You're right, the Bears have been one of the best in the business lately at signing their draft choices as early as possible and getting them into camp on time. Of course, it was a lot easier last year when they didn't make a selection until Danieal Manning 10 picks into Round 2. Garrett Wolfe is apparently ecstatic about playing for his hometown team, so I think he was especially anxious to put his John Hancock on the dotted line and get his career under way.
I believe GM Jerry Angelo was really frustrated by Cedric Benson's holdout two years ago, so the Bears have simply been working harder to make sure that doesn't happen again.
Does Devin Hester moving to offense means the Bears will probably divide kick/punt return duties? Where do you think he would have the biggest impact? Slot? RB? Do you think he will succeed on offense? – CThomas1941 (El Salvador)
First of all, I'm certainly expecting Hester to be the full-time punt returner and kick returner because that is obviously where his bread is buttered. Even if teams just kick away from him because they're scared to death of what he did in Super Bowl XLI, that can be a huge advantage in terms of field position over the course of a game. As far as what position on offense makes the most sense, I see him as a Dennis Gentry-type that works primarily out of the slot but will be lined up in the backfield every now and then.
However, I'm not sold yet that this experiment will work because he did not have very much success playing offense while at Miami, and his heart is at cornerback.
Mini camp starts this weekend. What stories will you be chasing? – Casey (Lisle, IL)
There are a few obvious stories that will be getting most of the headlines around town, namely Hester's move to offense and the supposed trade rumors surrounding Alex Brown. Benson finally being The Man in the backfield will be a popular one, as will be how Wolfe stacks up against Adrian Peterson. I'm anxious to see what kind of progress Mike Brown and Tommie Harris are making from last season's injuries because both of them are absolutely crucial to the success of this defense in 2007.
Personally, I'm most interested in what happens in the secondary because I'm expecting Brown to move back to free safety to make room for Adam Archuleta, plus will Danieal Manning indeed be switched to cornerback?
Is Rashied Davis in trouble now because of Devin Hester's move to offense? I thought he was pretty good last year, didn't you? – David (Teaneck, NJ)
I was a little skeptical about Davis being able to make the transition from corner to receiver last season, regardless of the fact that he caught a ton of passes as an Arena Leaguer. He did make several huge catches like the game-winner in Week 3 against Minnesota and that incredible third-down conversion against Seattle in the divisional playoff that set up the game-winning field goal in overtime, but overall, his statistics were pretty ordinary. I understand he was the third or fourth option most of the time when he was in there, but 22 receptions for 303 yards and 2 touchdowns won't make anybody's head spin.
Hester seems to make the most sense lining up in the slot, so while I expect Davis to be a contributor again this season, he can't do the things Hester can in the open field.
Alex Brown was on the radio the other day talking about seeking a trade. Does he really want out of Chicago? - Eddie (Palos Heights, IL)
I listened to the radio interview you're referring to, and although Brown did talk about exploring other opportunities, I don't think he's necessarily demanding a trade. He probably sees the writing on the wall with Mark Anderson playing so well last year and the team drafting Dan Bazuin last month. Brown is still a very good player and one of the best guys in the locker room without question, but he's never really put up big sack totals despite the fact that he's been a Pro Bowl alternate on two occasions.
He's on the hook for three more years at comparatively small salaries, and like any athlete, he's interested to see if anyone will fork over a little extra loot for the long term.
Not much has been said about Rex Grossman this offseason. Do you think he'll have a good season? Will he get a new contract and be around long-term? – Nancy (Tempe, AZ)
Grossman has his entire offensive line returning, and although Thomas Jones is now a Jet, the Bears offense looks to have more playmakers than it did a year ago. I'm fully expecting Grossman to play pretty well this year and throw about 22-24 touchdown passes and cut his interceptions down to 14-16. In my opinion, he was the most heavily scrutinized player in the entire NFL last season, and although he certainly deserved his fair share of criticism, Bears fans seem to have forgotten just how bad the QB position has been in this town the last generation or so.
If Grossman gets off to a hot start and solidifies himself as a reliable signal-caller in this league, I wouldn't be surprised to see the organization approach him about a contract extension midseason to prevent him from testing the free agency waters in March.
If Lance Briggs isn't in the cards next season, is there any way Adam Archuleta can play linebacker? How about just on passing downs? – Frankie (Niles, IL)
A lot of people seem to think that Archuleta can just move back to linebacker from safety since he was originally a `backer in college. He thrives playing near the line of scrimmage and should be a very good player in run support, but he isn't nearly big or strong enough to hold the point of attack as an every-down linebacker. Archuleta has had a lot of success in this league as a safety, so why would anyone entertain the idea of him making a move to another position that is most likely doomed to fail?
I'm very anxious to see what happens at tight end this season. Could Greg Olsen replace Desmond Clark as the starter? And will this Fontel Mines kid make the team? – Peter (Valparaiso, IN)
Although I do believe that Olsen will play an immediate role on offense and is already the best receiving threat the Bears have at the tight end position, I'm expecting Clark to be the starter from start to finish next season. He is a much better blocker than Olsen right now and did nothing to lose his job after playing so well in 2006. Expect to see some double-TE formations with both Olsen and Clark on the field at the same time, plus Olsen is athletic enough to line up in the slot every now and then.
And I know Mines came out of nowhere to impress the coaching staff at rookie mini camp a few weeks ago, but the team appears to be committed to John Gilmore as a reserve tight end because he's almost like an extra tackle on short-yardage and goal-line situations.
I'm excited about Hester moving to offense, but doesn't this move make the Bears thin at corner? – Zeke (Algonquin, IL)
I wrote a feature this week expecting Danieal Manning to get moved from safety because he's pretty big and very fast, just the way Lovie Smith likes his cornerbacks. We all know that Charles Tillman, Nathan Vasher, and Ricky Manning Jr. aren't going anywhere atop the depth chart, but who gets the nod after those three is a crapshoot right now. Dante Wesley didn't see the field very much last year after signing as a free agent, but are second-day rookies Corey Graham and Trumaine McBride good enough to step in right away and contribute should they be needed?
The passing defense was not very good late last year when first Vasher and then Tillman missed a little time with minor ailments, and the talent behind them is very much in question right now in my opinion.
Seriously, is there any chance Lance Briggs shows up for mini camp? – Lonnie (Lake Bluff, IL)
There's an equal chance that the recently-deceased Christopher Moltisante shows up at Bada Bing for a scotch and a lap dance on The Sopranos this Sunday night.
|John Crist is the Publisher of Bear Report and Editor in Chief of BearReport.com. To read him every day, visit BearReport.com and become a Chicago Bears insider.|