Sunday, August 21, 2011
2011 Chicago Bears Internet Acess Delayed Postpreprepreseasonseasonpreview Defense /Special Teams Thing
Two weeks into fake practice games, and moving expenses, leftover bills, and car repairs still have me cut off from access to locally-wired internet. (Or internet stolen from the air around the house, not that I tried that. Stupid passwords.) And even with short bursts of an hour or two of being able to get on in other locations, it still feels like I'm cut off from the outside world. Like I'm holed up in a cave, scribbling down my final thoughts in the hope that Future Man won't make the same mistakes I'm making when he finds my cobweb-covered skeleton and pries the USB flash drive from my fingers. Drums, drums in the deep. They are coming. Anyway, the position-by-position breakdown is a boring and stupid thing to do, and reading over the offensive half of this thing yesterday, it was probably the worst thing ever, and all I kept thinking was "oh man, I think I already said that exact same sentence a few months ago." So with full apologies to anyone who actually read that thing, I'll try and attack from different angles this time, and hopefully, I won't sound like some waterhead trying to get a job with Pro Football Focus again.
DEFENSE: WHO'S GONE.
After years of getting paid a king's ransom to grow a gut and back up Matt Toeaina, Tommie Harris is finally out of there. So we finally get to stop hearing an annual reason for why THIS is going to be the year that he stops being so shitty and goes back to being the dominant player he was before Marc Colombo leg-whipped his hamstrings off, and the front office gave him like a zillion dollars after that anyway. Healing from injuries didn't make him good again, Rod Marinelli's magic coaching-dust didn't fix him, the inspiration of Julius Peppers being on the same line and getting paid more than him didn't inspire him to greatness, either. So now, he's some other coach's problem, (Who signed him? The Patriots? Has anyone yet?) and the local P.R. guys are probably telling whatever team's fans that he's going to be an all-star, because he's got something to prove, blah blah blah, revenge on the Bears, blah blah, whatever. Either way, retirement would be the smart move. Take the money and run. He sure had no problems with just taking the money, sitting on his ass, and pouting for three years, so at least he'll be getting some exercise.
Pisa Tinoisamoa didn't get resigned this year, which is a thing everyone on Earth saw coming. He stayed hurt for the better part of two years and just goes down as another cautionary tale against Bears coaches and front office guys going after players who used to be good for their old team. I always remembered how the Bears would never, ever have more than one Samoan dude on the team for years, like there was some crazy-ass clause against loading up on Islanders in George Halas's will, so even if a guy seemed like he might be okay and benefit the team, he'd always get cut before the year started if there was another dude of similar heritage around. And for years, I guess Olin Kreutz being an off-brown dude from Hawaii ate up that slot, but they relaxed the rules and like half the team is from the Pacific Ocean now. And even though he really needed to go, I am kinda bummed that Pisa Tinoisamoa is gone, because with that name, it was like he was the most Samoan guy, ever. Like I imagine the continental equivalent of that name would be something like Pete Fuckinamerica. And man, for the record, if I ever write a novel that's controversial enough to warrant an assumed name, or have to come with a new identity to hide from the government following some sort of international intrigue, my fake name is going to be Pete Fuckinamerica. Either that or something like Razor Sledge. Or Dirk Steel.
Speaking of names, Danieal Manning has a lady's name, and a misspelled one at that. But that guy will probably piss me off forever, because he was one of the prime examples of a Jerry Angelo pick, a second rounder spent on a guy that ESPN had no footage of, who took so long to finally pick up the NFL game, that by the time he did, his contract was up. So after years of him sucking ass and the Bears bringing in a river of slime in the form of dudes like Adam Archuleta and Craig Steltz to make up for his presence, he finally turns into a good football player, and shit, he's a Texan now. Well, he was already a Texan, but he's like a HOUSTON Texan now, as in the football team no one cares about. Like you can't just be turned into an honorary dude from Texas because you were bad at football for four years, or anything like that. At least I hope not. Like some magical Texas-Fairy just turned up at his door and gave him a big belt buckle, a penile deficit that requires a Ford F250 King Ranch Edition with a lift kit and dangly trailer hitch balls to overcome, an irrational fear of Mexicans, and the information that stop signs and pedestrian crossings are no longer his concern. I don't think it works that way. A Texan isn't a thing you become, it's a thing you're born into, like a harelip or fetal alcohol syndrome. What I'm saying is that it's not their fault. But when the Bears' offense takes huge steps backwards this year, it'll be because of the team mostly ignoring the offensive line and not knowing a capable wide receiver when they see one. If the defense ends up doing similar things, a big part of that will probably be not having Danieal Manning back there anymore.
DEFENSE: WHO'S NEW
The Bears signed Vernon Gholston, and no one knows why. He'll probably go down as one of the bigger all-time busts, primed and ready for when ESPN does their yearly "ha ha ha look who the Jets drafted over the years, oh man" video package at the NFL Draft, (Although really, Freeman McNeal was better than anyone gave him credit for and gets a raw deal being lumped in with Johnny Mitchell and Blair Thomas) and if he doesn't go down as the chief example of why you don't draft a guy based on how dreamy he looks shirtless, it'll be Mark Sanchez instead. I mean, the Jets have been winning with that dude around, but you'd think that after a couple years of Grossman-like stats, the effort to make him Football's Next Great Superstar would slow down just a little bit. Not to mention the whole "busted for having naked-time with high school chicks when she blabbed about it on Facebook" thing. Like you'd think that with the endless stream of pop stars and low-level "big enough to be on the cover of magazines at the grocery checkout, but not big enough for me to know what they're famous for" types that NFL quarterbacks usually get fixed up with, (Who the hell was that person that Jay Cutler almost married, anyway?) Roger Gooddell could have lined up someone from American Idol or Glee or something for that guy, who would have at least been legal. I mean, even a scumbag like Brett Favre was never a danger of showing up somewhere like the ESPY awards with his arm around someone with braces and little to no memory of the Clinton Administration. But, um, oh yeah, Vernon Gholston. He sucks real, real bad, and the worst part is that since Corey Wootton is hurt and Henry Melton bulked up for a full-time job at defensive tackle, this guy will probably make the team and even get playing time. Also, I think you're required to use this phrase any time you mention Gholston, so blah blah blah, looks like Tarzan, plays like Jane.
Amobi Okoye, on the other hand, could be a thing. He's also got something of a top-ten bust label around his neck, but really, he was always at least a decent player, and people who know more about things like that than I do always say he fits better into the Bears' system than the one the Texans use. And thinking back to when he was drafted, he was that guy who was all mega-genius, to the point where even the college athelete's schedule of maybe attending one class a week didn't keep him from graduating with some actual degree that wasn't criminal justice or physical education, like three years early. So on a regular schedule of human-type development, this dude is physically where he would be if he had just been drafted last year, if my calculations are correct. Of course, if that's all as meaningless as the two sacks he had in the preseason game against the Bills, the Bears at least have a dude around now who can fix all their computers when they get all bogged down from Mike Tice's porno viruses.
Speaking of defensive tackles, the Bears also drafted Stephen Paea. And oh man, holy shit. This dude is like the greatest concept for a football player ever, like if I made a football movie about an aging quarterback who has to pilot the team to victory despite the efforts of the owner who wants to move the team to L.A., one of the supporting cast types would be based on this guy. He's a Tongan rugby player who's still learning how to play football, I'm pretty sure only recently got the English language nailed down, and can bench press more than any other dude the NFL has ever drafted. Of course, the movie version would have be more of a racist caricature for comedy purposes, like all he would do would be stare intensely, grunt, and crush coconuts with his bare hands. But you'd have to have some scene where he'll get all pissed off when a player from the opposing team spat on a kid or abused a fuzzy little animal or maybe he'll get got all blushing "aww shucks" whenever the 20-something female team doctor who was there to serve as the love interest for the 40-something quarterback would attend to his broken foot or whatever. Of course, if Hollywood rejected my script, I'd just travel back in time, pair him with Matt Toeaina, and have Jim Cornette manage the duo on a rampage of terror throughout the Mid-South wrestling territory. Anyway, this dude is raw as hell, but if he ever meets his physical potential, he could be an absolute world-breaker.
The Bears came into the offseason with nobody but Lance Briggs and Brian Urlacher under contract, so there's a whole mess of new guys at that position, with none of them being much to mention. But while I know nothing of their ability as football players, I really hope undrafted dudes Tressor Baptiste and Dom DeCicco end up making the final roster, because if nothing else, they can further the team's seeming agenda of making a team with the most interesting names possible. Like whenever Pete Fuckinamerica finally writes that spy novel that knocks Tom Clancy off his high horse, I'm going to use the name Tressor Baptiste for my main villain, who will be a total "sits at a big desk with back to the door, then slowly turns around, stroking a big, fluffy cat" type. Also, I'm pretty sure that Dom DeCicco was Frank Pentangele's right-hand man who testified against Michael Corleone in the second Godfather movie.
DEFENSE: WHAT TO EXPECT
For the most part, the same as last year. At defensive end, Uberklaw Peppers will dominate, Unterklaw Idonije will do alright. The secret key to everything will be Corey Wootton, because if either starter goes down, someone has to keep Vernon Gholston off the field. Inside, the only certainty is that Anthony Adams will be providing bulk at nose tackle, and Matt Toeaina will be rotating in and out with him and whoever the under tackle (What they used to call the three technique, when Tommie Harris was doing it) ends up being. The new and improved Henry Melton has it for the moment, but another good preseason game from Amobi Okoye will put him in that spot. Stephen Paea basically just lurks in the shadows, waiting for a fuckup or an injury, and then starts wrecking things.
At linebacker, the same two Briggs and Urlacher guys that are always there will still be there, and Nick Roach takes over full time on the strong side. He was the last man standing in the Roach/Tinoisamoa/Hillenmeyer Race to Be the Other Guy, and mostly just absorbs blocks for Brian Urlacher. If anyone gets hurt, the team flies off the rails, bursts into flames, and crashes into an orphanage, because there's no depth to speak of here. Brian Iwuh had a good game or two last year, but that can be said of a lot of guys who shouldn't be starting, and J.T. Thomas sure is a nice guy, but probably isn't good enough to play yet, if ever. Meanwhile, Tressor Baptiste threatens to fire his rockets into the moon, and Dom DeCicco turns rat and exposes the network of buffers that keep Lovie Smith's hands clean when running his extensive criminal empire.
At the cornerback position, Charles Tillman is there, just like always, and he'll be really good, aside from the one game where a star receiver blows him up for 9,000 yards, just like always. Tim Jennings's tiny brand of surprisingly effective munchkin football returns opposite him, but the Bears' staff reeeally wants human loser Zack Bowman to be the starter again, for reasons that escape me. D.J. Moore is another tiny dude, and he'll be the nickel back, but I figure by week five or so, they'll figure out that he's probably better than Jennings or Bowman and give him a bigger job. And there was some undrafted guy that the coaches are really excited about, but I can't remember his name. I'm sure he's a pleasant fellow.
Chris Harris is back at free safety, where he was the secret key to the defense last year. Anti-terrorism task force leader Major Wright takes over where Danieal Manning used to play, and it's a trade of a guy who could cover really well and tackle alright for a guy who tackles like a master, but can't cover. This might be a problem. Craig Steltz continues to be the guy who they won't shut up about in practice, but is too terrible in real life to play in games, and Chris Conte gets a job working underneath his dad at Price Mart and finally proposes to Donna, while his friends deal with the whacky aftermath of Kelso falling off the water tower... again.
SPECIAL TEAMS: WHAT WASN'T LONG ENOUGH TO WARRANT ITS OWN BLOG POST
It's a year of changes back here, and the punter dude they had for years, Brad Maynard, is outta here. He was (and still is) one of the best in the universe at getting the ball to land exactly where he wants it, but sometimes you had to think that commentators always mentioning that was a nice way to not mention that he really couldn't kick the ball very far in his declining years. So he's out, and the guy who used to punt for the Jacksonville Jaguars is in. You'll have to bear with me here, because I don't have readily available internets or a printed-out roster or anything here, and hell, they don't even make rookie cards of punters anymore, so I have no idea what the guy's name is. So until I can hopefully remember to edit all of this out, we'll call him Chuck Balls. Anyway, Chuck Balls is a really good punter, almost made the Pro Bowl last year from what I remember, and was the main target for the Bears in free agency, which really lets you know how much importance they put on the offensive line and Cutler's physical well-being. But Mr. Balls has a huge leg, so he'll probably be a pretty big improvement, which is good, considering how much damn punting the Bears are likely to do in 2011.
At kicker, Robbie Gould returns, and he's really, really good, but I honestly don't know what else to say about a kicker, so I'll just move on. Hey, I may not be insightful, but at least I'm not foisting that insanely original "Robbie is as good as Gould! Haw haw haw!" bullshit on you. And none of that "running the ball is Matt's Forte! Heyyyoooooooooo! (bowtie spins)" crap either. This is serious business right here.
As far as the nameless, faceless dudes who make tackles, keep punters from being crushed, and are forgotten about a week after their spine is cloven in two by an errant block, the Bears did the right thing and brought back Corey Graham. Dude was a menace to society last year, and tackled anything that lived. But speaking of menaces to society, old favorite Garrett Wolfe is gone, deemed too useless on offense to warrant the cost of keeping him around, and sadly, too arrested in the offseason to garner much outside interest. So this is probably the end for him, left to go back to his old hometown, where his Papa always bosses him around, and the threat of being eaten by Gargamel casts a shadow over each passing day. Outside of those guys, the Bears should have a pretty decent crop of scrappy, underutilized, and/or crazy players to make things work. The Bears grow special teamers the way Pittsburgh grows linebackers. Which is why they've won five more Super Bowls, probably.
Returning kicks is going to be a depressing thing this year. On kickoffs, one third of the Hester/Knox/Manning monster trio is gone, and with the NFL passing new rules to hopefully achieve their goal of making Canadian Football the number one sport in America, there probably won't be many actual returns this year. On punts, Devin Hester is being made into a starting wide receiver again, so after setting more records in a resurgent 2010, he'll probably spend 2011 calling for fair catches, fumbling, and being stopped for no gain. I wish they would finally understand that it's okay for him to mainly just be a returner, and stop trying to destroy something beuatiful. It's like the Bears somehow got their hands on the best Lamborghini ever, but then decided that what that car really needed was some fake stick-on Chrysler side-vents, bubbled-up do-it-yourself window tinting, some of those wheel covers from Walmart that stick a couple inches out over the tire to make it look like you've got giant rims when you've just got the factory ones, and a giant ICP Juggalo hatchetman decal covering the back windshield.
The defense stays roughly on the same high level, but the offense takes giant steps backwards from already being shitty. Last year was the year of dumb luck, with basically no one getting injured in enough to miss many games and the team even being handed one game, because of a dumb rule. Physics and laws of averages being as they are, and because God now knows that Smith and Angelo are firmly in place and loves to see me suffer, that won't happen this year. The NFC North is a division where the Lions suddenly get more out of each passing draft than the Bears get out of a decade of drafts, the Vikings still have most of the pieces in place of what was supposed to be a Super Bowl favorite last year, now with a less washed-up quarterback, and the Packers are an unstoppable force of a defending champ that embarassed the Bears twice in one month, and that gets back everyone who got hurt in 2010. It's hard times, and the hurting never stops.
6-10, fourth place in the division, and the Bears probably end up trading what would have been a decent 2012 first-round pick for something stupid.