Moon: Taking a look at lineup changes

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Moon: Taking a look at lineup changes

Tuesday, Sept. 6, 2011
Posted: 5:38 p.m.

By JohnMullin
CSNChicago.com BearsInsider Follow@CSNMoonMullin
Earlier today I noted that the Bears, despite being an NFC Championship finalist, have uprooted more than one-third of their roster from last season, which likely ranks among the more sweeping makeovers ever for a conference runner-up.

Some specifics came into focus this afternoon when the team put out its first regular-season depth chart.
Offense

Didnt like the anemic offense that ranked 30th in yardage and 21st in points last year? Neither did the Bears apparently, because only four of the positions on offense have the same player starting there that started the NFC title game: quarterback Jay Cutler, running back Matt Forte, wide receiver Devin Hester and left guard Chris Williams.

The first-string fullback has the same number (86) as last years guy but that is about the only similarity between this years No. 1, rookie Kyle Adams and last years one-man jumbo package, Brandon Manumaleuna. The Bears further showed how they regard Adams when they waived fullback Will Taufoou Tuesday, presumably to clear a roster spot for a signee at linebacker, their thinnest spot.
Roberto Garza and JMarcus Webb are still starters on the offensive line. But both are in new positions, and if Webb isnt an exponentially different player than he was last year, the Bears have a bit of a problem.

Defense

Notably, newly signed Brandon Meriweather isnt being handed a starting job the way Roy Williams was on offense. Meriweather is behind Major Wright at free safety; for how long, youll probably know from what you see on the field.

Henry Melton has replaced Tommie Harris, but thats about it as far as change to a defense that mocks critics by annually ranking among the NFLs best. Nick Roach is the starter at strong-side linebacker instead of Pisa Tinoisamoa, but Roach started six of the last seven regular-season games and 18 of the last 22 at SLB, so that doesnt count as a change.

Special teams

Because there are four phases to special teams (kickoff returncover, punt returncover), IDing all of the changes there would take a long, long time. Suffice it to say, coordinator Dave Toub have implemented perhaps more total personnel changes than both offense and defense combined.

The good news: No one in the NFL has done a better job than Toub of staffing and choreographing those dance troupes.

Worth noting

Last year CSNChicago.com noted that Melton, subbing with increasing frequency at defensive tackle, was switching positions with Julius Peppers. The two had the go-ahead to switch if the All-Pro end determined an advantage to dropping down inside in pass-rush situations. Melton was comfortable at end, having been drafted at that spot out of Texas. Look for that shuffle to continue in selected situations.

How secure are those starting positions? Lovie Smiths track record of accountability says that he will make a permanent change as early as a halftime. Mike Tice directed five different offensive line combinations in the first seven weeks last season. You dont perform? Youre movin out.

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.

Amid 0-3 preseason carnage, Bears believe one positive can be building block

Amid 0-3 preseason carnage, Bears believe one positive can be building block

With the No. 1 units in all three phases generally done for the 2016 preseason, one of the few stats that coaches and teams focus on can be analyzed for a Bears team that doesn’t have a lot of numerical results worth noting.

Through three preseason losses the Bears curiously have a plus-1 turnover ratio, taking the ball away from opponents. Through three games last year the Bears stood at plus-6 after a 2-1 point of a preseason in which coach John Fox sought to change a losing culture with an aggressive preseason approach.

Why this matters in a preseason of failures is this: Of the 15 teams with negative turnover totals, only one had a winning record. Not that a positive preseason means regular-season success, as the Bears demonstrated last year.

[SHOP: Get your Bears gear here]

But while the Bears offense has done precious little with the football when it’s had it, at least it is not giving it to opponents. Brian Hoyer has thrown the only two interceptions in 96 throws by Bears quarterbacks, a rate of 2.1 percent.

The defense has been without starting cornerback Kyle Fuller and No. 1 nickel corner Bryce Callahan for the past two games, and top corner Tracy Porter for game one and part of game three, the latter because of a concussion.

Still, members of the defense, which has produced two interceptions and two fumble recoveries through three games, have noticed a difference this year from last year’s first in a 3-4 base defense.

“Faster, that’s the main thing,” said defensive tackle Will Sutton. “A year under my belt in the system, you’re not thinking as much because you should know the plays. I can play a lot faster because I know how the blocks are being made against this type of defense, for instance.”

[RELATED: Wrapping up Bears-Chiefs: Not all bad, so why not find some good?]

The results have not yet been reflected in points, yardage or wins. But within the defense, players believe that team speed has been increased along with reaction speed, breaks on the ball and other elements that go into producing takeaways.

“Absolutely,” said linebacker Willie Young. “We’ve got a couple more guys who are more familiar with the scheme this year, including myself and [linebacker Lamarr] Houston, who obviously got off to a slow start last year.

“But we do have a lot more guys in position who are more familiar with the defensive scheme. So it allows you to fill a bit faster, a little more confidence.”

Wrapping up Bears-Chiefs: Not all bad, so why not find some good?

Wrapping up Bears-Chiefs: Not all bad, so why not find some good?

Bears coach John Fox declared in the wake of Saturday’s 23-7 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs that what transpired hadn’t been all bad. And that’s true; good wins don’t usually look as good in the film room afterwards, and bad losses don’t automatically show up all dark, either.

And so it is after preseason game No. 3 that the Bears in fact did have some good along with some bad in what was the worst performance of the preseason, if only because so much of it involved the No. 1 units, and they’re supposed to be better than that.

Since so much seemed to be (and actually was) bad on Saturday night, the contrarian approach is invoked here: Let’s start with the good.

Good: The Bears faced Kansas City (which also was missing a handful of key starters) without Bryce Callahan, Leonard Floyd, Kyle Fuller, Kyle Long, Pernell McPhee, Zach Miller and Eddie Royal. Tracy Porter left with a concussion. They expect to have some if not all of those starters and sub-starters back by Week 1.

Bad: Miller, Porter, Royal and McPhee have varying degrees of injury histories, McPhee the least of the group but had never been put in the position of holding up as a full-time starter before last season. The chances of the Bears having all their key players for full seasons are slim.

Good: Jay Cutler has thrown 31 passes this preseason. None of them have been intercepted. In what proved to be a foreshadowing of a ball-security breakthrough for the historically turnover-prone quarterback, Cutler threw zero interceptions in 33 attempts last preseason. In the regular season Cutler had two games of 31 attempts and another of 33 with zero interceptions, plus pick-free games of 24, 27 and 45 attempts.

Preseason and training camp stats mean nothing; preseason and camp performances often do.

[RELATED: Bears defense can't pick up all the pieces from a broken offense]

Bad: Kevin White has shown less than nothing through preseason, catching a total of three passes and dropping an equal number in what is his de facto rookie season. He has run imprecise routes and looked a seventh-round draft pick, not a seventh-overall one. Despite his apparent explosiveness, no Bear is averaging less than White’s 4 yards per reception.

Good: Josh Bellamy and Cameron Meredith have had next-step preseasons, a matter of some potential significance given the health concerns with Eddie Royal and production concerns with White. No Bear has caught more than Bellamy’s 10 passes, and no Bear with more than two catches has averaged more than Meredith’s 16 yards per catch.

Bad: The Bears need a road win at Cleveland next Thursday to avoid the fifth winless preseason in franchise history.

Good: Of the previous four no-win warmup slates, the Bears finished 9-5 in 1962 and 11-5 and in the NFC Championship in 2010. The 1998 season, Dave Wannstedt’s last, wound up 4-12 but 1978 at least was 7-9.

Five of the last six times the Bears lost the “all-important third preseason game,” the Bears finished 8-8 or better.

Bad: (put in the Kansas City game tape)

Bears cut 10 players, trim roster to 80

Bears cut 10 players, trim roster to 80

The Bears have until Tuesday to move their roster down to 75, and they began Sunday by cutting 10 players.

The following players were waived: DL Keith Browner, WR Kieran Duncan, WR Derek Keaton, OL John Kling, RB Senorise Perry, WR Darrin Peterson, DB Joel Ross, TE Gannon Sinclair, OL Martin Wallace, FB Darrell Young

The Bears' roster currently sits at 80 players. After getting the roster down to 75 on Tuesday, the team will then cut down to 53 for the start of the regular season.

The Bears open their regular season on Sept. 4 in Houston against the Texans.