Sep 8, 2013; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler (6) rushes the ball against Cincinnati Bengals defensive tackle Domata Peko (94) during the fourth quarter at Soldier Field. Chicago defeats Cincinnati 24-21. Mandatory Credit: Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports
Thanks to Mike “Boomer” Burzawa from Bear Googles On, as much as we appreciate you joining us for this Q&A, we can’t help but love the nickname.
Stripe Hype: The Bears have had two very good showings in the preseason so far, who has been the most impressive early on this preseason for the Bears?
Mike B: I would have to say that the Bears running game has been pretty impressive. They’ve been rushing for 165 yards per game regardless of who’s been getting the ball. This might be Matt Forte‘s last season in a Bears uniform and with a lot of miles on those tires, the Bears drafted Jeremy Langform out of Michigan State in the fourth round of the draft. He was pretty impressive in the Bears’ win over the Colts, ripping off a 46 yard run on a nice cutback and capping off his day with a short TD run.
If the Bears can run the ball effectively, it take a lot of pressure of Jay Cutler and the hobbled Bears receivers. (More on that in a second). Running the ball would also take some heat off their re-building defense, which is in the process of converting to a base 3-4 for the first time in franchise history.
SH: Kevin White was fun to watch opposite of Mario Alford last season in West Virginia. What has he done so far and what are the Bears expecting from him this season as their first round draft pick?
MB: Bears fans had really high hopes for White, drafted #7 overall but it seems like they’ll have to wait a while to see him in action. White suffered a stress fracture at the end of OTA’s. The Bears kept the injury pretty hush hush and fans were shocked when GM Ryan Pace announced that White would start training camp on the PUP list. The Bears kept downplaying the injury, saying it was day to day and White needed time to get his cardio back after what head coach John Fox called “shin splints.” It turns out those “shin splints” required surgery and now it looks like White will miss his entire rookie season.
The injury really hurts the Bears offense, which was hoping White could start opposite Alshon Jeffery and help stretch the field. Now, it looks like they’ll have to wait until at least November and possible next September to see White in action.
SH: Jay Cutler has seemed to have a better overall season last year but less protection, and although the 5-11 season didn’t reflect his improvements, how do the Bears plan to keep him safe in the pocket?
MB: As I talked about in the first point, I think the running game will have a big impact on taking some pressure off Cutler and trying to keep him safe. The Bears shuffled their offensive line a bit this offseason as well. Longtime center Roberto Garza was let go and Will Montgomery, familiar with OC Adam Gase’s zone blocking scheme from Denver, was brought in at center. Guard Matt Slauson is back from injury, which should help bolster their interior line. Pro Bowl right guard Kyle Long could be moving to right tackle, which could help shore up that position which has been a weak spot since Jordan Mills suffered a foot injury at the end of the 2013 season. He hasn’t been the same since.
SH: John Fox is arguably one of the top guys in the NFL as a head coach, what has he done to already transformed this team into something relevant after last seasons disappointment?
MB: Foxy, as everyone calls him, is a professional coach. He’s a rare hire in Chicago, because we usually get first time head coaches and haven’t had an experienced NFL head coach almost since George Halas roamed the sidelines. Fox has assembled a really solid coaching staff, which should pay dividends for the Bears this season. He brought former 49ers defensive coordinator Vic Fangio to run the defense and managed to bring in his former Broncos OC Adam Gase to help mentor Cutler and bring along the Bears offense. Fox’s experience and quite confidence has the players believing in the system, something they never bought into with former head coach Marc Trestman, now the Ravens OC.
SH: Which bubble player do you think will make the most impact against the Bengals and get one step closer to earning their roster position?
MB: There are so few locks for the Bears roster that it’s hard to single out a particular player. I like the battle for the backup running back spot. It looks like Daniel Thomas, Senorise Perry and Ka’Deem Carey are battling for a spot as the 4th running back behind Forte, Langford and former Falcon Jacquizz Rodgers. With Kevin White, Marquess Wilson and Alshon Jeffery sidelined by injuries, the wide receiver position suddenly looks interesting. Keep an eye on Josh Bellamy, Rashad Lawrence and Cameron Meredith to see if one of them can nab a roster spot.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Bears have a linebacker problem. They have a lot of guys slated for the 3-4 outside linebacker spot but I’m not sure how well they all fit. They’re looking to convert former 4-3 DE’s like Willie Young, Jared Allen and Lamarr Houston to linebacker. I feel like one of those veterans could be on the outside looking in when the final roster cuts are made.
SH: What do you think we will come out of this preseason game knowing about the Bengals and Bears injury issues? Prediction?
MB: Most of all, I hope everyone on both sides comes through without injuries. We always like the third preseason game as the dress rehearsal for the regular season, so I hope to see the Bears defense take another step to shore things up, especially in the secondary. I look forward to the matchup between AJ Green and Kyle Fuller to see if Fuller can be counted on to be a #1 corner.
I don’t like to make predictions on preseason games but since the Bengals are on a short turnaround having played on Monday night, I think they’re at a bit of a disadvantage. If you’re enough of a degenerate to go to the window, take the Bears and the 3.5 points.