The Bears' starting front four is going to be a force this season and hopefully for years to come, but after the starters the roster doesn't look so great. I'm wondering, what percentage of snaps the starters are expected to play and how important it is to have great depth on the D-line? And how do you feel about the young developmental guys on the roster? -- D.J., Bloomington, Ind.
The new coaching staff will continue to rotate defensive linemen liberally as the old coaching staff did in the past, so long as they have the depth to do so. You can’t run a scheme like the Bears do and expect top effort from pass rushers down in and down out if you are playing them 70 snaps a game. So depth remains important. After losing Israel Idonije, Matt Toeaina and Amobe Okoye, the depth on the line obviously isn’t as strong as it was a year ago. It wouldn’t surprise me if the Bears added another defensive lineman, especially one who can play inside, at some point between now and the start of training camp. But they have three solid ends in Julius Peppers, Corey Wootton and Shea McClellin. Usually, you only play three. And they have one proven backup defensive tackle in Nate Collins. I’ll give you two other names to keep in mind. The first is Turk McBride. A former second round pick of the Chiefs, he has been impressive in offseason work. He had five sacks for the Lions a few years back. The other guy who has shown a little something is Kyle Moore. Like McBride, he is a bit of a journeyman, but the defensive end has a little something to his game.
How has Shea McClellin looked in OTAs? -- @gurleen bhinder, from Twitter
McClellin has looked OK. I’d be lying if I said he had performed spectacularly. But it’s difficul t— impossible, really — for a defensive lineman, especially an established defensive lineman, to look all that great in offseason work. We won’t know how far McCellin has come until training camp and preseason. I know hopes remain high for him.
Who has wreaked more havoc in the NFC North and has earned their pay, Jared Allen or Julius Peppers? -- @HollandSkyn, from Twitter
They both are outstanding players who have earned their pay. Since Peppers has been in the division the last three years, Allen has wreaked more havoc. Allen has more sacks (45 to 30.5), more knockdowns and hurries (111 to 98.5 according to STATS), more interceptions (three to two) and more stuffs (17 to 13.5). Peppers has one more forced fumble (seven to six), and they each have six fumble recoveries.
If Gabe Carimi is now very much not a part of the Bears future line and it is hard to believe he is doing better with his away training than he would be with the Bears blessing at Halas Hall, why not trade him for whatever another team might offer for a damaged first round pick? -- David Holingue, from Facebook
A trade of Carimi could happen at some point. Right now, his trade value isn’t very high. And the Bears would take a cap hit in order to dump Carimi. So trading him does not appear to be a very good option at the moment. Their best bet still is to get him to camp and hope that he is playing well enough to contribute to the team in 2013. If Carimi is the player he was in 2011, the Bears will be happy to keep him.
Besides Jay Cutler, what other significant Bears players are in the last year of their contract? -- @JRu131, from Twitter
Here is a list of potential starters whose contracts are scheduled to expire after the 2014 season in addition to Cutler: James Anderson, Roberto Garza, Robbie Gould, Kelvin Hayden, Devin Hester, Tim Jennings, Henry Melton, Matt Slausen, Charles Tillman, J’Marcus Webb, D.J. Williams, Corey Wootton and Major Wright. So as you can see, the Bears will have a lot of flexibility next offseason. They also will have many critical decisions to make.
Dark horse to make the roster? -- @bighurtNYC, from Twitter
I wrote about Fendi Onobun last week. He would be by No. 1 dark horse to make the team. But I’ll give you three others. The first is wide receiver Joe Anderson. He showed some things on the practice squad last year, got called up late in the year and played pretty well, with excellent energy and desire. He can be a force on special teams. The second is cornerback Isaiah Frey. He was a sixth round pick last year and was a practice squad player in 2012. I think he has progressed some, and he has looked pretty good in the offseason workouts. He seems to have a nose for the football. And my third darkhorse candidate is running back Michael Ford. The undrafted rookie has got some moves and his style is different from the styles of the other Bears’ runners. If he shows he can catch the ball and play special teams, he can stick.
Do you think Kyle Long will be moved to tackle by the end of the year? -- Patrick McKay, from Facebook
I don’t think that is the intention. The intention is to line him up at guard and to keep him at guard. But sometimes the season has a funny way of screwing up intentions. For Long to be moved, there would have to be an injury and/or benching at one of the tackle positions, or maybe at both of the tackle positions.
What do other teams front offices think of the Mark Trestman hire? -- Adam McElwain, from Facebook
There is not an NFL “groupthink” about the Trestman hire. I have heard from some front office people who are skeptical about Trestman. And I have heard from some who think it could be a brilliant move. The thing about Trestman is he is an unknown as a head coach to many people in the NFL. His hiring was out of the box. So if he does not succeed, there will be a lot of “told you sos.” But people who are familiar with him generally like the move. I spoke with some of the people who interviewed him in Indianapolis last year. They were impressed in their talks with him last year (not as impressed as they were with Chuck Pagano obviously), and said hiring him was an excellent move by the Bears.
Been desperately seeking Urlacher’s true tackle total. Why do some have him at 1,300, and some at 1,700? -- @tgunn69, from Twitter
I don’t think there is such a thing as a “true tackle total” for any player. Press box stats, which the NFL uses, have Urlacher with 1,358 tackles. But the Bears have Urlacher with 1,779 tackles—those numbers were compiled after coaches reviewed tape and gave what should be more accurate tackle figures. Press box tackles can be inaccurate because statisticians don’t have enough time or enough viewing angles to determine who should get credit. But coaches’ review tackles also can be inaccurate because numbers can be padded. Crediting tackles is a subjective exercise, and there is no perfect system.
Will the Bears have a Brian Urlacher day this season? -- @jay bargas, from Twitter
Nothing has been announced, but I can’t imagine the team not trying to have some kind of pregame or halftime ceremony to honor Urlacher. It is the right thing to do, and it would be good for business. The only way it wouldn’t get done is if Urlacher remained mad about the way his contract negotiations played out and refused to take part. In order for Urlacher to be honored, he obviously needs to be on board with it.
With NFL Network’s list of top 100 NFL players counting down right now I was wondering who your top ten current Bears would be, 1-10? -- @benjohntodd, from Twitter
Based on how they have performed in past seasons and where they are now as players, this is my top ten: 1. Brandon Marshall; 2. Julius Peppers; 3. Lance Briggs; 4. Charles Tillman; 5. Henry Melton; 6. Matt Forte; 7. Jay Cutler; 8. Tim Jennings; 9. Martellus Bennett; 10. Jermon Bushrod.
Can get George McCaskey and the Bears to “reintroduce” old jersey numbers like my favorite “77” so we can enjoy seeing them in my lifetime? That will free up more recent Bears players the opportunity to have their number retired. The “retirement” of a jersey should last only a certain period of time, like one or two generations. After that it should be put back in play. Then you can have a reintroduction ceremony and invite family members to one of the games. I think this would be a great marketing feature. -- Bob
The Bears have no plans on reintroducing retired numbers Bob. They like doing things the way they have done things. But your idea is an interesting one.
Any advice for an aspiring writer/broadcaster? -- @AlexCrowe38, from Twitter
Four points. First, and most importantly, be fair, trustworthy and honest. Nothing is more important. Your actions will define your character as a journalist. Make sure your character is something you are proud of. When I was a young pup in this business, I used to look up to Ray Sons, the columnist at the Sun-Times, because of the integrity with which he operated. That has stuck with me. Second, study the game you are interested in. Don’t just watch it. Immerse yourself in it and go the extra mile. Understand it as best you can. Become as much of an expert as possible. My mentor Kevin Lamb was a great example of someone who really knew his sport, and he helped me to figure out how to understand it too. Third, work hard. Get published. Get to know others in the business. Study successful people and figure out why they are successful. Do things the right way. Fourth, develop a style. Have a signature that separates you from the pack. But don’t force it. This can take time to form. My friend Jeff Joniak from WBBM is a good example of a broadcaster who has developed a distinct style that has made him one of the premier play by play men in the country. If you ever listen to him, you’ll know what I’m talking about.