The Bears are sitting at 7-7 with the slimmest of chances at a wildcard spot. Even Chicago head coach Lovie Smith said the top priority right now is winning their 8th game. Even if the Bears win out, they'd need help from too many other teams to get them in the playoff tournament. I don't care if you're the most optimistic Bears fan on the planet, you have to see that the season is over. And since the season is over, they may as well get Nathan Enderle a couple games of NFL experience under his belt. But not just Enderlee, I say if a player has an expiring contract and the Bears don't factor them into the 2012 plans, then there's no point in playing them. They have to see what they have for next season.
I'm a big proponent for playing the kids as soon as the playoff chances are out the window. And by kids, I mean getting reps for anyone that is in the plans for next year. I understand the flip side argument that it's not fair to the veterans on the roster. That it essentially throws up the white flag on the season, and the coaches owe it to the vets to go for the win and to play the players that give them the best chance for winning. And to that argument I say Poppycock.
The NFL is a business. The players understand that, and as much as it sucks to give your all to a team only to see them throw some rookie out there for on the job training, the coaches don't owe anyone a damn thing. Unless the ownership has laid down a win at all costs mandate, they have to play with an eye towards next year at this point.
Khalil Bell is set to be a restricted free agent, so get him more touches to see if he should have a deal for 2012.
Zack Bowman's contract will expire after this season. Is he in the plans? If so get him in the game as much as possible at corner, but if the Bears have seen enough of him, then he shouldn't see the field unless they need a body.
Kellen Davis is a 2012 free agent, has his blocking improved enough to stick around next year? Are the Bears seriously considering a change at offensive coordinator? If so is Davis flexible enough to fit into a different system?
I'm just a realist. I don't need to see Brian Urlacher out there for every defensive snap for this '11 team. The Bears may as well get rookie Dom DeCicco some actual defensive reps at middle linebacker. Let him get some time in the middle so the Bears can break down the film on his play, because there's a hell of a difference in looking good for the scout team versus real game NFL speed. Just ask Caleb Hanie. And remember last year it was Todd Collins that impressed in practice. Yucky...
And sticking with the linebackers, does Jabara Williams project to the weak side or the strong side OLB? Get him some reps asap. I put Lance Briggs in the same boat as Urlacher, I really don't need to see him out there banging heads in a season going nowhere. Sit him, and Nick Roach down for a series here and there, for Williams and Patrick Trahan.
Nathan Enderle's deal has him signed through 2014, and while I doubt he's going to be the #2 next year, the Bears need to see if the game will overwhelm him. Live with his rookie mistakes for these next two games, and they'll have a better idea what they have in him.
Corey Graham has been an impressive special teamer, and he looked solid filling in at nickleback, but if the Bears don't plan on resigning him then he shouldn't see the field on defense the rest of the year.
Can Levi Horn get some tackle reps? If the Bears pick their spots with him, and don't put him out there against a dominant pass rusher in an obvious passing situation then they should be able to get a look at him.
The Bears may have already made a call on free agent to be Tim Jennings. He lost some playing time in the last game. If he ain't in the plans, then don't play him on D.
Does Brandon Merriweather really have a future in Chicago? I don't see him sticking around next year, so how about giving some p.t. to Winston Venable?
Rookie Stephen Paea should continue getting plenty of reps at DT. And if they come at the expense of some of the veteran defensive tackles on the roster, then so be it. Regarding the young DTs, decide who they need more film on and get them in those game situations.
The receiver situation got a little shakier with the Johnny Knox injury, but is there any reason the Bears need to keep parading Roy Williams out there? He's playing on a 1 year deal, and I'd rather see them promote some practice squad kid into some of the X WR reps, than see Williams out there wasting time.
I know I missed a few players, but I'm sure you get the gist of it. The more they can evaluate their own guys the better prepared they'll be heading into the draft and free agency. Now if Jerry Angelo and his team of scouts can actually pull off a great off-season is another story entirely.