Nick Athan: Last year, special-teams standout Devin Hester scored a pair of touchdowns against the Chiefs. Arguably, the best player on the Bears offense is Hester. How do the Bears incorporate him into their offense this year?
John Crist: While Hester is perhaps the most dangerous weapon in the NFL because of his ability to score from any position on the field, he still has a lot to learn at the wide receiver position. He has been impressive in training camp thus far, running routes better then he did a year ago and making some highlight-reel catches from time to time. The organization believes he can be a No. 1 receiver in this league, and while I tend to disagree with that sentiment, I'm not putting anything past this guy because he is truly unique with the football in his hands.
The fact that the Bears are probably going to be inept at so many spots on offense will hinder Hester's development, so I think he'll top out at about 45-50 receptions, 650-700 yards, and 6-8 touchdowns ñ but he's sure to take your breath away at least once per game.
NA: As you mentioned, the quarterback issue in Kansas City is very similar in Chicago. Rex Grossman did lead the Bears to a Super Bowl appearence, but he was unspectacular in 2007. Will Kyle Orton beat him out, and who do you think will play better against the Chiefs on Thursday night?
JC: Grossman and Orton are currently alternating days with the first-team offense during training camp, just as they did throughout the entire offseason. For the most part, Grossman has made more big plays in workouts while still making fewer mistakes overall. However, when the Midway Monsters practiced this past Friday in front of 24,977 fans at Soldier Field, they made their feelings knows on the QB derby by booing Grossman mercilessly from start to finish ñ on Family Night, no less.
It's borderline impossible to accurately predict which signal-caller will play better against Kansas City come Thursday night, especially since we don't know how many series each will play, but I continue to believe Grossman is the better player of the two.
NA: One of the issues on offense for the Bears is the running game. In Kansas City, Larry Johnson is back and appears primed to be a force in the NFL again. With Cedric Benson gone, what kind of back is Tulane's Matt Forte?
JC: Saying goodbye to Benson could be the quintessential example of addition by subtraction, mostly because Benson was just as unproductive on the field as he was distracting off the field. Forte, on the other hand, has said all the right things thus far in Bourbonnais and appears to be a team-first guy on every level. In terms of what he brings to the table as a tailback, he's pretty quick at about 6-2 and 225 pounds, catches the ball beautifully ouf of the backfield, and is a willing blocker in the passing game.
The front office signed Kevin Jones as an insurance policy shortly before arriving at Olivet Nazarene University, but Forte will open the preseason atop the depth chart since Jones is still on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list.
NA: In the history of the Chiefs, there has never quite been a contract holdout like they had with John Tait. He was one-fifth of one the league's best offensive lines in the early portion of this decade. Has he lived up to his large contract in Chicago?
JC: He has never made it to the Pro Bowl and probably never will since he's now on the back nine of his career, but Alex Brown has always said that Tait is one of the more underrated tackles in the league having gone up against him in practice every day for four years. He's been a solid player ever since being signed away from Kansas City, although most anybody would have been an upgrade over the likes of Mike Gandy and Aaron Gibson at the time. He took a step back this past season and struggled a little against speedy rush ends, prompting the Bears to select Chris Williams with the 14th pick in the NFL Draft ñ Tait, coincidentally, was drafted 14th overall by the Chiefs back in 1999.
Tait is moving from left tackle to his more natural home on the right side this year, but it remains to be seen if that switch elevates his level of play back to where it was before.
NA: Head coach Lovie Smith has to be on the hot seat this year. The same could be said for Kansas City's Herm Edwards. For the Chiefs, Edwards has received strong support from team owner Clark Hunt. Does Smith have to win in 2008 to secure his return in 2009? And has he done anything different in training camp that would indicate he's looking over his shoulder?
JC: If I had to put together a list of coaches on the hot seat in 2008, I wouldn't put Smith on it. He did take this team to the Super Bowl for the first time in a generation just two seasons ago, plus the organization wouldn't be crazy about swallowing a good portion of that lucrative contact extension they gave him prior to this past season. That being said, both offensive coordinator Ron Turner and defensive coordinator Bob Babich could be deep-sixed if their respective units put up the same poor numbers they did in 2007.
I'm not going to say that Smith is looking over his shoulder, although training camp appears to be more physical that it's been in quite some time ñ probably because the Bears had so much trouble blocking and tackling last season.
To go back and read Part I of this two-part series, where Nick answers five questions from John, Click Here.
Behind Enemy Lines: Part II
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