Wednesday, August 17, 2011
2011 Chicago Bears 2011 Internet Access-Delayed Prepreseasonseasonpreview: Offense.
Well, shit. It has been a time of changes, both in the far-away world of professional football and in my own personal local reality. The good news is that the lockout ended and football can actually happen again (you guys heard about that, right?) and that I've left big-city, shitty apartment life behind to embrace small-town, house-type living, which means no more sketchy, shirtless neighbor dudes smoking directly outside my own front door and asking me if I "smell somethin' dead." Coincidentally, it also means a new job with about a five-buck-an-hour raise and weekends off, which means I can actually see Bears games again that happen before 3:00 pm, maybe even legally.
The bad news is that the lifting of the lockout coincided almost perfectly with me temporarily losing access to my own internets, which means all the crazy goings-on of the last couple weeks have happened with me only being able to catch little its of it, a few minutes at a time, and even right now, I'm typing all this to go in a text file for USB drive uploading in a fully-wired computer sometime hopefully tomorrow. Or today, by he time anyone reads this. Wow. Hello from the past. [Note from the future: At the present time, like ten minutes before I finish skimming over it, inserting occasional new info and publishing, the rest of this was typed like a week ago, before the games started happening. Wow.] On the other hand, without me having ready access to who the bears seventh-string, undrafted nickel back is at the moment, this might end up a whole lot shorter and less unreadable than normal. I'm doing it on Notepad right now, though, so there's no spell checker. This should be an adventure.
Not much to report here, really. Jay Cutler is that starter, set in stone, now and forever. When the wheat has been eaten, when every song has been sung, and when the mountains crumble to dust, Jay Cutler will still start. At this point, he still hasn't fully lived up to expectations, although the line and receivers have to take at least a little blame for that. At the same time, though, he might seriously be in the top five of all-time Bears quarterbacks already. Think about that. Think about it.
Behind him is Caleb Hanie, who may or may not still have a shitty mustache. During Mannerismgate, a lot of the dumber Chicago Bears fans (which is saying something) were screaming for him to be made the starter, completely ignoring the back-breaking interception he threw to that fat guy, followed by the shotgun-blasting-to-the-head interception to that skinny guy he threw in the NFC title game. He would have been better if the coaching staff's inexplicable confidence in Todd Collins would have waned enough to let him actually get some practice reps in, but the Bears are still pretty well doomed whenever a near-inevitable Cutler injury happens.
The third string guy, who could end up actually playing, is rookie-dude Nathan Enderle. Drafting another young, no-hope QB with Hanie already firmly in place and so many other needs didn't make any goddamn sense at all, but I guess Collins was so bad last year that the front office is fully shell-shocked against the safe backup option of a scrapheap-plucked free agent veteran guy. Welcome to hell, Nate.
Matt Forte could end up being a tragic figure in NFL folklore, as a would-be superstar who got stuck spending the prime years of his career with no offensive line and a coordinator who hates running the ball. Give him the ball, and give him his damn money, so we don't have to risk drafting another Cedric Benson in 2012.
The number two spot is sort of a non-battle between incumbent Chester Taylor and new guy Marion Barber. Taylor's career was a bummer in that he might have been a star if he didn't have to play behind Jamal Lewis and Adrian Peterson in his prime, and now, he's too slow and terrible to be much of a contributor at any level. Barber's career was a bummer in that he might have been a star if he didn't have to play behind Julius Jones and the fragile nature of tendons and ligaments in his prime, and now, he's too slow and terrible to be a full-time starter anywhere. Taylor is like a slow and terrible version of Forte, while Barber is a crippled and slow version of someone who runs people right the hell over. The smart money is on Barber, because his goods are probably less damaged at this point, plus he's the new guy they just paid, and Taylor will probably be cut at some point. Meanwhile, Matt Forte still gets all the meaningful carries.
Behind them, there's Kahil Bell and Harvey Unga. They both suck, but probably not as bad as Taylor at this point. Bell wins, on account of that one good run he made two years ago.
Last year, the Bears didn't even carry a fullback on the roster and just let Greg Olsen do the job on occasion, and this year, they have two on the team. Eddie Williams is a dude who's just sort of being thrown back there after his career as a tight end died a horrible death, and Will Ta'ufo'ou is a long-haired Samoan guy who was the preseason superstar as an actual fullback that didn't make the team in 2010. Tofu seems to be the obvious choice, but I'm pretty sure they named Williams the starter months ago, because of... hell, I have no idea why. Because of reasons. I'm not sure either guy will actually make the team, and they could just throw a tight end back there again.
All you heard all offseason was how much the Bears needed a true #1 wide receiver, mainly because most of the dudes who talk about things either don't pay close enough attention to see how bad the line is, or because acknowledging how bad the line was might be construed as giving credit to Jay Cutler. But the Bears listened, and reached way back into 2006 to get Roy Williams. Shit, man. After that boneheaded trade the Cowboys made to get that guy, all you heard for a couple years on the local radio and when local radio would get taken over by the official Cowboys radio was how shitty and awful and disappointing Roy Williams was. And now, he's a Bear, because Mike Martz was Detroit's coordinator in '06, and Williams is his boy. And coaches signing their boys got us stuck with turds like Adam Archuleta and Brandon Manumaleuna in the past, so you oughtta know how I fuckin' feel about such a thing. So Roy Williams is the guy now, the anointed Number One, and hell, at this point in his career, he might be only about the fourth or fifth best player at his position on the team. And if coaches on this stupid team weren't either all about signing guys who were good for them with other teams a lifetime ago or slapping down otherwise good players who piss them off for whatever reason, we'd still have Brandon Lloyd right there. And I'll bet at least a dollar that Devin Aromashodu will do similar things in Minnesota that Lloyd did in Denver last year. Fuck.
Behind that, Johnny Knox has been busted way down on the depth chart, after being the closest thing to an ace receiver the Bears had in 2010. And granted, he had problems with route-running last year, (If there was such a stat, he would have led the league in interception yards-allowed from all those times the guy who had just picked one off was ten yards away from him by the time he turned around to see if the ball had been thrown) but he's still a better receiver than Devin Hester or the 2011 version of Roy damn Williams. Wide receivers coach Daryl Drank has been getting a lot of press defending him against false trade rumors lately, which is admirable, but then again, if he had ever done done his damn job, Knox might be an actual dependable number-one guy for the Bears by now. Along with Devin Hester, Mark Bradley, Brandon Lloyd, Devin Aromashodu, Justin Gage, or (insert name here).
Also, speaking of coaching genius, the coaches have promised to double-down on the failed "Devin Hester as a primary wide receiver" experiment, which means that not only is he going to go back to mostly dropping passes, but could also sink back into the 2008-09 shithole he was in as a kick returner the last time he was named a starter. Genius! If it was gonna happen, it would have already happened by now, so just leave the dude alone and let him return a punt or two. You get more touchdowns that way.
Now, slot receiver is an interesting situation all of a sudden. If you asked me a couple weeks ago (or hell, right now) who the Best receiver the Bears had was, I probably would have said Earl Bennett. He doesn't have the flashy speed of Knox or Hester, but he's a quick dude, and he catches everything. But now, word comes out that he's about to lose his job as the #3 option to undrafted dude Dane Sanzenbacher. And ohhhhhh god damn, I am so glad to not have the internet for once, because I bet the message boards are going crazy for that guy right now. For years, everyone on Earth with a navy blue and orange baseball cap and fetal alcohol syndrome has been clamoring for the white wide receiver in Chicago. Whether it was calling for starting spots to be given to Mike Hass and David Ball or for big-money free agent deals to be thrown at Mike Furrey and that one guy the Falcons had, I've been putting up with this for so damn long, and it looks like they finally found their guy. I don't know for sure in my current state of disconnection, but I bet right now, if you went to the chicagobears.com message board and took a shot every time you saw the words "Dane Sanzenbacher" and either "Tom Waddle" or "Wes Welker" within the same sentence, you'd be graveyard dead in under an hour. Sucks though, because Bennett really is the best receiver on the team right now.
As for the rest, it might not matter, because the Bears usually don't carry six receivers, and Sanzenbacher seems to have the inside track on roster spot #5. If there are to be six, I figure the smart money is on Sam Hurd, to take over Rashied Davis's old job as special teams guy and "good teammate." Behind him, there are other guys, and I really can't remember most of them, and they're all probably doomed, anyway. I guess the most notable would be Andy Fantuz, who was pretty much the master of the CFL for a couple years, and was master of the whiteboy-obsessed Bears fan's heart until Dane Sanzenbacher showed up. All mentions of him in practice seem to have gone away completely, and he seems to be a long, long, longshot to make the team now, which only proves the superiority of American fuckin' football being played by fuckin' Americans. USA! USA! USA!
Suck a dick, Mike Martz. Eat some balls and choke on my poop. I hope you get AIDS. AIDS in your mouth. Greg Olsen was the best tight end I had seen in my entire lifetime as a Bears fan, probably no worse than their number two all-time guy behind Mike Ditka, but oh hell no, he didn't fit the system. So he's gone to Carolina, for a "conditional draft pick," which probably means another sixth rounder to use on a practice squad quarterback or project defensive end. Fuck. The good news is that Brandon Manumaleuna - the guy who was brought in as Martz's boy last year to be a blocker, but ended up blocking so badly that knowing that there was at least one worse blocker on Earth was the only way Frank Omiyale was able to sleep at night - showed up too old and too fat, failed his physical, and isn't taking up useful space in Chicago anymore.
This means that the time has finally come for Kellen Davis. He's one of those "freakish athelete" types that they've been developing for a few years now, a former defensive end who could probably pass for a professional wrestler from the neck down, and a better blocker than Olsen, so he can actually do what's asked of him in this offense. Also, he's a tall-ass dude with really good speed for a tight end, so unlike Manumaleuna, he's not useless as a receiver, should the need arise. So I'm still pissed that Greg Olsen isn't a Bear anymore, but the situation is far from dire.
As the second guy, the Bears brought in Matt Spaeth from Pittsburgh, and he's a pretty damn crushing blocker who's going to be used in two tight end "jumbo" sets, in short-yardage and goal line situations. And really, he's one of maybe two new additions to the team in the free agency period that I had no problem with. He can block his ass off and has been known to catch a goal line touchdown or two. Good job, front office. Good job.
Behind those two guys, there's the old man himself, Desmond Clark, who was supposed to be cut in 2010 and not given a new contract in 2011, but god-damned if he's not somehow still a Bear. In his prime, he was a really good, borderline-awesome receiver and blocker, but in his fourteenth season, he's pretty much just old and awful now. I have no idea how or why he's still on the team, but you know, he's still at least the second best tight end the Bears have had in my lifetime, so the sentimental side of me is glad to still have him around. I heart you, Dez Clark.
I think the Bears have other tight ends in camp right now, but they're also counted among the doomed, with only fake-fullback Eddie Williams having the slightest chance in hell. So whatever.
Ah, the Doom of 2010. There's just so much bad here. In a draft loaded with line talent, the Bears only took one guy. In a free agent pool that had at least a few serviceable guys, the Bears only grabbed one guy nobody wanted. After a few years of waning, Olin Kreutz is gone to New Orleans, which means that former Seattle Seahawks' disappointing first round pick Chris Spencer is taking over. Oh wait, my mistake; after signing that dude to a relatively big contract, they watched him in practice, then sat him down and slid Roberto Garza over from guard. And yeah, Garza was a center for the Falcons before he was a guard for the Bears, he was the closest thing the Bears had to an NFL lineman in 2010, and he's still an upgrade over the remains of Olin Kreutz, but come on now. He was still kind of bad last year, and way back in the Kreutz/Garza/Brown/Miller/Tait years when he was young and the line was actually good, he was the guy everyone said needed to be replaced. So instead of a going after real center, the Bears settled for Chris Spencer - who was drafted by current Bears director of player personnel Tim Ruskell, so there's the dudes in charge picking up their boys again - and there goes your goddamn football season.
At guard, you have Chris Williams and Lance Louis. Chris Williams failed as a tackle for two years, failed as a guard last year, and in the offseason, was expected by some to fail at center this year. But he's still there at guard, and you always have to hope that after having a year to relearn the position, he might pull a Robert Gallery and become a decent player, but at this point, the word "hope" is not a thing you should associate with the Chicago offensive line. Meanwhile, Louis never failed at tackle, but he failed at guard just last year, and will probably someday be a dark symbol of the Bears coaching staff's hubris in regard to thinking they can just develop any turd into a good football player, as opposed to actually trying to get guys in there that are already known to be able to do the job. So when Louis fails, Garza goes back to guard, Spencer starts at center, and somewhere, a child is crying.
On the outside, Gabe Carimi jumps right in at right tackle, and he's basically the only part of the line that doesn't scare me. He's got the physical tools, the work ethic, and all that good shit, and I feel more at ease with him as a first round pick than anybody the Bears have drafted in a long, long time. The only problem is that an NFL offensive line has TWO tackles, and the left tackle is going to be second-year dude J'Marcus Webb. And yeah, I know. He was a rookie last year, he's got a full year of starting experience now, and he's had a full offseason to watch film and think about all the hurting he caused. But how can you see a guy play so badly for so many games last year, and then say, "you know the side of the field that a right-handed quarterback can't see? That's where I want THAT GUY," without being commited? And the worst part is that if Webb hasn't had some sort of miracle of offseason development, do you know who's waiting behind him? Why, it's Frank Fucking Omiyale, ready to dump a bucket of cobras into the eyeballs of anyone who watches Chicago Bear football. So as it was, so shall it always be, Satan subjects the world to the Doom of 2011.