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.

Injury clouds may be disappearing over (some) Bears

Injury clouds may be disappearing over (some) Bears

The daily litany of injuries and practice limitations through training camp and to this point of preseason have been stories. But they typically do not take on real significance until about this time of the football year, when teams swing onto final approach for their first regular-season game.

Against that backdrop, the Bears’ injury forecast was trending the right direction on Monday when No. 1 tight end Zach Miller and No. 1 nickel receiver Eddie Royal, both out for extended periods going through the team’s concussion protocol, were practicing without the don’t-hit-me red practice jerseys they were in as recently as last week.

Right guard Kyle Long, down with a shoulder injury since the New England game, was not in practice pads Monday but trotted over to a nearby goalpost at one point during practice, got into his stance and delivered a couple of linemen “punches” to the padding.

All three are vital components of a struggling offense in desperate need of impact players at any position.

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Rookie linebacker Leonard Floyd, held out of the Kansas City game on Saturday with hamstring soreness, was in uniform as well. Cornerback Kyle Fuller, who had knee surgery two weeks ago, was out running laps around the practice field, although he remains a longshot to be active for the Sept. 11 opener in Houston.

The situation was less encouraging for linebacker Pernell McPhee, who continues to do only controlled running and cutting along the sidelines as he works back from knee surgery in January. Chances of his return for the start of the regular season appear next to nil.

“We’ve got some avenues that we’re going to have to decide here as we cut down [the roster] to the 53 and some time from now, so I don’t like making those decisions now,” said coach John Fox. “But we’ll continue to evaluate him. There are options. He did start [training camp] on PUP [physically unable to perform]. We have a lot of options and we’ll do what’s best for us and him.”

The team has kept details of McPhee’s procedure and injury in-house. But teammate Willie Young, whose 2014 season ended with an Achilles injury of his own, offered a perspective that hinted at how serious McPhee’s injury may have been.

“It’s a credit to him, because to bounce back from any what used to be career-ending injuries is a challenge,” Young said, adding, “but he’s on course, I would say.”

Amid 0-3 preseason carnage, Bears believe one positive can be building block

Amid 0-3 preseason carnage, Bears believe one positive can be building block

With the No. 1 units in all three phases generally done for the 2016 preseason, one of the few stats that coaches and teams focus on can be analyzed for a Bears team that doesn’t have a lot of numerical results worth noting.

Through three preseason losses the Bears curiously have a plus-1 turnover ratio, taking the ball away from opponents. Through three games last year the Bears stood at plus-6 after a 2-1 point of a preseason in which coach John Fox sought to change a losing culture with an aggressive preseason approach.

Why this matters in a preseason of failures is this: Of the 15 teams with negative turnover totals, only one had a winning record. Not that a positive preseason means regular-season success, as the Bears demonstrated last year.

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But while the Bears offense has done precious little with the football when it’s had it, at least it is not giving it to opponents. Brian Hoyer has thrown the only two interceptions in 96 throws by Bears quarterbacks, a rate of 2.1 percent.

The defense has been without starting cornerback Kyle Fuller and No. 1 nickel corner Bryce Callahan for the past two games, and top corner Tracy Porter for game one and part of game three, the latter because of a concussion.

Still, members of the defense, which has produced two interceptions and two fumble recoveries through three games, have noticed a difference this year from last year’s first in a 3-4 base defense.

“Faster, that’s the main thing,” said defensive tackle Will Sutton. “A year under my belt in the system, you’re not thinking as much because you should know the plays. I can play a lot faster because I know how the blocks are being made against this type of defense, for instance.”

[RELATED: Wrapping up Bears-Chiefs: Not all bad, so why not find some good?]

The results have not yet been reflected in points, yardage or wins. But within the defense, players believe that team speed has been increased along with reaction speed, breaks on the ball and other elements that go into producing takeaways.

“Absolutely,” said linebacker Willie Young. “We’ve got a couple more guys who are more familiar with the scheme this year, including myself and [linebacker Lamarr] Houston, who obviously got off to a slow start last year.

“But we do have a lot more guys in position who are more familiar with the defensive scheme. So it allows you to fill a bit faster, a little more confidence.”

Wrapping up Bears-Chiefs: Not all bad, so why not find some good?

Wrapping up Bears-Chiefs: Not all bad, so why not find some good?

Bears coach John Fox declared in the wake of Saturday’s 23-7 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs that what transpired hadn’t been all bad. And that’s true; good wins don’t usually look as good in the film room afterwards, and bad losses don’t automatically show up all dark, either.

And so it is after preseason game No. 3 that the Bears in fact did have some good along with some bad in what was the worst performance of the preseason, if only because so much of it involved the No. 1 units, and they’re supposed to be better than that.

Since so much seemed to be (and actually was) bad on Saturday night, the contrarian approach is invoked here: Let’s start with the good.

Good: The Bears faced Kansas City (which also was missing a handful of key starters) without Bryce Callahan, Leonard Floyd, Kyle Fuller, Kyle Long, Pernell McPhee, Zach Miller and Eddie Royal. Tracy Porter left with a concussion. They expect to have some if not all of those starters and sub-starters back by Week 1.

Bad: Miller, Porter, Royal and McPhee have varying degrees of injury histories, McPhee the least of the group but had never been put in the position of holding up as a full-time starter before last season. The chances of the Bears having all their key players for full seasons are slim.

Good: Jay Cutler has thrown 31 passes this preseason. None of them have been intercepted. In what proved to be a foreshadowing of a ball-security breakthrough for the historically turnover-prone quarterback, Cutler threw zero interceptions in 33 attempts last preseason. In the regular season Cutler had two games of 31 attempts and another of 33 with zero interceptions, plus pick-free games of 24, 27 and 45 attempts.

Preseason and training camp stats mean nothing; preseason and camp performances often do.

[RELATED: Bears defense can't pick up all the pieces from a broken offense]

Bad: Kevin White has shown less than nothing through preseason, catching a total of three passes and dropping an equal number in what is his de facto rookie season. He has run imprecise routes and looked a seventh-round draft pick, not a seventh-overall one. Despite his apparent explosiveness, no Bear is averaging less than White’s 4 yards per reception.

Good: Josh Bellamy and Cameron Meredith have had next-step preseasons, a matter of some potential significance given the health concerns with Eddie Royal and production concerns with White. No Bear has caught more than Bellamy’s 10 passes, and no Bear with more than two catches has averaged more than Meredith’s 16 yards per catch.

Bad: The Bears need a road win at Cleveland next Thursday to avoid the fifth winless preseason in franchise history.

Good: Of the previous four no-win warmup slates, the Bears finished 9-5 in 1962 and 11-5 and in the NFC Championship in 2010. The 1998 season, Dave Wannstedt’s last, wound up 4-12 but 1978 at least was 7-9.

Five of the last six times the Bears lost the “all-important third preseason game,” the Bears finished 8-8 or better.

Bad: (put in the Kansas City game tape)