Cover-3: Empty Bandwagons

Cover-3: Empty Bandwagons
Cover-3: Empty Bandwagons
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

by Doug Farrar

Kansas City Chiefs linebacker/defensive end Tamba Hali
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 20, Kansas City Chiefs 15

In outside linebacker Tamba Hali, the Chiefs have a pass rusher just waiting to get the recognition — and perhaps the traditional statistics — his level of play deserves. Compare Hali to another player who moved to 3-4 outside linebacker for the first time in 2009: division rival Elvis Dumervil of the Broncos … Dumervil had a huge lead in sacks and six more defeats … Hali made a higher percentage of his team’s plays than Dumervil did, despite the fact that teams ran at Dumervil like it was going out of style. He had more quarterback hits that didn’t result in sacks than Dumervil did, with several more hurries. Adding up their sacks, hits, and hurries yields a total of 41 quarterback “incidents” for Dumervil — and 41.5 for Hali. Furthermore, five of Hali’s 8.5 sacks resulted in a forced fumble or a safety; only three of Dumervil’s 17 sacks did the same.

-- Kansas City chapter of Football Outsiders Almanac 2010

After a lot of offseason barking about his financial circumstances, Tampa Bay Buccaneers left tackle Donald Penn signed a six-year, $43-million contract in late July. That's a lot of scratch for a team that ranked next to last in Adjusted Line Yards in 2009, though the ranking of 11th in Adjusted Sack Rate and sixth in ALY to runs around left tackle (dead last up the middle) would seem to indicate that Penn wasn't the main problem. Film tells me that right guard Davin Joseph is the team's best offensive lineman, but I'm generally in favor of the big uglies getting paid. That said, Penn's preseason hasn't been one of highlights and rainbows. In the Bucs' preseason win over the Chiefs, Penn was somewhat flummoxed by end Tamba Hali.

"I didn't play very well," Penn told the St. Petersburg Times. "I need to go watch film and see my mistakes and fix them and see what (Hali) saw that made him play different. He played different than he did against Atlanta (in the preseason opener). I need to make sure I'm not setting up wrong. It wasn't a matter of him manhandling me. But I do need to work on some things. It's good, I think. This is what the preseason is for. And Tamba Hali, he's a good defensive end. It's not like he's some slouch. But I need to get all this out of me in the preseason so this doesn't happen again."

Penn didn't give up a sack to Hali, who had one solo tackle and one pass defensed in the game. But it was Hali's hurry on Josh Freeman that cost the Bucs their starting quarterback for the rest of the preseason when Freeman broke the tip of his right thumb on Hali's helmet. I was intrigued by Penn's critical self-evaluation, and the notion that Hali played differently against the Falcons. This also presented a good excuse to talk Hali up as perhaps the most underrated quarterback disruptor in the NFL.

Against the Falcons, Hali was much more hesitant about charging into the backfield -- he was in read-and-react mode all the way. On the fourth play of the game, he put a nice little club move on Tony Gonzalez, who blocked him at the line, but he immediately read Michael Turner with the ball. It was clear to me that the Chiefs were concerned about leaving short-to-intermediate passing options open with their pass rush. On first-and-10 from the Kansas City 35 with 12:20 left in the first quarter, Hali actually started the pre-snap read out in space and only moved back to the line after receiver Roddy White motioned to the right side. The play was a handoff to Jason Snelling, and Hali waited out the handoff before making a move.

The first time Hali did line up in an obvious pass-rush situation -- second and seven from the Chiefs' 32 with 11:38 left in the first quarter -- he was too quick off the snap and got busted with an offsides call. On the next play, Hali dropped into coverage on a second-and-2, and the ball went to Snelling on a lead draw the other way for a gain of eight yards. In fact, the only pass play on the Falcons' first drive was a short pass to Turner for six yards on the third play of the game. On that play, Hali held back while left outside linebacker Mike Vrabel took an inside spin move and almost beat right tackle Tyson Clabo for a sack.

On the next play, first-and-10 from the Kansas City 19, he didn't even show a waist bend in his two-point stance. He was playing upright like a strong-side linebacker and helped tackle Snelling on a run around left tackle. I liked his ability to hand-check and sift through trash to get to the ball on this play. It wasn't until the next snap -- the eighth play of this drive -- that I saw Hali clearly line up in a position where you knew he was going to pin his ears back. He was boxed out by fullback Ovie Mughelli from an offset-I, and Turner took the ball inside that block for a three-yard gain. When Snelling ran right off a bunch right formation on the last play of the drive, Hali again dropped and read the play. Matt Bryant ended that drive with a 30-yard field goal.

As Penn said, Hali looked like a completely different player on the Buccaneers' first drive -- from the first defensive play with 14:11 left in the first quarter on the Kansas City 41, he was looking to get into the backfield. Penn pushed him back on a two-yard run by Cadillac Williams, and Hali got past Penn outside only to be blocked out by Williams on a quick slant to tight end (you'll pardon the expression) Jerramy Stevens. That five-yard gain later, Freeman called a time out in the face of a right-side overload blitz.

On the next play, Hali got in from a four-man front, only to see Freeman dump it off to receiver Mike Williams in the flat. That play went for 18 yards, down to the Chiefs' 18-yard line. On that play, Penn gave Hali brief resistance before heading upfield -- the Bucs wanted Hali to vacate his lane, leave the receiver screen as an open option, and allow Penn to block downfield. Two plays later, from the Kansas City 13, Penn took a deep drop back, leaving a good two-yard gap that Hali flew through. This was the play where Freeman suffered the injury, and it was a pretty good example of the benefits that occur when the Chiefs balance the positives and negatives of an aggressive pass rush.

Hali played those two games very differently. Perhaps it was a case of a vanilla defense early in the preseason, and it may have had something to do with the fact that Matt Ryan commands a bit more respect than Josh Freeman at this point. What is indisputable is that, if you're looking for the NFL's next great pass-rusher, Tamba Hali is a pretty good bet.

The question is how the Chiefs will use him – hopefully, he’ll be directed to the quarterback as much as possible. In 2009, Hali ranked ninth in adjusted quarterback hurries with 26 (between LaMarr Woodley and John Abraham), but first in team percentage of hurries. Kansas City’s suspect defense managed 80 team hurries overall, which gave Hali 32.5 percent. Only the Buccaneers, Chargers, Titans, and Bills had lower team hurry rates than Kansas City’s 14.5 percent. Hali isn’t just the Chiefs’ best pass-rush option – he may be their only one.

New Orleans Saints quarterback Chase Daniel
New Orleans Saints 38, Houston Texans 20

The early NFL story of former Missouri quarterback Chase Daniel was a familiar one -- his stats were hyper-inflated by college offenses, and Daniel was an undrafted afterthought who quickly fell from prominence. A spread quarterback in high school and college, Daniel obviously had limited familiarity with pro-style offense concepts, and while the pre-Shanahan Redskins gave him a shot (along with Hawaii's Colt Brennan) in 2009, they didn't adjust their concepts or have the level of coaching necessary for a transition to success. Daniel didn't make final cuts in Washington, and the Saints signed him to their practice squad last September.

This move made sense to me when I read the scouting report on the 6-foot-0, 218-pound Daniel:

Gutty, competitive field general … A virtual coach on the field … Reads defenses well and checks down effectively … Good accuracy to all levels … Can buy time in and out of the pocket and shows good accuracy on the move … May be too short for the NFL … Scouts believe his success in this system is greatly tied to throwing out of the shotgun -- and thereby the open passing lanes and middle underneath passes of the scheme.

This reminded me of a scouting report I unearthed on another vertically impaired spread quarterback (6-foot-0, 220) from 2001, by a guy (Dave-Te' Thomas) who has written for NFLDS for years:

Touch passer with the ability to read and diagnose defensive coverages ... Confident leader who knows how to take command in the huddle ... Very tough and mobile moving around in the pocket... Has a quick setup and is very effective throwing on the move ... Puts good zip behind the short and mid-range passes … Plays in the spread offense, taking the bulk of his snaps from the shotgun... Tends to side-arm his passes going deep... Lacks accuracy and touch on his long throws … Does not possess the ideal height you look for in a pro passer.

You guessed it -- that Drew Brees guy from Purdue. I remembered that Brees didn't just break the bias against short quarterbacks, he also sidestepped the spread offense knock with two different NFL teams. He did so with a surprisingly good arm that seemed to get stronger with NFL experience. Nobody questions the ability to make the downfield stick throws into tight windows that separate the starters from the perpetually inactive in the NFL. Saints head coach Sean Payton knows a thing or three about quarterback development himself, and given Daniel's impressive preseason performance against the Texans, I wanted to know if Daniel attained characteristics that might make him another outlier in the long run.

Daniel replaced Brees at the start of the second quarter and took a good percentage of his early snaps against first-stringers, which answered Question No. 1. Right away, I was impressed with his feel for play-action, which I didn't see too often on his college film -- whether that was a mechanical or systemic issue, I don't know. But the almost abruptly upright passing stance and hitchy throwing motion (going deep in college, he looked as if he was pushing the ball) was replaced by a surer set of mechanics and a quicker release. He still has that upright style -- sometimes he seems as if he's walking on eggshells when he scrambles -- but it works, and he's functional when he calms down and he's in the middle of the offense. That wasn't the case early on, as he threw a couple of floaters and ran a bit early out of pressure.

Daniel is predisposed to rolling out, but that works in this offense. Payton loves to send Brees out of the pocket right off the snap to accentuate his mobility and ensure that his height isn't a liability when he needs to see his targets. Daniel seemed conversant with two styles of Saints play action. First, there was the quick fake to rollout or dropback, and then there was an elongated play action that seemed effective off a typical zone stretch run like the Colts so often use. He also made two very impressive longer throws.

The first came with 8:40 in the second quarter with the Saints facing third and 14 at their own 45. Daniel took the snap from underneath center, went with the quick play-action, waited for Marques Colston to run a deep square-in between four zone defenders, and hit him right on target, 20 yards downfield. It wasn't the definition of a tight window, as Colston had yardage on each corner of coverage, but I can think of at least two Arizona Cardinals quarterbacks who would have hosed that play up something fierce last Monday.

The second throw came on the Saints' next drive, from their own 21 on second and 6 with 2:57 left in the first half. More play-action out of an I-back set (a little bit "stretchier" this time), and Daniel threw deep downfield to receiver Adrian Arrington, who had beaten safety Eugene Wilson. It was a professional throw -- great trajectory, excellent timing, and the ball hit Arrington in stride. It was about here that I starting thinking of Daniel as potentially more than just another NFL washout.

Sean Payton didn't make Drew Brees what he is today -- Brees was something special before he signed with the Saints in 2006. And there's absolutely no way I'm comparing Daniel to Brees, except to match up those early scouting reports. Brees is a Super Bowl-winning quarterback, and Daniel's just trying to find a roster. I think this may be the one. He has an interesting collection of skills that are transferable at the NFL level, and there aren't too many situations more advantageous to a young quarterback in need of an education than what's going on in New Orleans. Is Payton gathering up guys with specific measurables in hopes of breaking the spread quarterback conversion code once and for all?

Killing Jay Cutler -- One Protection at a Time
Oakland Raiders 32, Chicago Bears 17

Let's be honest -- everybody knew that the Chicago Bears' pass protection would be a big bag of suck this season. And when Oakland Raiders end Kamerion Wimbley picked up four sacks against the Bears last Saturday, it seemed to confirm the worst fears people had about the combination of a Mike Martz offense (always good for a huge upswing in sacks), and a Bears line that helped Jay Cutler get sacked a career-high 35 times and lead the league with 26 interceptions.

Well, here's an interesting factoid going forward -- in practice, frequently going up against defensive end Julius Peppers, left tackle Chris Williams does not have protection help. And apparently, the Bears don't want to reveal offensive line coach Mike Tice's array of magical protections before their time. Thus, Williams was doomed to be a man alone through the preseason.

"You have to carry a lot of protections," Tice told, "because you really think you know what the other guys are going to do, but sometimes you don't know what they are going to do. You have to have ways to adjust to that. It could be you throw a protection out on a certain day and say let's not do that, even though that was one of the ones you worked on and it was a major one in your plan. Sometimes you need to go to protections to help other players that might be having an off night. [You may say] let's major in this protection so we can keep the tight end in. All of those things come into play, so you need to carry that many protections."

But if the Bears don't use them in practice, and Martz revealed that they're not using advanced protections in the preseason either, what's the point in having them? Just because you have a tight end reinforcing your left tackle against a dominant pass rush doesn't mean that the offense will run seamlessly. More does not equal better, unless it's aimed in the right direction. A tackle and a tight end still need to coordinate their blocking. And on the four Wimbley sacks that Williams was either partially or completely responsible for, he never had outside help -- and Chris Williams just isn't good enough at this point in his career to maintain that.

Wimbley got under him, around him, and caught him looking inside as left guard Roberto Garza let a defender through. It was just ugly. We know that Martz prefers to let it all hang out from a formation perspective, and that's one of many reasons that his offenses feature high sack totals as well as gaudy offensive numbers. But Jay Cutler isn't Aaron Rodgers or Ben Roethlisberger. He isn't a passable quarterback when he's hurried. Last season, he put up a DVOA of -35% when he was pressured, and he was pressured more often (141 times) than any other quarterback in the NFL.

The Bears face the Arizona Cardinals on Saturday, and the Cardinals like to use versatile fronts with pass rushers who will line up in different positions. Williams might face Calais Campbell, Darnell Dockett, and Joey Porter one-on-one in the first half alone. It might be time for Martz and Tice to ramp up those protection concepts.


32 comments, Last at 28 Aug 2010, 11:56am

1 Re: Cover-3: Empty Bandwagons

Regarding Chase Daniel:
IMO, Coach Payton saw something in him that reminded him of Brees. Both Brees and Daniel have made remarks about their mentor/pupil relationship, and I think that Daniel realizes that there is no other QB & Coach in the NFL that could help him reach his goals besides Brees & Payton. Also, because of their similar styles and physical attributes, there is no change in the offense like some teams might have. Even as a Saints fan, I doubt that Daniel is as good as he showed last week, but obviously the potential is there. If something happened with Brees by the end of 2011, I could see Daniel filling those shoes. He could probably do okay for 1 or 2 games, but not if Brees was lost for the year (perish the thought!)

3 Chris Williams

With Cutler's drops being deep, Wimbley had the time and angle to run around Williams. The first two sacks, Wimbley basically just ducked low. He's fast, strong and apparently agile. He's no slouch. Still, Williams didn't even seem to push him, either down or away. I wonder if that's easily correctable and an aberration as Bears coaches have mentioned. The third sack Wimbley stunted and neither the guard or center picked him up. That's not on Williams. On the fourth, Cutler was flushed from pressure elsewhere and basically ran towards Wimbley (who again stunted I think). Williams could have blocked Wimbley probably a little longer on that one, but still when the QB drops seven steps, then flushes forward into the arms of the rusher, how do you blame Williams or any lineman for not holding their blocks that long?

I'm not saying Williams is or played great, but this performance has been blown out of proportion. Two of the four were hardly his fault, the other two I would hope/think are correctable and Wimbley's not a bad player in his own right. So, IMO the Williams bashing has been out of line.

Anyway, the overall point that this line (four new positions) should be practicing all these protections they supposedly have is, again IMO, only too true.

5 Re: Chris Williams

In reply to by JasonG (not verified)

Well, that's why I focused on the coaching decisions as opposed to Williams' performance. From a coaching perspective, when you have a limited player, and you project his performance above his limitations, and you don't help him hide or overcome his limitations, his blunders are as much your fault as his. Whatever point they're tyring to prove with Williams is idiotic -- he's not Walter Jones circa 2005. He can't take a guy like Peppers one-on-one in practice, much less in games. He can't consistently stop low edge rushes and straight-on bull-rushes and stunts without help. So, you give him help and wait on all the precious four-wides, or you get your expensive quarteback killed.

22 Re: Chris Williams

In reply to by Doug Farrar

I wasn't really claiming you were bashing him. The constant bashing sentiment really comes from every other Bears article the last week that has had nothing more original to do than harp on Williams ad nauseum. Your piece adds an original angle: hey why aren't the coaches to blame, too? which is well taken. I was just adding my two cents, dissecting the actual four sacks and trying to make the point Williams wasn't great, but wasn't completely incompetent either.

23 Re: Chris Williams

In reply to by JasonG (not verified)

And that's about how I'd characterize him. I'm sure the Bears expect more out of him at this point, but just because he's a first-round draft pick doesn't mean that he's ever going to play like one. He's a serviceable guy who needs more help than he's getting.

6 Re: Chris Williams

In reply to by JasonG (not verified)

Wimbley sure looked like a slouch playing for Cleveland. Every edge rusher in the NFL is fast, strong, and agile. That's really no excuse.

That said I agree with the rest of your points.

4 Re: Cover-3: Empty Bandwagons

Hali and Dumervil have something else in common as well, they're both God-awful run defenders and consequently don't deserve to have a reputation as elite players.

7 Re: Cover-3: Empty Bandwagons

I was about to mention that they may be in the same league as Harrison or Ware, who can play against the run, but it looks like Dummervil has been somewhere between league average and top 25 percentile vs the run, according to yards/play and stoprate ranking. I don't know if those rankings are for OLBs, or all line backers.

Halli's numbers are pretty bad, though.

27 Re: Cover-3: Empty Bandwagons

Those stats don't take into account the number of plays a player is involved in.

Yeah, sometimes when Dummervil races up field, he runs smack into a RB. However, he isn't reading the offense and forcing plays to happen. I'm exaggerating a bit here, but truly great ends have a presence in both or are so fantastic at rushing the passer they make everyone around them look better, like Dwight Freeney.

8 Re: Cover-3: Empty Bandwagons

Please remember that on FO, we like to keep discussions on topic. Thanks.

9 Re: Cover-3: Empty Bandwagons

I really like popcorn, but I hate when those shells get stuck between your teeth and gums. Why is it that we can put a man on the moon but we can't come up with popcorn that doesn't send me to the emergency periodontist?

10 Re: Cover-3: Empty Bandwagons

I am huge on Chase Daniel and was sad to see the Redskins let him go. I think he will be a tremendous qb if he ever gets the chance to be the man. Of the past couple of draft classes I am on the Daniel/Claussen/McCoy/Kolb bandwagon. The Lewin system has it right but it needs a few tweeks.

12 Re: Cover-3: Empty Bandwagons

I saw the portion on the front page that referred to "a coaching strategy that should be buried as quickly as possible" and knew it had to refer to the Bears. However, I thought it would be about Lovie Smith's utterly predictable and ineffective Cover-2 defense. I fear this will be another long season for Bears fans. At least we can look forward to saying goodbye to Lovie after this season, unless a lockout occurs and the Bears decide not to fire him with one year left on his contract.

13 Re: Cover-3: Empty Bandwagons

The Chiefs have been off my radar for several years now, but the first (and only?) time I saw Hali, in his rookie season, I remember being struck by how easy he was to run at. Of course, the Chiefs were still running a 4-3; it reminded me of the bad old KGB days in Green Bay. From this article, it appears that Hali has rounded out his skills a little; it would be interesting to see an update during the regular season, and to keep an eye on how the Chiefs use him.

One pedantic point, Doug. I don't know if you're aware of it, but you overuse the expression "going forward". I counted seven uses in three chapters of the Almanac (including four in one chapter) and it pops up weekly in Cover-3 and in the Post. One of the things I admire about FO is that although you're stats guys, you care about style and presentation. So do your readers.

15 Re: Cover-3: Empty Bandwagons

It would not be a surprise if Martz and Tice have a large falling out this season; Tice has mostly been from the Joe Gibbs school of first and foremost making sure the qb feels comfortable in the pocket, and, of course, Martz thinks any pass play which doesn't have five receivers in patterns is deeply flawed, and that qbs are replicants who are manufactured en masse.

17 Re: Cover-3: Empty Bandwagons

The Bears have had two offseasons now to try and build an offensive line, receiving corps, and backfield around Cutler. We haven't even tried at any of these things. Cutler's got the worst supporting cast of any offense in football.

It's not necessarily the worst collection of offensive players in the NFL, but at least other GMs with bad offenses have focused on trying to bring one of those supporting units into line. The Bears' philosophy is to collect a smattering of low-rent veterans and fill the rest out with low-round draft picks.

Cutler isn't a bad quarterback. He has his flaws, which are exacerbated under pressure, but he has zero supporting cast and no solid facet of his offense on which to rely. We've seen what happens when a quarterback gets battered around at this level for 2 or 3 seasons straight - my biggest fear for the Bears is that we let Cutler get tossed around to the point where his psychological attitude as a QB is forever changed, and then it won't matter what we build around him.

18 Re: Cover-3: Empty Bandwagons

Yeah, that is why Joe Gibbs always put a premium on proptection, even if frequently at the expense of fewer receivers running routes. He believed that a qb who was comfortable in the pocket, particularly over time, as cumulative effects built up, consistently made better decisions and throws, even if the decision was to throw the ball away. I tend to agree with that approach, especially given the amount of money tied up in qb contracts.

20 Re: Cover-3: Empty Bandwagons

"The Bears have had two offseasons now to try and build an offensive line, receiving corps, and backfield around Cutler. We haven't even tried at any of these things."

I'm still dumbfounded that this perception persists among Bears fans. Let's recap:

Year 1:
They spent their first pick on a WR and went after the highest-profile LT FA. They also found some guy named Johny Knox who's kind of decent.

Year 2:
They went after the premiere FA RB.

Oh, and one year before they had spent their first and second rounders on a LT and a RB.

So, that's two tackles, two RBs and two WRs. The results might not be optimal, but to say they haven't tried, specially given the fact that they didn't pick in the first two rounds of either draft, is just plain wrong.

And personally I think both the RB and WR positions are decent to good. It's the line where they really need help.

- Alvaro

21 Re: Cover-3: Empty Bandwagons

I don't agree. The Bears haven't spent their first pick on a receiver since 2001 (David Terrell!). You're probably referring to Juaquin Iglesias, picked in the late 3rd in 2009 after Jarron Gilbert. But that's nitpicking on my part.

Year 1:
Orlando Pace may have had a high profile, but he had nothing left in the tank. Everyone knew this. He was certainly not the best tackle on the market that year. This is part of what I mean when I say the Bears collect low-rent veterans. We have a terrible tendency to sign big name players whom everyone knows are at the downslope of their careers.

And they may have found some guy named Johnny Knox, but they found him in the 5th round. The 5th round is hardly putting a priority on things.

Year 2:
Chester Taylor is a premiere running back? The guy who's gained 737 yards on a 3.8 yard average the last 2 years combined? Don't get me wrong, the guy's as role-player as they come, but he's another low-rent veteran on the downslope.

The Bears may not have had a first or second round draft pick this year, but that doesn't explain waiting until the SIXTH ROUND to select on offensive player (a quarterback), and SEVENTH ROUND to address the offense outside of backup QB.

The jury's still out on Matt Forte. I don't have faith, but that's my personal opinion - I could very well be wrong on him. As for WR, we may be stocked with speedsters, but their football IQ is horribly underdeveloped and they have no idea how to read zone, adjust routes, or what to do when a play breaks down, which - as has been pointed out - happens more often to the Bears than any other team due to something we both agree on, the awful line. The receivers may have premier physical skills, but because we selected late in the draft on those skills alone, we're now stocked with speedsters whose learning curve in the NFL is astronomical.

25 Re: Cover-3: Empty Bandwagons

I am with you on this one. The moves the Bears made might not have worked but it is strange to say that they haven't been trying. Yeah the Pace move was a bad misfire but they also brought Omiyale in and he has looked much better at RT than LG (playing him at guard was a very indictable move) so far this preseason. This offseason they shelled out massive money to lure Peppers and so far the investment seems wise. They also added depth to TE/H-back and RB; hopefully this will allow Olsen to be used more optimally to his skill set. They also drafted Lance Louis in the seventh last year and he has played well for the most part so far.

Will it all work? Heavens only knows but they haven't stood still (see also two new coordinators, or at least one and a half). I actually think it will.

29 Re: Cover-3: Empty Bandwagons

You guys are all talking about a receiving corps that, between the nine currently listed on roster, have just 298 career catches among them, or an average of 33 apiece. The most any single receiver on our roster has caught in a single season is 57 catches (Devin Hester). None of them are passable #2 receivers, let alone #1. They'd all make intriguing #3's, but what do you do with a team full of #3 receivers?

All but Hester were falling down or quitting routes throughout last season because none of them knew what to do or how to read a defense in such a way as to know what Cutler would do if a play broke down.

30 Re: Cover-3: Empty Bandwagons

Well using all 9 receivers is just silly. Only 5-6 will make the roster, and then only the top 4 will get major playing time.

Actually, you may want to check your numbers. I just added up 5 receivers' receptions and got 337 (Hester, Davis, Bennett, Aromashadu, and Knox). Those will probably be the top 5 receivers this year. That's 67.4 receptions per receiver, or over twice as many as you said.

Also, I don't recall a lot of falling down last year, and outside of Knox I didn't notice a lot of quitting on routes.

I'm pretty sure Hester would start for over half the teams in the league, and Knox and Aromashadu have the potential to be starting recievers.

31 Re: Cover-3: Empty Bandwagons

Haven't tried? The Bears devoted almost their entire 2008 and 2009 offseasons to building the offense, using both firsts (Williams & Cutler), a second (Forte), three thirds (Bennett, Iglesias, Cutler), a few later picks (including Knox & Louis), three mid-level free agents (Pace, Omiyale, Shaffer), and a few cheap free agents (including Aromashodu) to add a bunch of offensive players which include 6 or 7 of their current starters (Cutler, Williams, Forte, Omiyale, Knox, Louis, and maybe Aromashodu). If that doesn't count as trying to build an offense, what does?

The big problem for the Bears is how little offensive talent they had at the end of the 2007 season. Berrian and Benson were on the way out, and almost everyone else was old or mediocre. The only starters from that team who are still starting are two average interior linemen Kreutz and Garza, and the only young talent that they had waiting in the wings was Greg Olsen and special teams conversion project Devin Hester. That's it (plus backups Beekman, Clark, Wolfe, and Rashied Davis).

There's only so much you can do in three years when that is what you're building on, but the Bears have definitely made an effort. At QB they made a blockbuster trade which cost two firsts and a third, at tackle they drafted a first rounder one year and added three potential starters in free agency the next, at RB they took a second rounder and now have added a veteran free agent, and at WR they drafted two third rounders and brought in several other prospects (two of whom have stuck) in addition to developing their star returner.

32 Re: Cover-3: Empty Bandwagons

If spending a second-rounder and some later picks and nabbing a couple of mid-level free agents is trying, then yeah, sure every team is trying at every position and we should never criticize a GM again.

And saying Cutler is part of their effort ignores my point that I said they're not trying to build around Cutler. It's like my saying I like peanut butter better than jelly on toast and you saying, "Oh, but jelly comes on toast." Cutler was part of my original argument: I said they're not building around Cutler, not that they didn't address their offense by trading for Cutler in the first place. I love Cutler and think he's got tremendous potential, which is part of why I'm so frustrated with the Bears.

Let me rephrase: the offense has not been high priority. Have they tried? If drafting relatively low and signing mid-level free agents is trying, then yes, they've tried (the next option being to not draft at all and sign no free agents?) The defense is, by far, the higher priority. What I am saying is that when you spend as much for a quarterback as we did, you have to make building around him your highest priority. I guarantee you that, if Cutler keeps getting knocked around like he is, he will not psychologically be capable of being the same quarterback as we traded for.

I want experienced receivers who know how to adjust routes to zone or how to cut based on how a play breaks down. I'm not talking about spending the money on a Jerry Rice, but a Ricky Proehl receiver is desperately needed. Or an expensive tackle geared exclusively for pass pro. Some part of the line that could be called great, just one of the five guys. Or how about a premier safety valve or possession receiver in the Tom Waddle-mold (who are still relatively inexpensive) instead of a stock of speedsters with limited vision. One of those things, just one true weapon or piece of protection since we signed Cutler and I would shut up. Something needs to take the pressure off Cutler.

Replacement-level linemen and development projects? Deteriorating free agents brought in to stopgap the blind side? Downfield threats who can't outmuscle corners (let alone safeties) in limited midfield or sideline space? If we had an average offense, that'd be enough to stand pat and make the defense our priority, but we have a young, mediocre-at-best offense with a lot to learn and we're still focusing most of our time and effort on the defense. That's not how you respond to spending so much on a premier quarterback.

19 Re: Cover-3: Empty Bandwagons

Williams isn't a bad player, he has many very positive traits for a NFL LT. One thing that is lacking and has been commented on over and over again is his lack of agressiveness. I am not talking about whether or not he is likely to start fights in bars but the errors he made with Wimbley all stem from him not being willing enough to start smacking the much smaller defensive end around. Don't let him get so far upfield that you lose your leverage, use your hand punch earlier to put him off his angle and disrupt his timing. He tries to be too finessed when he needs to get after the DE. I am not sure agressive is the right word (at least in common parlance), maybe he needs to be more positive and play his own game.