Play Fantasy The Most Award Winning Fantasy game with real time scoring, top expert analysis, custom settings, and more. Play Now
 
Tag:J'Marcus Webb
Posted on: March 22, 2011 11:31 am
 

Offseason Checkup: Chicago Bears

Posted by Andy Benoit



Eye on Football's playing doctor for every NFL team with our Offseason Check-ups. Also, check out our checkup podcast:





Lovie Smith earned a new contract after his seemingly mediocre team ended its three-year run of mediocrity. The ending of the Bears’ season became THE story of the postseason when Jay Cutler left the NFC Championship with a strained MCL. The loss of Cutler’s strong arm confirmed what many already knew: the Bears had been paddling upstream all season against the current of their awful offensive line, ho-hum receiving corps and close-to-lethargic run game.

Credit Cutler and especially the surprisingly malleable Mike Martz for making late season adjustments that compensated for these weaknesses. Helping compensate for offensive shortcomings was the resurgence of a defense that saw MLB Brian Urlacher return from his ’09 wrist injury fresh as can be and long-time Panther Julius Peppers provide a much-needed pass-rushing presence while galvanizing the run defense.



 Every time you put on the film, Nick Roach, the athletic four-year linebacker, stands out. Roach, undrafted out of Northwestern, has been a special teamer who only starts when someone is injured. Last season, it was Pisa Tinoisamoa’s bum knee that propelled Roach to the first string. Predictably, Roach proved to be an upgrade over Tinoisamoa.

Roach's lack of size and abundance of speed make him better equipped for the weak side in a Cover 2 system. Obviously, this team’s weakside position is held down by Lance Briggs. But given Chicago’s options on the strong side, Roach is worth playing out of position.

(Not to push too much change too fast, but Briggs is actually built more like a strongside linebacker anyway. So if the Bears really wanted to mix things up – which, we know, they don’t – they could relocate their veteran Pro Bowler, too.)



1. Offensive tackle
Just because J'Marcus Webb started as a rookie doesn’t mean he’s the answer at right tackle. The lumbering seventh-round pick only started because the team’s Gatorade cooler didn’t have hands or feet and the tackling sled didn’t know all the plays. The Bears could also stand to upgrade at left tackle, though veteran Frank Omiyale survived well enough in that spot last season.

2. Interior offensive line
Center Olin Kreutz hit a wall in 2010. It wouldn’t be sensible to re-sign the 33-year-old. Left guard Chris Williams is a former first-round pick who didn’t take the field until 2009. You hate to give up on the guy this early, but watch him in pass protection and you see that you wouldn’t be giving up on much.

3. Wide receiver
Devin Hester is at worst a gadget play specialist but at best only a slot option. Johnny Knox is a zone-beater with speed to burn, but it’s hard to picture teams ever rolling their coverage to his side of the field. With Earl Bennett being almost strictly an underneath target, there’s room to insert a downfield playmaking weapon in this rotation.



Any team that hosts the NFC Championship and returns virtually all of its players the next season will have legitimate Super Bowl aspirations. But it wouldn’t be outlandish to proclaim these Bears a one-hit wonder. A little more firepower and a lot more blocking prowess are needed offensively. Defensively, the table is pretty well set, though coaches have for years been searching for a playmaker at the safety position.

Finding one may be necessary for putting this unit over the top. As things stand, this is far and away the second best team in the NFC North.

For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsnfl on Twitter and subscribe to our RSS Feed
Posted on: December 9, 2010 3:32 pm
Edited on: December 10, 2010 1:28 pm
 

Key Matchup Week 14: Belichick vs. Martz

Posted by Andy Benoit

Want more Week 14 action? Check our NFL podcast preview

B. Belichick (US Presswire)Bill Belichick has faced Mike Martz before. You may recall Super Bowl XXXVI. Belichick’s revolutionary defensive gameplan that afternoon centered around beating up on Martz’s finesse-based Ram offense.

Now the offensive coordinator of the Bears, Martz is operating out of the same playbook, though he’s reading from different chapters. He has seemingly let go of his rigid insistence on throwing the ball every down. Entering Week 14, the Bears rank a respectable 16th in rushing attempts per game (26.7).

It’s no coincidence that the Bears’ five best rushing performances this season – with the exception of the 218-yard outburst against Carolina – have all come during their current five-game winning streak. But none of those five wins have come directly from running the ball. In fact, the Bears have not had over 135 yards rushing in any of those five games. Heading into Sunday, Chicago ranks 22nd in run offense.

So why has the run been so important? Because it’s what gives the Bears balance. We hear all the time that teams need to have balance in order to win. That’s not true. Teams with a superstar quarterback and electrifying receivers can win without balance (just look at the ’09 Colts, ’08 Cardinals or ’07 Patriots). But teams with modest talent DO need balance.

The Bears have modest talent at best. Jay Cutler has a superstar arm, but he’s somewhat limited in pre-snap reads, and he can be erratic in post-snap decision-making. Chicago’s receivers are fast but raw. And, above all else, the Bears offensive line is a makeshift group.

Many have cited the line’s personnel changes (Frank Omiyale to left tackle; J’Marcus Webb to right tackle; Chris Williams to guard) as the reason for the offense’s turnaround. But that’s like citing the toppings as the reason frozen pizzatastes better than pizza that’s been burned black.

The Bears offensive line has improved because on 26.7 plays per game this season those five blockers get to fire out of their stance and play downhill. Early in the year, Chicago linemen were asked to drop into pass protection every play and shield defenders long enough for Cutler to complete a seven-step drop. Not only were the Bears blockers not good enough to do that, but the frequent pass protection assignments robbed them of their edge. Pass protection forced blockers to be reactionary; run-blocking enables them to be proactive. By getting to be proactive on more plays, the Bears offensive linemen naturally play with more all-around confidence. When forced to play reactionary, we’ve seen this group struggle to communicate and recognize assignments.

M. Martz (US Presswire)Though Chicago isn’t a great running team, don’t be surprised if Belichick’s gameplan this week centers around forcing the Bears to throw. Yes, New England’s young defense ranks 31st against the pass and is tied for 24th in sacks. But it also ranks second in interceptions (18 on the season). And Belichick may believe that he can get clean pass-rushers in the backfield simply by confusing Chicago’s line.

Cutler isn’t turning the ball over like he was last year (he has just 10 interceptions on the season). But do you really think, deep down, he’s lost his gunslinger’s mentality? What about Martz?

When the stakes are high and the pressure is on, human beings have a natural tendency to fall back on what they know best. With this being a prove-it game flexed for national television purposes, Cutler and Martz could feel the pressure. If they do, their egos will tell them to put on a show.

Belichick would welcome that. Whatever makes the Bears one-dimensional and easier for his young defenders to figure out. Belichick has playmakers in the secondary who can exploit aerial aggression (namely rookie corner Devin McCourty, who is sensational outside the numbers, and safety Brandon Meriweather). Don’t be shocked if Belichick surprises everyone by betting on his young defensive backs and daring the Bears to throw.

For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsnfl on Twitter and subscribe to our RSS Feed .

Posted on: November 18, 2010 2:36 pm
 

The real key to Bears-Dolphins matchup

Posted by Andy Benoit
C. Wake (US Presswire)
Everyone is talking about Julius Peppers facing Jake Long and his injured left shoulder Thursday night, but the more significant pass-rushing matchup in this game will be on the other side of the action. Miami’s Cameron Wake has blossomed into one of the premier defensive forces in the NFL. The ex-Canadian League superstar leads the AFC with 8.5 sacks on the season and, for the most part, he’s been stout against the run.

Wake’s supple athleticism is buttressed by good initial quickness and underrated strength. Neither Bear offensive tackle – Franks Omiyale or seventh-round rookie J’Marcus Webb – has a prayer at blocking him one-on-one. But if Chicago can find away to contain Wake through chips and tight end double teams, there will be at least four or five big plays on the table for Jay Cutler.

Reason being, the callow Dolphins secondary has proved to be erratic in diagnosing route combinations. No. 2 cornerback Sean Smith has looked particularly vulnerable (which is partly why he was benched at one point this season), and second-year free safety Chris Clemons is not yet consistent enough to constantly pick up the slack (plus Clemons is better near the box than in centerfield). When given time to develop, Chicago’s complex route combinations are some of the most aggressive and effective in the game.

For any time facing the Bears, it’s crucial to get pressure on Cutler. For the Dolphins, it’s vital.

For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsnfl on Twitter and subscribe to our RSS Feed .


 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com