Chicago Bears

Angelo: Bears unlikely to land big fish

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Angelo: Bears unlikely to land big fish

Friday, Feb. 25, 2011
Posted 5:15 p.m.

By John Mullin
CSNChicago.com

INDIANAPOLIS The Bears spent much of last year working through a fire drill on the offensive line, between injuries, necessary changes and whatever else was dealt to coach Mike Tice. Finally things settled with Frank Omiyale at left tackle, JMarcus Webb at right, Chris Williams at left guard, Roberto Garza at right and Olin Kreutz at center.

NEWS ALERT: Bears extend Lovie Smith's contract

That group settled in place after the off week and there followed a turnaround of eight wins in 10 games prior to the NFC Championship game. All was then peaceful in the Kingdom of Bear O-Line.

Now the prospect is growing that none of the five positions that took so long to settle will have the same starter in 11 that finished 10.

Kreutz is an unrestricted free agent and can be re-signed at some time barring a lockout. But the Bears are high on the potential of Edwin Williams at center and no other position up front is by any means set.

READ: Lovie believes core is in place

What the goal is is get your five talented players playing at the same time, general manager Jerry Angelo said Friday at the NFL Scouting Combine. Thats what we want to do. Does that mean Chris Williams is a tackle or a guard? We cant determine that yet. Do I have a preference? Not really, only because hes been exposed to the guard position so weve seen some things, just like Frank Omiyale. Weve created some versatility on the offensive line.

Coach Lovie Smith, he of the new two-year contract extension and the ultimate decision-maker on position assignments, concurred. Williams may be a right tackle. Or a right guard. Webb will get a long look at left tackle. And the Bears have offensive line as a high priority in a draft that has some quality and depth in that area.

There are very few positions that I would say that were set, Smith said. I dont think you make those types of statements at this time. I think what you do in all seasons, you look at all the different options. You look at the best combination at a lot of different positions.

Moneyball

The Bears have been one of the NFLs major players in big-ticket free agents for many years, contrary to the mistaken notion that they will not spend money on talent.

Muhsin Muhammed (30 million). Julius Peppers (91 million). Bryan Cox from another era. Trading draft choices for and then extending Jay Cutler.

But with the salary cap expected to decline slightly and a major investment having been made last year in Peppers, Brandon Manumaleuna and Chester Taylor, the Bears are not expected to be making a huge deal in the market, whenever NFLNFLPA negotiations establish that there is one.

Can we get the big fish? Angelo mused. I dont know. I havent seen the bait yet, and until I know how much bait we can put on the hook, I dont know that we can get the big fish. Thats going to be determined once we have a clear understanding of where the cap is.

"The reality is that it is difficult to land the guy in free agency two years in a row. Nearly 500 players are potentially going to be some form of free agents this offseason but again signing a franchise-level player is a difficult thing to do, Angelo said. You dont want to come out every year having to spend big chunks of money on one player. Thats not the goal. But if its a unique situation and we determined that signing Julius Peppers last year was a unique situation.

I think that was really an aberration of free agency. We thought he was a special player. Obviously, he was a fit. He was a need. And we felt like that was the right thing. So were not going to get stuck in a philosophy where we miss the big picture. Thats not really something we set out to do each and every year.

In some situations it will make sense to pursue one player at all costs as the one that will put a franchise over the top. The Dallas Cowboys did that with defensive end Charles Haley, whom Jimmy Johnson called the final piece that propelled the Cowboys to three Super Bowl wins in the 1990s.

The Bears were within seven points of reaching the Super Bowl. A conclusion might be that they are one player away but that is not the thinking upstairs at Halas Hall.

I dont really want to do that, Angelo said. I think when you start doing that you mis-calculate, you mis-evaluate your football team. Ive seen teams do that. Ive been part of teams that have done that. That hit or miss rarely hits. So we dont want to get into that mindset. Theres got to be a plan in place.

We dont want to go into it where, Hey, its that one guy. Thats desperate. The quarterback position, thats different. Thats totally different. The value of that position speaks for itself. We did a lot. We were very aggressive because of that position. We all understand the value of that position. Take that position out of it, its not something where I feel like were one player away. Were not one player away. We need to get better at positions. We need to upgrade, create more competition, and then weve got to come together as a team.

John "Moon" Mullin is CSNChicago.com's Bears Insider, and appears regularly on Bears Postgame Live and Chicago Tribune Live. Follow Moon on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Bears information.

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.”

Jordan Howard's eye injury keeps him grounded as Bears fly to Arizona

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USA TODAY

Jordan Howard's eye injury keeps him grounded as Bears fly to Arizona

The Bears' best offensive player won't be suiting up in Saturday's preseason game. In fact, he won't even be on the sideline. 

Jordan Howard suffered an eye injury Friday, preventing him from flying with the team to Arizona. 

Although ESPN's Adam Schefter believes it's minor, that's not a good sign for an offense that relies heavily on the run game.

Joining Howard on the inactive list are more key offensive guys: 

- Kyle Long, OL

- Jeremy Langford, RB

- Joshua Bellamy, WR

- Markus Wheaton, WR

That means Mike Glennon, who is embroiled in a growing quarterback controversy, will have his work cut out for him. 

On the defensive side of the ball, the Bears will also be missing some notables: 

- Danny Trevathan, LB

- Mitch Unrein, DL

- Bryce Callahan, DB

- Alex Scearse, LB

- Jonathan Anderson, LB

- Kapron Lewis-Moore, DL

Hopefully Howard and the team can get healthy before the real deal begins because last year's injury-plagued season was certainly no fun.