Chat with Michael Wright
Welcome to ESPNChicago.com! On Friday, 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 Friday at noon CT /1 p.m. ET!
jim grazis (leesburg fl)
J'marcus Webb. Enough excuses. What i see is a player who just does not have the talent to succeed as a starter. Not quick enough on his feet is his greatest shortcoming. Your take?
Michael (1:04 PM)
Finally home after a long training camp in Bourbonnais. Anyway, let's get it started.Jim, don't be so hard on the Nation, who played at my alma mater. I'm gonna say that talent isn't a question with Webb. What is, though, is maturity. Webb is actually the most physically gifted lineman on Chicago's roster. His problems are mental more than anything.I've talked several times to Mike Tice about Webb, and the coach is very high on him from an athletic standpoint. But Webb is a guy who makes mental busts from time to time, and isn't always dilligent with his preparation. He's also a guy who goes into the dumps after having a bad play, which can't happen over the course of an NFL game. You have a bad play, you have to forget about it and move on to the next play. With Webb, sometimes those types of things snowball on him, leading to progressively worse performances throughout a game.
TheDano (Mankato, MN)
Who starts opposite Brandon Marshall at WR opening week?
Michael (1:05 PM)
You guys don't want to hear it. But Devin Hester will start opposite Brandon Marshall in Week 1. That's the plan right now with the team looking to work Alshon Jeffery in the slot and in Hester's outside position on occasion.
With teams most likely teeing up on Marshall, what are the odds that Jeffery has more touches this year?
Michael (1:06 PM)
Extremely high, Travis. But the guy who stands to eat the most in my opinion is Earl Bennett. I think he has a big year with teams keying on Marshall.
I know Urlacher would like to play in the opener, but wouldnt it make the most sense to have him sit until at least week 2?.... its a short turnover from week 1 and he already acknowledged that its probably going to bother him all season... it just seems dumb to rush back like that.
Michael (1:08 PM)
Frank, the problem is that the NFL is unlike other sports leagues such as the NBA and MLB. There aren't any "throwaway" games. Every week is extremely valuable when it comes to division races and wildcard spots. So I see why Brian wants to return ASAP. But I do agree with you that the timeline he's proposing might be too soon.
TheDano (Mankato, MN)
How has the LB Hayes looked? If Urlacher misses time he starts on at OLB right.....Roach shifts over?
Michael (1:09 PM)
Roach will indeed shift over to middle with Urlacher out. Hayes is still somewhat of a work in progress. He played good football in Tampa Bay. But the linebacker position for the Chicago Bears is very technique-driven. So the issue for Hayes right now isn't talent or athleticism. It's whether he can play the position the way the Bears want him to do it.
Ken (Tinley Park)
I was able to make it out to the last day of practice yesterday and couldn't help but be majorly impressed with Alshon Jeffery and the chemistry between Marshall and Cutler. I think this is going to be a fun year!
Michael (1:10 PM)
I think so, too, Ken.
Iggins (Des Moines, IA)
Wouldn't Alshon fit better as a WR2 and Bennett/Hester as a slot guy (Hester ala Harvin, Bennett ala Bobby Engram)?
Michael (1:12 PM)
Lots of folks, even sports reporter colleagues have asked me this question. And the answer is sort of complicated. Hester is gonna line up in the slot some this year. But the reason you want him on the outside simply is his speed. When a defense faces a guy with Hester's speed, it's reluctant to cheat a safety down in the box to stop the run because if they do that there's a chance Hester runs right by him. So that's a big reason for playing Hester on the outside. It forces defense to play you honest, so to speak.But you've also got to remember that this offense is gonna be diverse. So you're gonna see Hester in the slot sometimes.
Bob (Lake Forest)
Haven't heard too much about Chris Conte... Has he continued to build off of his productive rookie campaign?
Michael (1:14 PM)
Absolutely, Bob. Chris has looked good. The kid is so athletic it's scary. But my concern with him is how he'll stack up against the run. Chris is a thinly built guy, who has added a little bulk this offseason. I just wonder whether he'll be durable enough to last a 16-game season. But in terms of how he's playing, he's been pretty good out there.
Was any thought given to acquiring a veteran offensive tackle in the offseason, to light a fire under J'Marcus Webb? It seems that Phil Emery has been given tons of credit for his work at the offensive skill positions, but nothing was done with the talent pool on the line?
Michael (1:16 PM)
Jeff, what you have to understand is that great offensive tackles aren't just sitting out there on the streets. I'm sure the team considered trying to acquire a veteran. I'm sure they also considered using its first-round pick on one. Left tackle is a premium position. It's one of the three most important positions on any football team. That's why when teams get good ones, they're not trying to give them up. Even a trade for an elite offensive tackle would have been way too much for the Bears considering the compensation they would have had to cough up to acquire one.
Mark Ippolito (Bloomington, Illinois)
We know the numbers will be there for Brandon Marshal, but who do you expect to be the teams number 2 receiver in terms of stats at the end of the year? Jeffrey or Bennett?
Michael (1:18 PM)
Bennett. There's something to be said about the chemistry he shares with Jay Cutler.
Michael, Is there any chance that Shea McClellin sees some time at LB until Urlacher is 100%? Thanks
Michael (1:18 PM)
Nope. That's not what they drafted him to play, Nel. He'll be a situational pass rusher until he develops into a full-time starter.
I keep reading that the offense is gonna be explosive,but also hearing that they are gonna run the ball like crazy. What exactly do you see them doing?
Michael (1:20 PM)
Dustin, you can run the ball like crazy and still be "explosive". Remember, you run the ball to set up that explosive passing game. Also, there are a such thing as "explosive" runs, and Matt Forte is certainly capable of reeling those off.
Chuck (Chicago) [via mobile]
I know that Brandon Marshall is a very good reciever. But as a lifelong Bears fan its hard for me to imagine him putting up a 1000 yard season in a bears uniform.. Those things just don't happen with our recievers, Call it the Chicago state of mind complex!! Any how, what are your realistic expectations for Brandon?
Michael (1:22 PM)
Chuck, a 1000-yard season is very realistic for Brandon Marshall. Remember he's had five of those suckers in a row. Also remember that his last two 1,000-yard seasons with the Miami Dolphins. Bet you couldn't even name the quarterbacks he was playing with. They were THAT BAD.
Ty (SF Bear Country)
Mr. Wright - love your work, keep it up. 2 questions - 1) why did we pay $4M per year to a backup running back when we had a promising Kalil Bell - couldve used that money on a LT and 2) in one word, will we be able to protect Jay?
Michael (1:23 PM)
Thanks, Ty. 1). The Bears paid that because it's the going rate on the free-agent market. If you want a good OT, you're gonna be paying a lot more than that. That's reality. 2). Yes.
Tyrone (MT. prospect, IL.)
Why did not the bears select the left tackle from Iowa the the lions later select instead of their first pick. left tackle is a major problem?
Michael (1:26 PM)
Tyrone, I wondered the same thing at first. But I spoke to a lot of scouts I trusted, and Riley Reiff didn't project as an NFL left tackle to those guys. The issue with him is short arms, which make him more suited to play on the right side or to kick inside to guard. Besides that, if you noticed, the top left tackles are always off the board very early. At 19, where the Bears picked, it's more of a crapshoot.
James O (Madison, WI)
Keep up the good stuff MW! I'm curious as to how Gabe Carimi is coming along? I watched almost all his games in @ Madison and he DOMINATED! Have you seen that potential in him yet this year?
Michael (1:28 PM)
James, I saw that potential in him last year my man. He's a dominating, nasty run blocker; the type of guy that Mike Tice covets to play on the right side. I spoke to Mike Tice recently about Carimi, and he's absolutely giddy about what he's seen in recent practices. Tice says that Gabe's legs are back up under him after all the knee issues he experienced last year, and he's back to mauling folks.
Mike (Great White North)
Does it look like AJ is close to supplanting #23 as the starting receiver on the other side?
Michael (1:29 PM)
Not yet, Mike. But I could definitely see that happening at some point.
George (Niceville, Fl) [via mobile]
Hey, Mike. I was curious as to how Dom Deccico looked in training camp. If he had not gotten injured, do you think he would have been starting at MLB for the remainder of the preseason? Thanks!
Michael (1:30 PM)
George, I don't think so. Remember, the team was repping Nick Roach with the starters before Dom suffered the groin injury. DeCicco has looked good at camp, but he hasn't yet gained the trust of the staff to run things in the middle. He needs more grooming.
wyatt(Illinois ) [via mobile]
Do you think the Bears have an legitimate chance to make a super bowl push this year? BEAR DOWN
Michael (1:31 PM)
I do, Wyatt. But I think a lot of other teams have that same potential.
Jeremy (Lafayette, IN)
What kind of pass protection schemes have you seen out of the Bears new offense in the practices at Bourbonnais that are different from last season? There was a lot of talk about getting Cutler on the edge and moving the pocket. Do you see the Bears hiding those schemes during the preseason or will they show their hand a little more with Cutler in the game over the next two preseason games?
Michael (1:35 PM)
Jeremy, the pass protection schemes haven't changed significantly. The team is just taking a more realistic approach with things. They've tried to eliminate five-man protections on seven-step drops. You'll see the running backs staying in longer to block before releasing on routes. As for the moving pocket stuff, yes, we've seen a lot of boot action during training camp. Also, the Bears are definitely trying to hide their schemes in the preseason. Mike Tice told me the other day that they're purposely being as vanilla as possible because upcoming opponents really have no point of reference to go to in preparation for them. So why show anything now?I did see a little "game-planning" for the Redskins. But that was mostly in the protections up front because the Redskins run a 3-4 defense, which is something the Bears haven't seen thus far at training camp going against their own defense.
jim grazis (leesburg fl)
hub arkush said melton is not the answer at defensive tackle. What have you seen?
Michael (1:35 PM)
Jim, Hub is good people. But I disagree with him. Melton is one of the most athletic DTs I've seen in quite a while. He's a lot like J'Marcus Webb in that consistency will be his main issue.
Shouldn't Roach stay at his normal position and let somebody else play MLB with Urlacher hurt?
Michael (1:37 PM)
No because Roach has experience starting at middle linebacker. Remember, he started three games there in 2009 (and 12 at his normal SLB spot), and made a career-high 82 tackles with two sacks and three forced fumbles.
How is J. Knox doing? In your opinion, is his career over?
Michael (1:38 PM)
Charles, that's a tough one man. But I can only go by what I see. He's still got an abnormal gait, and I've definitely wondered the same thing as you. It doesn't look good right now. But I also know that he's training like crazy to get back into the mix. I definitely don't see him coming back anytime this season, despite the fact the team put him on the PUP list as if there was a good chance.
Eddie (Oswego IL)
With all this talk about Marshall and Cutler as well as Bennett the offense is going to be good. I Like hearing that we aren't going to shy away from the run because Forte is a great asset to the team as we saw last year before the injury. My question is with Martz being out as the OC and Tice in are we going to see our TEs like big man Kellen Davis and rookie Evan Rodriguez getting in on the passing game a little more this season?
Michael (1:39 PM)
Eddie, yes you are. The TE is one of the primary reads in several plays, which simply wasn't the case in Martz's scheme.
Ty (SF Bear Country)
Thanks, let me rephrase, did we need Michael Bush - we have Forte and Bell?
Michael (1:40 PM)
There you go, Ty. I don't think so, to be honest. I think Bell, Armando Allen and Lorenzo Booker would have been suitable backups to Forte.
Do u see the rookie tight end Rodriguez getting some playing time this year?
Michael (1:42 PM)
I do if he shows more consistency in these preseason games. Rodriguez, as my partner Jeff Dickerson likes to say, looks like a 7 on 7 all-American. You've got to be a full-pads all-American to get on the field though.
Just a comment that people don't seem to bring up. One thing that still upsets me is the Bears decision to play hard for the meaningless win in the last game of the season - at an away stadium. Because of that, they lost 7 spots in the draft and potentially shortened the career of their all-pro linebacker.
Michael (1:43 PM)
In my best Herm Edward's voice: "YOU PLAY TO WIN THE GAME."
Jim (Kankakee )
Michael, I was at practice yesterday and kept shaking my head at McCown and Blanchard. Every pass they threw seemed to end up in the D's chest or at least tipped. Are they that bad or was the defense that good?!
Michael (1:45 PM)
They're not bad, Jim. The defense has gotten to the point where they know exactly what the offense is doing on most plays. Several times, I've seen Tim Jennings from the sideline tell one of the younger corners exactly what play the Bears would be running at them. Sure enough, Jennings was right on the money. I think that's why you saw all those interceptions.
luvdacubz (vista, ca)
Haven't head much on C. Wooten. What's the word & how does he look?
Michael (1:47 PM)
Glad you asked that question. Wootten has looked very good. In fact, in my opinion, he might be a little ahead of Shea McClellin as the third DE. The thing with him, though, is I want to see what he's done at practice translate into production in real games. He's a guy that's had some back luck in terms of injuries, which have slowed him down the past two seasons. He's fully healthy now and looks promising. He's one of the guys I really want to watch the rest of this preseason.
I think that we should have kept Martz. Before Cutler got hurt we were, i believe, around 7th in the league in scoring. Everyone says Martz did a bad job but he never got the chance to succeed because of a bad O-line. The one thing you have to have in a Martz offense is a line. Do you think with the new Talent that if Martz stayed the Offense would be better off?
Michael (1:48 PM)
It would be the same line, though, David. So if Martz were still around, wouldn't we pretty much see the same thing (sacks) we've seen the last two years?
What are the chances Steltz gets the start over Major Wright? I think Steltz is a gamer and has excellent instincts.
Michael (1:50 PM)
You know I'm gonna answer an Amarillo question considering I went to school near there like J-Webb Nation/Village/Block/ (just kidding J'Marcus). I don't see any chance of Steltz starting over Wright unless he gets hurt, and that's a shame. I definitely think Steltz earned at least an opportunity to compete for the starting job with the way he played in 2011. But I also must say that Wright is playing the best ball I've seen from him since he got here.
Hey mike who do you see starting in the slot bennett or aj?
Michael (1:51 PM)
Bennett, but there will definitely be a rotation. Jeffery will get plenty of snaps.
How does the offense has a whole seem to be grasping the new offensive system?
Michael (1:52 PM)
Steve, it's much simpler than what they've done in the past, which is a good thing. It allows them to play much faster than before. From what I've seen the guys are picking up the offense just fine.
Bobby B (Newport Beach, CA)
Hey Mike,Based on camp, how many balls do you think Jeffery will see every game?
Michael (1:53 PM)
Bobby, you can't base it on camp. You have to base it on matchups week to week and how the opposing defense is playing you. I think Jeffery will see plenty of passes thrown his way this season. He's shown too much reliability for the team not to go his way.
Rafe (Morris )
Does Lovie's "vanilla" game plans in preseason make sense to you? I know you want to have some 'secret' plays, but wouldn't it help in evaluations to see the guys running the O and D that they'll actually be playing in?
Michael (1:55 PM)
Rafe, it absolutely makes sense. The Bears ARE running some of the offense they're actually gonna be playing during the regular season. But they're just doing basic stuff, and trying not to show any type of tendencies. As I've said before, upcoming opponents have no point of reference to go to when trying to prepare for the Bears. The team wants to keep it that way. So I guess the best way to describe what you're seeing is a "Bear-lite" offense.
Patrick (South Bend, IN)
Michael, Other than injuries, what keeps the Bears out of the playoffs?
Michael (1:56 PM)
Bad o-line play, which likely would result in turnovers from Jay Cutler.
who has been getting the return reps? has it been Hester and the usuals or has anyone else shown the ability to return kicks?
Michael (1:57 PM)
The rookie Greg McCoy from TCU will be back some if he makes the team. He's shown tremendous speed, and I believe he ran back a few kickoffs for touchdowns in college. Four I believe. I'd have to look that up.
Jose M (Clovis, CA)
Whats the difference between Bourbonnais and Halas Hall??
Michael (1:59 PM)
For me, it's the ability to sleep in my own bed and be around my family. Training camp is cool. The people in Bourbonnais are top notch. But when you're covering the Bears at Halas Hall, you can come home every night and sleep in your own bed.
Ben. Woodstock [via mobile]
Wouldnt it be more effective if Hester played the slot and we had AJ and BMarsh on the outside? There is not a lb or nickel in the league who could stop Hester with those two bigs on his outside.
Michael (2:00 PM)
Ben, there aren't gonna be many nickels or linebackers that can stop Jeffery or Bennett either. As I said, the primary reason to put Hester on the outside is his speed. Teams have to respect it and keep a safety over the top of him at all times. That keeps teams from cheating safeties in the box to play the run. It keeps teams playing honest, so to speak.
Michael (2:01 PM)
Guys, that's my time. But I definitely enjoyed chatting with you guys. I'm not exactly sure when our next chat is. But you'll be talking to my guy Jeff Dickerson, the ambassador of all good will. Until next time, please keep checking us out on ESPNChicago.com. Y'all have fun.