Mullin: O-line depth, Urlacher back at Halas

514550.jpg

Mullin: O-line depth, Urlacher back at Halas

Thursday, Sept. 15, 2011
Posted: 9:32 a.m. Updated: 11:11 a.m.

By John Mullin
CSNChicago.com Bears Insider Follow @CSNMoonMullin
For reasons very much apart from football, it was good to learn a little while ago that Brian Urlacher is at Halas Hall Thursday morning. Sometimes work is indeed a good place to get away from personal hardship for a while, and it is never easy to lose your mother at any age. Hopefully this is a sign that hes among good friends and is in a place where he can go about his life even bearing the grief of the moment.

Talkin' Bears

Did the Bears overspend for Chris Spencer (at 3 million per for two years) if he isnt good enough to start over Edwin Williams at right guard with Lance Louis hobbled on a right-ankle injury? Why is it that Drew Brees has done worse against the Bears all three times hes faced them than against the rest of the NFL?

These are the kinds of things that Danny Mac and Spiegs and I chat about Thursdays at 10 a.m. on WSCR-AM 670 on The McNeil and Spiegel Show.

The reality with Spencer is that I never look too hard at the money because it isnt strictly a measure of the player; its perhaps more a measure of the market. The Bears thought they needed a center and other teams were flirting with Spencer, who also happens to have been a first-round pick of Bears personnel guy Tim Ruskells back when he was running the Seattle Seahawks.

Either way, and the bigger picture here, is that the Bears have quality depth in a league where thats extremely difficult (and expensive) to get. Williams started last year when Louis went down, was nicked up a bit and the Bears went other directions by moving Chris Williams to guard. All things being equal between Spencer and Williams, a thought here is that Spencer gives the Bears backup at both guard and center. Thatll all work its way out this week.

A more intriguing thought is whether the Bears defense can continue to throttle Brees, and why it has done that in the past. A huge plus from the Atlanta win was the debut of Henry Melton as the starting under-tackle. If the Bears get pressure in the middle the way they did from Tommie Harris, heres what happens:

The Cover-2 of Lovie SmithRod Marinelli has pressure in the quarterbacks face. The Smith scheme thrives on quarterbacks becoming impatient and forcing things downfield against a defense set up to prevent deep damage. Brees wont have No. 1 target Marques Colston (broken collarbone); if he becomes impatient against this defense, hell have a fourth loss to Lovie Smiths Bears.

Which is what I gave Mac and Spiegs, a prediction of a three-point Bears win. Well see.

Do the right thing

Kudos to quarterback Jay Cutler for the London trip package for the Tampa Bay game that his foundation is giving away, plus tix to the Carolina Panthers game. Go to jaycutlersix.com and register.

Working through grief

Expect Brian Urlacher to play Sunday in New Orleans against the Saints. Nothing is official by any means until the middle linebacker says hes in (hopefully some of the reports are more accurate and restrained than the Chester-Taylor-is-released business), but various indications are that hell be in New Orleans.

Teammates privately said Wednesday that theyd be surprised if Lach (as they call him) isnt there, as much for personal therapy as football, and Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune tweeted to that effect as well on @BradBiggs.

Personally, seeing him play really would be a positive, and that has absolutely nothing to do with football. His presence is clearly pivotal but dont look for a lot of breathless coverage of this whole thing; when Urlacher is ready to talk about it or his playing, he or Lovie Smith will talk about it.

Bear guy, sort of

Was Sean Payton involved in doing damage to the 85 Bears? Indirectly, probably yes.

Payton played his college football at Eastern Illinois, the program that gave the NFL and the Dallas Cowboys Tony Romo. And he also was one of the Spare Bears in 1987 during the labor impasse that caused the NFL to establish alternate squads which played three games.

When Mike Ditka, sticking up for the alternatesscabsfill-ins(your term here) declared that the real Bears will be the ones wearing uniforms Sunday, he lost the Mike Singletarys, Dan Hamptons and others. The Bears played well after that, even to the 1988 NFC Championship game, but more than a few players said it was never the same between Ditka, who preached loyalty, and the players who felt they didnt get any.

Amen to that

Kicker Robbie Gould ought to be making laws. RG tweeted on @RobbieGould09 this morning that Putting makeup on in a car should have the same consequences as cell phones."

Yup.
Amen to that II Chris Harris on @ChrisHarrisNFL Dear Summer, I really miss you!!!! Its 40 degrees this morning.

Talking football

Ill be getting in the weekly visit with The McNeil and Spiegel Show on WSCR-AM 670 at 10 a.m. Thursday, then hook up with Mike Florio on ProFootballTalk Live at around 11.

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 defensive backs using off-field bonds to improve on-field ones

Bears defensive backs using off-field bonds to improve on-field ones

Every Thursday night, Bears defensive backs try to all get together at Tracy Porter’s house for dinner. But it’s not about the food.

"None of us can cook," said cornerback Bryce Callahan, laughing.

At the risk of channeling some inner Marc Trestman, it’s about the get-together itself, which always involves popping on some game film and doing extra study beyond the time at Halas Hall. And it’s also building something off the field that they believe they can take onto it.

One of the keys to excellence in any working group is the individuals connecting in ways that make the whole greater than just the sum of the parts. That’s the point ultimately, taking some personal connections onto the field and making the entire defensive backfield collectively better.

Relationships among players have never been recorded as intercepting or even deflecting an NFL pass.

"For me it starts off the field, getting to know one another, how that person is," said cornerback Cre’Von LeBlanc, familiar with a similar internal chemistry from his time with the New England Patriots.

"You get that feeling for every individual, and you take that on the field. It creates a close bond, and we’ve got that bond. We try to look through each other’s eyes, communicate what you were thinking and he was thinking on this play or that, and that’s the biggest thing."

Offensive lines are generally thought of as the group most benefited by camaraderie and closeness. They typically have an O-line dinner most weeks, with checks for the meal not uncommonly reaching into four-figures.

"Those boys can EAT," LeBlanc marveled. "We stick to wings or ribs."

[SHOP: Gear up Bears fans!]

But the secondary consists of four individuals rotating coverages the way a line moves with different protections or assignments. Double-teams in the defensive backfield require the same cohesion and familiarity as ones on the other side of the football.

The Bears have started the same base four defensive backs in all three games — Porter and Jacoby Glenn at the corners, Adrian Amos and Harold Jones-Quartey at the safeties — but the Bears are working in multiple rookies, and Callahan (hamstring) has been inactive along with Kyle Fuller, projected to be the starter at right corner but now on IR. Rookie safety Deon Bush was inactive the first two weeks, then played at Dallas. Rookie corner Deiondre’ Hall was pressed into action on defense for 18 plays at Houston and 28 against Philadelphia.

With the in-game mixes-and-matches necessitated by injuries, the familiarity among secondary members is looked at as nothing short of vital. Comments, right or wrong, from a friend can be taken better/more constructively than ones from a relative stranger.

"Just more of being ready to pick each other up, be ready," Amos said. "It just shows you how quick you can go from scout team to on the field, so everybody has to be talking together.

"The closer we are on and off the field, the better we are together."

LeBlanc agrees.

"We talk to each other like friends, in a unit, trying to dissect a play right after it happens, rewind and see how we can to it better.

"You can’t be out here trying to communicate and you don’t even really know the guy next to you."

Bears facing Lions with Jay Cutler likely out, Alshon Jeffery dealing with hamstring issue

Bears facing Lions with Jay Cutler likely out, Alshon Jeffery dealing with hamstring issue

The official injury designation is “doubtful” but Bears quarterback Jay Cutler is unofficially expected to be out of Sunday’s game with the Detroit Lions after not practicing on Thursday or Friday due to his injured right thumb.

“It is a pretty critical area on the quarterback, especially when it's your right thumb and you're a right handed quarterback,” Bears head coach John Fox said. “So you know we're going to get him healthy and that's our main objective and we'll see if he's any further along [Saturday].”

The designation — “questionable” — was brighter for wide receiver Alshon Jeffery, except for the mild surprise that he was limited in practice Wednesday and Thursday with a knee issue and then was limited on Friday because of a hamstring.

[SHOP: Gear up Bears fans!]

Jeffery missed six games last season, two separate instances, because of hamstring problems.

Besides Cutler, running backs Ka’Deem Carey (hamstring) and Jeremy Langford (ankle), nose tackle Eddie Goldman (ankle) and linebacker Danny Trevathan (thumb) also did not practice and are listed as doubtful. Carey, Cutler, Goldman and Trevathan all were inactive in Dallas, and Langford suffered his ankle sprain against the Cowboys.

Limited but listed as questionable: guard Josh Sitton (shoulder), outside linebacker Willie Young (knee); and defensive backs Sherrick McManis (hamstring), Tracy Porter (knee) and Harold Jones-Quartey (concussion, cleared).