Reader Q&A: Dan Pompei's Bears mailbag
The Tribune's Bears columnist tackles questions on Charles Tillman shifting to safety, J'Marcus Webb moving to guard and more in this week's mailbag.
I have received a few emails about this in light of Tillman’s rough night against the Giants and Ramses Barden. But let’s not overreact. Such a position switch is not a consideration now, although it could be worth thinking about at some point down the road. The Bears need Tillman too much at cornerback. He is the only big corner on the roster, and the only proven takeaway threat. And just because he is a good corner does not mean he will be a good safety. You can’t just switch positions and expect overnight production. Just because Woodson can play either position does not mean Tillman can. Woodson is an unusual player, one of the best cornerbacks of his era. Tillman is not Woodson. I also disagree that safety is the second-most important position in the Tampa 2. If Chris Conte, Major Wright and Craig Steltz can stay healthy, the Bears should have enough talent at safety.
Bob Sanders to help at safety? I know he has been placed on IR each of the last 4 seasons, including last season with the Chargers. But he knows the Tampa 2 defense so well from his days with Tony Dungy in Indianapolis. He does have a history of knee problems, but he is only 31 and, when healthy, was absolutely dynamic -- one of the best safeties in the game. Why not give Bob Sanders a look? Brett V., Wilmore, Ky.
I will say this: With Sanders’ history of getting injured, he would fit in perfectly with the Bears’ recent safety tradition. Here is the problem with Sanders: If you sign him, you have to count on him only playing a portion of the schedule. So then you have to have a replacement player waiting anyway. You probably are better off just trying to develop younger players and hope he is more durable. The other issue is at 31, and with the amount of abuse his body has endured, there is no way he is the same player he was early in his career.
Besides heal physically, what does a rookie on IR do to improve? Won't this be a particular challenge for Brandon Hardin, who will not have played for two years when he gets back on the field in 2013? Mike B., Virginia Beach
Yes, it will be a challenge for Hardin. He will not be allowed to practice with the team. He will be allowed to attend meetings, and stand on the sidelines at least for home games. So he can rehab, get in great shape and learn the defense. Some teams think putting a rookie on injured reserve has significant benefits, especially if the rookie is struggling a bit as Hardin was. It can be similar to a redshirt year in college. But there is no substitute for playing and hitting.
Since only one can be the starter , what are the chances the Bears trade either J’Marcus Webb or Chris Williams now that rosters are being trimmed ? I can think of a couple of teams that need an experienced left tackle, and the way things look now, the Bears will probably have to draft one next year anyway. George M., Phoenix
If Wayne Hunter and Jason Smith could be traded, I guess anyone could. But I have a hard time envisioning the kind of trade you propose for two reasons. The first reason is neither player has much trade value, given their recent performances. The second reason is the Bears need both players, in my opinion. I think Webb and Williams are worth far more to the Bears than they would be in a trade. I know the offensive line play isn’t always pretty, but could you imagine it without Webb or Williams? What would you replace them with? It’s probable Webb will start and Williams will be the sixth man, and Williams could have real value as the first man off the bench at four positions.
How about moving J'Marcus Webb to guard? He could be All-Pro. Let Chris Williams play left tackle this year, where his floor is higher than Webb's, and look to get a long term fix next year. Jim P., Chicago
We are not sure if Webb can play left tackle in the NFL yet, but we can be reasonably sure he cannot play guard. He is 6-8 and has long levers. I don’t think there is a guard in the NFL built like him. He’s too gangly to play guard. The game is quicker inside, and Webb does not have the quickness for that position. He also would struggle to get leverage against more compact interior defenders. He is perfectly built to play tackle, however. That’s why the Bears have not given up on him.
The Bears starting left guard position appears to be a battle between Chris Spencer and Chilo Rachal, but why isn't Edwin Williams being considered for the job? If I recall correctly he finished last year at the LG spot and played solid. Does Mike Tice want Williams to focus solely on the center position? Matt, Montreal
Williams might be able to fill in for a guard in a pinch, but his future is at center. Williams does not play with the kind of power and leverage the Bears want their guards to play with. You could see it in a third quarter play against the Giants last week. Linebacker Greg Jones powered Williams back two yards and then disengaged to tackle Armando Allen in the backfield for a loss of three yards. Williams does have the athleticism for the center position.
I would like to better understand Kahlil Bell’s decision. Here is a running back who was a free agent, and started three games for the Chicago Bears after Matt Forte got injured. While he played well, he did not play fantastic. This preseason, he has not played exceptionally well. He was offered $700,000 to stay, instead of the $1.26 million he was expecting. And he rejected this offer. I view this as a major gamble. Does he or his agent have inside knowledge that another team wants him? Is his skill high enough to be a second-string running back? What does he do, if he is not picked up? I just don’t understand the gamble he is taking, it makes no sense to me. Could you please explain the thought process he and his agent are using? Bernard G., Collegeville, Pa.
The gamble Bell took did not make a lot of sense to me, either. If he had another team lined up that was willing to pay him more than $700,000, he would have signed with them by now. A salary of $700,000 is not low for a third running back. The amount Bell was supposed to be paid -- $1.26 million -- was significantly higher than he should have been earning. At the start of training camp, only 30 running backs in the entire NFL were making more than him. The only thing I can think of is maybe Bell wanted out anyway. Maybe he thought he was going to be beaten out by Armando Allen or Lorenzo Booker. Maybe he was tired of seeing the Bears bring in other backs who could take his job.
If Brian Urlacher isn't able to go in week one, is there a possibility that Blake Costanzo could get the start? I noticed that the Bears play him at Mike with Nick Roach at Sam. This lineup seemed to have some success, what do you think? Tim, Lombard
I think the scenario you describe is unlikely but not without merit, Tim. The Bears like Roach in the middle because of his familiarity with the defense, and it’s not like he has played poorly there. The other issue is Roach is a four-down linebacker. Costanzo likely would have to come off the field on passing downs because coverage is not his strength. That means the Bears might not want him wearing the audio headset and relaying the fronts from the sideline. But Costanzo has been impressive in the preseason. I like what he’s all about.
I have watched the tight ends struggle to run and pass block in the preseason, especially when they are lined up in the backfield. I realize that Tice is in love with the TEs but where is the love for Tyler Clutts? I thought he was one of the main reasons our running game was successful last year and this year he seems invisible. Please tell me he is going to make the team. Drew F., Kingsport, Tenn.
I can’t tell you Clutts will make the team. He is far from a lock. Clutts is a decent player with value, but he really isn’t competing against anyone. Whether he makes it depends entirely on how the Bears want to configure their roster. If Mike Tice wants to keep a true fullback for a power game, Clutts will make it. If Tice decides he can do without a true fullback, and that he can live with the backfield blocking of Evan Rodriguez and Kellen Davis, Clutts is gone.