Archive for February, 2011

Year-End Position Grades: Offensive Line

DEPTH CHART & STATISTICS (Including Playoffs):

Depth Chart Position  –  #  –  Last Name, First Name  –  2010 Age – Games Started
LT1) 68  –  Omiyale, Frank  – 28 – 16
LG1) 74  –  Williams, Chris  – 25 – 13
C1) 57  –  Kreutz, Olin  – 33 – 16
RG1) 63  –  Garza, Roberto  – 31 – 14
RT1) 73  –  Webb, J’Marcus  – 22 – 12
OT) 78 – Shaffer, Kevin – 30 – 2
OG) 60 – Louis, Lance – 25 – 4
OG) 70 – Williams, Edwin – 24 – 3

According to Football Outsiders, the offensive line of the Bears played dreadfully. The Bears finished DEAD LAST in power run success, or the percentage of 3rd and 4th downs of 2 yards or less that were converted to first downs or touchdowns. The NFL Average was 62%, the Bears came in nearly twenty points lower at 44%. The Bears were 29th out of 32 teams in stuffs, or run plays that resulted in negative yards at 25%. So basically, 1 in every 4 running plays lost yardage. Pass protection was not any better, as the Bears allowed the most sacks in the NFL with 56 and getting QB Jay Cutler knocked out of 2 games, including the NFC Championship Game.

Obviously, as you look at the above numbers, it is hard to find that many positives in the offensive line’s performance this season. We are relatively young, with the exceptions of Kreutz and Garza, and the young guys figure to only get better under the tutelage of OL coach Mike Tice. The line also showed improvement as a group over the last 9 games of the year, running for 100 yards or more in 9 of 11 games. And the Bears did finish near the top of the league in runs to the outside and yards on screen passes, which the smaller, more athletic linemen like Kreutz and Williams are much better at.


Now, for the individual grades:

FRANK OMIYALE: Omiyale started the year at right tackle, then was moved to left tackle in the Week 3 game against Green Bay. He played well at first, but seemed to regress over the course of the year. Omiyale has great physical tools, but seems to get outmuscled way too often. He seems best suited to be a backup swing tackle, who plays limited snaps. This is definitely a position the Bears must look to improve this offseason. FINAL GRADE: D

CHRIS WILLIAMS: Williams was anointed the starting left tackle in training camp, and proceeded to play terribly in the preseason and get hurt in Week 2 versus the Cowboys. After missing 3 games, he was inserted in at left guard. He started out shaky—VERY SHAKY—but ended up having a pretty good season. The athleticism that made him a top LT prospect serve him well as a pulling guard and out in space on screen passes. You will still like to see him physically dominate some guys, though, at his size. FINAL GRADE: D

OLIN KREUTZ: Stayed healthy for the first year in a while, and had a pretty good season. Was in charge of all the calls at the line, and did pretty well, considering all the different combinations the Bears threw out there this season. Will still get overmatched on inside runs—one of the big reasons the Bears struggle in short yardage situations—but there might not be a better pulling center in the league, even at this stage of Kreutz’s career. Definitely should be re-signed for at least one more year. FINAL GRADE: B

ROBERTO GARZA: Missed 4 games this season, but otherwise played solidly, if not spectacularly. Not too many surprises anymore with Garza—he won’t do anything extraordinary, but won’t get you beat either. FINAL GRADE: C

J’MARCUS WEBB: Webb was inserted into the starting lineup for good in Week 5 versus the Panthers; and while he had some VERY rough outings (Giants in Week 4; Dolphins in Week 11; Patriots in Week 14), Webb showed remarkable improvement by the end of the season—especially when you consider that he was at West Texas, a Division-II School, last year. Has great size and will only get better. Maybe the only reason to be excited about the Bears’ offensive line going into next season. FINAL GRADE: B-minus

KEVIN SHAFFER: In limited time, did not play TERRIBLY; but is limited athletically and is exploited when can be gameplanned for. Should be gone in 2011. FINAL GRADE: D

LANCE LOUIS: Started the year as the starting LG, and showed alot of meanness, but not much else. Louis cannot be really considered a bust, because he was a 7th-round draft choice; but considering he was expected to solidify the LG spot going into the year, he has to be considered on of the major disappointments of 2010. FINAL GRADE: F

EDWIN WILLIAMS: Played in a few games due to injuries after getting picked up off the Redskins’ scrap heap, and showed some good promise. I think he has a chance to stick around for awhile, mainly because he can play center and both guard spots. FINAL GRADE: C


Year-End Position Grades: Wide Receivers & Tight Ends

DEPTH CHART & STATISTICS (Including Playoffs):

Wide Receiver Depth Chart  –  #  –  Last Name, First Name  –  2010 Age

1) 13  –  Knox, Johnny  –  24

2) 23  –  Hester, Devin  –  28

3) 80  –  Bennett, Earl  –  23

4) 81  –  Davis, Rashied  –  31

5) 19  –  Aromashodu, Devin  –  26

Tight End Depth Chart  –  #  –  Last Name, First Name  –  2010 Age

1) 82  –  Olsen, Greg  –  25

2) 86  –  Manumaleuna, Brandon  –  30

3) 87  –  Davis, Kellen  – 25

4) 88  –  Clark, Desmond  –  33

Statistics  –  Games Played  – Catches  –  Yards  –  Yds/Rec.  –  TD

Knox  –  18  –  57  –  1,064  –  18.7  –  5

Hester  –  18  –  42  –  479  –  11.4  –  4

Bennett  –  16  –  50  –  619  –  12.4  –  4

R. Davis  –  18  –  9  –  84  –  9.3  –  1

Aromashodu  –  15  –  10  –  149  –  14.9  –  0

Olsen  –  18  –  47  –  547  –  11.6  –  6

Manumaleuna  –  18  –  5  –  43  –  8.6  –  1

K. Davis  –  18  –  3  –  61  –  20.3  –  2

Clark  –  6  –  1  –  12  – 12.0  –  0

Most people will blame this unit for alot of the troubles the Bears had on offense this season.  The first thing I noticed when doing this breakdown was the overall young age of our TEs and WRs.  Knox, Bennett, Olsen, and Kellen Davis are all 25 and under; Hester will be the old man of the group next year at 29. Also take into account that Knox, Bennett, and Davis are all learning their 3rd different offense in 3 years; Olsen his 3rd different offense in 5 years; and Hester was a CB his entire life until about 3 years ago. Furthermore, the only two I can say with any certainty that were coached up on the finer points of the game (beating jams, running routes) in college were Bennett (at Vanderbilt) and Olsen (at Miami).  Kellen Davis spit time in college between DE and TE; Hester was a CB; and I can bet you Knox was not jammed at the line EVER while at Abilene Christian.  The overall raw ability of this group cannot be questioned; and they will only get better and better, as long as they are coached up by Mike Martz.

That being said, some of the eyeball-test things you look for to gauge the competitiveness of an NFL receiver were lacking in this group, as a whole. The downfield blocking was inconsistent. Quitting on routes or not fighting for balls in the air that led to interceptions. Getting taken out of games by CBs or LBs who jam at the line. There were also some dropped passes, mainly by Knox and Hester, that HAVE to be caught.

Now, onto the individual grades:

JOHNNY KNOX: Was a legitimate deep threat, averaging 18.7 yards per catch; but had trouble beating the jam off the line, and rarely fought DBs for 50/50 passes. FINAL GRADE: B-minus

DEVIN HESTER: Averaged only 11.4 yards per catch. Showed some heart, but did drop some passes; and quite frankly seems out of place in this offense as anything more than an occasional slot receiver. FINAL GRADE: C

EARL BENNETT: Emerged as the WR Cutler trusts the most; runs good routes, and catches almost everything that goes to him. Lacks the speed that Martz really covets for this offense. Plus this play against the Lions is in my Top-5 Bears Plays of the Year. Bennett missed all of OTAs and started the year hurt; with a full offseason, I expect him to be able hit 70 catches next year, for close to 1,000 yards. FINAL GRADE: A-minus

RASHIED DAVIS: Is valuable to the Bears as a special teams player; but frankly, should not be getting ANY snaps in this league as a WR. Had 9 catches this season. Would not be surprised if he is not on the roster next season. FINAL GRADE: D.

DEVIN AROMASHODU: At 6 foot-2, and 200 pounds, he should be the physical WR the Bears so desperately need. However, Aromashodu seems more interested in complaining about playing time than actually learning his playbook or honing his craft. Should be gone in 2011. FINAL GRADE: F

GREG OLSEN: I don’t buy the whole argument that Mike Martz will not use his TEs—I just think he lacks the drive to use his abilities and put up numbers like Antonio Gates, Dallas Clark, or even Brent Celek. Olsen has as much ability as all of them. But for a guy that should be able to out-athleticize LBs and Outmuscle DBs, Olsen PLAYS TOO SOFT. On the plus side, he seemed to really improve his blocking this season. And, if the BEars can improve the offensive line this offseason, maybe Olsen would have more freedom to go out for passes and use his ability. FINAL GRADE: C-minus

BRANDON MANUMALEUNA: I have a hard time deciding who was laughing the hardest when the Bears gave all that guaranteed money to Manumaleuna this past offseason—his manager; or the other 31 GMs in the league. He was NOT the blocker that he was advertised to be coming into the season; and he caught 5 passes. 5. I expect (read: hope) him to be a cut this offseason. FINAL GRADE: D-minus

KELLEN DAVIS: Was good on special teams; and when he was finally used at TE in the passing game, he caught 3 passes for 61 yards and 2 TDs in the playoffs. Is a HUGE target, and a guy I think will be starting in Manumaleuna’s spot and spell Olsen next season. FINAL GRADE: B

DESMOND CLARK: Only appeared in 6 games, and caught 1 pass. Should be et go this offseason. FINAL GRADE: INCOMPLETE.

Year-End Position Grades: Running Backs

2010 Depth Chart & Statistics :

Depth Chart Position  –  #  –  Last Name, First Name  –  2010 Age

1)  22  –  Forte, Matt  –  25

2)  29  –  Taylor, Chester  –  31

3)  25  –  Wolfe, Garrett  –  26

4)  32  –  Bell, Kahlil  –  24

Statistics (Playoffs Included) –  GP  –  Rush Att  –  Rush Yds  –  Rush Avg  –  Receptions  –  Receiving  Yards  –  Rec  Avg  –  Total  TDs

Forte  –  18  –  279  – 1,219  –  4.4  –  64  –  691  –  10.8  –  9

Taylor  –  18 –  126  – 313  – 2.5  –  21  –  151  –  7.2  –  4

Wolfe  – 18  –  4  –  8  –  2.0  –  0  –  0  –  0.0  –  0

Bell  –  0  –  0  –  0  –  0.0  –  0  –  0  –  0.0  –  0

Matt Forte:  Forte had a great “bounce-back” year in the “Marshall Faulk”-role of the Mike Martz’s offense, finishing 10th in the NFL in yards from scrimmage;  4th in the NFL in receiving yards among RBs; and 1st in the NFL in yards per reception among RBs.  This all while running behind an offensive line that did not really find any type of rhythm until midway through the season.  VERY QUIETLY in just 3 seasons, Matt Forte is already 6th on the Bears’ career rushing list, and 4th in career yards from scrimmage.  In fact, Forte has 4,731 yards from scrimmage in his first 3 years—Walter Payton had 4,552.  Forte will still whiff on some blitz pickups at times, but he is getting better every year. He is entering a contract year, and it is crucial that the Bears get an extension done with Forte as soon as the new CBA is finalized. FINAL GRADE:  A.


CHESTER TAYLOR:  I suppose, in a sense, it was worth $26 million dollars to get Taylor away from the Vikings; but surely we could have got 2.3 yards per carry out of Kahlil Bell, whom Taylor was signed to bump out of the backup-to-Matt Forte spot. Taylor had a few good plays, but it would surprise me very little if the Bears cut Taylor after just one year, and drafted an RB or gave the job to Kahlil Bell or Harvey Unga, who was picked up in the supplemental draft this past season. FINAL GRADE: D.


GARRETT WOLFE: I don’t care how many special-teams tackles he makes, you will not sell me on the idea that he shouldn’t be considered a 3rd-round draft BUST, and one of the worst picks of the Angelo-Smith era. Plus, the supposed special-teams dynamo was practically invisible in that phase this year. Wolfe offers very little as an RB; and I think the Bears would be best served to draft a replacement in the middle rounds, like West Virginia’s Noel Devine or Oregon State’s Jacquizz Rodgers—Moral of the Story—if you are going to draft a scatback, make sure he has speed and moves, or at least one of those. Wolfe has neither. FINAL GRADE:  F

KAHLIL BELL:  Was inactive for all 16 games this season; the only news he made was an altercation with Chester Taylor at a practice. I think a lack in experience, as far as blitz pickups go as well as on special teams, kept Bell off of the active roster this season.  Bell ran for 220 yards in 2009 on 5.5 yards per carry; and we will see if the Bears give him an opportunity next year, especially if Taylor is released. FINAL GRADE: INCOMPLETE

HARVEY UNGA: Unga was drafted in the supplemental draft by the Bears, and promptly found his way onto injured reserve.  Like Bell, he would have had a hard time finding any time on the gameday roster, with not much experience as a pass-blocker or special teams coverage; expect him to be groomed as a short-yardage back next season. FINAL GRADE: INCOMPLETE

Year-End Position Grades: Quarterbacks

2010 Depth Chart & Stats (Including Playoffs)

Depth Chart Position  –  #  –  Last Name, First Name   – 2010 Age

1) #6  –  Cutler, Jay  –  27

2) #10  –  Collins, Todd  –  39

3) #12  –  Hanie, Caleb  –  25

Statistics – Last Name  –  Games  –  Att / Comp  –  %  –  Yds  –  Yds/ Att  –  TD  –  INT

Cutler  –  17  –  474 / 282  –  60%  –  3628  –  7.7  –  25  –  17

Collins  –  3  –  31 / 10  –  32%  –  68  –  2.3  –  0  –  5

Hanie  –  3  –  18 / 27  –  67%  –  208  –  7.7  –  1  –  2

JAY CUTLER: Under the tutelage and play-calling of new OC Make Martz, Jay Cutler made some visible strides this season, increasing his yards per attempt, 6.6 to 7.6; yards per completion, 10.9 to 12.5; decreasing his interceptions from 26 to 17; and upping his QB rating from 76.8 to 86.3.  He showed an increased willingness to scramble for yardage, running for 285 yards and 3 scores—and escaping numerous sacks as well. His judgement was much improved—last year, there were 4-5 games where bad throws or poor judgement were the main cause of the Bears’ losing; this year, the only real bad game Cutler played was the 4-interception game versus the Redskins.  Furthermore, I can spot 4 victories (@Dallas; vs. Philly; vs. Jets; and vs. Seattle in the Playoffs) where Jay Cutler’s playmaking arguably WON the game for the Bears.

On the negative, there was the 4- interception game against the Redskins; as well a couple poor throws that ended up being game-changing interceptions in the Week 17 game at Green Bay that would have knocked the Packers out of the playoffs. Cutler was sacked 52 times in 15 games, most in the league. Although on most sacks, the offensive line  is to blame, there were instances where Cutler held onto the ball too long, or failed to throw the ball away.

FINAL VERDICT: For any other QB, I would say B-minus. But whe you condiser the fact that a) Cutler was running for his life 75% of the time; and b) Cutler does not have a WR/TE that scares defenses, I will give him a B-PLUS.


TODD COLLINS: I went from: 1) wondering WHY the Bears signed Collins this offseason instead of going after a veteran QB that, you know, PLAYED the previous season; to 2) REALLY wondering WHY the Bears signed Collins after his 10 of 27, 68 yards, and 5 interceptions in the Giants’ and Panthers’ games, when Cutler was hurt; to REALLY REALLY wondering WHY the Bears signed Todd Collins after he went 0 for 4 in relief of Cutler in the NFC Championship Game. Maybe Mike Martz enjoys the conversations he has with Collins. Maybe Collins gives really good haircuts. But i think it is safe to say that, unless he buys a ticket like everyone else, Todd Collins will not be at Soldier Field for the Bears’ home opener in 2011.

FINAL VERDICT: Since there is not a lower letter allowed, I will say F.

CALEB HANIE: After showing flashes in the 2009 preseason, Hanie entered 2010 preseason as the #2 quarterback; but then hurt his shoulder in the preseason this year and spent the year as the #3 quarterback behind Todd Collins, only completing 5 passes in mop-up duty against the Giants and Panthers. Then, in the NFC Championship Game against the Packers, after Cutler was hurt, and after Collins reminded the Bears why nobody else had offered Collins a contract in two season, Hanie came in and played well, going 13 for 20, 153 yards and a touchdown—and nearly leading the Bears to an improbable comeback against the Packers. Here is a guy that a) showed he is not scared by the big stage; and b) somehow kept himself relatively sharp despite not getting many snaps all year long. With Hanie being a free agent, I think the Bears have to hope Hanie doesn’t garner interest as a possible future starter from another team and they HAVE to make it a priority to re-sign Hanie—then pencil him in as Cutler’s backup for the next 4-5 years.

FINAL VERDICT:  Even though the sample size is small, you have to be impressed that Hanie did not seem intimidated by the NFL Championship Game Stage. He has shown that he can make plays in this offense. B-PLUS.

Congratulations to Richard Dent, and a few thoughts on the H.O.F.

First, let us take a minute and congratulate Richard Dent into the National Football League Hall of Fame. Even if its about 7 years too late. Even though Richard Dent is too classy to do anything but say and do the right things, you get the feeling he was kinda over the whole process that the Football HOF puts you through, as he as not in Dallas with the other guys who were inducted; but instead paying golf in Vegas when he got the call letting him know he finally got in. Here are a couple stats to chew on:

At the time of his retirement, Dent was 3rd on the All-time sack list with 137.5; and is currently 6th, ahead of guys like Lawrence Taylor (132.5), Rickey Jackson (128), and Derrick Thomas (126.5)—all who got into the Hall of Fame BEFORE Dent.

Furthermore, if you take each of the top 12 all-time sack leaders’ 10 “peak” years, Dent had 121.5 sacks in 152 games—trailing only Bruce Smith (122) and Reggie White (146).

Big Plays? Dent leads all of these guys in INTs (8), Doleman is second with 7, and Strahan is third with 4. In forced fumbles, Dent (37) trails only Doleman (44) and Bruce Smith (43).

And come playoff-time, Dent was maybe at his best. In 10 career playoff games with the Bears, Dent collected 10.5 sacks. In the Bears’ Super Bowl XX victory  over the Patriots, he collected 1.5 sacks and 2 forced fumbles, and was named the MVP of the game.

Lastly, lets leave with a a few video montages of Dent—

-with the 1985 Bears: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HlvUWnCdYn0&feature=related

-in the 1985 NFC Championship game: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CvnYe3aA4OE

-Super Bowl XX Highlights with Dent: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KkulytNYbhw

Congratulations again to an all-time great player, and an all-time class act.

The NFL Labor Dispute

For people who are not aware, the National Football League’s Collective Bargaining Agreement—essentially a contract between NFL owners and the Player’s union—ends on March 3rd, 2011. The owners voted to opt out of the deal at the end of this this year; and they seem pretty determined to either get a new deal done on their terms, or “lockout” the players—meaning they will not hold practices or games that the players in the union can participate in. MEANING NO FOOTBALL IN 2011-2012. Now, according to Plunkett Research, the NFL is a 7.8-BILLION DOLLAR industry—so some would ask why the owners and players, “why let the dispute get to this point?” “Why not just compromise a little for the sake of saving your golden goose, $8 BILLION product?” Here are a couple of items on the table that I think the owners and players need to agree upon to improve the game—

1) Rookie Wage Scale. QB Jamarcus Russell, the Raiders’ 1st round draft pick in 2007, will cost the Raiders $3 MIL against their salary cap in 2011—and he hasn’t payed since 2009. Patriots QB Tom Brady, of 3 Super Bowl wins, made $3.5 million this season. In fact, Russell has made $39.8 MIL in his 4-year career, or about $2.2 MILLION PER TD PASS. This is a broken system. Now, the players’ union will argue that owners waste money on veteran free agent players also; but there has to be a system that compensates players based on their performance in the NFL; and b) prevents one bad draft pick from handcuffing a franchise salary-cap-wise for the next 4-5 years. I think one of the trade-offs for a rookie salary cap will be shorter rookie contracts; meaning not so many 6 and 7-year deals at the top of the draft.

2) Improvements to the Pension/Health Coverage for Retirees.
This is one of the issues that I personally go back and forth on, the whole player safety thing. With a few exceptions, ex-players who helped build the league into what it is today have been screwed when it comes to receiving benefits after they leave the game. My issues are three-fold here:
a) The the Chicago Bears, the NFL’s 9th highest-valued franchise according to Forbes, brought in $241 MIL in 2009 (2010 numbers are not out yet), not including the NFL revenue -sharing income, which is a little over $100 MIL. The player expense, which include current players bonuses and benefits, was $137 MIL. Sure, you will have expenses for all your front office and coaching staff, your stadium deal, travel, etc; but there seems to be enough money there to chip in and help the ex-players who got your team’s value over $1 BILLION DOLLARS—wouldn’t you think?
b) The NFLPA makes over $16 MIL in revenues EACH YEAR, from players’ dues. How is this money not able to sustain pension-eligible, ex-NFLers?
c) The MINIMUM salary in the NFL is $310,000—for rookies. This number increases for veterans, based on how many seasons they have in the NFL, all the way up to over $800,000 for a 10-year veteran. The average salary in the US for a college graduate is $46,000; or ONE-SEVENTH of what an NFL rookie makes. If your average person is expected to have healthcare and save for retirement off of $46,000 per year, shouldn’t an NFL player be expected to off of $310,000?
I am not sure who I would blame more for the current state of NFL retiree benefits; but I think it is safe to say that all sides could do more to make improvements here.
3) Health Concerns for CURRENT NFL Players. Another issue I waffle on. The NFL and Owners preach player safety, but then want to extend the season 2 extra games. The NFL fines players for hits they deem illegal; but then they sell the pictures of those hits on the NFL website to make money. The players complain about protecting themselves, but most of them play without some sort of ‘required’ padding or protection because they want to look cool—you see players every week without mouthpieces or thigh and knee pads—no one dressed with padding like Eric Dickerson.

4) Revenue Sharing between Owners and Players.
The Owners are asking the players to take a reduced cut of the revenue the NFL brings in, to the tune of 18%, to make up for financial losses through these tough economic times. The Players want to see the Owners’ financials, to verify those losses; and so far the Owners have refused. Speculations on what these losses are resulting from range from alleged ‘bonuses’ the owners are giving themselves to expenses from the huge stadiums that are being built. One thing is certain, however—unless the Owners have a change of heart, and open their books, this will be the toughest aspect to get either side to move toward the middle on.