WHAT ABOUT LAMARR HOUSTON'S SKILL SET ATTRACTED YOU TO HIM?
Yeah, the real interesting thing is just we looked at it throughout the process of evaluating him and when we compared and contrasted it with other defensive linemen who were available in the draft, Lamarr in 2012 played about 865 snaps on basically the left side of the defense, at left D-end with his hand on the ground. He did have about 40 or 50 snaps at d-tackle. He had numerous snaps standing up. But most of it, 649 of it was with his hand on the ground on the left side. This past year, he had about 180 snaps on the right side with his hand on the ground and over 700 standing up. So the fact that he could do both and do it with a high production level … He's had 67 and 69 tackles last year. Among the players that are listed as 4-3 d-ends in the league, he's number one in tackles in the two years combined. So I liked that versatility, liked the fact that he can slide inside and rush. He's rushed at the 3-technique and the nose and right and left both. So that type of versatility really fits into where we're trying to go with our defense. This is a strong, tough, physical long-armed player who can play multiple positions. Which helps you in terms of disguising what you're going to do. You don't have to substitute for him.
HOW WOULD YOU ASSESS HOUSTON AS A PASS RUSHER?
He's a good pass rusher. When I looked at him versus the players that we have on our team, his two-year combined total disruptions is higher than anybody on our team. And I know I've used that word disruption and there are a lot of variations of what that means. We use STATS, Inc. as our provider for those independent stats and we've done the research from 2008 on. When a pass play is performed without pressure, without a knockdown, hit or sack the percentage of completion is about 64 percent. When there's a sack, obviously it goes to 0. But with a hit or a pressure, it goes to 38.5. So those are significant when you talk about disruptions of a passer. And he certainly has had those.
DISRUPTION UP FRONT AFFECTS THE NEXT LEVEL?
Yeah, definitely Because the quarterback is put under distress. And that's again a big part of what we're talking about in terms of providing versatile players who can provide versatile fronts and give that quarterback more to look at. To provide a disruption to a quarterback's eyes and his process.
JORDAN PALMER IS YOUR BACKUP QB?
Yeah, John, I appreciate you bringing that up because we all want to congratulate Josh. He has been provided with a great opportunity to be a starter down there in Tampa. We're very happy for him and very proud for you him. Obviously, we look forward to competing against him on the field, but very happy for him that he has had this opportunity. That's what I talked about post season about that Josh has earned the right and the respect to be given the opportunity to go and look, and he found that opportunity, and we're very happy for him. But as far as our team is concerned at backup quarterback, we like Jordan Palmer. That's why we brought him back. He's a guy that fit in incredibly quick. He was a good influence in the room. He has got good intelligence. I think he showed our fans in the Cleveland game that he has a good arm and he's an accurate player that makes quick decisions. We want him to develop, and obviously the nice thing about Jordan is that, not only the experience of coming back here, but he has been a backup for a number of years in the league in Cincinnati. He has that experience. He knows what those responsibilities entail. We have a young, developmental player here (Jerrod Johnson). Obviously we're going to look at the draft for opportunity to add to our quarterback roster. And at some point we'll probably bring in a bunch of veterans after this wave of free agency—this first and second wave—and we take a look at who's still looking for an opportunity, and we'll bring them in and we'll try them out and we may sign another one.
Well we're going to look at a number of players. Obviously, Jared is one of those. I don't mind talking about players that don't have a team. When they do have a team, you know, we're not allowed to talk about them. We don't do that. But Jared has been a great pass rusher in the league. What will happen is some of those players will find teams right away. They'll be a quick opportunity, but then there will be a settling out period where they're going to look for the right fit. Well he would certainly have a good fit here and a great opportunity, so we'll see how that comes together.
MELTON AND TILLMAN UPDATE?
We're working through that. I believe Henry has got a number of teams to look through, they're very interested in his medical status. With Charles, it's an ongoing conversation. We'll just see how all that finishes up.
YOU VISION FOR THE COMPETITION AT SAFETY?
We're going to keep looking at the UFA class. We're going to keep grinding on the roster. There will be—whether you find out about it or not—there will be a number of workouts run through this building between now and before the start the of the season. We're going to keep looking at this roster, and if we find a skill or trait in a player at a position that is better than what we currently have, we're going to sign him and we'll release another player. We're going to keep working the roster to improve the level of competition so we get better as a team. We're definitely going to look at the safety position, continue to look at it extensively in the UFA market and the draft and post draft.
Yeah, we've got some holes to fill. We've got a lot of work to do on our roster. That's why I made sure that—I want our fans know that that work is not going to stop, and we just consider these signings as a step, a step in the right direction. We feel very good about the players we signed, but we've got a lot of work to do.
ARE YOU CONFIDENT WITH DEPTH THAT IS OUT THERE AT CB?
The draft has a lot more depth than what's available in the UFA class and if we're going to make a major move it would be more relative to the draft than it would be in UFA.
HAVE RECENT FREE AGENCY MOVES AFFECTED YOUR DRAFT PLANS?
Definitely in terms of the areas that we need to continue to focus in on. Obviously we've brought a couple safeties in and a defensive lineman, Jordan Senn has been an outstanding special teams player, we still have a lot of work to do in terms of the draft, and it'll continue to be Mike, in terms of the players still available in the UFA market, when we make the next couple of moves that will provide clarity in terms of what our draft moves may be.
HOW MANY PASS RUSHERS DO YOU STILL NEED?
As far as the pass rush is concerned, what you want you want No. 1 is you want to get as many very good players as you can into your program, especially along the defensive line. You do have to stop the run and this guy (Houston) has been very good, at the top of the league at his position in doing that. He's been a good, productive rusher. The important part about rushing is that you have several together, that they learn to work off of one another and provide pressure as a group. You don't want to be in a position where that you have to stunt into that all the time. IT has to come from that front four so definitely we want to provide more quality players up front so that we find a group that collectively can sack the quarterback and put pressure on the quarterback and disrupt that quarterback above average. That we get the job done, that we provide we slow that processing speed done a little bit.
Versatility, he's a little bit more experienced in terms of the back end than he is the front end. He's a lighter player, he's got good range, has good coverage skills. The number of starts and experience that he has and he's been a good special teams player.
ANY POSSIBILITY THAT PEPPERS WILL RETURN?
Yeah, it's a hypothetical question, which I'll just say this: That could occur for a number of players in terms of coming to the Bears depending on what their market is once that's been determined so we're open, we're always open to getting better at every level of our team and our roster so any player including Julius, if they want 6to have an opportunity to come back and we can provide that opportunity, meaning we have the cap space, we're always open to it.
WHAT ARE YOU LOOKING FOR IN A NO. 2 RUNNING BACK?
No. 1 quality of a running back for us is that he can pass protect, an that you feel confident he can provide a good anchor and he has the mental processing speed to pick up blitz with consistency at a good or better level. No. 2 is instincts, No. 3 his feet and his ability to gain positive yards.
DID THE FREE AGENCY ACTION YESTERDAY MAKE YOU DIZZY?
Were you dizzy Mike? I was having the time of my life. Cliff (Stein) and I had some light moments in between the intensity of the moments. It's a very intense period because there are so may players involved. No. 1 you have to have a plan and that starts with your evaluation of the pro UFA class. We were very organized as we went into it, we identified say with the D-line, 5-6 players that we really felt could come in here and help our team get better immediately and then as the UFA market bell hit, we attacked all those players and we just kept swinging and we're very happy that Lamarr is here. I would say the same thing with safeties. I would say the same thing looking at the corner classes, and what you do working together in concert with your staff, depending on who you have a good feeling is going somewhere else or that you want to refocus on, you adjust as you go, you remain flexible, you have to, it's just, it happens too fast, there';s too many people involved, you have to stay light on your feet and be willing to think differently and look at the equation differently and how it's all going to work for you. At the end of the day, for us to end up with a quality player like Lamarr and Ryan and bringing in the special teams player and getting some help at safety with M.D., we feel very good about how that process ended up.
"We released him, like we do with players. There's a good chance he'll come back like we do with players. There isn't anything other than that, just a process we're going through. It's a very fluid period. We'll work through it. We like Dante. It isn't anything that he did. We released him; those reasons will remain internal. If we bring him back, those reasons will remain internal."
THOUGHTS ON DeMarcus Ware, OTHER GUYS NOW AVAILABLE?
"They're going to have to find their market, a process that's going to have to weed itself out. Somebody like DeMarcus or Jared (Allen) may demand a very high price and we may not be able to meet those kinds of demands.
"So some of those guys will go quick because there'll be a suitor who can, who has the cap room to do so. Some of those guys'll be sitting around for a couple weeks. If history proves correct, some of them'll still be sitting there in June. They want to find the right fit and be paid a certain amount so the market takes a little to settle out, and do they want to play. So we're going to be patient and see how it works out."
DID McCOWN MARKET JUST PRICE YOU OUT?
"He should've been provided the opportunity to go look, which he did. If there was some point where he said, 'these opportunities, I'd rather come back and work for the Bears, I know my role, I'm going to come back and be a backup because these opportunities aren't what I'm looking for.' He found that opportunity, a heck of an opportunity, and I'm very happy for him."
STILL LOOKING FOR STARTERS?
"We may. It depends on how the market settles out. We could have a signing today, we could have a signing three weeks from now that we would consider a starter. It continues to be fluid. "This thing goes in waves. There is a first wave; that goes with signing your own players, which we did. Now comes this next wave where players maybe felt they were going to get a higher amount, they just found out that maybe their market wasn't there and they're a little more willing to listen. "And then there's a third wave where players know they're either going for the veteran minimum or a little above that and they're just looking for opportunity.
"It's kind of what happens after the college draft, where players are just looking for the right opportunity."
GETTING YOUNGER, DOES AGE CHANGE THE GUYS YOU TARGET IN FREE AGENCY?
"Age isn't as much a factor if you see a good opportunity with the right fit under your cap with a really good player. You're looking more short term than long term."
Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of BearReport.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. He is entering his fourth season covering the Chicago Bears full time. Follow Bear Report on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Bear Report Web site or magazine, click here.