Mullin: Mike Tice Miracle on O-Line? Not quite

308120.jpg

Mullin: Mike Tice Miracle on O-Line? Not quite

Thursday, Jan. 6, 2011
11:01 AM

By John Mullin
CSNChicago.com

Phew lots to range over with Mac and Spiegs this morning on the weekly visit with The Danny Mac Show on WSCR-AM 670. (CLICK HERE to listen to the segment).

Mac clearly isnt buying into the Mike Tice Miracle with the offensive line, a group that has improved almost weekly but still allowed (with contributions from poor blocking by tight ends and backs at times) a league-worst 56 sacks. And Dannys right; if youre 30th in offensive production, you dont rate a rainbow of bouquets.

But in fairness, I thought it worth acknowledging that Tice came in with an open-mind policy on players, which actually have hurt him in the selection process. What that meant was a guard like Johan Asiata jumps out in OTAs because hes athletic. Trouble is, when pads come on and playbooks expand, Tice finds out why Asiata wasnt in the mix before this.

Then Tice sees things from Lance Louis, enough so that he moves Roberto Garza to a new position (left guard) to fit Louis at right guard. Trouble is, Louis cant play effectively through what by NFL standards are minor injuries, so that path was a dead-end.

Throw in the injuries to Garza and Chris Williams and I do think you see the amount of assessment Tice had to do while all the while in the middle of teaching his group the new system and protections...

Mac (no surprise) had fun with what Anthony Adams had said to me, that there need to be more fat guys on magazine covers. Id add here that there need to be more fat guys in booths, meaning that bright bulbs like Adams should get more looks as analysts and color guys. Tony Siragusa is a cartoon figure but when I watch Michael Strahan, I see a job for Anthony Adams funny but thoroughly knows his game.

But back to MacTalk...

We went from Adams to the defensive line in general as the guys were interested in how the stats of Julius Peppers and the defensive line with him werent stunningly leaping up this year with the addition of No. 90. But thats probably another good measure of Peppers impact he has calmly said all year that hes not about the stats, winning is not about stats, and he and the Bears have played like it.

Draft breezes

Interesting brief look ahead when the guys alluded to Hub Arkushs thought that the Bears will have to address the defensive line this draft or offseason. Id agree with that, and mentioned a look back Id done at drafts in which Jerry Angelo was a part. A vast majority of them saw linemen (offensive or defensive) taken with his teams first pick, irrespective of round.

When he took over running the draft as Bears GM, what did he pick first? Offensive line (Marc Colombo, 2002), defensive line (Michael Haynes, 2003), defensive line (Tommie Harris, 2004). Two of the last three years he stayed bigs on his first picks: offensive line (Chris Williams, 2008), defensive line (Jarron Gilbert, 2009).

Given that Angelo doesnt need a quarterback, running back, tight end or safety, and he wont spend a first-round pick on a wide receiver, chances are very, very good that the lines are addressed with the top two picks in the 2011 draft.

Playoffing

Im on board with the guys thinking that Green Bay-Philadelphia is the game of the wild-card weekend. They werent sure why all the love for Green Bay, but the Packers were my preseason pick for NFC Super Bowl representative and the No. 1 reason is No. 12. Aaron Rodgers is still there, and as good a season as Michael Vick has had, I give the QB edge to Green Bay this weekend.

And just thinking about this right now: Mac noted that, yeah, the Packers cant run the ball. Agree. But what I see in Rodgers is a young Brett Favre without the image of the gunslinger. Favres teams were more than passable without a dominant run game, were very good with one (Dorsey Levens for a year to win a Super Bowl), and while this defense doesnt have Reggie White the way the Favre teams did, this one is more than good enough.

The Packers beat the Eagles in Philadelphia to start the season, with Vick taking over when Kevin Kolb suffered a concussion. This wont be the same Green Bay team (that one had RB Ryan Grant) or the same Eagles team (Vick has a season behind him). But the result will be the same.

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 training camp preview: Three burning questions for the offensive line

Bears training camp preview: Three burning questions for the offensive line

With training camp starting next week, CSN Chicago’s Chris Boden and JJ Stankevitz are looking at three burning questions for each of the Bears’ position groups heading into Bourbonnais. Friday's unit: the offensive line. 

1. Will Kyle Long and Josh Sitton flip spots, and will it be effective?

One of the more intriguing storylines to come out of the Bears’ offseason program was the possibility of a Kyle Long-Josh Sitton guard swap, with Long moving from right to left and Sitton to left to right. The prevailing wisdom is that Long’s athleticism would be better suited for the pulls needed at left guard, while Sitton has made Pro Bowls at both positions. But is it prudent for the Bears to make this switch with Long still recovering from November ankle surgery and some nasty complications that came after it? He’s shown he’s skilled enough to already make one position switch on the offensive line (from right tackle to right guard), so there’s no reason to doubt he couldn’t handle another so long as he’s healthy. We’ll see where he is next week. 

“You want flexibility,” coach John Fox said. “You don’t want as much flexibility as we had to use a year ago because we had to play so many guys due to injury. But we’re messing around with (Sitton) and Kyle both playing opposite sides, whether one’s on the left, one’s on the right. We’ll get those looks in camp, we got plenty of time.”

2. Can Charles Leno Jr. capitalize on a contract year?

Leno has been a pleasant surprise given the low expectations usually set for seventh-round picks. He started every game in 2016, checking off an important box for John Fox — reliability. Whether Leno can be more than a reliable player at left tackle, though, remains to be seen (if the Bears thought he were, wouldn’t they have signed him to an extension by now?). He has one more training camp and 16 games to prove he’s worthy of a deal to be the Bears (or someone else’s) left tackle of the future. Otherwise, the Bears may look to a 2018 draft class rich in tackles led by Texas’ Connor Williams and Notre Dame’s Mike McGlinchey. 

“I know if I take care of my business out here, everything else will take care of itself,” Leno said. 

3. Will Hroniss Grasu survive the roster crunch?

A year ago, Grasu was coming off a promising rookie season and was in line to be the Bears’ starting center. But the Oregon product tore his ACL in August, and Cody Whitehair thrived after a last-minute move from guard to center. If the Bears keep eight offensive lineman this year, Grasu could be squeezed out: Leno, Long, Whitehair, Sitton and Bobby Massie are the likely starters, with Eric Kush and Tom Compton filling reserve roles. That leaves one spot, either for fifth-round guard Jordan Morgan or Grasu. The Bears could try to stash Morgan, who played his college ball at Division-II Kutztown, on the practice squad and keep Grasu. But Grasu doesn’t have flexibility to play another position besides center, which could hurt his case. 

Bears training camp preview: 3 burning questions for tight ends

Bears training camp preview: 3 burning questions for tight ends

With training camp starting next week, CSN Chicago’s Chris Boden and JJ Stankevitz are looking at three burning questions for each of the Bears’ position groups heading into Bourbonnais. Thursday's unit: the tight ends.

1. Will Zach Miller make the 53-man roster?

Miller didn’t play a single down from 2012-14, and has missed seven games in two seasons with the Bears, but he’s been productive when on the field: 110 targets, 81 receptions, 925 yards and nine touchdowns. But the Bears signed Dion Sims to an $18 million contract and then drafted Adam Shaheen in the second round of the draft, moves that seemingly put Miller in a precarious position heading into Bourbonnais. Not helping Miller’s case is the Lisfranc fracture he suffered last November, which kept him sidelined through OTAs and veteran minicamp in May and June. He’d be a valuable player for the Bears to keep around, but at the same time, training camp could be a perfect storm for Miller to be among the cuts.

“They’re going to cutting it close for training camp,” coach John Fox said of Miller (and Danny Trevathan) in June. “But right now they’re right on target and that’s kind of what we expected all offseason.”

2. What can we expect from Adam Shaheen?

Shaheen was among the bright spots during May and June, hardly looking like someone who played his college ball at Division II Ashland while going against NFL defenders. But those were just shorts-and-helmets practices without any contact, so it’d be premature to project anything about Shaheen off of them. The real test for Shaheen will be when he puts the pads on in Bourbonnais and gets his first experience with the physicality of the NFL after a few years of being head and shoulders — literally — above his competition in college. It’s unlikely Shaheen will live up to his “Baby Gronk” hype in Year 1, but if he handles training camp well, he could be a valuable red zone asset for Mike Glennon as a rookie. 

“You don’t know until you put the pads on,” Shaheen said. “That’s what I’m excited for.”

3. How productive can this unit be?

Between Sims — who had a career high four touchdowns last year with the Miami Dolphins — and Shaheen, the Bears have two new, big targets for an offense that tied for 24th in the NFL with 19 passing touchdowns a year ago. If Miller sticks around, this group would have enviable depth. But even if he doesn’t, the Bears liked what they saw from Brown last year (16 receptions, 124 yards, 1 TD in six games). There are fewer questions about the tight ends heading into training camp than the receivers, and it wouldn’t be surprising if Glennon leans on this unit, especially early in the season.