Marc Hardin: After Josh Beekman started every game last season at left guard, was it a good idea to spend all that money on Frank Omiyale during free agency? Is Beekman that bad? Give us some insight into what the Bears might have been thinking on that one.
John Crist: Because the Bears run an old-school scheme up front that features mostly man-to-man technique as opposed to zone blocking, they prefer bigger and stronger offensive linemen that can maul their opponents as opposed to lighter and quicker guys that operate in space. Beekman may be listed at 6-2 and 313 pounds in the program but is probably closer to 6-1 and 290, while Omiyale – a career backup tackle during his stops in Atlanta and Carolina – is every bit of 6-4 and 310 pounds. General manager Jerry Angelo had his eye on Omiyale going back to the 2005 NFL Draft and figured he'd be a good candidate to slide inside to the guard position, but the gentle giant has been an absolute train wreck so far and seems to be picking himself up off the turf just as often as his running back.
Beekman also played center in college and could be the replacement for Olin Kreutz after 2010, and even though he did nothing to lose his job in training camp, coach Lovie Smith reiterated Wednesday that Omiyale remains the starter.
MH: There were some horror stories about Jay Cutler coming out of Denver, and people like to say he has a moody personality and a reputation for being difficult. Who is the real Jay Cutler?
JC: On the field, Cutler has a cannon for a right arm, moves around in the pocket awfully well and appears to be totally unflappable mentally no matter the game situation. Off the field, he's one of the most arrogant people you'll ever meet, can't stand the media responsibilities that come with being a Pro Bowl quarterback and isn't particularly fond of signing autographs for fans either. There is no question that Cutler has the makeup of a Mariah Carey-level diva, and there were signs of that going all the way back to high school, but you can get away with it when you play football's most important position as well as he does.
The former first-round draft pick has taken some heat in the Windy City for his attitude at the podium, although most of that has been a media-generated story – the overwhelming majority of Bears fans could care less so long as he gets this team back to the playoffs.
MH: The Bears received a lot of criticism when they made All-Pro return specialist Devin Hester a starter last season at wide receiver. It looks like Hester is more involved with the offense this season. He's 26 years old. What's his potential as a receiver?
JC: The Monsters of the Midway have done this a few times during the Smith regime, when they take a player that's incredibly productive with one thing but then ask him to do something else and end up doing more harm than good – Mark Anderson, for example, was a beast as a situational pass rusher but failed miserably as a starter at defensive end. Now understand that Hester was never going to be an NFL-caliber cornerback, so moving him to receiver was certainly the right move, but I believe he'd be better off as a No. 3 so he could maintain his kickoff and punt return duties. Instead, the Bears are professing to the world that Hester can be a No. 1 in this league, even though he'll never stack up with real No. 1s like Larry Fitzgerald and Andre Johnson.
That being said, Hester does run his routes rather well and possesses very good hands, so I could see him being a modern-day Joey Galloway if he maximizes his potential as a pass catcher.
MH: The Bengals got away from their run-first mentality in 2006 and 2007 when they relied too much on Carson Palmer and the passing game, and they became less efficient on offense. Do you see this happening in Chicago with Cutler in town if the running game continues to stall?
JC: This offense is already becoming way too dependent on throwing the football, but that has a lot more to do with Matt Forte struggling to run it on the ground than offensive coordinator Ron Turner getting pass-happy with Cutler. We've already discussed the problems this team has at the left guard position with the Omiyale-or-Beekman situation, but left tackle Orlando Pace isn't playing anywhere near Pro Bowl level anymore and right tackle Chris Williams doesn't look like a first rounder yet. The Bears are always going to classify themselves as a running team even when all the evidence points to the contrary, mostly because of the Grabowski-type fans out there that still believe Gale Sayers and Dick Butkus suit up every Sunday.
Everyone assumed Forte would see a lot of Cover 2 and seven-man fronts with Cutler at the controls, but since the wide receivers still haven't generated a ton of respect, opposing defenses have instead employed a lot of single-high safety looks and eight-man fronts.
MH: Not everybody realizes this, but Marvin Lewis' job is pretty secure with Bengals owner Mike Brown, even if the Bengals stumble again this season. What kind of ground is Lovie Smith standing on with Bears ownership and management?
JC: Currently signed through 2011, Smith is on relatively stable ground in Chicago even though he missed the playoffs two years in a row after making it all the way to Super Bowl XLI. Just look at the history of this organization, which has never fired a coach in the middle of a season and let the likes of Dave Wannstedt and Dick Jauron hang around way too long because they didn't want to have to cut a check to make them go away. Smith makes pretty good coin, so even though missing the postseason for a third straight year would have many Bears fans calling for his head, especially after landing Cutler in April, I suspect Smith will be atop the Midway Monster totem pole in 2010 one way or another.
While I believe Smith is an average coach on game day, from Monday to Saturday he does a terrific job – his players always play hard for him, too.
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Behind Enemy Lines: Part II
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