Chicago Bears

Moon: Garza staying put at center

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Moon: Garza staying put at center

Wednesday, Sept. 14, 2011
Posted: 10:52 a.m. Updated: 5:02 p.m.

By John Mullin
CSNChicago.com Bears Insider Follow @CSNMoonMullin READ: Urlacher leaves team following mother's death
READ: NFC North makes a statement in Week 1

The play of Roberto Garza at center has helped with at least one new decision on the offensive line

Right guard Lance Louis injured right ankle, hurt during the Atlanta game, has him decidedly questionable for next Sunday. Chris Spencer, who replaced Louis during the game, split reps with Edwin Williams in Louis spot as the Bears will leave Garza in place after a near-flawless game of directing the line. Stability and experience at that position also become crucial in a game where noise makes offensive line play dicey at best.

The most pleasing thing and really something that came into my decision, am I going to make one move or two moves? was the fact that Roberto had no mental errors against Atlanta, said line coach Mike Tice.

Garza has played primarily at right game through his career. But he has developed a strong chemistry with quarterback Jay Cutler in addition to taking charge of a group of offensive linemen with fewer than half combined career starts (53) than he has (125).

Pancake chef?

Lance Louis was having perhaps his best game as a Bear when he suffered his ankle injury. In the span of 20 plays, Louis had five different Falcons on the ground with his blocks. He played physical and with great confidence, Mike Tice said.

Planning ahead

Strong-side linebacker Nick Roach typically takes a few reps each week at the middle-linebacker spot, where he is Brian Urlachers backup in addition to rookie Dom DeCicco. If Urlacher is unavailable because of the death of his mother this week, expect Roach to move to the middle and Brian Iwuh to start in Roachs spot.

We have a backup plan, coach Lovie Smith said, then deadpanned. Id like to be able to talk about that, but you can understand why Im not going to. Hopefully well have Brian ready to go this week. But if he cant, we feel good with our next plan.

What'd you say?

The Seattle Seahawks Qwest Field is generally considered the NFLs noisiest. But the Superdome is in the team photo for din level and the Bears are preparing for a noise situation.

Common remedies are silent snap counts started by a pre-arranged signal, hand-holding to assure simultaneous get-offs by the offensive line and others. That will include practicing inside the Walter Payton Center on Thursday with speakers maxd out with crowd noise when the offense is working on its game plan.

We got to be able to hear something, so well work on different types of counts and stuff, said center Roberto Garza. Obviously the tomorrow will get us ready for that. But obviously, were going to have to communicate and make up some calls or by hand signals or whatever we have to do, to get the job done.

Of course, there is one very successful big-picture way of curing the New Orleans noise problem.

It depends on how the game is going, said tackle Frank Omiyale, a member of the Atlanta Falcons playing the first game in the rebuilt Superdome after the damage done by Katrina. You can even be outside the stadium and if the crowds rocking, it can be rough. The best thing is to score and take the crowd out of the game.

Eye on the new guy

The football hope for the Bears is that Brian Urlacher is in a place to play Sunday in New Orleans after the passing away of his mother at her home in Texas this week. Because if Urlacher is somehow forced by family business to miss the game against the New Orleans Saints, the Bears are beyond thin behind him.

The Bears are a combined 7-16 in games without Urlacher, including the2009 opening-day loss at Green Bay when he broke his wrist andmissed the second half when the Bears could not come up with a latedefensive stop to hold a lead on the Packers. They were 0-7 in 2004when Urlacher was inactive at three different times with various legissues.

Urlacher is expected back but rookie undrafted free agent Dom DeCicco right now is listed as the No. 2 and only other middle linebacker on the roster. And DeCicco played almost exclusively at safety for Dave Wannstedt at Pitt, with a handful of starts at weakside linebacker his only linebacker experience.

Ive never played linebacker so this is really the only scheme I know as a linebacker, said DeCicco, who is a key figure in coverage units of special teams. So this is all I know so I cant really compare.

On the plus side, he certainly wont have to un-learn a whole lot of bad habits or tendencies.

Id say the thing thats benefited me the most is knowing the formation and knowing your keys on every play, DeCicco said. As long as you know your key, it seems like you can play that position pretty well.

Saintly behavior

If it seemed to the New Orleans Saints that their new center, Olin Kreutz, was up and running awfully fast, it wasnt just their imagination.

After contracts between Kreutz and the Bears broke off the first Saturday of training camp, Kreutz went to visit the Saints. He clearly liked what he heard and, unbeknownst to the Saints, was planning on sticking around.

Hed watched practice, met with folks and went back to his hotel before a flight scheduled that night for 7 p.m. The next day, a deal was worked out with the Saints and agent Mark Bartlestein, and the question was, when can Kreutz be back to begin work?

The answer was that he had never left the airport hotel, said Saints coach Sean Payton. He had purposely not gotten on the flight and two hours later he was at practice at center.

Sick bay

The No. 1 units on both sides of the ball were without key figures Wednesday as guard Lance Louis (ankle) and receiver Roy Williams (groin) were held out of practice, and safety Chris Harris (hamstring) was out along with Urlacher.

Running back Marion Barber (calf) practiced on a limited basis, as did cornerback Zackary Bowman (hamstring) and linebacker Lance Briggs (knee).

The Saints will be without receiver Marques Colston (shoulder), and safety Roman Harper (ankle) was out of practice along with kicker Garrett Hartley.

Urlacher wins award

As he was after the first time he played the Atlanta Falcons, Urlacher has been named NFC Defensive Player of the Week for the havoc he visited on various Falcons.

Urlacher recorded 10 tackles, one tackle for a loss, one interception and returned a fumble 12 yards for a touchdown in the 30-12 victory last Sunday.

About the only worry was whether or not a couple of Bears teammates would cost him the award by virtue of their own performances. Defensive end Julius Peppers posted 2 sacks, one to force the fumble that Urlacher toted into the end zone, broke up a pass, had 4 pressures of quarterback Matt Ryan and recovered another fumble.

Defensive tackle Henry Melton had 2 sacks, 6 pressures of Ryan and 3 solo tackles in a disruptive debut as a starter.

Urlachers fumble return touchdown marked the fourth score in his career and the first since an 85-yard interception return on Dec. 23, 2007 versus Green Bay. It was the first fumble return touchdown for Urlacher since a 90-yarder at Atlanta on October 7, 2001, a game after which he also was named NFC Defensive Player of the Week.

His other touchdown came on a 27-yard reception at Washington on December 23, 2001. Urlachers interception was the 19th of his career, third most in franchise history among linebackers. He has recorded an interception in nine of his 12 NFL seasons. Since joining the NFL in 2000, Urlachers 19 interceptions are fourth most among NFL linebackers.

This is Urlachers sixth Defensive Player of the Week Award, tied for the most in franchise history with Pro Football Hall of Famer DE Richard Dent.

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.

Kendall Wright draws a line between Marcus Mariota and Mitch Trubisky: They 'can do it all'

Kendall Wright draws a line between Marcus Mariota and Mitch Trubisky: They 'can do it all'

Kendall Wright saw two years ago what the transition for a quarterback, picked second overall and coming from a college spread offense, can look like. Marcus Mariota made that move smoothly and now looks poised to join the ranks of the best quarterbacks in the NFL this year with the Tennessee Titans. 

Can Mitch Trubisky make a similarly successful transition? Wright, so far, has liked what he’s seen.

“His overall progression from OTAs to training camp to now, his overall everything he’s done in every area has gotten better,” Wright said. “The work he puts in, it helps him.” 

It’s not a perfect comparison, of course, given the offense Mariota so effectively operated at Oregon had a didn't resemble the look and feel of the one Trubisky ran at North Carolina. Mariota started far more games than Trubisky, too. They’re two different quarterbacks with different skillsets. And Mariota was given the opportunity to be a Week 1 starter from the moment he was drafted, while Trubisky — for now — remains behind Mike Glennon. 

“Marcus was in a different position where he came in and he was the quarterback,” Wright said. “I think it’s different. Once Mitch starts playing, whenever he starts playing, he’ll start progressing a lot more because he’ll actually be out there in game-like situations.”

But consider why the Titans were so confident Mariota could start immediately and make a successful transition to the NFL from that flashy Oregon offense:

“I don’t think the system he had in Oregon, I don’t think that held him back when he came into the league,” Wright said. “I think he was good at making his progressions, decisive. He’s like one of those players, it doesn’t matter what system he’s in, you put him out there and he’s a guy that’s a difference-maker.”

After espousing Trubisky’s accuracy back in April, Bears general manager Ryan Pace quickly pointed out this trait: “His ability to process and see the whole field jumps out right away. 

“… All these top quarterbacks, it’s just their ability to quickly process defenses, process coverage, find open targets, not panic under pressure, deliver accurate throws when there’s a noisy pocket – things are collapsing – those guys all have those traits. And Mitch has those traits, Drew (Brees) has those traits and those are things we value.”

The point being: No matter the system, both Mariota and Trubisky have good football intelligence, and are more than what Arizona Cardinals coach Bruce Arians once bemoaned about college spread quarterbacks. 

“They hold up a card on the sideline and he kicks his foot and throws the ball,” Arians said in 2015. “That ain’t playing quarterback.”

Trubisky, of course, still has to improve with his pre-snaps reads, calling out protections, identifying coverages, learning the playbook, etc. But he seems to have the football intelligence to make those strides and marry them with his impressive physical skillset. 

And as was the case with Mariota, Wright doesn’t see a reason why Trubisky can’t succeed in the NFL. 

“(Trubisky) can do it all too,” Wright said. “He’s still learning, he’s still getting better, he’s never complacent. He has the ability to get better and he’s willing to get better. He’s a young guy that listens. He’s just a baller. You put him out there and he makes plays.” 

With return to Tennessee looming, football is fun again for Kendall Wright

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With return to Tennessee looming, football is fun again for Kendall Wright

Sunday will mark Kendall Wright’s first trip back to Nashville since he not-so-amicably split with the Tennessee Titans after the 2016 season. 

Wright has said he doesn’t want to talk about his time in Tennessee, where injuries and clashes with coaches led to a steady decline in targets and production after a standout 2013 season (139 targets, 94 receptions, 1,079 yards). But it’s easy to compare how he feels practicing with the Bears to how he felt toward the end of his days with the Titans. 

“A fresh start is good,” Wright said. “Football is fun again. 

“If you don’t have fun playing the game, what the use of you playing? And I didn’t really have too much fun the past few years. But when you’re out here playing and doing what you love to do, it’s fun. So you just gotta keep the game fun.”

Wright was a little more forceful earlier this year. 

“What motivates me the most is I probably was the best receiver on the Titans roster last year and I was playing, like, 10 plays a game,” Wright said during OTAs in June. 

But while this weekend’s game against the Titans could seem to be an opportunity for revenge, Wright is more approaching it for what it is — another preseason game to continue to improve with the rest of the first team offense. 

Wright caught a touchdown from  Glennon Saturday night in Arizona (he also was the target on Glennon’s interception, though that looked to be more on the quarterback than the receiver). And he seems to be clearly ahead of Victor Cruz to be the team’s No. 1 slot receiver — Cruz wasn’t targeted against Arizona, while Wright received three targets. 

If the Glennon-led first-team offense is going to have success in the regular season, it needs improvements from every unit — quarterback, running back, wide receiver, tight end and offensive line — based on what we’ve seen during the preseason. Perhaps a motivated, fun-having Wright, playing for the same offensive coordinator under which he had his best season, can be a part of that. 

“The game of football is supposed to be fun,” Wright said. “Don’t take the fun out of it. You just gotta go out there and have fun and make plays. When you’re making plays, it’s even more fun.”