Behind Enemy Lines: Bears/Jets, Part I

In Part I of an exclusive four-part series, BearReport.com's John Crist and Jets Confidential's Dan Leberfield begin their back-and-forth interaction with five questions from Dan to John. Who is the real Rex Grossman, why is the veteran offensive line so inconsistent, and did anyone expect Robbie Gould to be perfect on the season? These Q&As and more inside.

Dan Leberfeld, Publisher, JetsConfidential.com: Rex Grossman has been brilliant in some games and awful in others. Who is the real Grossman, and is he the Bears long-term answer at quarterback?

John Crist, Editor in Chief, BearReport.com: As far as Grossman being the quarterback long-term here in Chicago, the coaching staff and front office are 100% behind him in every capacity. Up until the Miami game in Week 9, Grossman had a passer rating of 124 at Soldier Field and seemingly couldn't make a mistake at home. Grossman struggled tremendously on the road in Minnesota and Arizona, but after a horrid first quarter last week against the Giants, he was fantastic the rest of the way. When the former Gator struggles, it's usually because he's sloppy with his footwork and throws the ball off his back foot too much. Bears fans need to learn to accept the minor hiccups along the way because I firmly believe Grossman is going to be a Pro-Bowler very soon.

Dan Leberfeld: The Bears have two running backs who were picked in the first round of the NFL Draft, Thomas Jones and Cedric Benson. How are they balancing the carries, and how is each of these guys dealing with their roles?

John Crist: Jones is the starting tailback on this football team and will be the guy in crucial situations more often than not. Quite honestly, I believe Benson is the more talented player and will eventually be a more productive runner. There really hasn't been any sort of division in the locker room with a Jones camp and a Benson camp because pretty much everyone agrees that Jones deserves the job and has done nothing to lose it. Benson seems to be happy with his role one week and unhappy with it the next, and by no coincidence, his demeanor is directly affected by how many carries he got the previous game. Jones is probably the more well-rounded back, but in terms of pounding people between the tackles and wearing down a defense in the fourth quarter, Benson is better equipped to do that.

Dan Leberfeld: It was assumed the Bears offensive line coming back intact would be a strength of the team this year, but it doesn't look that way. What is going wrong?

John Crist: This has been perhaps the biggest head-scratcher for the team during the season. All five starters - John Tait and Fred Miller at tackle, Ruben Brown and Roberto Garza at guard, and center Olin Kreutz - are veterans who have played with each other for quite some time. The Bears were one of the better running teams in the NFL last year despite almost no passing game to speak of, yet despite the progress of Grossman & Company through the air, this team ranks just 19th in rushing. For the most part, pass protection has been better than average because they have not allowed very many sacks. You also can't forget the fact that both Jones and Benson missed almost all of training camp and may have been a little rusty at the start of the season.

Dan Leberfeld: Punt returner Devin Hester caused quite a stir with the missed field goal he returned for a touchdown last week against the Giants. He was picked in the second round to upgrade the Bears return game. What has the return been like on the investment?

John Crist: Although Hester has made absolutely no contribution as a cornerback and almost certainly won't any time soon, the former Hurricane has been a home run in every aspect as a return man. Much like Grossman, he will make some mistakes from time to time that will leave you befuddled. Hester has had trouble catching punts every now and then and still hasn't learned to stay away from the ball inside the 10-yardline. That being said, he is nothing short of electrifying in the open field and is averaging a ridiculous 91.7 yards on his three touchdowns. Not only is he capable of scoring every time he touches the ball, but the advantage he gives a defensive team like the Bears in terms of field position can not be understated.

Dan Leberfeld: Did the Bears expect placekicker Robbie Gould to be this good?

John Crist: I'm not sure Gould himself expected to be this good. He was a pretty average kicker in college at Penn State, and he bounced around a few organizations before finally landing the job here in Chicago a few weeks into the 2005 season. Gould was very accurate inside 40 yards last year but struggled mightily with long-range kicks. This season, he is a perfect 23-of-23 on field goal attempts and has also converted all 29 of his extra points. Not only that, but he has been much better with his kickoffs and already has more touchbacks than he did all last year.

Be on the lookout for Part II of this four-part series as Dan will answer five of John's questions.


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