Total Titans questions about the Bears

Thanks to Ryan Tennant, author of From the Midway, MVN’s Chicago Bears blog for being kind enough to answer my questions about the Bears.  My questions are in bold below and his responses are not.

1. Rex Grossman at starting QB-how worried are you?  How much will this constrain the offense?  I got a gambling odds email putting the O/U on his interceptions at 1.5-am I crazy for thinking I’d take the over?
I’m going to pre-empt my answer with this statement – I’m one of
like, three people in Chicago that don’t hate Rex Grossman and turn in
to a red-faced, mouth-breathing dolt at the mere thought of him playing
quarterback for the Bears. I think he got a raw deal in Chicago and
hope he is able to be successful elsewhere in the NFL.
 
That being said, am I worried? You better believe it. He’s only
going to have a week’s worth of practice, he hasn’t played a meaningful
snap since last year, and he is a streaky quarterback facing a vicious
pass rush. But Grossman’s play is actually not at the top of my list of
things to worry about this week. That distinction goes to the Jekyl and
Hyde defense that is so deluded it still considers itself an elite unit.
 
What many people choose to forget is the vastly improved play
Grossman demonstrated in his second stint as a starter last season.
While he didn’t light the world on fire, he began to show better
decision-making under pressure and seemed to force fewer throws where
they didn’t belong. Is that how he’s going to play from here on out, or
was it just a fluke? Nobody can definitively answer that, and Grossman
is stepping in to a tough situation against a very good defense after
spending the last two and a half months running other team’s offenses.
Its not exactly a recipe for success.
 
Would you be crazy for taking the over at 1.5 picks? Not in the
least, but with the way Tennessee’s defense has played this year, it
wouldn’t surprise me if ANY quarterback threw two or more picks in a
game against the Titans.

2.  Matt Forte has put up pretty decent stats.  How much is the offensive line, and how much is him?  What do you like about him?

I’ve been pretty open about my man-crush on Matt Forte, so I’m
gonna try to keep the gushing to a minimum, but he looks to be the best
Bears running back since Neal Anderson in the 90’s. If he continues the
way he has through his rookie season, I believe he can be one of the
top backs in the NFL.
 
What do I like about Forte? Yeesh, what is there NOT to like? He
runs tough between the tackles, keeps his legs churning and moves the
pile, he doesn’t fall down at first contact, he has flashed some nice
wiggle and ability to break sloppy tackles, he’s big, he has pretty
good straight-line speed when he gets in to the open field, he can pass
block, catch balls out of the backfield, and he’ll probably paint the
house, do the dishes and walk the dog if the Bears ask him. He seems as
humble as he is hungry, which is a nice departure from the last
high-round draft choice the Bears started in the backfield, and he
gives the Bears something to build their offense around.
 
As for the offensive line’s role in his success . . . I was
bearish on the offensive line before the start of the 2007 season, and
while the Bears made significant moves there, I felt they could have
done more to upgrade the line. When Chris Williams went down with a
herniated disc in his back early in training camp and John St. Clair
was elevated to the starting left tackle spot, I was pretty pessimistic
about the line’s play in 2008.
 
That being said, the line has actually played at a higher level
than I thought it would through the first eight games this season. I’m
still not really thrilled about the five starters – Roberto Garza is
decent, but Olin Kruetz and John Tait are past their prime and St.
Clair and Josh Beekman are probably better suited as backups – but the
line has actualy played pretty well and I won’t discount their role in
Forte’s success. Still, the offensive line represents a major area of
opportunity and I think Forte will really start to shine once he has
better blockers.
3.  The Titans will probably look to pound the ball early and often, behind White, Johnson, and an excellent offensive line.  How much confidence do you have in the front 7’s ability to limit rush lanes and tackle?
The Bears have excelled in rush defense this season, but I
attribute a lot of that to the physical play of safety Mike Brown and
cornerbacks Corey Graham and Charles Tillman. Unfortunately for the
Bears, Brown suffered a calf injury in last week’s win over the Lions
and has been limited in practice. I would rank his play, or lack
thereof, as one of the keys to the Bears being able to beat the Titans.
Brown has always been a difference maker in the run game for the Bears.
 
The front seven has been a mixed bag of performances this year.
Lance Briggs has been stellar, he is probably the best player on the
defense right now, and Alex Brown and Adewale Ogunleye have continued
their underrated play at the ends while Dusty Dvoracek has done a great
job at defensive tackle. But two guys who the Bears gave big, big money
to in the offseason, Brian Urlacher and Tommie Harris, have been
between mediocre and disastrous. Any time they want to start earning
their paychecks is fine by me.
 
I’m almost afraid to say this, but I think the Bears are going to
focus on stopping LenDale White and Chris Johnson and dare Kerry
Collins to beat them. No one should be afraid of Kerry Collins torching
them, but after seeing Brian Griese, Matt Ryan and Dan Orlovsky have
career days against the Bears, I’m a little antsy.
4.  Devin Hester hasn’t done nearly as well on returns this year.  Has playing wideout taken away from his ability to be a game-changing returner?  Can he take advantage of the Titans’ mediocre coverage units?
 
This is another area where I have an emphatic opinion that runs
contrary to what a lot of other Bears fans believe, which is that
trying to make Devin Hester a wide receiver is a cruel joke and takes
away one of the best weapons the Bears have.
 
Hester’s rep coming out of Miami was that of a freakish athlete
who simply lacked the mental acuity to learn an NFL playbook. I hate to
dog the guy, because by all accounts he’s a very nice person and a
pretty good character guy, but if he couldn’t learn a college offense,
I find it hard to believe he could learn a pro scheme.
 
Most disturbingly is his struggles in the return game this season.
When you watch Hester fielding kicks and punts, you notice he is
running with his head down, almost like he’s looking to get tackled.
He’s broken a couple longer runs but still hasn’t taken one to the
house, and I don’t know if thats going to change any time soon, unless
he starts looking upfield and trying to make the moves he needs to find
room to run.
5.  What’s one thing about the Bears I haven’t asked you want Titans fans to know about?
The Bears are 5-3, seem to have found a quarterback and running
back, are scoring 28 points per game and leading the NFC North. And
yet, I hate this team.
 
The Bears have been one of the most frustrating teams in the NFL
this year, with no consistency from week to week in how they perform. I
suggest Titans fans microwave some popcorn before Sunday’s game,
because its almost certain to be drama-filled. The team just doesn’t
make any sense and lacks the killer instinct it had in 2005 and 2006,
especially on defense where the team has blown three late leads that
have lead to their three losses. The Bears are a combined eight points
away from being 8-0, but they feel more like a team that’s heading for
the top of the draft board instead of the top of their division.
 
While I expected the offense to struggle this season, and it has
at times, its the defense that truly has me baffled. In terms of raw
talent I still think Chicago’s defense is one of the better in the
league, with potential Pro-Bowlers at every line position, two of the
linebackers and three of the defensive back spots. This unit is
supposed to be the backbone of the team and supposed to carry it if
needed, but their bipolar performances have left fans and analysts
alike pulling their hair out.
 
The bottom line is, I don’t think this team is very good, despite
its record. On the other hand, there’s no team out there I feel they
can’t compete with. After eight games of the season you should have a
pretty good feel for how each of the teams is going to perform in the
NFL, and yet at this point, the Bears could win or lose out and it
wouldn’t surprise me.

Thanks to Ryan for some very interesting responses.  He also sent along some questions about the Titans, so check back tomorrow when I’ll be posting my responses to those.

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