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Windy City Gridiron Answers Questions About the Bears

The SB Nation's Chicago Bears blog Windy City Gridiron and Field Gulls participated in a question exchange about this Sunday's showdown at Soldier Field. You can see what I said about the Seahawks at the Gridiron home page -- and here are WCG's answers to our questions about the 2006 Bears.

You have to be impressed with what Rex Grossman's accomplished in his first three games. Do Bears fans see this as a natural growth or improvement in his skills, or is it just wholly unexpected? Are Bears fans confident with his game? How has Grossman explained what's happened?

I think the best word to describe most Bears fans expectations of Grossman was cautiously optimistic. Most beleived he could be good, it was just a matter of staying healthy. Grossman has big time confidence in himself, so we were not worried about the injuries taking his head out of the game. It does also helps that that string of QBs we have had recently looks something like this Hutchinson, Krenzel, Stewart, Moreno, Mill, Stenstrom, McNown, Matthews, Sauter, Burris, Chandler,Quinn and Jeff Blake, so it didn't take much to impress us.

The Bears seem to be winning games with a great passing attack and their usual defensive strength, while the running game has taken a back seat - all of which sounds very, very familiar to Seahawks fans of late, although not what we expected in preseason. Is the Bears' doing that something that Chicago fans didn't expect as well, and what's the take on how their season's going down?

While we have been having more success in the passing game the first three games, Coach Smith will go to his grave with the Bears being a run team. We run often in the beginning of games. The pass game is helped by the fact that teams didn't expect it to be any good, so they are stacking the line and daring Grossman to beat him, which he is. At some point this season teams will start to respect the pass game and back off the line. The run game should get significantly better than.

As far as what we expected, hard to say. I am sure most of us didn't expect a 4 TD game, but we did expect a major upgrade over the low output games of last year.

I'm hearing that Cedric Benson might be a little glum about his diminished role in backing up Thomas Jones. Is there a wide enough gap in their abilities to justify Jones getting the nod? What are their differences?

Benson is the #4 pick and paid that way, so yes he thinks he should be the starter and given Jones' off season, he was probably set to until he had injury problems of his own, but he has not been making any noticable noise about rarely playing. Whether Benson can be a better runner, who knows, but he has to improve his pass blocking. Jones is much better at that than Benson.

Rumors are all over the place and I cannot verify any of them, but it is pretty obvious that the locker room likes Jones and isn't sold on Benson, but this team is very 'whatever it takes to win'. Smith has pulled Mike Green and Chris Harris out of their starting spots very quickly and the team seems to keep moving along.

As far as differences, there is the above mentioned pass blocking. Jones is much better as a receving option; although, we don't us him all that often in that manner. Benson has a very good starting burst, but he can't maintain that speed and will rely more on his size. Jones is a much more polished runner. Hits holes better, keeps lower to the ground that type of stuff.

Muhammed looks to be on pace to repeat one of the great seasons he had with the Panthers. How much is the Bears offense built around him? What separates him from Berrian and Clark?

The offense is not built around any one receiver. When Muhammad first came Grossman and he worked hard on getting on the same page, so this isn't a surprise. Grossman trusts Muhammad and knows if he puts the ball up there, Muhammad is most likely coming down with it. The biggest difference between Muhammad and Berrian is speed. Berrian's reason for being here is the go deep and spread the field, which he has done successfully this year. Muhammad isn't likely to be down field 50 yards often and won't have too many 30 yard runs after the catch, but he is consistent and will always be a big target for Grossman.

Clark is a TE, so you really cannot compare him with Muhammad or Berrian. It is insane to think the Bears were trying to run anything resembling a West Coast Offense without involving Clark. I really cannot explain if Clark's not being used was due to him or Orton or the OC, but he worked hard this offseason. He dropped a lot of weight and Grossman seems to be finding him often now.

Any updates on Desmond Clark's status for Sunday?

Nothing of any real use. The Bears are acting all New Englandish on this one. He is listed as questionable with a sprained foot. Word is they are optimistic he will be available.

A reader of ours wants to know the basic skinny on your offensive line. Who are they and how have they performed this year? How long has this line stayed intact?

John Tait, LT- Drafted as a left tackle and moved to right where he became a pro bowler at KC. Came to Chicago where he played right. After seeing the mess the Bears had at left with Marc Columbo and Qasim Mitchell he talked to the coaches and moved to left.

Ruben Brown, LG- Brown is probably the most familar to your readers. He is an 8 time probowl guard coming to us from Buffalo. He is getting older and battles injuries now and then, but is still solid and has good technique.

Olin Kruetz, C- Kruetz is one of the toughest hombres in the leauge. He is a rock on the line, rarely misses any time. Longest tenured Bear along with our long snapper. Last year when Orton was behind center Kruetz did a lot in setting up the blocking and calling out the blitz.

Roberto Garza, RG- Garza is probably our most versatile line men. Last year he played at both right and left guard and was our back up center.

Fred Miller, RT- Miller was an absolute steal for us. Tennesse let him go because of his knee, where he has no cartilage, they thougt her wouldn't be able to play. Has Super Bowl experience having played guard on St. Louis in 99 when they won.

As far as performance goes, they have been outstanding pass blocking. Grossman has only been sacked one time, which is second to San Diego with 0. Their run blocking has been a bit shotty at times, but given teams are stacking against the run, they are facing a bit more pressure than the average.

How good is the Chicago front four on defense, and how much do you imagine they'll rough up Hasselbeck?

When they are clicking, I can make a good argument for them being top 3 in the NFL if not higher. They have very good depth, especially with Tank coming off the bench. They are capapble of getting to the quarter back with just their front 4. As to whether we will rough up Hasselbeck, let's just say that there is not a soft hitter on the Bears D and if your line isn't ready and up to it Hasselbeck could be pulling turf out of his helmet all day.

How do you think the Bears DB's will cover the Seahawks' new 4-receiver set? Can we expect a lot of blitzing?

I expect some blitzing, but not a ton. Urlacher and Briggs both are very good at the blitz, so you will see them some and the Bears do use the corner blitz at times.

As far as covering the 4 receiver set, they will just drop as many as they need. With Stevens being out Urlacher probably will spend more time near the line as long as we can contain the passing game. The Bears have a lot of speed and a ton of depth in the secondary. At CB we have Tillman and Vashar starting, and Manning Jr., Wesley and Hester coming off the bench. FS Danieal Manning is capable of going to man to man if needed. At safety Manning has been a surprise and has moved into the starting rotation, leaving Chris Harris to come off the bench, which is huge for us. Mike Brown, not much you can say that you don't know. He is the leader back there and will knock you out of your cleats if he gets the chance and it is only a matter of time before he gets his hands on a few passes, he has knack for that.

Which areas do the Bears need to improve the most at this point?

The run game needs to step up. Teams are playing against the run, but that didn't stop Jones from having a career year last year, so we are capable of being a much better running team.

With Grossman you will have to live with the INTs, but he needs to make some better decisions. There is never a reason to loft a ball five yards from your own end zone. He thinks he can make every throw and he can, but he does force passes.

I can't complain much about the defense. I do think they give up a little too many yards in both the passing and rushing game, but they keep teams out of the end zone and that is all that matters.

It can be argued that the Bears haven't had back-to-back great seasons since the Ditka days. It looks like Lovie Smith might change that, but he's still something of an enigma to us over here on the West Coast. What can you tell us about him, and his overall philosophy for the game? Based on what you've seen, how do you feel he'll rank in comparison with the great Bears coaches of the past?

In NFL terms, Coach Smith is off the Tony Dungy tree having coached the linebackers on Tampa Bay for 4 years. The Rams brought him in as DC in 2001 and he completely rehauled thier D and helped take them back to the Super Bowl. Smith is a player's coach. The locker room is very loyal to him and that has helped when he has made changes to the line up. He is very even, you won't see him blowing up on the side lines or getting into players faces too often. The only knocks I can see are he needs to get better at calling a challenge and he tends to let the offense get a bit tentative once in the red zone.

You refer to great coaches of the past, so I assume you aren't talking about Jauron and Wannstedt. Other than Dikta and Halas I don't know if any can be considered great. Before Ditka came Pardee, Armstrong, Gibron and Dooley none of which had many great seasons. In 14 season they only had one 10 win year between them, so Smith can definitley put himself up there if he continues on this track. A SB win would cement him in with the Bears fans and you know how Bears fans love their idols.