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Holmes’ Bears Mailbag: Is The Offense Too Vanilla?

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Marion Barber runs behind Desmond Clark. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Marion Barber runs behind Desmond Clark. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Laurence Holmes Laurence Holmes
Laurence Holmes joined 670 The Score in 1998 as a part-time producer...
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By Laurence Holmes-

(CBS) Well, one preseason game is in the books and there is a lot to talk about. Let’s get straight to your questions:

Hey Laurence, It seems every preseason, Bears fans tend get worked up about the “vanilla” Bears offense. With the lockout and an offensive line that needs some work, how worried should bears fans be? – Matt, Ohio

Matt, if we go back to this time last year, it looked like the Bears were going to have an awful season. The Chargers exposed some weaknesses in the 2010 preseason opener and it seemed like the end of the world. The Bears coaching staff adjusted all throughout the season and ended up 11-5 and in the NFC title game. My point is that it’s hard to judge what a team is during the pre-season. You make a great point about them being “vanilla”. You’re right. The Bears prefer not to show too much in the pre-season. And with no offseason, there are a lot of guys who need to get comfortable with the basics. No need to worry right now. The NFL pre-season isn’t always representative of what a team is going to be when they can focus in on an opponent and game-plan.

Did the team want bigger linemen and for Jay to step into the leadership position? – Keith, Chicago

Yeah Keith, the Bears have made mention in the last few months of wanting to be bigger up front. As it stands right now, the Bears have tackles on both sides who are 6’7. Gabe Carimi is 316 lbs and J’Marcus Webb is 333 lbs. We’ll see if eventually they add Chris Spencer (6’3, 309lbs) at the center spot.

As for leadership, yes the Bears are expecting Jay Cutler to play a bigger role in that department. Lovie Smith said earlier in camp that “The leader of your team should be your quarterback.” So far, Cutler has been every bit of that. He came into camp in tremendous shape and has been a strong force on the practice field.

The Bears gave up nine sacks (count ‘em, nine) against the Bills. Are they ever going to address the o-line and are they set at the wide receiver position? – Dale, Long-time Bear fan

Dale, it’s important to realize that Saturday was the first preseason game. Mistakes will happen and most of that is on the line, but a couple of the sacks might be attributed to coverage and/or Caleb Hanie holding onto the ball too long. Lance Louis called his performance “below average” on Saturday night. J’Marcus Webb questioned his own effort. I’m convinced that if problems persist, the Bears will make changes. They also still have plenty of cap space if they wanted to go outside and add more bodies.

I think the Bears are done picking up wideouts, barring injury. They seem to like the group they have. We’ll see if a guy like Dane Sanzenbacher can open up enough eyes to make the roster, but it’s a pretty good bet that Roy Williams, Devin Hester, Johnny Knox, Earl Bennett and Sam Hurd will make up the receiving unit.

What happened to the 18-game regular season in CBA negotiations? It seems that it not only vanished suddenly but there’s been no discussion of how its demise came down anywhere. Very odd for something that was so important to the owners on the front end. Or perhaps like the old CBA, the owners still have an option of creating an 18-game season down the road? – Phil, Chicago

Phil, it lets you know that it wasn’t that important, at least not yet. During negotiations for a new collective bargaining agreement, the owners relented and took the 18-game schedule off the table — for now. The owners can bring the issue back up in 2013, but the schedule can’t be expanded unless both parties agree. I think eventually it will happen. The NFL is a printing press for money. More games, means more TV dollars, but here’s the problem: The league has spent the last couple of years enforcing new rules that have to do with player safety. That’s a hard position to defend if you add games, a point that the NFLPA brought up during negotiations.

Are the Bears (specifically Martz and Tice) willing to dial back the playbook for Spencer if it means the o-line would be a bigger force later in the season? – Marcus, Chicagoland Area

That’s an interesting question Marcus. Spencer has been working on the second team at the center position. The playbook stays the same for those guys, but it puts less pressure on Spencer to play well right away. It gives him time to get comfortable. Spencer is a pro with over 70 starts in the NFL. I don’t think it will take him long to get up to speed on what the Bears are running.

The offensive line didn’t play as well as the Bears coaches wanted, which means those who want to compete will get on the field. I thought Spencer played well against the Bills, but it was against the second unit. If the Bears thought they needed to get better at guard, it would make sense, to put Roberto Garza back at guard and play Spencer at center. If I was a betting man, I’d bet eventually, that’s what you’ll see this season.

Thanks for the great questions. If you didn’t make it this week, try again. Send your questions to: Laurence.Holmes@cbsradio.com. You can also follow me on twitter throughout the Bears season (@lholmes670).

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