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Windy City Gridiron Reader Mailbag #2

Members of the staff of the Windy City Gridiron answers YOUR questions.

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From Bronx Bear One - I Remember the Bears Wearing All White uniform before many times, They use Navy Blue on White or Throwback Monsters of the Midway or even Orange on White Sometimes. I Think I Saw Them All Navy Blue once if I'm not Mistaken. Why They Don't use all White Any More and Who Makes the Decision on What They Wear?

Lester Wiltfong, Jr.: The pants a team wears can be decided on a week to week basis, but their jersey choice for all 16 games must be submitted to the NFL before the season starts. Home and Away jersey's are usually obvious, but the alternate or throwbacks a team wears gives them some options. In this Sports Business Daily article from 2013, it states that the Bears "make their decisions for when they will wear their third uniforms based exclusively on marketing goals and plans for themed game-day promotions." As far as the white on white for the Bears, the origination decides when to go with that road combination. For some teams the ultimate decision comes down to the coach, other teams the GM or owner decides, some ask the players and some have a committee to make such decisions. A few years ago the Superfans put the white on white uniform combination to a poll.

From BigJonLilJon - Since Fox has made the running game the clear #1 priority...... who and why will be "the guy"? Week 1 and week 16??? I know its the committee approach, but there still needs be a #1

Sam Householder: We don't know yet, a lot will be decided at training camp and in the preseason. I do think that it will be Jeremy Langford. Langford might have had a poor yards after contact and a not-so-great YPC last season, but those are things he could improve upon and he's had all offseason to do so. He's going to get the first crack at it and I think the staff will give him every chance to succeed. I do think that he's got a chance to be a solid lead back but I'm not sure he will ever be elite or able to replace Matt Forte in many fans' minds. It's going to be tough for him unless he can rip off 1,200 yards and 9 TDs.

From Dave Marshall - Out of the six divisional games this year, which one do you think the Bears have a slim chance in and why?

Ken Mitchell: Setting aside a rash of injuries for either team involved in the games, and all things being equal, I don't think there is a single division game on our schedule where we will have a "slim chance". We are better pretty well across the board on defense, and we stand to be better at WR. Tight end, if Miller stays healthy (and yes, that's a 'big' if) we are better (Miller outplayed Bennett last season), so the two big questions will be OL and RB. Can our OL stand up to Minnesota's pass rush? I am more concerned about Minnesota for that reason than any other team, but we were in the games last year against them and should have beaten them once... so... I predict all 6 division games will be competitive.

From tommymilan311 - CornWash seemed like he was poised to make his name on the D-line last year with the lack of depth and quality talent. It seems as though he is more buried in the depths this year. What are his chances to make the roster? Could he move up past Ego and Sutton on the depth charts to be a primary backup at 5 tech?

Lester Wiltfong, Jr.: Athletically speaking, Cornelius Washington is very gifted. Back in 2014 I spotlighted him in this article, Could Cornelius Washington be the edge rusher the Chicago Bears need? But that was a long, long time ago. If he can't stay healthy, he's as good as gone, and even at 100% I'd say he's a long shot to make the roster. I think Ego Ferguson is a better player than CornWash, and Sutton is a different type of player with his ability to rush the passer from the interior.

From Jacqui13 - With all of the concern about Langford not being able to catch as many balls as Forte, Do you think that the beloved plan to throw to the backs as many times as they did when Firte [sic] was with the team?

Sam Householder: Not sure who Firte is but as for the rest of the question I do think that that is going to be a part of the game plan. Cutler has been comfortable throwing to his backs, most especially Forte and that has been an important safety valve. It wasn't that long ago that he was really Cutler's only reliable target when his other options were Roy Williams, Devin Hester and Dane Sanzenbacher. In any event, Langford has said he's worked on catching this offseason and he began his career at Michigan State as a WR so there is a good chance that he will improve in his second year. There's no doubt that screens and RB wheel routes will be a part of this offense in 2016

From Twitter and Matthiew Balsley - While Hicks is in line for a DE spot, who do you project to be the week 1 starter beside Goldman opposite of Hicks?

Lester Wiltfong, Jr.: I think the aforementioned Ferguson has the best chance to start at defensive end, with rookie Jonathan Bullard also in the mix. The Bears gave Will Sutton a lot of playing time last year too, so depending on his offseason improvements he's probably in the mix for playing time as well. My only issue with Sutton is his length. At 6'1", he isn't as long as the other DE candidates and the Bears have spoken a lot about size at the 5-Tech these last couple years.

From Kmark1 - I see a lot of Bear fans expecting Royal to be cut or traded. If he stays healthy, do you expect him to be on the 53 man roster to start the season? And From C.Nelson42 - I think Royal will be on the 53, but my question is does Royal make an impact or does Mariani overtake some of his snaps due to a seemingly better relationship/chemistry with Cutler?

Sam Householder: I have combined these questions because they both relate to Royal. I do think he will be on the final 53 and I think he can make a huge impact. Yes Cutler and Mariani had great chemistry last year but Royal has much more speed and athleticism so I don't think he will beat out Royal based on last season. Also, let's not forget that Royal and Cutler combined for 91 receptions, 980 yards when they played together in Denver so their chemistry is real as well.

From worldclassspeedsters - I keep hearing this is Fox's offense. If so where and when did he develop it?

Lester Wiltfong, Jr.: Former Bears offensive coordinator Adam Gase spoke about this offense being Fox's O when he was asked about the Bears' transitioning to Dowell Loggains. Fox is a defensive guy, but like many successful head coaches, he knows what he wants and he dictates his coordinators to do that.As far as when he developed his "playbook," it's one of those things that evolves through the years. He probably began to think more about the offensive side of the ball when he started to interview for a head coaching jobs for the first time. He's worked with some very good offensive minds through the years and his philosophy has changed depending on his personnel. He obviously let Peyton Manning do his own thing, he and his staff had to change things up for Tim Tebow, and his Carolina years he was very run heavy. Fox probably has a skeleton playbook that he uses as a guideline with every offensive coordinator he works with. The O.C. adds in their own spin on things, but as a defensive minded head coach Fox will usually skew a little conservative. But when he has the horses, he'll let his O.C. open things up.

From hangingoutincali - If the Bears are going to have a winning year and make the playoffs, what will the benchmarks be that you will look for if the team is to be successful, please be specific (i.e. top 5 run defense, top 10 rush offense or specific stats like allowing less than 80 yards rushing per game, etc or certain players need to avoid injury, or certain stats like turnover margin, offensive/defensive numbers)?

Lester Wiltfong, Jr.: I do expect the Bears to be in the playoff mix this year, but I'm not sure if they have the necessary depth to stay competitive if they suffer injuries to their o-line or receiving corps like last year. I think the D will be better, and a top 5 finish will likely mean they are in every game. The running game was 11th best last year, so if they can maintain that I think they'll be happy. Their passing O was 24th and that number has to come up into the top half of the league. I think the Bears need to remain relatively healthy, have a top 5 defense with an overall offense that ranks in the top half of the league and they must find a way to win the turnover battle this year. I'll go over most specifics as far as individual player importance in my Ten Most Important Bears series.

From General Zimpok - Is there a specific way you play Connected Franchise when playing the Chicago Bears in Madden?

Ken Mitchell: I don't play video games of any kind. I've never actually seen Madden in person, let alone tried to play it, so... I have absolutely no idea what you are even asking. Sorry!

From KMark1 - I see a lot of Bear fans expecting Royal to be cut or traded. If he stays healthy, do you expect him to be on the 53 man roster to start the season? And From C.Nelson42 - Does Royal make an impact or does Mariani overtake some of his snaps due to a seemingly better relationship/chemistry with Cutler?

Lester Wiltfong, Jr.: I think the Bears will have an open competition for the #3 and #4 wide out spots, with a 5th spot possibly reserved for a returner or special teamer. A healthy Royal should have the edge over the other wide outs in camp, but if Mariani or rookie Daniel Braverman outplay him, it wouldn't surprise me to see Royal cut. Sure his $4.5M is fully guaranteed, but I don't see that as a reason to keep him if he's not the 3rd or 4th best receiver on the roster. Until we see how all the wide outs are looking in camp, my prediction is that Royal will be the slot guy.

From Dougiet - Who will make the team from last year's practice squad?

Ken Mitchell: First, let's look at who was on the PS at the end of the season last year... De'Vante Bausby, CB; Matt Blanchard, QB; Davon Coleman, DE; Cornelius Edison, C; Paul Lasike, RB/FB; Marcus Lucas, WR; Danny Mason, ILB; Nathan Palmer, WR; Gannon Sinclair, TE; Martin Wallace, T. Still on the team as of right now are: Bausby, Edison, Lasike, Sinclair and Wallace. Busby I have seen play in person, I covered him when he played vs Truman in their last year in the MIAA. MIAA kids DO actually make the NFL from time to time (Northwest Missouri State is MIAA). In the game I covered, the Truman QB didn't throw against Bausby much, I think he had a pass covered and a tackle or two, but I do remember how totally outclassing his competition he was. He's a 4.5 kind of a guy, good read time, but no top end speed. I don't really see how he beats any of the current Bears out, especially since they drafted some guys for corner. One guy that has a chance, certainly to at least stay on the PS, is Center Cornelius Edison, the Rimmington Award winner from 2014. We have very, very little behind Grasu, so this is a spot where opportunity may knock. Lasike is a fullback, so his chances depend on him beating out a veteran player for a position we are not even sure we will have on the final 53. Sinclair is a guy who's going to be fighting it out for that last TE spot between a guy we traded a pick for last year (Lee) and a guy we brought in as a priority UDFA but who has been getting rave reviews, Braunecker. I think his chances of beating out either (barring injury) for the 53 are slight indeed. Wallace has been bouncing around the NFL with trips through Cleveland, Carolina, Tampa and now Chicago. An OT, I think Wallace has very little chance in being on the 53.

From Marquess de Sade - Which of this year's away games' home team has the best stadium experience?

Lester Wiltfong, Jr.: I can't speak from experience, as I've only been to Soldier Field and to the old RCA Dome, but I've heard great things about Lambeau Field.

Sam Householder: I too am unqualified to answer this question, as I've mostly attended Bears home games, although I have been to Lucas Oil stadium a number of times including for the Bears-Colts preseason game last year and that was a great place to watch a game. A lot of Bears fans will likely travel there and I did not have an issue with Colts fans, but it was also preseason. It was really neat to be standing out on the street in front of the stadium drinking a beer during pregame watching the roof open up.

Ken Mitchell: Add me to the list of people unqualified to talk about the current away-game experiences. I've been to Lambeau (not even for a Bears game, they were playing Jacksonville back in '04 and I got tickets given to me last minute. I was a Jaguar fan for the day, and Jax won), but that's the only stadium I have been to. I've seen games at the Silverdome but not Ford, at the Metrodump but obviously not the new stadium, at St. Louis both in the dome and at old Busch stadium, and at Arrowhead. By far the best experience of that bunch is Arrowhead, not even close.

From Hell On Wheels - The Bears seem to be holding on to a large amount of cap space. Do you think that they are hoping to yet grab a significant number of free-agents or camp cuts to continue filling out roster depth this year, or might they be rolling it over for next season, possibly in hopes of grabbing Von Miller, Mohammed Wilkerson, or some other big-splash free-agency signing? Or do you think they have some other masterful and diabolical plan for all that cash?

Ken Mitchell: With the caveat that we have only seen two off-seasons from Pace, I think by now it's clear that he's not a "huge splash player" GM, and would rather spread the money around. To me, this seems like a good approach because one non-QB guy holding a huge chunk of your cap is a dangerous proposition due to injury. I think Pace got the job because he has a long-term plan of developing players in-house through drafting, and picking up FA's like Trevathan... guys with a lot of years left. If we are successful and develop players, we need some money to sign our own, guys like Alshon and after next season Kyle... barring injury, I expect very little else to be done money-wise this year in a major way (if we do extend Young it won't be "silly huge" money)... and I suspect we either use the money to finish a deal with Alshon or leave it to roll into next year's cap.

Sam Householder: According to spotrac,com (click link for info) the Bears have the sixth-most cap space remaining with just under $22.1 million left. While teams can roll that amount over, looking at this article (Patra: Salary-cap 'carryover' figures announced by NFLPA - both the Browns and Titans rolled over over $20 million in cap space this year, it seems unlikely that the Bears will want to take ALL of that over with them. Some of that is likely earmarked for a possible Alshon Jeffery extension, which they have until next Friday to complete. They then might use some of it later this fall to extend a player such as Kyle Long. It's too early to look at free agents for next season, I can't see Von Miller sitting out this season and trying to get to the open market next year. However, I am sure that Ryan Pace and his staff will no doubt have some players in mind they will want to target next offseason. If the team improves like we all believe and the regime believes it will, then perhaps they will try and pursue a high-dollar free agent to set up a potential Super Bowl run.

From ChicagoBare - How many stupid questions (including this one) do you get each week?? Be honest. I read the comments of all the articles and I many sometimes I can't believe the stupidity I am reading. Reading the questions this week, up to this point, are all pretty good but there are those that have been answered many times in past articles.

Sam Householder: This was the stupidest question we got this week. No, I kid. I actually think there are a lot of good questions. While some have been answered by certain writers or using certain statistics, I think that a lot of people are just trying to get us writers' opinions. As a journalist I have to ask people to spell their names, even when it's "Smith" so, there truly are no dumb questions. Well, that's not true either, but I think the truly dumb questions are the ones that are so poorly written I am unsure of what is being asked or I have do a grammar fix in order to make it coherent.

From x160630 - Another question about the minds of WCG staff What is your favorite non-memorable, Chicago Bear gameplay memory?In other words, don't wanna hear Payton 275, Urlacher v Cards, etc. I want to hear about a play or a game in which is mostly ignored or forgotten that you hold as one of your favorite memories.

Sam Householder: Tough one, there are a few that stick out. I really remember the 2007 game vs. the Packers (box score) two days before Christmas when the Bears stomped GB 35-7. The nail in the coffin was Brian Urlacher's 85-yard interception return for a TD. The MNF game I mentioned in an earlier answer is another one. In disappointing seasons those are the games I remember. Another lasting one for me was the 2005 Falcons game. It was a bitterly cold night, it was the game when Kyle Orton was finally benched for Rex Grossman (probably the last time Grossman got a standing O at Soldier Field). The Bears were just kicking the teeth in on the Falcons and Jim Mora Jr. threw a tantrum on the sideline and about hit a referee. There are a few others, but as I think about it, a lot of them are memorable not only for the Bears winning but also because of who I was watching with. The Packers game was with my brother and grandmother (both Packers fans), the Falcons game I was with my guy friends, we're all cheering for the refs to eject Mora. I could keep going because there are others, but I'll lastly mention the 2011 Jets game when the Bears won a back-and-forth game 38-34. I was watching with Ashley and our college buddy.

Ken Mitchell: Monday night football, December 20, 2010. The game was played outside at Minnesota on a frozen TFC Stadium field because the Metrodump's roof had collapsed, again. Corey Wootton's sacked Brett Favre, just a normal "everyday" sack, knocked Favre out cold when his head hit the frozen turf. With that play, we never had to watch Favre play football again. I don't root for players to get hurt, but I sure wasn't sad to see the most overrated QB in the history of the NFL on the field no more.

From Back Doc - Is there a limit to the coaching staff/assistants? I ask because you always hear about an older vet player possibly being on the team not for their abilities but to mentor/coach up a rookie/younger player. I know there are position coaches, quality control coaches etc. and a lot them are ex-players themselves but shouldn't we kind of prove/disprove (mythbusters) the theory of older vet players coaching up a younger player, especially when that same player will outright get the vet player cut/released?

Sam Householder: From a quick internet search, no it does not appear that there is a limit to NFL staffs. They seem to range anywhere from 15 to 24 members. While the media writes about things such as a "veteran presence" I tend to doubt the amount of actual, literal coaching that these players give younger players. Yes they can show a younger player how to watch film better or take better notes or give them pointers, but the real, actual coaching is coming from coaches. And no, no player will be kept on a team to "coach young players." While the aforementioned "tips" might happen, teams first and foremost want players to play. No veteran is kept on a team solely for his ability to help young teammates.