Chicago Bears

First Look: 2011 Chicago Bears offense

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First Look: 2011 Chicago Bears offense

Monday, Jan. 31, 2011
Posted 7:32 p.m. Updated 8:49 p.m.

By John Mullin
CSNChicago.com

The Chicago Bears offense finished the 2009 season ranked 23rd in yardage and produced 319 points under then-coordinator Ron Turner. In 2010 the Bears dismissed Turner and all but two of his staff, brought in Mike Martz as coordinator and finished 30th in yardage, dropping to 28th in passing yardage, and totaled 310 points.

Not the direction the Bears had in mind, although they did score 24 or more in five of the seven games before meeting Green Bay and the NFLs No. 2 scoring defense in the NFC Championship.

READ: Part 1 - Coaching, draft, free agency

The Bears did not stand pat last offseason and they wont this year. The changes are not expected to be sweeping in terms of free-agent acquisitions or even the draft, but the 2011 Bears will differ markedly from the 2010 edition.

In order to win 12 games in this league you have to have some power on the offensive side of the ball, coach Lovie Smith said. We made a lot of progress. As we look at our future -- what Matt Forte will be able to do this coming year, of an offensive line fighting through injuries, but to finish that way, our receivers, our quarterback -- I'm excited about the direction our offense is going.

In the second in a four-part series, CSNChicago.com examines the position groups on offense and what is likely to play out in the months before the 2011 season opens:

Quarterback

Jay Cutler is set. Caleb Hanie is a restricted free agent and the only question there is level of RFA tender. The Bears have gone with two quarterbacks during recent seasons and likely would have last season had Hanie not suffered a shoulder injury in preseason.

Jay led us to 12 wins, Smith said. We had a heck of a year. Finished short but we had a heck of a year. Hes our quarterback and done a lot of great things for us. I cant wait for our future together with him leading our team.

Matt Guiterrez was signed to a futures contract and should have a second training-camp stint with the Bears but Todd Collins muddied the waters as far as Mike Martz and a must-have veteran backup.

Running back

The organization will not rush into an extension for Forte, who had a career year in 2010 and has one year remaining on his rookie contract. But franchises like hungry players, Forte has had one super year but two OK ones, and the Bears will not be in a rush to do anything with Forte early.

One source told CSNChicago.com that Chester Taylor would be cut after his one disappointing year at huge money, and at 32, Taylors arrow is definitely not pointing up. But the team has paid him already and is not under money pressure at the position because Forte and Taylor combined are far below elite money.

Receiver

Look for the Bears to bring in a veteran wide receiver, possibly one that will jump over Devin Hester or Johnny Knox and into the starting lineup. The Bears will be one of the teams looking at Plaxico Burress when his prison stint finishes, and others like Roy Williams from Dallas or the Jets Braylon Edwards will be under consideration.

But price will be a factor and the Bears are not going to overpay for less than a sure thing. They spent heavily for Muhsin Muhammed and got value as well as contributions to two playoff appearances. But while none of their current receivers is at an elite level, all have improved enough to keep this from ranking as a desperate need, particularly with the group moving with Cutler into the second year in a potentially explosive offensive system.

Greg Olsen developed into a serviceable all-around tight end and is entering a contract year. As in Fortes case, however, the organization will not bid against itself for Olsen even though Brandon Manumaleuna contributes little beyond blocking and not even that at special levels.

Desmond Clark will leave Chicago with some mileage left, just no chance to use it under Mike Martz.

Offensive line

The 2010 Bears line achieved some cohesion after the midseason off week and had the same starting line of left tackle to right, Frank Omiyale-Chris Williams-Olin Kreutz-Roberto Garza-JMarcus Webb.

It is entirely possible that none of those five will be in those positions to open 2011, and the result could be a significantly better offensive line. Spending as many as two of their first three picks on offensive linemen is possible depending upon the vagaries of free agency. The team is expected to add a veteran, likely a guard, to the mix of the starting five.

With a year of his own tape to watch on linemen running the new system, coach Mike Tice will make adjustments, possibly even radical ones.

Left tackle: The organization made a decision that it could and would live with the learning year for JMarcus Webb. The result was sufficient evidence that the seventh-rounder is an NFL tackle, perhaps the best one on the roster. With his size and upside, the organization is expected to look at him first at the most critical line position.

This league is so intricate now, so many different blitz packages, personnel packages, and fortunately hes a good student, hes very smart, and hes got good veterans around him, Tice said. Roberto Garza, Olin Kreutz and Kevin Shaffer have taught him how to study.

Omiyale survived at the position but not well enough to establish himself and he projects to be in the competition at right tackle.

Left guard: Williams performed the best of any suitor for this position last season but he was a right tackle for the early part of 2009 and is better suited for the outside. This is a need position and free agency will offer alternatives.

Center: Olin Kreutz has played through three contracts with the Bears, virtually unheard of in the current NFL. But he has not been extended and hell be 34 in June. The organization has Edwin Williams in reserve and can slide Roberto Garza from guard to center.
Right guard: Garzas return from knee surgery was a turning point in 10 and he will open at one of the interior three spots. Lance Louis was a disappointment when he had his opportunity and the team has to be satisfied as to whether he has learned how to play through minor injuries. The Bears were well served by Garza and Ruben Brown but guards have been supremely expensive in free agency.

Right tackle: Omiyale or Williams will be in a competition at that spot, along with veteran Kevin Shaffer, although Shaffers role has evolved into swing tackle over the past year.

How really significant is this position group? Consider: For all of the injuries sustained by key figures this season, four of the five offensive line positions for the Green Bay Packers had the same starter for all 19 games, including playoffs. The fifth was right tackle, and when veteran Mark Tauscher went down, his relief was Bryan Bulaga, the Packers No. 1 pick in the 2010 draft.

The 2006 Bears went to the Super Bowl with the help of an offensive line that saw four of five start all 16 games and the fifth, John Tait, start 17 of 19.

The 2010 Bears were 7-2 leading to the playoffs when the front five settled out with Omiyale-Williams-Kreutz-Garza-Webb. A significant focus of the OTAs, training camp and preseason will be on clarifying the best five and getting it in place as soon as possible.

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.

Marcus Cooper, Bears move on from viral mistake: ‘We’re not firing him’

Marcus Cooper, Bears move on from viral mistake: ‘We’re not firing him’

Marcus Cooper’s viral mistake on Sunday was so blatantly embarrassing, did special teams coordinator Jeff Rodgers even have to say anything to the Bears cornerback on the sideline after it?

“Sure,” Rodgers said. “Score."

That'll do from a brevity standpoint. Continued Rodgers: "I mean, there's not much to add. He knows he made a mistake and he obviously knows the rules.”

The Bears aren’t dwelling on what Cooper did at the end of the first half against the Pittsburgh Steelers, partly because it didn’t cost them a win. It very well could’ve, though, and is one of those things that never should’ve happened, to say the least. 

“With a loss, maybe it’d be a lot worse,” Cooper said. “But (I need to) just finish the play and make sure Thursday we come out and play (well).”

Cooper, for what it’s worth, responded well in the second half with a few pass-break ups. Even with Kyle Fuller and Prince Amukamara playing well, the Bears didn’t consider benching Cooper — or, drastically, eating $8 million in guaranteed money to cut him — after his gaffe. 

“I mean, we’re not firing him,” coach John Fox said. “He’s too much a part of our team.”

How the Bears' receivers helped beat Pittsburgh while only catching one pass

How the Bears' receivers helped beat Pittsburgh while only catching one pass

Mike Glennon didn’t complete a pass to a wide receiver until he found Deonte Thompson for a nine-yard gain with just under six minutes remaining in the fourth quarter on Sunday. That was the only of Glennon's 15 completions that went to a wide receiver in a 23-17 overtime win over the Pittsburgh Steelers. 

But the Bears’ receivers weren’t necessarily invisible on Sunday, frequently showing up on tape delivering solid blocks that helped spring second-level gains by running backs Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen. Most notably, Deonte Thompson was key in making a path for Howard to score his game-ending touchdown in overtime. 

“We got a rule in our room, make sure your guy doesn't make the tackle,” Thompson said. “… We take pride in it. Our coaches make sure we take pride in blocking. We just go what we gotta do to win. Whatever the job description is, we do.”

This isn’t to say that everything is fine with the Bears’ receivers because they can block. Their primary jobs are to get open and catch the football, and this unit hasn’t done enough of that through three games. In total, Bears receivers are averaging about 14 targets, nine receptions per game and 98 yards per game. Since the beginning of the 2016 season, 26 times has an individual wide receiver had at least 14 targets, nine receptions and 98 yards in a game (including Cameron Meredith last October). 

And being a productive receiver doesn’t have to mean that player isn’t a good blocker. SB Nation listed familiar names as its best blocking receivers: Tampa Bay’s Mike Evans, Los Angeles’ Robert Woods, Arizona’s Larry Fitzgerald, Miami’s Jarvis Landry and New York’s Brandon Marshall. 

But for the Bears, if Sunday’s offensive plan — for a game in which the team was never losing — is what future wins could look like, this receiver unit will be asked to do quite a bit of blocking. 

“We haven’t won as much as we want to around here, and when you see that (blocking effort), you see these guys are fully invested and they care, and they care about the guy next to him,” offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains said, “and not about their own individual stats because it would’ve been real easy to sit on the sideline and pout and say hey, I’m not getting the ball — like, one receiver caught a ball in the whole game out of 22 passes, 15 completions, one guy catches a ball. But you know what, they’re a huge part of those wins.”

Howard had seven carries of five or more yards that went toward the sideline, while Cohen had two explosive gains into the second level and beyond. Runs like those are where blocking from guys like Thompson, Bellamy, Kendall Wright and Marcus Wheaton are important. 

“Those are the blocks that spring us to the next level,” Cohen said. “Without the receiver blocks, there would be a lot of 10-yard gains, 9-yard gains, but the bigger gains are the receivers blocking down field.”

The Bears still need more out of their receivers, but their blocking success on Sunday was a contributing factor to beating one of the better teams in the AFC. And it didn’t go unnoticed inside Halas Hall, especially the block Thompson threw to end the game. 

“They know who we have in the backfield, they know who we’ve got up front,” offensive lineman Kyle Long said. “And they know that if we want to have success at an elite level running the ball they need to do their part too and that’s just what he was doing. He was doing his job.”