Special Delivery: JC Answers Your Questions

It's Friday once again, sports fans, which means it's time for another can't-miss installment of Special Delivery. If you have a question that you would like to have JC answer, post it in the appropriate pegged thread on the message boards, or send it to his EZInbox. Our first question comes from beautiful downtown Acworth, GA and addresses the struggles of the defensive line.

Can anyone explain how teams that are otherwise miserable galvanize themselves and morph into supermen when they play the Bears? Previously porous offensive lines turn impenetrable against the Bears front four. How does this happen? - JermanBearman (Acworth, GA)
One of the newer cliches that is being used all over the place in the locker room these days is, "Hey, they get paid to play, too." So I think that has something to do with it. The Bears had all kinds of trouble against a Miami offensive line that had blocked pretty much nobody all season. Perhaps Nick Saban's staff saw something on tape and exploited it, and I certainly noticed that the Dolphins were much more physical up front than most teams had been thus far. Tommie Harris in particular has had trouble breaking through and making big plays lately, so unless his D-line mates starting picking up the slack, he'll continue to see double teams.

I read this week that history has shown recently that the Bears build their offensive line through free agency rather than the draft. The writer wrote that Angelo still feels kinda burned from the Mark Columbo disaster and seems unlikely to go after O-Line talent in the draft. So in your opinion, do you think if the Bears let Lance Briggs walk that they'll go after a potential free agent O-Lineman for a pretty good bargain, or will they actually go for someone in the draft? Leonard Davis may be a very low priced bargain. - BrettASUSunDevils
I have said on more than one occasion that offensive line would be a wonderful place for the Bears to start in the upcoming NFL Draft, but you're right, Angelo seems to like signing established veterans lately. He did that with John Tait, Ruben Brown, Roberto Garza, and Fred Miller, four-fifths of the current starting line. Kreutz was a home run draft pick and recently inked to an extension that will keep him in Chicago until 2010. The Bears have two youngsters on the practice squad in Mark LeVoir and Tyler Reed, but neither is expected to turn into a superstar. If Angelo decides to go the free agency route again, I would steer clear of Davis because he's been a colossal disappointment in Arizona and might make it tougher for the rest of us to get ribs at Carson's since he could eat them all.

I am concerned about retaining Briggs. Could you explain the scenarios whereby the Bears could at least obtain draft choices for him, both with and without the franchise tag? - Calif44
When a player is 'franchised', the team that tags him has essentially offered him a one-year contract equal to the average salary of the top five players at his position - in Brigg's case, it would be about $8 million - and becomes guaranteed should the player accept the deal. If the player signs with another team, the new team is required to give up two first-round picks if the former team doesn't match that offer. Since the price for signing a franchised player is so high, what teams sometimes do to get around that is arrange a sign-and-trade. The franchised player would sign a new contract agreeable to his new team, then immediately get dealt for draft picks or players from an interested team. That way, the player gets a new contract and a new team, but it works out between the teams because the price isn't two first-round picks.

Is Lovie the right coach long term? When he first came here, we needed to instill a winning attitude and restore confidence. He did that. Going back to last year's playoffs, these players seem overconfident to the point where they seem to be hoping they are good instead of playing with a chip on their shoulder. Another one-and-done and Jerry will have a big decision to make. - Plank46
In today's NFL, I don't know if there's a such thing as a long-term answer at head coach. Bill Cowher is an exception in Pittsburgh, but even though that franchise has always been reluctant to change head coaches, he came under some serious heat over the years before finally winning the Super Bowl last season. I think Lovie Smith is an excellent head coach and has done a great job turning around one of the NFL's flagship franchises. Barring an absolute collapse the rest of the way, I fully expect him to get his contract extension and a hefty raise before the start of next season. But with today's players, disciplinarians like Tom Coughlin eventually lose their teams just as players' coaches like Steve Mariucci do.

What is being done to teach Rex Grossman? His repeated mistakes are caused by base fundamental flaws, and these need to be addressed. Yes, I realize he is a young quarterback and has some growing pains. But some of his throws of late are too ridiculously bad to simply chalk up as a 'learning curve' error. - Boris13C
Grossman has been throwing off his back foot an awful lot lately. Additionally, his footwook in general has been poor at times. Not only does this put him in bad positions for throwing the football, but his arm angle comes down and tends to make the ball sail on him. Quarterbacks coach Wade Wilson has a very good reputation and is teaching the fundamentals each and every day, but it's up to Grossman to apply what he has learned. He needs to do a better job of stepping up in the pocket not only to avoid the rush but get himself in the best position possible to deliver the ball with speed and accuracy.

I know you get a ton of questions regarding Thomas Jones and Cedric Benson every week, but Benson clearly looked like the better back against Miami. Why can't he get a start? - Steve (Dyer, IN)
I agree with you that Benson looked like he was running harder and more effectively against Miami's undersized defense, but he was nowhere to be found in the second half. One thing I noticed was that Jones and Benson were rotating during the same series in the first half, something I don't recall seeing earlier in the year. They usually play the entire series and then switch as the coaching staff sees fit. It's obvious that Jones is trusted to do the right thing every single play and that Benson still has some things to learn, but come on, Indianapolis hasn't been shy about using Joseph Addai this season. Are you telling me that a back's blocking assignments in Ron Turner's offense are more complicated than that Peyton Manning three-ring circus?

Is Bernard Berrian really that important in the offense? The Bears couldn't throw at all after he got hurt last week - Jamie (Naples, FL)
Berrian obviously had a lot to do with the success of the passing game earlier in the season, but it's more about having a field-stretcher out there. With Berrian on the sideline after one snap and Mark Bradley inactive for the game, the Bears didn't have a burner to throw out there. Rashied Davis can cook at full speed, but he's more suited to play the slot as opposed to split end. Justin Gage is a fourth-receiver in this league, no more, so he is not the kind of guy who will make safeties nervous. Consequently, Miami was sitting on the short and intermediate throws because they weren't worried about the deep ball very much, but having Bradley back against New York should help.

Do you think the winner of Sunday's Bears/Giants game will eventually be the top seed in the NFC come playoff time? - Desmond (Ithaca, NY)
It might be a little early to speculate that far in advance, but absolutely, Sunday's game is going to be huge. The first tie-breaker is head-to-head record, so should both the Bears and Giants finish 13-3 for the sake of argument, the NFC Championship Game would be at the Meadowlands if there were to be a postseason rematch. The Bears have a better schedule down the stretch if they can survive this three-game gauntlet out east. The G-Men still have road games at Jacksonville, Carolina, and Washington remaining, not to mention home dates with Dallas, Philadelphia, and New Orleans. Chicago, on the other hand, finishes with Tampa Bay at home, Detroit on the road, and Green Bay at home.

Who do you think is the most underrated Bear so far this season? - Robby (Lake in the Hills, IL)
It's very hard to single out one player as underrated, but overall, I think the special teams units don't get near enough credit for what they do. In terms of covering punts and kickoffs, coach Dave Toub's crew is ranked No. 1 in the NFL right now. Guys like Brendon Ayanbadejo, Adrian Peterson, and Leon Joe are madmen and really haven't given up any long returns so far. In the kicking game, long-snapper Patrick Mannelly has made about two mistakes in his entire nine-year career, and Brad Maynard and Robbie Gould are as effectice as any punter/kicker tandem around. The Bears win the battle of field position more often than not because of these guys.

How soon will it be before we see Devin Hester on offense? I hear he's not good enough to play corner. - Brandon (Cheyenne, WY)
While I believe you're right and that Hester will never evolve into a true cornerback in this league, don't expect to see Hester lining up at receiver any time this season. Ultimately, that might be the best thing for him because he's a wizard in the open field, but even back in college, he had trouble understanding the playbook. What he does on a football field he does on raw ability. Plus, he's very close with Deion Sanders and wants to emulate his idol by becoming a shutdown corner and return specialist. In the offseason, I expect to see the Bears approach him about moving over to the other side of the ball, but Hester might resist such an idea.

Special Delivery runs every Friday on BearReport.com. If you have a question that you would like to have JC answer, please find the appropriate pegged thread on the message boards or send it to his EZInbox.

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