In the lead up to Sunday's game I had the chance to talk with Dane Noble of Windy City Gridiron about five burning questions Panthers fans have in preparation for Sunday's game. A big thanks to Dane for not only taking the time to answer my questions, but for his entire blog's hospitality this week. It's been a very cordial lead up to what bodes to be a tough battle.
Here's what he said:
1. It seems like almost the entire Bears' offense is running through Matt Forte right now. How concerning is that as a Bears' fan?
Dane: Forte is most of the offense right now, but the reason for that isn't necessarily because no one else is stepping up. Look back at the Week 1 victory over the Falcons, and you'll see an offense that was firing on all cylinders... Because the offensive line was being effective. We were able to throw, run, and get creative in the play-calling. What changed? The biggest factor was rookie RT Gabe Carimi going down with a knee injury. After that, we basically had to shuffle the deck and ended up with much of the same porous OL that we saw in 2010. Week 3 saw yet another starting five after another injury (Guard Lance Louis), so the offense has once again bogged down due to the OL. The WRs can't complete their routes, Jay Cutler can't go through his reads, the OL can't get a push... And all we're left with is trying to figure out a way to get the football in Matt Forte's hands.
More after the jump
2. Jay Cutler's had one game completing almost 70% of his passes, one game completing just 40% of them and one in the middle... which is the 'real' Jay Cutler, and to what do you attribute these large swings?
Dane: Again, it's mostly about the protection. Cutler isn't without his faults (sometimes he can hold the ball too long, he takes chances down-field), but when he has time to go through his progressions, he can make things happen. He even commented this week that, when you get nailed play after play after play, even when you do have a play with good protection, he still is expecting to get hit early. The real Jay Cutler is a guy who can shred you to pieces if he has time to throw, but can also fail miserably if put under duress.
3. We already know a lot about your DEs, but what about DT Henry Melton? Is he someone who you view to be a player who is breaking out?
Dane: Melton has all the potential in the world, and the Bears are excited about him. He's already registered twice as many sacks through three games (3) than Tommie Harris did in all of 2010 (1.5). Hopefully we'll see Melton continue to contribute.
4. WR Roy Williams was supposed to add a pop to your offense, but thus far has been non-existant. What are you seeing from him this season?
Dane: Game one looked good... The offense was in good rhythm, and Williams contributed. Week 2 he was out with injury, and last week he came back with a case of the dropsies. I would much prefer to see him consistently average than up and down, but you get what you see with Williams. I just wish he'd stop that damned 1st down celebration... It's just not in the Bears culture to have that. Small detail, I know, but still.
5. Devin Hester is averaging a career low 20.7 return yards. How much did the NFL's new kickoff rules stunt the Bears' attack?
Dane: I think it's still too early to tell. Touchbacks are definitely a neutralizer, but Hester has a skill set that can be magical anytime he touches the ball. Add in the Toub Factor (ST coach Dave Toub's innovation), and I think we'll be seeing some explosive returns in Hester's future.
*BONUS* So... we see you have a disgruntled outside linebacker (Lance Briggs) it seems we have a need for an outside linebacker, and a coach who loves him... shall we make a deal? If so, what do you want?
Dane: First and foremost, I don't think Jerry Richardson would want to pay Briggs, but let's see... I think Briggs for Jordan Gross would be a nice swap. Both drafted in 2003, both Pro Bowlers and All-Pros... I think that would work. What about you?
Note to Dane: Did you not see Jerry Richardson make it rain this off-season? If you're in Carolina you're getting paid!
Jerry laughs at such a proposition