Chicago Bears

Moon: Angelo wants Forte; Bears will win division

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Moon: Angelo wants Forte; Bears will win division

Wednesday, Sept. 7, 2011Posted: 11:04 a.m.

By JohnMullin
CSNChicago.com BearsInsider Follow@CSNMoonMullin
The Bears schedule is a little nastier this year because of their winning the NFC North. The obvious rough opening three games Atlanta, New Orleans, Green Bay has been well chronicled.

Actually, its worse than you thought.

All three (Falcons, Saints, Packers) ranked in the top 11 for points per game. The Saints (No. 3) and Falcons (No. 4) were among the elite at keeping their quarterbacks un-sacked; the Packers didnt protect Aaron Rodgers as well as that, but the Packers seemed to manage just fine anyway. Green Bay and New Orleans ranked in the top 10 for yardage.

The Bears ranked no better than 21st in any of those departments.

But then it gets even more surly.

The Falcons (fifth), Saints (seventh) and Packers (second) all stand among the NFLs defensive elite as well. The Bears were fourth in scoring defense but ninth in yards allowed vs. Green Bays No. 5 and New Orleans No. 4.

Just to be clear...

The Bears offer to running back Matt Forte wasnt enough to get Forte to nod OK. But the Bears are not closing any doors even though GM Jerry Angelo told ChicagoBears.com that there are no current plans for negotiations before the end of the season.

And Angelo was explicit long-term: We want to have Matt play his entire career as a Bear. That was our intent when we started negotiations.

Reasonable assumption, but...

Mike Florio at ProFootballTalk.com has the Bears finishing out of the playoffs. Thats a very reasonable conclusion and Mike is among the best at assessing league-wide situations.

But as Mike said Wednesday on his 10 a.m. check-in with Dan McNeil and Matt Spiegel on WSCR-AMs The NcNeil and Spiegel Show one of his and others fundamental underlying assumptions is that the Green Bay Packers have to be the pick to win the NFC North. They won the Super Bowl and theyre getting a lot of injured guys back.

But Ive gone the other direction and picked the Bears to win the division again, in part because of the last 10 Super Bowl winners, only four have even won their division the following year. Life and the NFL dont always go in the straight line they look to be following.

As for specific Bears issues, Mike said he was concerned about the offensive line as a work in progress. Thats significant if the defense has trouble winning games for them early. And Mike admitted to the feeling shared by a lot of Bears fans last year.

I just feel they got lucky in early 2010 and the defense carried them through a lot of those games.

Well see. Mikes not alone in his take here. I do have a hard time seeing lucky getting you to 11 wins, though. Guess thats why they play the games.
Rostering

If you wondered whether fourth preseason games matter and teams pay attention to who does what, the Bears replenished their fullback larder Wednesday with the signing of jumbo blocking back Tyler Clutts from the practice squad of the Cleveland Browns the Bears opponent in that fourth warmup game.

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.