Mullin: Offseason moves, the Plaxico issue

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Mullin: Offseason moves, the Plaxico issue

Thursday, Jan. 27, 2011
11:14 p.m.

By John Mullin
CSNChicago.com

Football season never really ends in Chicago, which means its always good to visit with Dan and Spiegs on The Danny Mac Show on The Score AM 670, as we did this morning. Not a lot yet as far as Super Bowl chat (Im a longtime Pittsburgh guy my Dad took me to Games 6 and 7 of the 60 World Series, as you know) but thats next week.

Listen to John Mullin's "The Danny Mac Show" appearance

What is still worth looking at is where the Bears go this offseason, because even though they spent massively last year with Julius Peppers, Brandon Manumaleuna and Chester Taylor, I dont see the Bears standing pat and say, Well play these.

The draft subject is percolating already, as I wrote Wednesday, and best guess is that the Bears stay on the lines with the No. 29 pick and possibly even their second as well, whether offense or defense. Spiegs is intent on doing something at wide receiver and I see the Bears upgrading there, just not with a high pick. The bust factor with high wideouts spooks Jerry Angelo, as it should for a lot of people.

Danny and Spiegs both felt, and I agree, that the Bears are in the spot of having enough legitimate need areas that they can take the best player available at one of several spots. To get a top offensive lineman at No. 29 may be a stretch but New England got guard Logan Mankins at No. 32 and the New York Jets got center Nick Mangold at No. 29, and Marc Colombo was not a bust, just unlucky with knee injuries at No. 29.

The Plaxico issue

The most intriguing solution at wide receiver is Plaxico Burress, who is scheduled to be released from prison this June after serving his sentence from the bizarre self-inflicted-gunshot incident. Burress will be 34 and at one time was considered a character question. He wont be in NFL condition when he comes out and possibly not even through this season.

READ: Jumping into the draft

But as I mentioned with the guys, what I saw of Burress on Inside the NFL Wednesday night was not the same Burress I spent time with during his Halas Hall visit prior to the 2000 draft. That guy had a bad vibe all over him and the Bears werent sorry that Bill Cowher and the Steelers took him at No. 8 and left Brian Urlacher for Chicago.

It was only TV but this individual sounded far, far more mature and reflective than he once was. Michael Vick opened the door for second chances and were a nation of second chances for the right people. Burress wont be what he was when he was catching the winning touchdown in a Super Bowl, but hes still 6-5 and has forgotten more about the position than a lot of the young Bears know at this point.

And with Devin Aromashodu not going to be on the roster next season, the Bears would have no wideout taller than 6 feet. Thats a need.

Coming or going?

But we talked about more than wideout and one question over the coming weeks will be which Bears are coming and which are going. Thoughts on some of these:
Anthony Adams: I dont see how the Bears can let him go. Their best, most consistent defensive tackle over the past two seasons.

Olin Kreutz: The succession plan broke down when Josh Beekman was a bust. A short-term deal is a win-win for Kreutz and the Bears, and agent Mark Bartlestein is a savvy Chicago guy who gets deals done.

Todd Collins: Trick question?

Corey Graham: Special teamers are a unique market unto themselves. This is 50-50 for me; hes a quality coverage guy and the Bears will make an offer. What could get him out of town is a promised legitimate chance to play cornerback, which he wont have in Chicago.

What we didnt talk about

The organization got little real production out of running back Chester Taylor beyond a couple of short touchdown runs and few downs off for Matt Forte. Expect the Bears to cut their losses and Taylors 1.3 million for 2011.

Forte could not have picked a better year to have a career year, both in terms of health and production. Ive written previously about the Bears expected to do a new deal with Forte rather than let him play out his fourth year and hit the market, whatever that proves to be.

Whether the Bears move on without Manumaleuna, a one-trick pony who was regularly fined for failing to make weight this season and did little to earn the money tied up in him, well see.

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: 3 burning questions for coaching staff

Bears training camp preview: 3 burning questions for coaching staff

With Bears players reporting for training camp Wednesday, CSN Chicago’s Chris Boden and JJ Stankevitz have been spending the last two weeks looking at three burning questions at each position group. The series concludes with Boden’ s look at the coaching staff.

1. Can John Fox find a balance between necessary snaps, and staying healthy?

Unless he’s practicing this team every day (he’s not) and hitting every day (he’s not doing that, either), a coach really can’t be blamed for injuries. That out-of-his-hands factor has kept his first two years from a true evaluation, yet every team has to deal with them. He and Ryan Pace have been particularly hamstrung (pun intended) by the fact so many key, high draft picks/building blocks and impact free agent signings (see Pernell McPhee, Danny Trevathan, Eddie Royal) have spent significant time on the sidelines. 

Fox tweaked the workout schedule in Bourbonnais with more consistent start times (all in the 11 a.m. hour), mixing in off-days and walk-throughs. Yet there are heavy competitions to sift through, particularly at wide receiver, cornerback, and safety, and projected starters must learn to get used to each other (and the offense get used to Mike Glennon) so that miscommunication is at a minimum. The Falcons, Buccaneers, Steelers and Packers won’t wait for them to get on the same page over the first 19 days of the regular season.

2. How does Dowell Loggains divide up quarterback snaps?

His starting quarterback basically hasn’t played since 2014 and is trying to master a new system, working with new receivers. All while Mike Glennon tries to be “all systems go”-ready on Sept. 10. Loggains is also in charge of developing the quarterback of the future, who never previously worked under center or called a huddle. If Mitch Trubisky isn’t the backup to start the season, Mark Sanchez, who missed all of minicamp with a knee injury, has to gain enough of a comfort level with the playbook and his receivers to slide in in the event of an emergency. These practices usually top out at about two hours, maybe a bit longer. Will there basically be two practices going on at the same time? If so, how can Loggains and the offensive assistants not overdo it for those at other positions?

3. Are Vic Fangio and Leonard Floyd tied at the hip?

The defensive coordinator still oversees all the position groups, but will focus particularly on the oustide linebackers and the prized pupil, Leonard Floyd. Fangio says he liked what he’s seen of the 2016 first-round pick this off-season, once he recovered from his second concussion. But he said all the bumps, bruises, strains, pulls, and bell-ringing didn’t mean anything more than an incomplete rookie grade. At this point, he’d probably like to be joined to Floyd’s hip in Bourbonnais, because that means he’ll be staying on the practice field, learning. “3b” in this category would be Ed Donatell sorting through a long list of young defensive backs to find the right pieces to keep for the present and future, in addition to finding four starters who’ll take the ball away a lot better than they’ve done the past two seasons.

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.