Special Delivery: JC Answers Your Questions

It's Friday once again, sports fans, which means it's time for another eagerly anticipated 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 has to do with the mood of the Bears locker room during the week.

Hey, Chief. Just wanted to get your opinion on how the atmosphere in the locker room is. Thanks in advance. - Mike
I'm in the locker room every Wednesday and Thursday, the two days the media is permitted to be in there and question the players on their turf. For the most part, it's fairly quiet and relaxed, but you can certainly tell the difference in temperament after a loss versus after a win. It's not necessarily tangible, but like Luke Skywalker, you can just feel it. Olin Kreutz sets the tone for the most part because he's arguably the most respected Bear on the roster, and Lance Briggs is usually the biggest jokester of the bunch. Mark Bradley is the resident DJ, so when he starts blasting Michael Jackson's Thriller or something like that, that means our time is up and it's time to go.

Mark Bradley looked good out there Sunday against the Giants, but is he really back to full speed? - MadMan77
As I have said before, I fully believe that Bradley's ankle injury was largely exaggerated and he would suddenly be ready to go the minute there was an injury to one of the other receivers. Lo and behold, he was active and productive against the Giants with Bernard Berrian on the sideline in street clothes nursing his sore ribs. So I think Bradley has been at full speed for a few weeks now, but he was inactive for all those games because there was no place for him considering how well Berrian, Muhsin Muhammad, and Rashied Davis were playing. It will be very interesting to see who gets the majority of the snaps this Sunday with the entire receiving corps finally healthy, especially since they like to keep tight end Desmond Clark on the field in passing situations. I'm expecting Justin Gage to be inactive for the Jets.

What's REALLY going on with Cedric Benson? Why is it that you reporters aren't teaming up to put Lovie Smith on the hot seat? Have you all been threatened with losing your press passes if you browbeat him for why he refuses to put Ced on the field more? It's like you all are afraid to force the issue, but why? Please give us some open and honest insight why you numerous reporters refuse to group together and force this HUGE issue to the surface. - SVBearsFan
I know a lot of people think that being a sports writer is the greatest job in the world, and although I love what I do for a living, it's not always as fun as it sounds. First of all, I believe the writers have done an adequate job getting to the bottom of the running back situation, especially in training camp when that was the initial hot topic on Bourbonnais. The Bears organization wouldn't dare threaten to strip us of our credentials for asking the tough questions, but at the same time, it you continually print things that the Bears don't like to see, suddenly it will be much tougher to have your questions answered and get the access you want. Lately, I think it's been a little bit of a dead issue because Thomas Jones has been head-and-shoulders the better back for about a month now and has done nothing to deserve a demotion. As far as my personal opinion, again, I expect Jones to get cut after the season - saving the team about $2.5 million in cap space in the process - and Benson to be the starter in 2007.

When watching a game on TV, it's hard most of the time to get a good look at what the defensive backs are doing play by play. Could you tell the fans how you would grade Todd Johnson? Did he play less or get benched in the second half against the Giants? Did some of Tiki Barber's long runs become more 'possible' because of our change-up at safety since Mike Brown's injury? I think our defensive backs are great, and I'd like to hear your thoughts. - CentIlBrFan
Brown is an irreplaceable player because of the intangibles he brings to the table, as I've said on many occasions. Johnson is a solid special teams player and is apparently very good in run support. That being said, the Bears have been torched on the ground by Frank Gore, Ronnie Brown, and Barber the last three weeks with Johnson in the starting lineup. He played pretty well against the 49ers, but I think he's missed a ton of tackles the last two games. I do believe he was removed in favor of Chris Harris in the second half of the Giants game, and even back in training camp, I thought Harris would be a better fit at strong safety anyway because of his size.

Charles Tillman was lined up on Plaxico Burress the whole game. Is this normal? Don't the corners tend to stick to one side of the field? - Pete (Hackensack, NJ)
As a matter of fact, you're right, this was a little bit out of the ordinary for the Bears. For the most part, Tillman lines up on the left side while his parter in crime, Nathan Vasher sticks to the right side. Burress, however, is such a physical mismatch for most cornerbacks because of his 6'6" frame, so defensive coordinator Ron Rivera decided to have Tillman line up opposite Burress almost every play. He certainly responded well, limited the lanky wideout to four catches for 48 yards and keeping him out of the end zone. Not only is 'Peanut' 6'1" and 196 pounds, but he's tough and can handle most of the more physical receivers in football.

It seems like Rex Grossman has thrown a ton of TD passes. What is the Bears record? Can he break it? - Sammy (Kenilworth, IL)
Grossman has thrown 17 touchdown passes in nine games, an incredible total when you consider the history at the quarterback position for the Bears. He's on pace to throw 30 TDs, which would indeed set a franchise record. Erik Kramer holds the mark with 29 scoring strikes in 1995 directing Ron Turner's offense. Unfortunately, one of the reasons Grossman has hit paydirt so often is because the running game has bogged down badly in the red zone. Play-action near the goalline has a good rate of success - especially with a good pass-catching tight end like Clark - but most coaches will tell you that they would rather punch it in on the ground instead of taking a risk putting the ball in the air.

Big win against the G-Men in Week 10. Huge matchup with the Patriots in Week 12. Are the Jets a classic trap game? - Jamie (Bolingbrook, IL)
On the surface, it certainly appears that way. The Giants game went a long way in deciding home-field advantage in the NFC, plus a slot in prime time made it easy for the Bears to get up for that one. The Patriots could be a potential Super Bowl preview, so you know Lovie Smith will have his crew ready in Week 12. Not much was expected of the Jets before the season, but their surprising 5-4 start has people around the league taking notice. If the Bears don't come back to the Meadlowlands 100% focused on the task at hand, absolutely, they can lose this game and lose it bad.

Assuming the Bears go ahead and get the top seed in the playoffs, do you think Lovie will rest all his starters like he did against the Vikings last season? - Howard (Manhattan, KS)
Much has been said about the decision to sit most of the starting units in Week 17 last year, especially Grossman. He was just coming back from his ankle injury and certainly could have used the first half or so to continue his fine tuning. The defense also lost their chance to finish the season ranked atop the NFL statistically. As we all know, Carolina came into Soldier Field and beat the Bears in the second round of the playoffs, and Chicago's supposed overconfidence coming into that game was exposed. You can't assume the No. 1 seed in the NFC just yet, but should they get it, I would be shocked if the team is as casual down the stretch as they were a year ago.

How concerned should we be that the Bears have been giving up so many yards rushing lately? - Stanley (Arlington Heights, IL)
Gore ran for 111 yards on 12 carries, Brown 157 on 29, and Barber 141 on 19, so I think it's safe to say that Bears fans have a legitimate concern. For all the non-math majors out there, that's a total of 419 yards on 60 carries, good for a whopping average of 6.98 yards per attempt. We've already discussed how the loss of Brown at safety has had a negative effect, but Johnson and Harris are supposed to have deficiencies defending the pass, not the run. It's possible that Ian Scott's diminished playing time is a factor here. He's been a tremendous run-stopper in his Bears career, but the more well-rounded Tank Johnson has since taken over as the starter at defensive tackle alongside Tommie Harris.

Do you think Brian Urlacher will be slown down because of the sprained toe he suffered against Miami? - SilverTongue
Urlacher was once again all over the field and fairly dominant this past Sunday night against the Giants, so it appears that the toe is not a problem. The Jets are out looking for krytonite as I'm writing this. No. 54 is just a freak of nature.

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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