Chicago Bears

Tice: We just have to keep working

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Tice: We just have to keep working

Friday, Sept. 30, 2011
Posted: 11:00 p.m.

By John Mullin and Jake Flannigan
CSNChicago.com

Work ethic up front

Injuries could be used as an excuse for the inconsistency of the Bears offensive line this season. The line that faced off with the Green Bay Packers was missing two of its five starters.

Lack of experience together would be an alibi too. Roberto Garza, Frank Omiyale, Chris Spencer and Chris Williams, four of the five starters vs. Green Bay, all have a minimum of three years on an NFL roster. But that group, plus left tackle JMarcus Webb had never started a game together and was the third different starting offensive line in three games.

But offensive line coach Mike Tice has decided to forgo the blame game and stick to what he knows best.

Were not in here having barbecues and stuff like that at night, Tice said. We just have to keep working. Its a long haul and we got to get better.
Under scrutiny

No group has been more closely watched than the offensive line, with ample reason. They collectively have Jay Cutlers health and Matt Fortes rushing production in their hands.

After giving up five sacks to the Atlanta Falcons, the line allowed zero in the first half at New Orleans even without Lance Louis (ankle injury). The Saints got one sack (a huge one on a missed block by tight end Kellen Davis) in the third quarter after Gabe Carimi went down with a knee injury.

Without both Carimi and Louis against Green Bay, the first half again was sack-free on 17 drop-backs against a defense that had sacked Cutler 11 times in 10 quarters last season.

Tice genuinely believes his changes have been improving. But he also knows the teams overall lack of success has made it tough for outsiders to look past sacks, pressures and a run game that has averaged just three yards per carry and has zero TD runs through three games.

The 0-3 Kansas City Chiefs are the only other NFL team without a rushing touchdown this season.

There are some guys that are playing pretty good, Tice said. They kind of get lost in the sauce a little bit because of losses, and because of the non-rhythmic look we have sometimes.

Mr. Fix-It

The relationship between Tice and offensive coordinator Mike Martz may be a mysterious one for those not in blue and orange on Sundays. For Tice its simple.

Stay out of the way and focus on letting the line know what went right and what didnt.

During the course of a game you dont really want to get too much communication with the coordinator, Tice said. We talk after every series. You really dont want to mess with the guy thats trying to call the plays and get into a rhythm. Thats not a good thing to do.

Instead, Tice tries to stay off of the headphones and find ways to improve his group by looking over Polaroids of the previous series.

Normally thats what the job of an offensive line coach is, Tice said. Hes kind of a fix-it guy during the course of a game.

Duly noted

Besides Joe Theisman, Jim Mora and Willie McGinest, the fourth member of the analysts on NFL Networks No Huddle Show Friday was former Rams wide receiver Torry Holt, not Marcellus Wiley as mentioned in yesterdays roundup.

Much of the Mike Martz approach to offense is geared toward passing yardage for the quarterback. Cutler has passed for 300 yards six times as a Bear; the Bears have lost four of those six games, including last Sundays to Green Bay. The Denver Broncos were 5-5 in 300-yard Cutler passing games.

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.

WATCH: Deonte Thompson channels inner Devin Hester with 109-yard return in Bears preseason game

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AP

WATCH: Deonte Thompson channels inner Devin Hester with 109-yard return in Bears preseason game

It's been a while since Devin Hester electrified the city of Chicago with his touchdown returns, but we got flashbacks of that Saturday night.

Deonte Thompson took a page out of the book of arguably the best returner in NFL history by returning a 109-yard missed field goal to the house as the first half expired during the Bears' second preseason game in Arizona.

It gave the Bears a 17-7 lead, and even had John Fox going crazy on the sideline:

Deonte Thompson, you are ridiculous?

Five Bears who can improve their stock Saturday night against Arizona

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USA Today Sports Images

Five Bears who can improve their stock Saturday night against Arizona

1. QB Mike Glennon

The Bears’ first team offense as a whole could be included under this subhead, whether it’s the offensive line creating holes for a running back (Jordan Howard won't play with a minor corneal abrasion) or the receivers creating more separation to get open. But the onus is on Glennon to be better than he was Thursday night and prove that 0.0 quarterback rating was the product of a small sample size and not a sign of more serious issues. On the other side of things, a bad game from Glennon only would lead to further questions about his ability to succeed as the Bears’ starting quarterback. 

“I mean, (this game is) bigger than the first but not as big as the third,” Glennon said. “I don’t really know how else to say it. Everything gets more amplified Week 1 to 2, 2 to 3 and then ultimately the season opener. Obviously I want to go out and play well but I don’t want to make too big a deal and put too much pressure on a preseason game.” 

2. WR Kevin White

Cameron Meredith can do a lot to help Glennon’s case, but the Bears have a good idea of what they have in the third-year receiver who’s been one of the more steady performers during training camp. Kevin White is in a different position, having not been targeted at all against the Denver Broncos and still needing to prove plenty going into his third year in the NFL. White’s growth this year may be slow, but he needs to show some signs of that growth during preseason games to build up some confidence for Sept. 10. 

“Anytime you go through some injuries, there’s a whole mental game that plays a part of it,” fellow wide receiver Victor Cruz (more on him in a bit) said. “Just talking to him – I think he’s over it. He understands those things are behind him. His confidence is back in his body with the things that he can do. You’re starting to see that out there on the football field. He’s really hitting another gear, catching these balls, going deep down the field and putting pressure on these defensive backs.”

3. WR Victor Cruz

It was a little jarring to see Cruz, a Super Bowl-winning former Pro Bowler, playing until the final snap of Thursday’s game — even if that had something to do with the Bears not having Daniel Braverman available and losing Rueben Randle and Joshua Bellamy to injuries during the game. But Cruz hasn’t seemed to significantly push Kendall Wright for the No. 1 slot receiver job over the last few weeks, and could find himself on the roster bubble by the end of the month. A good showing Saturday night could provide a nice boost to his chance of avoiding that bubble.  

“I've been impressed with him,” Fox said before the Bears’ first preseason game. “He's got a great feel for the game. Sometimes it might not be just how fast they are physically but how fast they play, and he seems to be that type of guy. He's still got plenty of gas in the tank and we're excited to have him.”

4. DE Jonathan Bullard

Bullard is the only player on this list who flashed last Thursday, with an impressive tackle for a loss probably the Bears’ second-best defensive play of the day behind Leonard Floyd’s first-play-of-the-game sack. He’s had a solid camp, too, showing some promising signs after struggling to show much of anything a year ago. For Bullard, Saturday night will be about keeping his arrow pointing up, perhaps to the point that he could start at defensive end opposite Akiem Hicks in Week 1. 

“He’s definitely stronger, faster,” Hicks said. “He was already explosive, right? He has picked up the game to a point where he can play within the scheme now and see things come and be able to predict the play in order to get a step on the guard or the tackle, whoever he’s playing against. Just the things that come with getting more reps.”

5. CB Kyle Fuller

No player may have a better opportunity Saturday night than Fuller, who should be in line to take first-team reps with Bryce Callahan out and Prince Amukamara missing practices this week with a strained hamstring. What Fuller does with this opportunity could be a major deciding factor of whether or not he’s part of the Bears’ 53-man roster — this coaching staff and front office didn’t draft him, and his fifth-year option for 2018 was declined in the spring. 

“It’s a new year,” defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said earlier this month when asked about Fuller. “We start evaluating guys by what you’ve seen on the field at this point.”