. “We start evaluating guys by what you’ve seen on the field at this point.”