Chat with Michael Wright
Welcome to ESPNChicago.com! On Monday, our Chicago Bears reporter Michael Wright makes his weekly appearance.
Wright joined ESPNChicago in April 2010 after spending the previous four seasons covering the Jaguars. He also covered the Redskins for two seasons. A native Texan, Wright was a four-year football letterman at West Texas A&M University. He covers the Bears for both ESPNChicago.com and Chicago's ESPN Radio 1000.
Send your questions now and join Wright Monday at 1 p.m. CT/2 ET!
Michael (2:01 PM)
Hello everyone. Training camp is right around the corner. In fact, I've got all my stuff piled up in the bedroom and I'm in the process of packing. Should be a fun training camp in Bourbonnais. We'll have all types of stuff for you to fill that appetite for Bears news. Anyway, let's get on with the questions.
Is there a sense that this training camp will be "tougher" than Lovie's camps?
Michael (2:03 PM)
Dave, I'm not sure. The reality is there's only so much the team can do practice wise under the terms of the new CBA. I will say that in the amount of time given to practice, the Bears will maximize that under Trestman with more intense work. At the same time, Trestman told me he's mindful of overtaxing the guys. So balancing tough workouts with sufficient time to recuperate is something Trestman and the staff have given a lot of thought to. The practice schedule will definitely be different though. Under Lovie, the guys practiced during the heat of the day and at night. Under Trestman, most of the on-field work will be done by Noon.
Michael (Hyde Park)
Mike, I've been hearing a lot about Fendi Onobun this offseason and was wondering if all the excitement is premature or the TE has a good chance for a roster spot?
Michael (2:09 PM)
Michael, the optimism regarding Onobun is warranted. He's got the tools to be a beast with the Bears and I totally expect him to make this team. During the offseason, he got plenty of reps with the starters when the Bears ran out of two tight-end sets. Onobun is a former basketball player who might even be more athletic than some of the other guys that have made the transition from basketball to tight end in the NFL. Onobun didn't even start playing football until his fifth year of college and was stil drafted by the Rams in 2010. Now that he's been with the Rams, Seahawks, Redskins, Bills and Jaguars, the consensus now seems to be that he's finally starting to "get it" in making that transition. The Bears seemed to have nabbed him at just the right time. He's still a little raw, but I think the Bears can cultivate him into something special.
big john stud (Tucson,Az)
In your opinion, Who wins the starting MLB job? And why?
Michael (2:13 PM)
D.J. Williams. He's experienced, and versatile. It also seems that many forget that it wasn't that long ago that Williams was considered one of the best linebackers in the NFL. Nothing has changed. He's just had a rough go at it in recent years with off-the-field stuff and suspensions. With a one-year deal, he'll be motivated to show he deserves to stick. I don't even see this training camp battle being close to be honest.
John (South Side)
Did Trestman let on what his reasoning is for selecting mainly morning workouts?
Michael (2:14 PM)
Actually he did sort of. He said that it was his preference to get the on-field stuff done early so they can use the rest of the day for meetings, and recuperation. It's important to Trestman to keep the guys as fresh as possible. Practicing early might help to do that.
Michael! Thanks for doing these things. Anyways...I just got word a few weeks ago that my job is transferring me to... GREEN BAY! As a Bears fan, what am I going to do?!?!? HELP!
Michael (2:15 PM)
Well, I know there's at least one game you'll be going to for sure every year. I'd say eat tons of brats. They're good. I hear the beer flows pretty freely out that way, too.
Pierre Garner (Chicago, IL) [via mobile]
Do the Bears have enough weapons to be a threat offensively?
Michael (2:17 PM)
Absolutely they do. They've had enough to be a threat in the past few years, too. Protection had been one of the main roadblocks, but the expectation is that will be miles better. In my opinion, Cutler will be the key in determining success on offense. The weapons are there. Cutler now just has to use them.
I know that this is Cutler's contract year and needs to perform to warrant a new contract. Shouldn't he get a little slack because this is his 4th Offensive Coordinator in 5 years?
Michael (2:21 PM)
Ross, he definitely deserves a little slack as you say. But at the same time, the situation doesn't really warrant that. He's in a contract year as you said, and if he produces a mediocre season, would you sign him to a long-term deal worth somewhere in the neighborhood of $12-to-$15 million per year, or use the franchise tag, which would also prove costly? That's a tough one that Phil Emery is going to have to navigate. I think a lot depends on how Cutler progresses throughout the season. If Cutler doesn't exactly light it up in 2013, but the arrow is pointing up at the end of the season, I tag him and make 2014 another prove-it year. The Bears have plenty of options for what they can do. But as I said, it's going to be tough to give Cutler the slack you discussed because of the situation he and the team are in.
Michael, with many of the NFL teams heading to Read Option or spread offenses how will the aging Bears defense hold up?
Michael (2:27 PM)
Sean, like anything else we've seen over the years, this read-option/spread stuff is a fad. Teams have to have players -- namely quarterbacks -- with the skillset to pull off these offenses. Outside of RGIII, Kaepernick, Russell Wilson and a few others, there aren't a ton of read-option type QBs. So I don't see there being some radical shift to this type of football in the coming years. As for the Bears defense, I'm not really concerned about the group "ageing" or being unable to handle these types of offenses. Sure, the 49ers ate Chicago's lunch last season. But at the same time, Chicago's offense didn't do a ton to help in that game with Jason Campbell at quarterback (I'm not sure Cutler would have made a difference either). This summer, a lot of pro teams went out to Stanford to learn how to stop the read-option attack. So teams are definitely investing in devising strategies to stop it. In my opinion, the read-option will only be a small part of what teams do in the future because trust me, teams around the league will figure out a way to shut it down just like they did the Wildcat.
Rick (Houston, TX)
Michael, how about a prediction. With all changes in offense and addition of a premier TE, where do you see the Bears ranking in Total Offense at the end of the year?
Michael (2:28 PM)
I'd be shocked if they're not at the very least in the top half of the league.
Nick (Bloomington IL)
I once heard Phil Emery take credit for being apart of the team that drafted Brian Urlacher. If that is true, then why does he not get any flack for all of the first round busts we have had since then?
Michael (2:29 PM)
Easy, easy Nick. Emery has drafted two first-round picks, and at this point in the game, it would be totally unfair to judge those picks. Shea McClellin has just one year of experience, and the other hasn't even really been practicing with the team, let alone playing. It typically takes three to four years to judge a pick accurately. So let's give the picks and Emery the time they deserve.
Peter (FT Bragg, NC)
How scared of Minnesota should we be? The signing of Jennings gives them a true number 1 pass catcher and alongside with AP makes them pretty formidable on paper I would say.
Michael (2:29 PM)
As long as Christian Ponder is the quarterback, I wouldn't be overly worried. I'm just saying.
Why are reporters say Culter "Has" to win and lead the Bears to the playoffs in order to stay and get paid? Yet he hasn't had the coaching and supporting staff to generate offensive numbers. While Stafford in Detroit has great numbers but he is not a "winner", Realistcially be it the wind, the weather or the field the Bears have never put up offensive numbers through the air, ever.
Michael (2:34 PM)
It's said because that's just the reality of the situation. Quarterbacks are the largest investment made by a team, and those investments can help or cripple the team in the long run. Look around the league. Teams without franchise quarterbacks are also teams without much in the trophy case. Cutler is now 30, and he's put together a pretty large body of work throughout his career. At this point, Cutler is either going to live up to all the hype and expectations that come with his tremendous talent, or he might forever be labeled as the enigma he's been called over the years. It's all up to him. We've heard for years about the supporting staff, protection, yadda, yadda, yadda. Well, Phil Emery eliminated many of the excuses with all the moves he's made. He's put Cutler in a position to succeed. Now the quarterback just has to do it.
Oliver Clothesoff (The hood)
What's more anticipated in Chicago? Bears' 1st game with Trestman or DRose return?
Michael (2:35 PM)
At this point, we know one thing's absolutely gonna happen. The other, well, we waited a year. And we're still waiting.
Jerry (Dallas, TX)
Do you believe the Matt Fortee' will return to form this year or has he already started to fade like so many other backs who earn that big contract then disappear?
Michael (2:38 PM)
I wouldn't say he wasn't "in form" last year. The offense was just totally different, and didn't really feature him the way it should have. Forte did suffer the injury early in the season that sort of slowed him down. But for the most part, Matt Forte was Matt Forte. The offense didn't really allow him to be himself. That's going to change this year in my opinion. Forte isn't fading at all. At minicamp and OTAs, Forte was as fast and explosive as I've ever seen him, and that's the result of the way he trains. I'd venture to say he trains harder than the majority of his teammates.
i think the bears need at least one fast receiver that can stretch the field do u agree
Michael (2:39 PM)
Jay, I do agree. That's what I was saying the Bears should have done with their first round pick: grab a dynamic threat that can stretch the field. I was fine with the Bears going offensive line, too. But to me, if you get someone that can stretch the field to play in the slot, you add another dimension to the offense that's hard as all get-out to defend.
Ryan [via mobile]
How deep into the playoffs must the bears get for cutler to get extended?
Michael (2:42 PM)
I wouldn't say they've got to make a deep run for Cutler to get an extension. I mean, what if the Bears finish the season ranked No. 1 in total offense and still fail to make the playoffs because the defense stinks? I'm not saying that's going to happen. I'm just saying that Cutler's fate will be tied to how he performs moreso than overall team success. I mean, if Cutler tears it up this season and the team underperforms, I don't think you let a good quarterback get away. There are too few of them in the NFL to do that.
Who is the 4th WR? Uncle B, Alshon, Bennet, ?
Michael (2:44 PM)
I think Bennett is the No. 3 right now and the No. 4 is up for grabs. Eric Weems and Joe Anderson seem to be in the mix for the No. 4 spot, but guys like Marcus Rucker or Terrence Toliver could push for the job.
What can we expect this year from Matt Forte? While in Oakland under Trestman, Charlie Garner had pretty big years. 71 catches on year and 92 catches the other. Thats whith Jerry Rice and Tim Brown on the team. Can we expect the same from Forte?
Michael (2:46 PM)
Malek, that's the first thing I thought of when Trestman took the head coaching job. I'm not sure Matt Forte will put up Charlie Garner numbers, but I definitely see him being a more versatile threat in Trestman's offense, meaning he'll catch plenty of balls and he'll be an impact player in terms of actually running the ball.
greg smith (biloxi ms)
what do you think the chances are for Michael ford making the final 53 man roster and do you think he can get some touches in at the running back roation
Michael (2:50 PM)
Glad you asked about Michael Ford, Greg. Now watching him in the Underwear Olympics (minicamp, OTAs), you'd think "Wow, this dude can play." He's electric out there. But I'm just not sure what to think right now. I think Michael Ford has a good shot of making the team because he has the ability to contribute on special teams. I was surprised he wasn't drafted to tell you the truth. This dude had a 38 1/2 inch vertical at the combine and bench pressed 225 pounds 25 times. At LSU though, he wasn't used much. It seems that he was sort of overshadowed in a crowded backfield. At LSU, he started only five games his whole career. But in 271 touches throughout his career, Ford fumbled just five times. He also averaed 5.7 yards per carry in college. I like what I've seen from Ford so far, and my guess is they'll give him a ton of carries in the preseason to get a real feel for what he can do. Ford is one of the guys I'm most interested in watching this preseason. As I said before, he's electric. You'll see for yourself soon enough.
Michael....why year after year do the expectations continue to be through the clouds for Jay Cutler??? Now because he has Marc Trestman (who?) as a coach were supposed to believe he is going to step his game up? I just dont see it...JC has had good coaching for most of his career, yet he is still being developed when he is in whats supposed to be the prime of his career. This is a last place team in my eyes.
Michael (2:53 PM)
Ouch Corey. I hate to admit it, but a big part of me agrees with you on Cutler. The Bears aren't a last-place team though. We're talking about a 10-6 team a year ago that appears to have improved through offseason acquisitions. I'll bet you a sandwich the Bears won't finish in last place in the division. I'll gladly pay up if you're correct.
Pedro (New York)
Does Trestman use a FB?
Michael (2:54 PM)
Yes he does, Pedro. But like everyone else around the league these days, he won't use a fullback extensively. The Bears have a lot of h-back/F-tight end types to fill the lead blocking/receiving roles.
Mike Alioto (Oak forest)
What is the diffrence betten Lovie and Trestman's stlye of defense.
Michael (2:57 PM)
I think you should be asking about the difference between Lovie's defense and Mel Tucker's style. And I'd tell you that they're very similar. There will be some small differences, notably with regards to how linebackers leverage blocks on running plays. You'll also see a couple of wrinkles with Mel Tucker, such as spinner packages, that you didn't see with Lovie Smith.
Svein Thomsen (Strendur, Faroes)
I was wandering, if it is possible, that the Bears are planning to use Brandon Hardin as a third safety, who could replace the nickelback on passing downs, where the opponent has multiple tight ends on the field. Could this be?
Michael (3:00 PM)
I don't see it at this point, Svein. Anthony Walters and Craig Steltz -- who have both started games -- are the top candidates for that third safety spot. As far as replacing the nickel with a safety on passing downs, I don't see that either. Kelvin Hayden is the starting nickel, and at 6-0, 195 pounds, he's got enough size to hold his own against most tight ends.
Michael (3:01 PM)
Guys, that's my time. I'm glad you showed up to chat because we've been away so long, we were worried you might have forgotten about us. Anyway, make sure to check out the site in the coming days as we prepare for yet another Chicago Bears training camp. Everyone have a great day.