Moon: Musings from around the league

Moon: Musings from around the league

Monday, Sept. 26, 2011Posted: 10:45 p.m.

By John Mullin
CSNChicago.com Bears Insider Follow @CSNMoonMullin
Around the NFC North

The division is in danger of slipping irretrievably away from the Bears (1-2) after their loss to the Green Bay Packers and the continuing ascendancy of the Detroit Lions. Losing to both New Orleans and Green Bay has the Bears two games down in any tiebreaker in the NFC and the pressure is building for a winning streak, not just winning one game.

Detroit (3-0) goes to Dallas next and if the Lions have exceeded expectations, the Cowboys and Tony Romo are the dictionary definition of over-hyped. An early guess is that the Lions will be a head-shaking 4-0 when the Bears see them in Detroit on Monday night Oct. 10. The Lions started 6-2 in 2007 and proceeded to lose seven of their last eight. Their offensive coordinator then was Mike Martz. QB Matthew Stafford put up a passer rating of 108.8 despite taking 5 sacks.

Green Bay (3-0) was the class of the division coming into 2011 and has done nothing to lose that distinction. The Packers have won a division game on the road and are 3-0 in the NFC. If something jumps the tracks at some point (the Packers wont go 16-0), they are building up an edge with head-to-heads over two potential playoff contenders in the Saints and Bears. Aaron Rodgers leads the NFL with a passer rating of 120.9.

With all of the passing firepower the Packers possess, Green Bay has handed the ball to both Ryan Grant and James Starks 32 times, tied for 28th in the NFL. Matt Forte is down at No. 26 with just 35 total carries in three games.Cam Newton has 25 carries, Michael Vick 24.

The Bears are not the only division team with bizarre decisions in the run game. Minnesota Vikings coach Leslie Frazier gave the ball to Toby Gerhart for a fourth-down, fourth-quarter run against the Lions instead of Adrian Peterson, and despite the Vikings taking a 20-0 lead into halftime, Peterson got exactly five carries in the second half. If Christian Ponder is not the Vikings starting quarterback by the time the Bears get Minnesota in Soldier Field on Oct. 16, something is wrong. Ponder was the No. 12 pick of the draft and Cam Newton is putting the lie to the notion that quarterbacks are useless in their rookie years.

Fun look

Longtime bud Peter King over at Sports Illustrated, as always, has a Monday Morning Quarterback thats worth a look. Peter takes a peek at Henry Melton, a former running back at Texas who switched to the defensive line and has 3 sacks this season, his first as a starter. The numbers are a little misleading from a distance because Melton was invisible in the New Orleans loss and was ineffective too often at gap control vs. the Green Bay running game.

Peter mentions a Tweet by Tom Crabtree as the Packers tight end was leaving on the team buses from Soldier Field after Sundays game. Via @TCrabtree83: Sad to see all these folks in Chicago missing every finger except the middle. I think theyre trying to wave to us.

Around the schedule

Something to keep in mind is that no team in the NFL played a tougher first three games than the Bears three playoff teams in Atlanta, New Orleans and Green Bay. The reality is that anything less than an excellent early burst was going to be trouble and not a lot of analysts had the Bears a lot better than the 1-2 they are after playing three teams with a combined 34-14 record.

Michael Vick is taking more of a beating in Philadelphia than Jay Cutler is in Chicago, and he had something to say about officiating that has allowed him to be a target of hits that would draw roughing flags if they were against a lot of other NFL quarterbacks. Dream Team because of a bunch of free-agent signings? Ummmm.

The Panthers were less a concern when Cam Newton was throwing for 400-plus yards in his first two games than when he managed the weather and engineered a comeback win over Jacksonville. Newtons passing total was a modest 158 yards but highlight after highlight was of him fighting off pressure and getting the ball to his playmakers rather than over-relying on his athleticism to tuck it and run.

Kyle Orton is under pressure (still, always) after Denvers 1-2 start and now the Broncos have to go to Green Bay. Orton is just 4-12 as a starter since leaving the Bears and a surprise will be for the Bears to see him under center when they go to Denver Dec. 11. John Fox inherited a quarterback controversy between Orton and Tim Tebow when Fox took over as head coach and he has no investment in either.

The Bears have been anything but dominant against the run after seeing all three of their 2011 opponents rush for at least 100 yards against them. They can look ahead to seeing the NFLs No. 1 and No. 2 runners on the dance card in the persons of Oaklands Darren McFadden (131 yards per game, 6.4 yards per carry) and Philadelphias LeSean McCoy (115 yards per game, 6.1 yards per carry). Before those two, they have Adrian Peterson, No. 6 at 98.7 yards per game and 5.1 per carry.

Rooting interest
Members of the media arent supposed to be fans and I usually dont have a rooting interest in outcomes (I do have a favorite team but Ill keep that to myself). But there are individuals you like to see do well and Rex Grossman is one of those.

Rex endured more abuse in Chicago than just about any player I have ever covered, yet was unfailingly personable and accommodating even to some of the worst abusers. A decent person and one of those people you privately want to see do well, not because he was good to the media, but just because thats what should happen.

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.

Good or better? Why offseason moves are making 2017 Bears better

Good or better? Why offseason moves are making 2017 Bears better

Improvement typically comes in incremental steps, not leaps. And the Bears of 2017, based on what they have done at a handful of positions, the latest being Thursday’s signing of wide receiver Victor Cruz, fit that template.

The clear organizational commitment is to build through the draft, even if injuries have undermined some otherwise apparent upgrades to starting lineups on both sides of the football. But if there is a “theme” to what GM Ryan Pace is doing to muscle up a sluggish roster, it is that the Bears are willing to take flyers on veteran players – with additions like four veteran wide receivers with injury and issue histories – that arguably point to a win-now mindset while draft picks develop and contribute.

Jaye Howard and John Jenkins. Make the defensive line “better?” Than Jonathan Bullard and Will Sutton, probably. But “good?” Mmmmm…..

The game-one tight ends last year were Zach Miller-Logan Paulsen-Gregg Scruggs. Now they’re Miller-Dion Sims-Adam Shaheen (based on a second-round draft choice). “Good?” Maybe, maybe not. “Better?” Obviously, based on Sims alone.

Mike Glennon-Mark Sanchez-Mitch Trubisky. Bears “better” at quarterback? Than Jay Cutler-Brian Hoyer-Matt Barkley, probably. “Good?” Mmmmmm…..

The decisions to sign Glennon and Sanchez to the quarterback depth chart have sparked their shares of understandable cynical skepticism. But Kirk Cousins and Jimmy Garoppolo were not available in trade, so the Pace decision was to gamble on upside with Glennon over the known quantity of Brian Hoyer (the preference of some coaches) and certainly Jay Cutler, for whom “potential” and “upside” no longer applied.

Add in the aggressive draft of Trubisky and the result was three possibilities of hits on a quarterback (Sanchez and Connor Shaw being combined here as a pair entry in the hit-possibility scenarios). All three were deemed an improvement over Cutler and/or Barkley.

The results may not vault the Bears all the way up to “good” at the pivotal position for any franchise. But “better” is sometimes all you can realistically manage.

Taking a wider-screen look at wide receiver in this context… .

Coach John Fox has cited the need for the Bears to establish the ability to get yardage in bigger chunks. Accordingly, all four of the veteran wideout signings this offseason – Cruz, Rueben Randle, Markus Wheaton, Kendall Wright –  have posted yards-per-catch seasons of 14 or longer.

All four won’t be on the opening-day roster, but all four offer the promise of major impact. Cruz, Randle and Wright have had seasons of 70 or more receptions, and Wheaton topped out at 53 in 2015 with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Randy Moss, Terrell Owens and Jerry Rice weren’t available, so “good” was hard to achieve in an offseason in which Alshon Jeffery and Eddie Royal were expected departures long before their exits. But are Cruz, Randle, Wheaton and Wright, with Kevin White and Cameron Meredith, a “better” starting point than Jeffery, Royal, White, Bellamy, etc. of a year ago?

Obviously. But players with even moderately established NFL “names” (like Cruz, Randle, etal.) are typically available for a reason; teams do not routinely give up on talent. And none of the four come without significant shadows on their NFL resumes, whether for injury or other questions.

Cruz missed most of 2014 and all of the 2015 season, and hasn’t played a full season since his Pro Bowl year of 2012.

Randle was described as a head case by scouts and was so bad that he was let go in the Eagles’ cutdown to 75 last year, followed by disparaging comments from those in and around the organization.

Wheaton flashed promise in his 2014-15 opportunities as a part-time starter but played just three games before a shoulder injury landed him on IR last season.

The Tennessee Titans thought enough of Wright, their 2012 first-round draft choice, to pick up his fifth-year option going into las season. But by week 14 he was benched for tardiness and was a healthy DNP in game 16, announcing after the game that he already knew he was not in the Titans’ plans for 2017.

The prospect of the Bears going from 3-13 to “good” borders on fantasy. But if being among the NFL’s busiest this offseason hasn’t propelled the Bears to that level, the results point to “better.” At this point, that’s something,.

How big of an impact will Victor Cruz have on the Bears?

How big of an impact will Victor Cruz have on the Bears?

The Bears inked Victor Cruz to a one-year deal on Thursday, adding another receiver to an already crowded corps.

But it never hurts to add a veteran one to a young group, especially with a new starting quarterback.

Cruz is 30 years old and isn't the same Pro Bowl-caliber player he was before missing the entire 2015 season with a calf injury, but he surely has a lot left in the tank and can serve as a great mentor for the Bears receivers.

Just how big of an impact will he have on his new team? See what the SportsTalk Live panel had to say in the video above.