Is the expansion of the Bears' scouting department a natural progression for a general manager who wants to develop a draft-driven team? You reported the team now has 18 in the department -- how does that stack up with other NFC North teams? Vic Fiebig, Springfield, Va.
The Bears modeled their staff after those of the Ravens, Chiefs, Patriots and Giants. The new scouting staff has six more members than the 2011 Bears staff had, and gives them the largest staff in the NFC North. They have three more than the Packers and Vikings and five more than the Lions (the Vikings do have two part-time consultants). What Phil Emery has done to the scouting staff makes sense. The expansion also reflected an investment and commitment from ownership and required the approval of team president Ted Phillips. This was something that was discussed during Emery's interview process. So what the Bears did was a departure from the previous way of doing business on more than one level. Emery values research and information more than many people in his position, and he wants more eyes and hands in the research process. He wants as much information as possible, and the previous scouting staff was not big enough to fill in every blank. In addition to naming two of his scouts directors, he also elevated four scouts to higher-level positions. That's because he wants them to have bigger-picture responsibilities and to focus on the players who could be high draft picks. He also wants more eyes on every prospect.
Devin Hester become the big-time receiver we know he can be. However, if he is an offensive flop are there any thoughts or talk of him playing defensive back? I think with his experience, ball skills and toughness, he could be a great one. Bill Mueller, Huntley, Ill.
When The Bears drafted Devin Hester in 2006, they decided to make him an offensive player. They have not looked back since and are not likely to look back now. He is too far along in his career to make such a radical change. Hester is the type of player who does best when he can focus on one thing and get a lot of work in one area. Moving him around would not likely be met with good results. Hester does have experience at cornerback, but it's been a long time.He played the position in high school and in college. At Miami, Hester was used at multiple positions: cornerback, receiver, tailback and even fullback. It should be noted he was not a very effective cornerback in college.
I am a Matt Forte fan, but if he is going to be more of a distraction and not be in the Bears' long-term future, is there any thought to trading him for a first- or second-round pick? Michael Bush is a solid running back and when given the chance has performed at a high level. Mr. L, Woodstock
It would take a radical change of thinking for the Bears to consider trading Forte. Their mindset all along has been that he will be a Bear in 2012, no matter what. They know the potential distractions associated with the situation. They are prepared to deal with them. I highly doubt any team would give the Bears a first-round pick for Forte, and I wonder if a team would even give up a second-round pick. It's possible that a desperate team that loses its runner to injury could part with a second-rounder. But Forte is worth much more than that to the Bears.
The whole Forte saga is driving me crazy. Will this madness ever end? I'm starting to agree with Matt Forte on this one. He has outperformed his current contract. He has done everything the Bears have asked him to. I think they need to pay the man. Do you think this relationship has been too damaged for the Bears and Forte to agree on a contract? Tarik Dear, Canal Winchester, Ohio
I do think the relationship has been damaged, but not to the point that another $15 million or so couldn't repair it. The good thing about Forte is he is a pro's pro. I have a hard time envisioning him not working hard in the offseason or not giving it his all once he reports. He may not have a feel-good about his employers, but there have been plenty of Bears throughout history who feuded with management but produced on Sundays.
Last year it seemed that Forte had bigger runs when running behind a fullback. I thought they should have deployed the fullback more often as a result. Do the statistics support this observation? With the drafting of Evan Rodriguez and the fact that the Bears like Kyle Adams, will we see much of two-back set this year? Dakarai D. Mosley, Chicago
My suspicion is we'll see a minimal amount of personnel groups that include a fullback. Mike Tice favored the one-back set in Minnesota. And that should play to what Forte does best. Last year, when the Bears had two "backs" on the field (one of the backs could have been a tight end in the backfield), Forte had 87 carries for 351 yards (4.03 yards per rush). When Forte was the only player in the backfield, he had 116 carries for 646 yards (5.57 yards per rush), according to Stats.
Does Shea McClellan look big enough to compete at defensive end? He looks undersized and less than intimidating. He also seems to lack strength, only doing 18 reps of the bench press. How does he look up close? Eric Johnson, Las Vegas
He certainly does not look like Julius Peppers or Israel Idonije. But that in and of itself does not mean McClellin cannot compete and excel at the position. McClellin, at 6-foot-3, 260 pounds, would look plenty big next to Dwight Freeney (6-foot-1, 268), Robert Mathis (6-foot-2, 245) or Elvis Dumervil (5-foot-11, 260). Some of how he copes with not being the biggest defensive end depends how the Bears use him. If the Bears line up McClellin squarely over the tackle on every snap, they may be disappointed. But put him on an edge and let him use his instincts quickness and speed, and they should be very pleased. Some smaller defensive ends believe their lack of size is an advantage because it enables them to get underneath the pads of bigger blockers. McClellin, not surprisingly, has been pretty good at playing the leverage game during his college career.
I was happy to see the Beloved pick up Geno Hayes this offseason. What do you think the plans are with him? Was he just added for depth or do you think he may win the Sam linebacker spot? Michael Piller, Peru, Ill.
Hayes was added for competition and depth. The Bears did not have enough of either at the linebacker position last year. He has a chance to start on the strong side depending on how both he and Nick Roach perform in camp. But it's Roach's job to lose. The nice thing about having Hayes is he will help the Bears have depth at all three linebacker spots. Roach can play the middle if something happens to Brian Urlacher. And it's likely whoever doesn't start between Roach and Hayes will be the primary backup at both outside linebacker positions.
I was pleasantly surprised to see that Jason Campbell signed with the Bears. I'm sure I'm not the only one who thinks Campbell could start for some teams. Any idea as to why he chose to be a backup with the Bears? I have a hard time believing there wasn't a market for an above-average NFL quarterback. Craig Risser, Mechanicsburg, Pa.
There was no market for Campbell as a starting quarterback at the start of free agency. It is possible, but doubtful, that if he would have waited awhile a team might have wanted him as a starter, or maybe as a player who could compete to start. But he signed with the Bears because they made him one of the best-paid backups in the league.
What is the best way for the Bears to help the left tackle on passing plays? Line up with two tight ends? Line up with a tight end on the left side of the line? Assign a running back to help double-team the defensive end? Put someone in motion to hit the defensive end? What would you do? Dan Robuck, Springfield
All of the above. Plus, slide the protection to the left when necessary. Roll the quarterback away from that side of the field. Change the launch point. Use three-step drops. Run when you are supposed to pass and pass when you are supposed to run. The best way to help a tackle who is struggling with a matchup is to mix things up and keep the defensive end across from him guessing. The worst way is to pretend he can succeed when he clearly is overmatched, and not do anything to help him.
What kind of identity do you project for the offensive line? When Jay Cutler was having success with the Broncos, I believe they had a smallish, finesse line that was good at rolling out and pulling, similar to the 1985 Bears and the opposite of the old oversized and overpowering "Hogs" Redskins line, of which I believe Mike Tice was a part. Are there players on the Bears' line that would excel or be limited in either of these two rolls? Randy Lenser, Glenview
Tice likes big, tough, physical blockers, but he also likes players who can pull and move. With a mobile quarterback like Cutler, you can't have a bunch of cement-footed blockers. So Tice is looking for a combination of traits. Players like Roberto Garza, Lance Louis, Chilo Rachal and Gabe Carimi should fit perfectly into what he wants to do, assuming they can execute their assignments.
I have a question about our long snapper, Patrick Mannelly. Has he ever played a snap in a regular-season game on the line on offense? Does he practice with the O-Line? As an aside, is long-snapping really that difficult to do? I would think that is one of the sweetest jobs in the world, to get paid hundreds of thousands of dollars just to snap a football every once in a while. Mike Strickland, Oak Lawn
Mannelly never has played in a regular-season game on offense. He did play on offense in one preseason game. It was in the closing minutes of the last preseason game his rookie year, and he went in for some junk time at offensive tackle. Mannelly was a two-year starter at offensive tackle for Duke. I agree that Mannelly has one of the best jobs in football, as long as you don't mind getting cracked on top of the head and knocked on your can several times a game.
Can you tell me the last time that the Bears didn't have names on the back of their jerseys? I also wanted to know if there is a league rule that mandates every team have names on the back of their jerseys? I know that there are a handful of teams in baseball that still go nameless on the back of their jerseys. And I think it would be cool to see the same thing in NFL, especially considering that football is the ultimate team sport. John Bruce, Tucson, Ariz.
The last time the Bears played without names on their jerseys was 1969. In 1970, the NFL made it a rule that teams had to put names on the backs of jerseys. So, barring a rule change, you never again will see an NFL player without his name on his back.
Reader Q&A: Dan Pompei's Bears mailbag
The Tribune's Bears columnist tackles questions on the revamped scouting department, Devin Hester's role, Matt Forte's contract quagmire and more in this week's mailbag.