Moon's Notebook: Will Bears spy Michael Vick?


Moon's Notebook: Will Bears spy Michael Vick?

Wednesday, Nov. 24, 2010
5:53 PM

By John Mullin

Michael Vick isnt pointing fingers with respect to his problems, including the ones on football fields where he has been an underachiever based on being a No. 1-overall draft choice and one of the great all-around athletes of his era.

Hes pointing the thumb.

Not being more successful before this season didnt have anything to do with the coaches, Vick said. It was pretty much me.

You have to have the desire to want to be great. Your coaches can only talk to you about it, inform you of things you can and cant do. Its up to you, at the end of the day. And basically I didnt take advantage of the time that I had, and the opportunities that I had.

So I had to just start from Ground Zero.

Fort Knox

The Bears may not have a classic No. 1 wide receiver but Johnny Knox continues to do an awfully good impersonation of one.

The second-year wideout, an accidental starter as a rookie only because Devin Aromashodu was injured in training camp, has caught 37 passes through 10 games. The rate of reception (3.7 per game) is up slightly from the 3.0 he averaged in 15 games as a rookie, although he has only one TD vs. 5 last season.

But the real difference in Knox is showing up in big plays. Knox is averaging 18.2 yards per catch this year after a surprisingly modest 11.7 last year; surprising, because Knox is possessed of more speed than anyone else on the roster (Devin Hester and Danieal Manning may dispute that). And it is giving his quarterback a new level to which to throw.

Hes the kind of guy youve got to quietly account for him defensively, because if not, hell get going, said quarterback Jay Cutler. Hes got so much speed in that second level that hell get away from you in a hurry.

Knox came into the league from Abilene Christian (Tex.), the same school that gave the Bears Manning. When he arrived the Bears were deep into the Ron Turner version of the West Coast offense. Now he has switched to Mike Martzs program.

I think hes getting better and better with his routes, Cutler said. Hes getting better and better at learning the offense. Hes still a young player in the league, so to have to learn two different offenses as quickly as hes had to learn them is tough.

Spy games

Vick noted that teams seldom any more resort to the spy system, assigning one defensive player to be locked onto him at all times during a play. The Washington Redskins did that for several plays and Vick annihilated the Redskins in perhaps the greatest performance of his career, throwing for four touchdowns and running for two.

The Bears did some of that way back in the early years of Brian Urlachers career, and they limited Vicks Atlanta Falcons teams to one TD in three games. They certainly could use that approach again but their favored defense makes it almost redundant.

All of our players will know where he is most of the game, coach Lovie Smith said. We probably play more zone coverage than we do man. One of the benefits of playing zone coverage is you have everybody looking at the quarterback.

But whether we spy, well know where he is most of the time. Hes not really hard to know where he is.

Sack man

Defensive end Julius Peppers was named NFC defensive player of the week after recording 3 sacks and deflecting a pass that was intercepted by cornerback Charles Tillman in the Bears 16-0 shutout victory at Miami in Week 11. The three sacks by Peppers tied a career-high and marked the eighth time he has had a three-sack performance since entering the league in 2002, the most by any player over that span.

Peppers three sacks were the most by a Bears player since Adewale Ogunleye had three at Oakland in Week 10 of the 2007 season. The honor is the fourth of Peppers career and his first in a Bears uniform. It is the third Player of the Week award for the Bears this season: Matt Forte (offensive, week 1) and Hester (special teams, week 10).

Sick bay

The Bears and Eagles are headed into Sundays game as perhaps the two healthiest teams in the NFL. The Bears had only linebacker Pisa Tinoisamoa limited in practice while the Eagles had only defensive end Juqua Parker (hip) and cornerback Asante Samuel (knee), the NFL leader in interceptions, held out of practice.

John "Moon" Mullin is'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 get Jay Cutler back as QB competition with Brian Hoyer fades to black

Bears get Jay Cutler back as QB competition with Brian Hoyer fades to black

If there was any quarterback “controversy” swirling about the Bears – and one likely will be after this season – this one is safely resolved with Jay Cutler cleared by team medical staff to return from his injured thumb and begin practicing this week, all of this about the time that Brian Hoyer was undergoing surgery for his broken right arm suffered in the loss to the Green Bay Packers.

Whether Cutler would have been re-installed as the starter had Hoyer remained healthy, and throwing for 300 yards per game, is a moot point now. Indications were that Hoyer would not lose the job if he was playing well.

But now, “obviously Jay’s our starter,” said coach John Fox. “He was injured, not permitted to play medically. And now that he’s healed he’s back to being our starter.

“That’s really the facts and kind of what happened and where we’re at now. So I don’t know that there was a ‘competition’ to speak of. Just like there wasn’t a competition when Matt Barkley went in [at Green Bay]; he was our only quarterback left. So it’s good to have Jay back. We’re excited to have him back and hopefully he can remain healthy.”

[SHOP: Gear up Bears fans!]

Team chemisty is difficult if not impossible to gauge from the outside. And whether teammates prefer Cutler or Hoyer personally is only marginally relevant anyway.

But Cutler was voted an offensive co-captain (along with Alshon Jeffery) and the offense ostensibly is more dangerous with Cutler and his deep-threat capability. Still, the Bears scored just 21 points in the combined seven quarters behind Cutler, while reaching 17-17-23-16 in whole games under Hoyer.

Cutler’s return is expected to have a ripple effect on the rest of the team.“We don’t really play into that much,” said center Cody Whitehair. “[Whoever’s] back there, we’re going to try and do our best to protect them and do our thing on the run.

“But you know, it is nice to have him back. He’s been a leader on the sideline even while he wasn’t playing and it’ll be nice to have him back out there.”

Three quick fixes for some Bears woes while searching for a turnaround

Three quick fixes for some Bears woes while searching for a turnaround

Positives were difficult to find in last Thursday’s 26-10 loss to the Green Bay Packers. So maybe the place to look for improvement lies in just getting rid of a few negatives.

As far as positives, Leonard Floyd would be the obvious one, with two sacks, one a strip and fumble recovery for a TD. Ka’Deem Carey would be another, with 10 carries for 48 yards, his second straight game with high-impact running; Jordan Howard has been shackled for two weeks, so the Bears have needed another backfield-committee member contributing. Jeremy Langford may have trouble finding work when he comes back from his ankle injury.

But negatives have far outweighed positives, which is how you get to 1-6. Fixing three of those will go a long way toward improving their chances against a Minnesota Vikings team that appeared eminently beatable in losing at Philadelphia on Sunday:

Stop the penalty hemorrhaging

For the third straight game the Bears had 10 penalties walked off against them. This "streak" started after eight infractions in the win over Detroit. The 10 in Green Bay cost the Bears 108 yards in a game where their offense netted just 189. Seven of the penalties were charged to the defense, six of which gave the Packers first downs.

The three offensive penalties were mental. A wide receiver (Alshon Jeffery) lined up offsides. The quarterback (Matt Barkley) drew a delay flag. An offensive lineman (Ted Larsen) was illegally downfield.

All of which point to a discipline problem getting worse, not better. Whether the fault lies with players losing focus or coaches not instilling a mindset is a debate, but meaningless if the problem is not addressed. “There were a lot of penalties out there,” said cornerback De’Vante Bausby, who committed three of those penalties. “We had a good scheme and plan but we just didn’t finish in the second half as a group.”

Stop the dinking

While Brian Hoyer replacing Jay Cutler scaled back the downfield element of the offense, the loss of an emerging Kevin White should not be understated. The de facto rookie may not have gotten in the end zone but he was leading the team in receptions before he suffered a broken leg in the win over Detroit.

Since the loss of White, however, the offense has shrunk. The Bears averaged 7.5 yards per pass attempt through four games with White. Without White the average is 7.0, and that is including the blip in Indianapolis, which stands as a complete anomaly. The average was 5.9 in the Jacksonville loss and 5.0 in Green Bay.

Hoyer’s ball-security orientation has been a positive, but also a limiting factor. Cutler last year had one of the best ball-security seasons of his career, yet the offense was able to average 7.5 yards per attempt.

The Bears scored two of their three rushing touchdowns in games with White, who may not yet be the field-stretcher his 4.35 speed but the prospect of White arguably made for a more threatening offense than even with the contributions of Cam Meredith.

Stop the Vikings

The Minnesota Vikings have suffered injuries at a rate like the Bears’ but have overcome them. Until Sunday in Philadelphia, when the Eagles sacked Sam Bradford six times and hit him more than a dozen other times. The Vikings never sacked Carson Wentz, who wasn’t special but was good enough while Minnesota was self-destructing.

The Vikings have beaten the Bears the last three times they’ve met, the first time that’s happened since 1999 and 2000, which is also the last time the Bears started 1-6. And the Bears have lost three straight.

The Bears were able to end the first three-game skid by focusing on one game: the Lions. The result was shutting down a very good offense, the lowest yardage-allowed (263) of the season and the firmest commitment to the run game (29) attempts.

Morale inside the locker room can only be revived by a win. One game. This game.