What is the logic behind the Bears carrying four tight ends and a fifth on the practice squad? What teams have success with multiple tight end sets? -- @Solo_ist from Twitter
Plenty of teams have had success with multiple tight ends of late. The Patriots ran much of their offense through Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez in recent seasons and look to paid undrafted rookie Zach Sudfeld with Gronkowski this year. The 49ers used Vernon Davis and Delanie Walker with success in 2012 and have replaced Walker with second-round pick Vance McDonald this season. The Bengals will have a pair of talented tight ends on Sunday at Soldier Field and will challenge the Bears in the middle of the field with Jermaine Gresham and first-round pick Tyler Eifert. One reason the Bears might be carrying four this week is because Dante Rosario just arrived Monday in a trade with the Cowboys and it will take a little time to get him up to speed in the offense. The Bears’ tight ends have different skill sets after starter Martellus Bennett, who is a three-down player. Steve Maneri is mostly a blocker. Kyle Adams can play the F position – the move tight end – and Rosario also has that ability. A variety of skill sets gives Marc Trestman more options.
For the Bears to give up a draft pick, Dante Rosario must be the H-back type Phil Emery envisioned Evan Rodriguez being, yes or no? -- @BPspeak from Twitter
For the Bears to trade a draft pick when Emery came out this week and said he wants to do a better job of compiling more picks for the future, it means they see real value to adding Rosario. A better comparison might be former Saints tight end David Thomas, who offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer worked with in New Orleans. I don’t think you want to be comparing Rosario to Rodriguez, who is on the street after being released by the Dolphins. Rosario is 6-foot-3, 242 pounds and Thomas played at 6-3, 248. They both can be used in motion and be effective receivers in the middle of the field. Thomas caught four touchdown passes last season and had his most productive season as a receiver in 2009 when he had 35 receptions for 356 yards. The Bears consider Rosario an effective receiver who has the ability to block, even coming out of the backfield as a fullback.
With Julius Peppers restructuring his contract, any early favorites to get a contract extension or do they have a free agent they'd like to sign? -- @Gold_N_Softee from Twitter
The Bears cleared $2 million in salary cap room for this season by restructuring Peppers’ deal and converting $3 million of his base salary to bonus money. That didn’t carve out enough room for the team to do a substantial extension. That move was made because teams need some healthy operating room during the season to handle injuries and the roster moves necessitated by them.
I looked at the first depth chart earlier this week and it seems like the Bears are lacking depth. Should that be a concern? -- @brandonliles11 from Twitter
It’s a question for every NFL team but teams win divisions, conferences and championships with elite frontline talent. I think the Bears have a chance to improve their depth this season. Ten rookies are on the roster – six draft picks, three undrafted free agents and they claimed defensive end Davis Bass, the seventh-round pick of the Raiders, off waivers. Not all 10 of these players are going to pan out. It’s certainly possible all 10 don’t stick out the entire season on the 53-man roster. But some of these players will develop in reserve roles and that gives the club a chance to solidify some depth at probably a few positions.
How concerned should we be that the Bears are willing to have only one backup for depth at quarterback and offensive tackle? -- @YallGotToChill from Twitter
If the Bears get into a situation where a third quarterback needs to be the starter, you should be very concerned. But the reality is any NFL team that is reduced to its No. 3 option at quarterback is going to be in serious trouble. Most teams have issues when they have to turn to their No. 2 quarterback and the Bears certainly did in 2011 when they called on Caleb Hanie to replace Jay Cutler. The fact is there aren’t any attractive third options at the position on the street right now. As far as backup depth at offensive tackle, Eben Britton will be the swing tackle for Sunday’s opener against the Bengals. My hunch is Jonathan Scott is re-signed to the roster soon, maybe even Monday. It’s not unheard of for teams to have only three tackles on the 53-man roster and it would not make a lot of sense to dress four on a game day.
What is the Bears’ compensation for Gabe Carimi and do they get more if he does well? -- @jrock3x8 from Twitter
Carimi is working with the starters this week in Tampa Bay at left guard as Carl Nicks’ availability for Sunday’s opener is in question. Nicks has been out since Aug. 15 and has been diagnosed with MRSA, a serious staph infection, in his left foot. So, it looks like Carimi will be an opening day starter for the Bucs. Carimi’s playing time will not affect the terms of the trade. The Bears received a sixth-round pick from Tampa and it is not a conditional selection.
Can Shea McClellin be a three-down player? I don't see enough strength or pass rush moves as a defensive end. He looks more like 3-4 outside linebacker. -- @JoeRingblum from Twitter
This is a big season for McClellin, the 19th overall pick in the draft a year ago, and as former coach Lovie Smith used to regularly say, players make their biggest jumps from their rookie season to their second. McClellin was on the field for 365 snaps as a rookie -- 34.7 percent of the time -- and should play more this season in a rotation with Corey Wootton and Julius Peppers. McClellin says he had added strength this season while reducing body fat. He certainly looked good coming around the end to sack Philip Rivers in the second preseason game against the Chargers. You think he looks like a 3-4 outside linebacker but he’s really not much lighter than former Bears defensive end Alex Brown. And outside linebackers in a 3-4 scheme need pass rush moves. We’ll see what kind of gains McClellin can make.
What's with the love affair between the Bears and Harvey Unga? -- @chibob57 from Twitter
I can’t recall a player in the last decade-plus that has been around the organization longer and not appeared in a regular-season game. Unga joined the Bears in 2010 when they used a seventh-round pick in the supplemental draft to add him. He was placed on injured reserve a little more than two weeks into training camp with a pulled hamstring. Unga spent all of the 2011 season on the reserve/left squad list in 2011 and came back last year to spend most of the season on the practice squad before being signed to the active roster for the season finale at Detroit. He did not appear in the game. Unga can help on the practice squad playing a little running back and fullback. He knows the offense having spent the offseason here. I don’t see a lot of upside for him on the 53-man roster but sometimes practice squad players are in place because they’re needed to help the team practice.
Can Kyle Long become the NFL’s offensive rookie of the year? -- @Low_Profile_Wiz from Twitter
Certainly anything is possible but to do so Long would have to accomplish something no other lineman has before. The Associated Press has given an offensive and defensive rookie of the year award since 1967 and in the previous 46 years, 31 running backs have won, eight wide receivers and seven quarterbacks, a position that has claimed the last three awards. The Bears will be headed in the right direction if Long turns out to be the best lineman the team has drafted since getting center Olin Kreutz in the third round in 1998 from Washington. Considering the track record of linemen drafted since, the bar isn’t too terribly high. Long could prove to be a good one.
What is the outlook for Marquess Wilson this season? -- @gczuercher from Twitter
I think it is reasonable to think Wilson can play a small role in the offense at some point this season. He came on during training camp and preseason and got a small amount of playing time with the starters in the third preseason game at Oakland. But for him to play a significant part in the offense some injuries are going to have to create holes in the depth chart. Earl Bennett looks like he will play on Sunday and Wilson was working behind him. Keep in mind he’s a seventh-round pick and is only 20. The coaches are looking at Wilson as a player to bring along. Plus, he’s going to be limited in terms of what he can do on special teams and that could make it difficult for him to be active on game days unless he’s considered among the top three.
Could this be Julius Peppers’ last year in a Bears uniform? -- @Willy1225 from Twitter
The 33-year-old Peppers really impressed the coaching staff throughout the offseason with his endless energy. He was making plays on running back Matt Forte along the sideline and showed an enthusiasm and commitment that teams want out of their star players. It is certainly possible this could be his final season with the Bears. Peppers restructured his contract to free up $2 million in cap room for this season and that in turn bumped up his number for 2014 and 2015. Next year, he is now on the books to count $18,183,333 vs. the team’s cap. That number climbs to $20,683,335 in 2015. Before you discount the idea of the Bears keeping him next season at that high cap figure, figure out who the dominant pass rusher on the defensive line is going to be. It might be more difficult to replace Peppers than you think and the Bears better have a sure replacement plan hatched before cutting ties because without him the defense would look a lot more ordinary. Even if Peppers isn’t on the roster next season, he will take up a total of $8,366,668 in cap room combined over the next two seasons.
How will the two rookie offensive linemen Kyle Long and Jordan Mills be attacked, specifically on passing downs? -- @jstuartdna from Twitter
That is a good question but the more I mull it over I think Cincinnati will be pretty straight forward. The Bengals were third in the NFL with 51 sacks last season and that was because they’ve got terrific personnel on the defensive line. Left end Carlos Dunlap and tackle Geno Atkins are going to create real issues for Mills and Long, who should get ample help from center Roberto Garza, tight ends and backs. But the Bears cannot ignore the right side of the line and Michael Johnson. To me, Cincinnati defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer will tell his players they’re talented enough to handle some rookies in their first NFL start. That will allow the Bengals to cover with seven. There could be some twist stunts and they will probably show some pressure in an effort to confuse the line count but you have to figure the Bengals are going to tell their high-priced linemen to go to work.
Was Phil Emery just blowing smoke when talking about his grading scale results on J’Marcus Webb? -- @Beasthart from Twitter
No. To refresh, Emery said earlier this week: “Really, for J’Marcus, he had played, I will say that 14 out of the 16 games last year he was sufficient or better. He had a lot of good games in that we grade sufficient, good, very good. Fourteen out of those 16, they were at least at the sufficient level, which you can win with that player and his performance on that particular day. Two of them were below that line. The obvious games were the first Green Bay game and the San Francisco game.”
The previous coaching staff wasn’t angling to be fired. Lovie Smith and Mike Tice were not running Webb out there week after week because they thought he was a bad football player. They knew he needed to become more consistent and Webb showed enough for the Bears to give him the first chance to pin down the right tackle job this season. If they didn’t think he could grow into the position, Emery would have launched him way back in February or March. There wasn’t any financial tie to Webb that kept him around. You check the numbers from Pro Football Focus and there are some positive games and bad games. Per their grades, five of the seven sacks Webb allowed came in the two games Emery referenced. Two sacks in 14 other games is not bad. That’s pretty good, in fact. The Bears use their own grading systems and Webb warranted a look this year. He just didn’t improve.
Why not use Devin Hester on special teams coverage units? It certainly would boost his roster spot value. He is obviously athletic enough, has experience tackling and getting off blocks from his days as a defensive back and would likely enjoy the opportunity to be on the field for more than just on returns. I understand the risk of injury, however, the Bears have several more than serviceable returners to put in his place in the event he is injured. Having Hester on coverage units might have allowed the Bears to keep one of the bottom of the roster projects that may have had to have been cut because of his lack of ability to contribute of special teams. -- Jason, Moline, Ill.
I would not rule Hester out as an option on coverage units but don’t expect it either. He could be involved on field goal blocking. Hester’s strength isn’t covering kicks. That’s just not his game. That’s kind of like saying Deion Sanders would have excelled on coverage units. Not really. Hester not performing on coverage units did not cost some emerging prospect a shot on the 53-man roster either. A lot of people have tried to make him something he isn’t. Let’s see how he does as a pure return man.