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!
Michael (1:01 PM)
Hello everybody. Thanks for coming. Let's get it started.
what are the chances of the bears trading up in the draft to get a top tier linebacker???
Michael (1:03 PM)
That would depend on whether the club determined linebacker to be a position of great need. From my vantage point, you still need to address the offensive line. If Brian Urlacher isn't back next season, I think the Bears can get by just fine with Nick Roach in the mix. Would you like to see the Bears try in 2013 to play with the same line you've seen so far this season?
Big Daddy Batman (Springfield Mo)
Let's say the Bears fall off the map and dont make the playoffs... is Lovie smiths job safe?
Michael (1:08 PM)
That's a good question, Batman (sorry, will never call another man Big Daddy). General manager Phil Emery has been very supportive of Smith and has raved about his ability to be a uniting factor when times are tough. If Emery is remotely considering making a change at the end of the season, you have to look at what he's probably pondering. Given the personnel already in place here, and Emery's experience in acquiring the type of personnel that works in Smith's defense, my guess is the GM would be leery of blowing up everything and starting over with a new coach. What if he hired a new coach that utilized totally different systems on both offense and defense? That would mean Emery would have to turn over the roster to cater to the new coach's schemes. Emery is a confident man, but I'm sure he realizes that a total roster turnover is a multi-year process that could set back the organization for quite a while. So Emery would have some tough decisions to make if he decided to go that route. My thought would be that he'd probably stand pat knowing the tremendous undertaking a new coaching staff would require on the personnel side of things.
Jesse (Salem, OR)
Is it possible that Lance Louis will ever play football again? Or is that a pipe dream? Its inconceivable that a 320 lb. person can come back from an injury like that.
Michael (1:09 PM)
What? Players do it all the time. It's just an ACL tear. This isn't the 70s when an ACL tear was a career ender.
Wouldn't it make sense for the Bears to address the offensive line in Free Agency and be sure of what you got?
Michael (1:13 PM)
I'll say it for the 50-11th time, fixing the offensive line in free agency is not easy. The Bears aren't the only team in the NFL in need of help on the offensive line. So that means, the Bears will have competition from other teams to land the best offensive linemen in free agency, which means it could get incredibly expensive. As I've said countless times, teams aren't willing to just let their best offensive linemen walk in free agency. You also have to consider the salary cap ramifications of overpaying to upgrade the offensive line in free agency. The Bears just paid Matt Forte. They're about to have to pay Jay Cutler. Julius Peppers has a pretty high salary. They just re-upped with Lance Briggs. They're about to have to re-sign Henry Melton, who will command a pretty big salary. See what I'm getting at here? It's a lot more complicated than just saying, "Hey, we need offensive linemen. Let's go get them." It's not that easy.
Can we just shift Urlacher over to SLB next season? He can still be a leader, and make the plays, without all the responsibilities of being the Mike
Michael (1:16 PM)
I don't see that happening. If you go back to when Urlacher first got here, the Bears tried to play him on the outside and he was beaten out. Urlacher didn't become a starter until they switched him to the middle. So while I think he could play the position, I don't think it would be an ideal fit for him or the team. Besides that, Urlacher is about to be a free agent. So there's a question as to whether he'll even be back in 2013.
Why won't the Bears listen to Marshall and sign a WR or one that will be cheap? Honestly gets old with the bears organization saying we are fine with our players. Stop being cheap and sign someone!
Michael (1:18 PM)
Dominic, Brandon was just pumping up his former college teammate Mike Sims-Walker, a guy I covered for quite a few years in Jacksonville. Sims-Walker is a good player, but he's inconsistent and has been plagued by injuries. There really aren't a lot of good receivers just out on the streets at this point. The Bears need to do what the good organizations do: draft good players and develop them into stars. That's why the organization brought in Phil Emery.
John (St. Charles)
I can't believe people ask you questions about the bears.......you know almost nothing about the team you cover on a daily basis
Michael (1:18 PM)
Glad you still take the time to come here and read the answers.
Ben, charlotte [via mobile]
I was very happy to hear Cutler suggest taking a hometown discount, so given urlachers and peppers age and time in Chicago, do you see them doing the same?
Michael (1:22 PM)
Ben, I see Urlacher taking a reduction in salary. He knows he can't command top dollar anymore, and he's been adamant he wants to retire a Bear. Peppers, though, has three years remaining on his contract cap figures over the next three years of $16.3 million, $17.3 million, and $19.6 million. So if anything, the team could ask him to take a pay cut in the future. If he says no, the next alternative is to try to trade him or cut him.
Ryan Y (Milwaukee)
From what you have seen in a game and a half, is Carimi's future at guard?
Michael (1:23 PM)
Only his immediate future is at guard, Ryan. But I think the Bears will give him another shot at tackle. Carimi will never admit it, but his knee was a major issue in his struggles this year. He'll go through another offseason, come back healthy, and the team will give him another opportunity to earn the starting job at right tackle.
If Miami lets OT Long walk could the Bears be in the mix for him or would he be too expensive?
Michael (1:29 PM)
The fact he's so expensive means the Dolphins might not have a choice but to let him walk. Long's current salary is higher than the franchise designation at his position. So to keep him from becoming an unrestricted free agent, they've got to give him a one-year salary that represents a 20 percent raise over his current salary, which would make it a one-year deal worth $15.36 million. As good as he's been, would you want to invest that type of coin on a guy that has missed the last month of the last two seasons because of injuries? I'm not sure, man.
These next two games are HUGE games for the Bears. Do they need to at least split them to remain in the playoff picture. Thanks for all your hard work.
Michael (1:32 PM)
I think so, Jimmy. If you at least split, then all you have to do is win at least one more game to get into the playoffs (that's assuming 10-6 gets you in to the dance). But even splitting makes the road somewhat difficult in my mind because you've got to play the last two on the road. West coast trips (Arizona) are difficult because of the distance, and then the Bears finish at Detroit, which has been a pretty difficult environment recently to play in.
Paul (Las Vegas)
What makes you confident Roach can cover/replace Urlacher not only this year, but next (if not resigned?) The Bears are terrible when he's had to replace him in the past. Roach at 5'2 will get torched when having to cover any tight end. I don't understand Lovie's (and yours) love affair with him. Hillenmeyer was a good replacement because 1-he was smart and 2-was big/tall enough.
Michael (1:34 PM)
I don't have a love affair with anyone. But you tell me what other alternative is out there. You talk about Hillenmeyer being a good replacement. All due respect to him, but he couldn't run. So I don't care how big and tall you are. If you can't run, you can't cover.
Adam (San Diego, CA)
Come on Mike... Arizona and difficult in the same sentence? I know the game is on the road but have you watched the Cardinals the last 8 games?!?
Michael (1:35 PM)
Adam, I have. What happens when you get into a situation like Arizona is in, is everyone winds up coaching/playing for their jobs going into the next year. So the Cardinals aren't just going to lay down and quit. Folks have to feed their families.
Justin H (Fort Myers, FL) [via mobile]
Going into the season, I was a big fan of Mike Tice as OC. That being said, the offense has been less complicated then the one we ran in high school. How does he still have a job?
Michael (1:39 PM)
You're right, it isn't very complicated. But that's by design. The thought going in was to make it as simple as possible so the guys could play fast. That's a decent way to try to attack it, but the Bears didn't envision that offensive line being as bad as it's been. So now you run into a situation where you're already playing a simple scheme. But now you have to do everything in your power to keep the quarterback upright (including simple max protection routes that involve just two receivers). There is a lot that goes into this, and I think you should look at how the team has performed over the last two weeks on the offensive side. They're starting to play their best ball, which is encouraging considering we're in the final quarter.
what's wrong with the defensive line? they are the reason the defense played so well in the first half of the season. right now, no one on the line seems to be playing very well at all. Injuries? or just playing poorly?
Michael (1:41 PM)
David, it's some of everything. But I think we as writers and you as fans don't give enough credit to the Bears' opponents. Chicago caught the attention of the entire league with the way the defense played during the 7-1 start, and the group built up a body of work on film that teams are studying and scheming to defeat. Does the group need to play better? Yes. But at the same time, Chicago's opponents have done a good job of scheming against the team.
nunu (chicago) [via mobile]
Lovie says he's fine with the guys he has on WR, so why don't we keep our guys and bring up moss from the practice squade. He seems very athletic and wanting to play.
Michael (1:44 PM)
Moss has been on the team for all of 10 days. You think he's had enough time to learn the offensive system? There are receivers on this team that have been here since training camp and still aren't operating at 100 percent efficiency.
Besides the obvious key match-ups (ie AP vs run defense) give me an under the radar match-up for this weekend.
Michael (1:48 PM)
If the Bears stop the run, they win the game because Christian Ponder is horrible throwing the ball down the field. His average target distance is 6.2 yards down the field, which is the lowest in the league. You know why? He's completed 4 of 22 on throws more than 20 yards down the field. The last time Ponder faced the Bears, he was 0 of 8 with an interception on throws more than 10 yards down the field, yet he'd completed at least one such throw in every other game this season. So like I said, stop the running back, win the game. Ponder won't beat the Bears and they know it.
Michael, what's the possibility of Jonny Knox coming back next year to be another wideout for Cutler? I think between Marshall, Knox, Jeffery, and Bennett Cutler would have one hell of a receiving core to work with, but I keep hearing that the Bears might get rid of him because of the injury he sustained last year. Any thoughts?
Michael (1:52 PM)
Dustin, I wouldn't hold my breath on Knox. I'm honestly not sure he'll ever play again. The Bears won't be getting rid of Knox, either. His contract is up and the Bears probably aren't going to bring him back. Interestingly, that new deal that Earl Bennett signed last season...well, the team offered that deal to Knox originally, according to sources, and he turned it down.
James A. (Grand Rapids, MI)
When the bears run their "cover 2 hybrid" and it is working, it seems to work quite well. But when it doesn't, we look bad. Why doesn't Lovie or Marinelli dial up some more blitzes or tweak their scheme?
Michael (1:55 PM)
James, when you blitz, you've got to have guys on the outside that can cover man to man. That's not to say that Charles Tillmand and Tim Jennings can't do it, but their skill sets are more catered to playing zone. When you're blitzing constantly, the margin for error is very small. One slip by a corner, one misstep by a safety can result in a touchdown if your guys up front aren't getting home.
Klaus (Novato, CA)
What is Tim Jennings status for Sunday and who would start in his place if he can't go?
Michael (1:55 PM)
He's out, Klaus. Kelvin Hayden will start in his place.
Manti-red of hearing his name (Halas Hall)
Let's get over all this Manti Teo love fest in Chicago. No one knows what he'll do and I don't want all the hype on the Bears. Thoughts?
Michael (1:58 PM)
Funny, I was tired of hearing the name Johnny Football. In fact we had an interesting conversation between some colleagues and Phil Emery yesterday about who was more deserving of the Heisman. I won't reveal how that conversation went though. But it was entertaining.
Chris (Joliet )
I asked you weeks ago what happened to DJ Moore, is his play reegressing or his he just being overshadowed by other DB's playing well, You said he's being overshadowed.... He got benched and the fact despite his mouth if he was still making plays he would not have been benched
Michael (2:00 PM)
Exactly, Chris. Moore going to the bench had nothing to do with anything he's said. He's being outplayed by Kelvin Hayden. But Moore gets a chance to win his starting nickel spot back this week with Hayden having to start in Jennings' place.
Michael (2:01 PM)
Guys, that's my time. Gotta get back to work here at Halas Hall. Thank you all -- even the hecklers -- for taking the time to come chat. Enjoy your weekend.