Moon: Tice, three assistant coaches extended

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Moon: Tice, three assistant coaches extended

Wednesday, Feb. 16, 2011
Posted 10:16 p.m.

By John Mullin
CSNChicago.com

The Bears denied offensive line coach Mike Tice the chance to interview for the job of offensive coordinator with the Tennessee Titans but they have assured him at least an extra year in his post with the Bears, extending his contract through the 2012 season.

The extension, announced on the teams website, is part of a wave of new deals that has included extra years for defensive backs coach Jon Hoke, who had interviewed previously for the Philadelphia Eagles job as defensive coordinator. Linebackers coach Bob Babich and running backs coach Tim Spencer also signed extensions recently, ensuring the return of nearly the entire Lovie Smith staff with the exceptions of assistants on the defensive line (Eric Washington) and special teams (Chris Tabor).

Im looking forward to continuing the progress we made on our offensive line in 2010, Tice told the team website. Our guys are motivated and I am excited to get back to work with them.

Feeling the draft

A call with ESPN draft guru Todd McShay on Wednesday yielded a number of interesting perspectives, including several that offer some encouragement to the Bears down at No. 29 in the first round. In that spot its difficult to target a player or even a position but needs in the previous 28 picks are in their favor.

McShay sees quarterbacks Blaine Gabbert from Missouri and Auburns Cam Newton as the top two that position. Because nine of the first 12 teams have degrees of need at quarterback, those two will go in the top 10.

More important, McShay has as many as nine defensive ends going in round one, as well as three cornerbacks. With Israel Idonije, Julius Peppers and Corey Wootton, the Bears are not looking to address their defensive edges.

Three cornerbacks could go in round one; the Bears are in the market for size and youth at that key spot but have not gone for a corner that high in Jerry Angelos tenure.

Add Auburn defensive tackle Nick Fairley (the Bears want DT help but Fairley will go long before their pick), Alabama running back Mark Ingram, Georgia wide receiver A.J. Green (Angelo dislikes risking first-round picks on wideouts), and you have as many as 17 players with first-round grades that teams ahead of the Bears are likely to grab.

What the Bears wont like are players such as Colorado tackle Nate Solder (McShay has him at No. 13, likely going to Detroit as Jeff Backus successor) going before they can select an offensive lineman.

But the draft is more than two months away. Stay tuned.

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.

Bears establishing smash-mouth core with Jordan Howard

Bears establishing smash-mouth core with Jordan Howard

Eric Kush was in some pain after the Bears win over the San Francisco 49ers. But it was a “good” pain, particularly since part of it was inflicted by a teammate.

The teammate was running back Jordan Howard, and the Bears left guard was learning along with his linemates that when Howard is coming, “he’s a-comin’,” Kush said.

“Oh man, sometimes you’re, ‘[groan-groan-groan], and he’ll hit you right in the back, you fall and try to take your guy down with you and stick him in the snow so you’re not the only one getting soaking wet and cold. But Jordan’s a lot fun and we try to kick some butt for him.”

The rookie running back has become more than simply a draft nugget from the fifth round of this year’s draft. Howard has established himself as an integral part of a winning formula of complimentary football, the concept long favored by John Fox, Lovie Smith and coaches who operate from the foundation of a premier running game, impact defense and solid special teams.

[SHOP: Gear up Bears fans!]

The Bears’ three wins have come this season in the only games in which Howard has been given 20-plus carries: 23 vs. Detroit, 26 vs. Minnesota, 32 vs. San Francisco. Add to those the 3 pass receptions against the Lions and the 4 against the Vikings and the true centerpiece of the 2016 Bears offense is more than a little apparent.

For obvious reasons beyond simply the rushing numbers.

“Especially pass protection,” said offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains. “I think he's taken a big jump that way. When you're young in this league, those are the things that can get grey for you. You run the football, he's obviously a talented player there, but in pass pro, he's made his biggest growth.”

As a corollary to Howard, San Francisco was only the second game this season in which the Bears called fewer than 30 pass plays (the only other time was at Green Bay, when the Bears only ran a total of 45 plays, 27 of them pass plays). In that respect, the snow was viewed as an ally by some in the locker room who have been unhappy at the run:pass balance, which was just 36-percent-run coming into the 49ers game.

“It was one of these games where, with the weather, we couldn’t pass the ball like we normally do —  30 times — so we had to keep it on the ground,” said one member of the offense.

Howard’s breakout game as an NFL ball carrier came against the Lions (23 carries, 111 rushing yards, 3 receptions). The Bears, looking for a breakout of their own in the form of a first two-game win streak in more than a year, are expected to keep it simple — and in Howard’s hands.

“I always expected a lot out of myself,” Howard said. “I didn’t really think that things would happen maybe this soon or this fast. I’m definitely grateful for it.”

Bears looking into Teryl Austin’s past for clues on how Lions will scheme vs. Matt Barkley

Bears looking into Teryl Austin’s past for clues on how Lions will scheme vs. Matt Barkley

The adage “play the man, not the board” seems somehow appropriate for what the Bears are doing to prepare for the Detroit Lions behind quarterback Matt Barkley.

“The man” is Detroit defensive coordinator Teryl Austin, and the Bears have been scouting him as well as his defenses, beyond just Bears games, beyond this season and last, taking in his 2014 Detroit season when Austin prepared defenses for Jay Cutler and Jimmy Clausen.

How did Austin scheme for rookie Carson Wentz when the Lions played (and beat) the Philadelphia Eagles? How did he structure is defense to stop a rookie Teddy Bridgewater when Detroit played Minnesota? (Not very well, apparently, since the Vikings won both games and scored 54 points combined in the two games).

While the John Fox Bears staff went against Austin’s Lions defense twice last year, Cutler was the Bears quarterback. When the Bears beat Austin and the Lions two months ago, it was with Brian Hoyer.

Now the Bears quarterback is Matt Barkley, who has fewer NFL games played (seven) than Cutler has NFL seasons (11), Hoyer (eight), too, for that matter.

“Different defensive coordinators attack young quarterbacks differently,” said offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains. “Some guys blitz, some guys play a bunch of zone. This group on defense there, they have a really good defensive coordinator, they're really smart, they do a bunch of stuff. On the back end, they run all the coverages.

“As a game, we'll have to make adjustments as the game goes and see what their plan to come out is early.”

Coaches and players may talk about how they prepare for a scheme irrespective of which opposing quarterback, running back, linebacker or whatever they will be facing. But in fact, preparations start with who is orchestrating the opponent’s offense or defense – play the man, not the board.

[SHOP: Gear up Bears fans!]

A risk can be out-thinking yourself trying to anticipate what a coordinator will do. The first point, Loggains said, is to start with your own strengths.

“We definitely look at that,” Loggains said. “As you go in the league long and longer, you face these guys, you see them in crossover games. We always know how a guy attacks a rookie quarterback or attacks a young quarterback, a veteran, or, in Matt's case, a guy who hasn't played as much.”

Evaluations of Barkley’s performance will broaden, particularly now that he is on tape for defensive coordinators to scheme for and scout. And while they are watching Barkley, the Bears are watching them.