Halas Hall Report: Wednesday

There is a lot going on Wednesday at Halas Hall, including Rex Grossman talking about facing cornerbacks Champ Bailey and Dre' Bly of the Broncos ... Denver head coach Mike Shanahan chats via conference call about his highly-effective rushing attack ... All of that plus the first injury report of the week.

Grossman knows he will be challenged by corner combo of Bailey and Bly
Bears fans had many reasons to be disappointed with the team's loss against the Seahawks in Week 11, but poor play from the quarterback position was not one of them – for once. Rex Grossman made his first start since Sep. 23 in relief of the injured Brian Griese, and he played pretty well in completing 24 of 37 passes for 266 yards and no interceptions. Head coach Lovie Smith was quite pleased with Grossman's performance even though it came in a loss that dropped his team to 4-6 on the season, which means that the much-maligned signal-caller gets another start in Week 12 against the Broncos.

However, Grossman will be put to the test once again Sunday at Soldier Field by Champ Bailey and Dre' Bly, arguably the best cornerback combination in the NFL.

QB Rex Grossman
Otto Greule Jr./Getty Images

"They're very good," Grossman said Wednesday before practice at Halas Hall. "It just means you have to [be] that much more precise with the timing and the rhythm of the routes and where you place the ball. That becomes a little more important this week, but we faced a couple of good corners last week in [Marcus] Trufant and [Kelly] Jennings. Any time you play talented corners, you gotta make sure you protect the ball by throwing it to the outside and placing it where only your receiver can get it or it's incomplete. Don't give them anything that they can drive on and intercept. So that's something that the receivers and I are definitely conscious of and are going to do a good job with it."

His lone mistake last Sunday came when he held onto the ball too long in the pocket and was stripped by Seattle's Patrick Kerney, but Grossman admits that knowing exactly when to get rid of the football under pressure is sometimes an inexact science.

"You have to have a time clock in your head of when is pressure going to come about," he said. "You can't sit back there forever and then just slide up in the pocket and just figure no one's going to come eventually. I've just got to do a better job of when I'm moving around, if you don't have two hands on the ball, keep that second hand close so that if you feel pressure, you can cradle it into your chest and go down. That was a big play in the game, and just keep working that fundamental and technique of moving in the pocket."

Shanahan has a long history of getting the most out of his running backs
There are very few guarantees in life: death, taxes, and a highly-effective running game in Denver. Broncos head coach Mike Shanahan has had all kinds of success on the ground ever since taking the reigns in 1995, turning the likes of Terrell Davis, Olandis Gary, Mike Anderson, Clinton Portis, Reuben Droughns, and Tatum Bell into 1,000-yard backs – none of them were selected in the first round of the NFL Draft, by the way. So far this season, Shanahan's zone-blocking system has produced three different rushers that are averaging at least 4.5 yards per attempt – the league-wide average is 4.0 – with a minimum of 15 carries: Travis Henry (4.5), Selvin Young (5.1), and Andre Hall (7.2).

Shanahan can bring in running backs specifically tailored to fit his scheme as opposed to simply taking the most talented player available, but not even he knows exactly what to look for all the time.

RB Andre Hall
Jack Dempsey/AP Images
"It's really hard to say," Shanahan said Wednesday via conference call at Halas Hall, "Is a back averaging 4.0, 4.1, 4.2 [yards per carry]? Most backs can average that in the National Football League if they're good backs. But can you get a back that can average over five yards a carry? That's those great backs, and they don't come around very often. But you can still be effective with good running backs in the National Football League. It's very hard to get the great ones, and they're few and far between. We've been fortunate enough to have a few that have averaged well over five yards a carry. And when they do, that means they have the skills to make people miss and they've got some type of skills that separate themselves from the rest of the pack."

Shanahan may not necessarily be able to describe exactly what he's looking for in a featured back, but he certainly knows what he doesn't want when scouting potential ball-carriers.

"There's always guys that you look at and you're saying, 'Hey, we can do better,'" he said. "A guy that makes too many cuts, who's not a north-and-south runner, he can't make anybody miss, he falls down every time he gets touched – there's so many different factors that go into it. We've had some guys that have been so-so but still been fairly effective, and some guys that really make you look like a good coach because they can break tackles."

Interestingly enough, Hall was in training camp with the Bears in 2006 but didn't even get an invite to the practice squad after the preseason, yet the second-year player out of South Florida ran for 89 yards and a touchdown on just seven carries Monday night in Denver's win over the Titans.

Injury Report
For the Bears, WR Bernard Berrian (toe), LB Lance Briggs (knee), DT Tommie Harris (knee), CB Ricky Manning Jr. (illness), CB Trumaine McBride (hip), FB Jason McKie (foot), and CB Nathan Vasher (groin) all missed practice Wednesday. QB Brian Griese, on the other hand, is apparently fully recovered from his sprained left shoulder and participated in all drills.

As for the Broncos, DT Sam Adams (team decision), RB Travis Henry (knee), WR Glenn Martinez(ankle), RB Paul Smith (calf), and RB Selvin Young (knee) all missed practice Wednesday. However, DE John Engelberger (shoulder), OG Chris Kuper (thigh), OT Matt Lepsis (ankle), and WR Javon Walker (knee) were able to partipitate in all drills.

News & Notes
My alma mater, Florida State University, plays its annual rivalry game this Saturday against the University of Florida down in Gainesville. DE Alex Brown, a loud-and-proud Gator graduate, actually refused to answer my question Wednesday in the locker room amongst a crowd of reporters because I was wearing my FSU hat at Halas Hall. Afterward, he and I made a little bet on the upcoming game. If the Seminoles win, Brown agreed to be featured for "Getting to Know" in the February issue of Bear Report. If the Gators win, I agreed to wear a Florida hat in the locker room on Wednesday and Thursday of next week.

For the love of all that's holy, Go `Noles.

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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