NFL Combine: Welcome to CamWorld

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NFL Combine: Welcome to CamWorld

Sunday, Feb. 27, 2011
Posted 12:15 PM

By John Mullin
CSNChicago.com
CamWorld

For just today, CSNChicago.com has graciously just decided to be your (very) unofficial CamWorld (we dont even need a last name here, right?).

Cams unofficial 40 times for Cam: 4.58 sec., 4.59 sec.; Tom Brady ran 5.23, according to ESPNs Adam Schefter via Twitter; good perspective note, Adam (maybe thats why Brady was a 6 (rounder) and Cam will be a 1?);

Cam put his left shoe on first, then his right. The inside color on his shoe was a delightfully garish green;

Cam was in Combine jersey No. 11, not his Auburn 2; and the Under Armour heartlight was blinking away. All the other QBs wore jerseys with sleeves; Cam wore sleeveless. Show-off!

National Football Posts Joe Fortenaugh has more on who bested Cam in the sprint event Sunday. Joe also gives you the Vegas over-under on CamTime.

What you dont like hearing: September

The cone of silence over NFLNFLPA negotiations is pretty much still in place and should be when talks resume this week in Washington. But two sources with good knowledge of the state of business volunteered one word independent of each other when asked when this thing might get resolved:

September.

A ruling against the owners in the matter of getting their 4 billion lockout insurance from TV could dramatically escalate that sides willingness to compromise. A contingency plan does exist for a 14-game schedule (the 1987 season was 15 games because of a work stoppage). But the informal consensus here is that neither side will be OK with missing regular-season games, and those start in:

September.

In any case, distasteful as all of this is for everyone (including you readers), check out Andrew Brandts excellent analysis of the situation for National Football Post.

Center of attention

With the outlook for free agency clouded by the ongoing labor non-solution, the Bears are not likely to have a chance to upgrade the offensive line before the draft. And because nothing is at all certain even after the draft, any needs that exist cant be put off on the assumption that they can be filled when a CBA settlement is reached.

So what do the Bears do on the offensive line?

The deeper into the offseason that the impasse goes, the more valuable Olin Kreutz arguably becomes. The Bears may believe that Edwin Williams will work out better at center than he did last season at guard. But this is the one position that all the others run off of, and Kreutz is the one player who could, even at age 34, come in without a training camp (hed probably like that; what vet wouldnt?) and run the O-line.

Right now the Bears have, in their minds, three serviceable tackles. One NFL personnel expert said that JMarcus Webb is the best of the three and he expect Webb to be the starting left tackle this season after his rookie orientation year at right. Chris Williams played left guard but neither Jerry Angelo nor Lovie Smith gave even a little hint that Williams will settle there, and his best position is perhaps at right tackle, where he performed reasonably well finishing out 09.

Frank Omiyale can play right or left, as well as guard, none of the spots with any specialness, and he is best suited to a swing role along with Kevin Shaffer.

Which brings us back to the draft.

The Bears suffered a setback when Josh Beekman busted out last preseason and left the team needing a succession plan for Kreutz. They need a guard (Roberto Garza just finished his 10th season). Finding a rookie starter there is a huge draft bonus but after the way Maurkice Pouncey worked out for the Pittsburgh Steelers last year, the best draft option for the Bears should be Pounceys twin brother Mike, also out of Florida.

Hes 6-5, 311 pounds, a guard in 09 and moved to center when his brother left for the NFL. Hes fine with either guard or center, wherever they put me, he said, then qualified. I want to play center though.

The Bears wont be able to truly target a player or two at No. 29; too much is dependent on what happens above them. But the genes are in order here (always draft the bloodlines; if theres a Matthews in the draft, grab him somewhere) and I would suggest that guard is a bigger need than tackle given the current roster.

Plus, if theres a center component to be had, the Bears could set themselves for the next decade the way they once did with Kreutz and Jay Hilgenberg once upon a Super Bowl XX time.

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.

John Fox, Vic Fangio nix report of rift in Bears coaching ranks

John Fox, Vic Fangio nix report of rift in Bears coaching ranks

Bears defensive coordinator Vic Fangio was game-planning for the Detroit Lions on Wednesday morning when he got a visit from his boss. A story had appeared that Fangio and coach John Fox were at odds to the point where Fangio was planning on leaving the Bears at the end of this season.

“I wasn't aware of [the story] and he told me about it because he was all nervous about it,” Fangio said. “So I said 'Don't worry about it… . [Fox was nervous] because it wasn't true and thought I might take it the wrong way.”

The Bears have more than enough to worry about, taking their 3-9 record to Detroit to face the streaking Lions. A looming staff upheaval could send the remainder of the season into a total collapse given that in this case, for instance, Fangio is very popular with his players.

Fangio said expressly that he plans on being back for 2017. Fox added his own staff statement.

“Well, I think when you spend as much time as we do as coaches, I think we get along great,” Fox said of Fangio and himself. “I want our whole staff back. Now, whether that proves to be a reality or not, things happen.”

[SHOP BEARS: Get your Bears gear right here]

The surprise would be if the Bears 3-9 situation were without some tension. Linebacker Pernell McPhee verbally went after quarterback Jay Cutler earlier this season after the latter threw a costly interception. And whole units have had reason to harbor unkind thoughts about each other.

Fangio’s defense has maintained respectability through its injuries and even improved through the season. Their efforts have not always been rewarded by complimentary success or apparent game plans by the offense.

Conversely, the offense gave the defense a 13-point lead to start the fourth quarter against Jacksonville and the Jaguars won 17-16. The Bears led the Indianapolis Colts 23-19 midway through the fourth quarter and lost. The Bears led Houston 14-10 after three quarters and lost.

Still, “I think our staff is tremendous,” Fox said. “I think right now, if you flashback two years ago this defense was 32nd in the league; right now it is seventh. I think you even look at offensively, similar numbers even from a year ago. We were 24th. This offense is 16th. So with going on our fourth quarterback, I couldn’t be more proud of our staff. I’ll just leave it at I am very, very pleased with our staff.”

The standard for Bears evaluating Matt Barkley? Use what John Fox uses

The standard for Bears evaluating Matt Barkley? Use what John Fox uses

The play of Matt Barkley in the past two games catapulted the previously dismissed young quarterback deep into the Great Bears Quarterback Debate (GBQD), which may not be a particularly exclusive confab, but it does mean that Barkley has gone from castoff to contender for a job somewhere beyond this season. And one particular aspect of his game is the key to what has transpired, as well as what happens going forward.

The law of averages suggests that Barkley will put up a clunker at some point, maybe even more than one. Then again, maybe not. Of the four remaining defenses (Detroit, Green Bay, Washington, Minnesota), only the Vikings rank in the top 10 defensively in either points or yardage allowed through the first 13 weeks of the 2016 season. So Barkley won’t exactly be looking at a Murderer’s Row of the ’85 Bears, ’76 Steelers, ’00 Ravens and ’15 Broncos.

But there’s a bigger Barkley picture that serves as the real framework for evaluating whether or not he’s truly got the right stuff, regardless of whom he faces.

It is not what he’s done – getting his team in position to win in consecutive fourth quarters. It’s what he hasn’t done – turn the football over.

The measure of Barkley, as it was with Jay Cutler and Brian Hoyer, will be ball security. In a FoxWorld, that is axiomatic.

The second question to Fox after Sunday’s game was on Barkley’s performance. Fox’s mindset was evident in his answer: “He improved,” Fox began, followed immediately by, “He eliminated any interceptions.”

Barkley’s huge leap forward has indeed come, not with his TD passes (including the should-have-been ones), but with his control of the football.

Barkley may have been undone with drops against Tennessee. But he undercut his team with two appalling red-zone interceptions, one in the end zone.

After the interception on the Bears’ opening second-half possession, which turned into Titans points, Barkley proceeded to throw his next 33 passes without a pick. Then against San Francisco, Barkley stayed INT-free on 19 dropbacks (18 passes, one sack). The result was a season-high for Bears points and a win.

Barkley threw two interceptions in his emergency step-in for Hoyer at Green Bay. Given his situation there, no real surprise, and rightfully not a referendum on his quarterbacking.

But consider:

Before his broken arm against the Packers, Hoyer played his way into the GBQD less with his weekly 300-yard passing production than with his 200 pass attempts without an interception. Cutler, in his truncated season, revealed a regression from his step-forward ’15 and its ball security, sliding back up to an interception percentage in the unacceptable mid-3’s where it’s been for his career. This was the prove-it year for Cutler and he rendered ’15 as the exception, not a career turning point.

Barkley’s accuracy in the Soldier Field conditions last Sunday was exceptional. Not only did he not throw interceptions (which is how to earn a 97.5 passer rating), but also repeatedly put footballs where either his guy or nobody was catching them. Too often certain of his guys didn’t catch them, but that’s not on Barkley, who stayed with Josh Bellamy in a team-building statement.

Only the Vikings (No. 5) among the final four Bears opponents have interception percentages ranked better than 14th. Washington (95.0), Detroit (101.9) and Green Bay (102.1) are allowing egregious opponent-quarterback passer ratings (the Bears are at 94.3). Meaning: Barkley will have opportunities to stay his ball-security course against beatable defenses.

The inability of the Bears defense to generate takeaways is a significant 2016 storyline. But the ability of the Bears offense – specifically their quarterbacks – to hold onto the football is a potential tipping point in the most significant position-decision for the franchise.