Special Delivery: JC Answers Your Questions

It's Friday once again, sports fans, which means it's time for a dog days of summer version of Special Delivery. If you have a question that you would like to have JC answer, just post it in the appropriate pinned thread on the message boards or send it to his inbox. Our first question comes from Prometheuss and asks about the versatility of Alex Brown along the defensive line.

Despite his demotion from the starting job, I think Alex Brown may see nearly as much playing time this year as the two starters. Isn't Brown more versatile than Mark Anderson and thus a better option to play both LDE and RDE in the DL rotation? – Prometheuss
If you remember toward the end of last season, it was Anderson seeing just as much time as Brown or Adewale Ogunleye despite the fact that he wasn't technically a starter. All three players should see plenty of snaps in 2007, as will rookie Dan Bazuin at left end behind Ogunleye. Anderson was used strictly as a pass-rush specialist his rookie season and saw time at both right and left end, but the coaching staff wants to see what he can do now as the full-time starter at right end.

It remains to be seen if Brown is indeed versatile enough to be effective lining up on either side of the formation, and he may even get an opportunity to play some tackle when it's all said and done.

What exactly did Danieal Manning do to lose his starting job at free safety? I thought he played pretty well as a rookie. – Sean (Reno, NV)
I think it was much more a case of Mike Brown needing to be moved back to free safety than Manning getting removed from the starting lineup because of poor play. Now Manning certainly slipped down the stretch last season after starting out very well, but Brown will be re-inserted at his original free safety position while the likes of Chris Harris and Adam Archuleta can man the strong safety spot. That leaves Manning as the odd man out, but he'll still see the field plenty in a safety/corner utility role.

Most fans would probably think it's someone like Devin Hester, but you'd be amazed how many Bears players say that Manning is the fastest guy on the team and maybe the best athlete overall.

How can NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell not suspend Michael Vick after ruling with an iron fist on Tank Johnson and everybody else? Isn't this a double standard? – Paul (Evergreen Park, IL)
I understand that Vick doesn't have quite the laundry list of offenses that Johnson did, but it's not like he's been a model citizen during his NFL career. And the sheer nature of these dog-fighting allegations is so disturbing that Vick himself should volunteer to leave the team in order to get his life in order. You'd be a fool to think that he is not somehow involved in all of this with the mountain of evidence piling up against him, and federal grand juries have a stunning success rate when it comes to getting convictions.

Goodell did not wait for a guilty verdict when deciding on discipline for Pacman Jones, so the fact that he's letting the legal system run its course before ruling on Vick absolutely wreaks of double standard.

Who is your dark horse candidate to make the team this season? And more important, who could be a surprising cut in camp? – Christopher (Decatur, GA)
My sleeper pick to make the team is Brandon Rideau, a receiver who spent last season on the practice squad. I don't recall him dropping one pass during the entire offseason program, and his 6'3" frame makes him quite a target against smaller defensive backs. He was getting as awful lot of time with the second team during mini camp and OTAs, so if the team decides to keep another wideout because of Hester's multi-dimensional role, look for Rideau to be the guy.

As for a potential cut, if Archuleta proves to be the player he once was for head coach Lovie Smith back in St. Louis, I wouldn't be overly shocked to see Chris Harris get pink-slipped and rookie Kevin Payne take over as the backup strong safety.

Has there been any more chatter about Charles Tillman signing an extension? I thought he was going to sign shortly after Nathan Vasher did. - David (Michigan City, IN)
I've said a few times that I was surprised Vasher got his money before Tillman did, and I also said most of last year that the organization probably can't afford to keep both of them. Remember the team already threw $21 million at Ricky Manning Jr. before last season to be the nickelback, so when you couple that with Vasher's $28 million deal, that's an awful lot of coin set aside for one position. I believe that Tillman is one of the more underrated corners in all of football and should have made the Pro Bowl last season, and he'll be a hot commodity if allowed to hit free agency.

Inking Tillman would be a good move to keep the secondary intact, but it just may not be possible since Tommie Harris needs to get his money pretty soon, as well.

Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

What's the future for Mark Bradley? I think if he can he could be a strong candidate to replace Muhsin Muhammad. As we stand right now, I'm not sure if either him or Bernard Berrian can take the pounding down the middle. What do you think? – CTomas1941 (El Salvador)
Bradley just might be the biggest wild card on offense for the Bears this season. I could see him having a breakout performance and making his mark as the future top target in Chicago, but I could also see him disappear on the depth chart and be a complete non-factor. He's big enough to handle most any safety and fast enough to handle most any cornerback, but he hasn't been healthy since Week 7 of 2005 and has been crazy inconsistent catching the ball ever since.

We all know that Muhammad is on the back nine of his career and Berrian doesn't necessarily have the attributes of a No. 1 receiver, but the clock is ticking on Bradley if he wants to be the answer.

I know that Dan Bazuin is the only draft pick left unsigned at this point. Has there been any progress there? – Allen (Traverse City, MI)
I haven't heard anything specifically about Bazuin getting close to a deal, but I'd be blown away if that doesn't get done before the team heads to training camp. Second-round picks are out of their mind if they want to hold out, especially someone like him who already has three proven defensive ends ahead of him on the depth chart. Coach Smith loves to rotate his defensive linemen and prefers to play a lot of people up front, so Bazuin would be wise to kick his agent in the rear and get all of this behind him.

A few teams still have not even signed one of their draft picks, so GM Jerry Angelo really needs to be commended for what he's done so far.

Since the team only keeps nine or so offensive linemen on the 53-man roster, who will be the backups this season after the starting five? – Gary (Arlington Heights, IL)
The starting unit – John Tait, Ruben Brown, Olin Kreutz, Roberto Garza, and Fred Miller – will obviously stay intact, but who wins out for the backup roles will be one of those good under-the-radar stories in training camp. Mark LeVoir and Tyler Reed spent all of last season on the practice squad, but I don't think either one of them has made much of an impression thus far. Josh Beekman and Aaron Brant were drafted this past April, and the fact that Beekman can play both guard and center does not bode well for Anthony Oakley.

John St. Clair and Terrence Metcalf are still the primary reserves at tackle and guard, respectively, so if I had to guess, I'll say that Beekman makes the team, Oakley gets cut, and Brant is bound for the practice squad.

I know the Bears play the Texans in the first preseason game, but how much can we expect the starters to play? – Kaleb (Schererville, IN)
Most teams follow a pretty strict pattern in terms of how long the starters play in exhibition games. They'll play about a quarter the first game, possibly the first half in the second game, sometimes into the third quarter in the third game, and then usually just a series or two in the last game. For a playoff team like the Bears that already has most of its starting lineup figured out, it might even be a little less.

Remember that Rex Grossman was awful for most of the preseason in 2006 yet started the regular season absolutely on fire, so it seems like the exhibition games matter less and less for the starters these days – it's all about staying as healthy as possible.

Is training camp fun as a sports writer covering the team, or are you working too much to really enjoy it? – Mikey (Kankakee, IL)
Nobody's going to confuse Bourbonnais with Las Vegas any time soon, but I for one really enjoy training camp. The accommodations aren't too bad, the team feeds us three times a day, and access to the players is better than at any other time during the season. It can certainly get repetitive and sometimes I'll go days without even leaving the ONU campus, but I enjoy my time there and always get a ton of work done.

As they said in Bull Durham and as I've repeated on many occasions, "It beats the hell out of working at Sears."

John Crist is the Editor in Chief of BearReport.com and a member of the Professional Football Writers of America. To read him every day, visit BearReport.com and become a Chicago Bears insider.

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