Mailbag, Vol. VI

It’s been a little too long since our last entry, but two red eye trips back from the West Coast and a holiday in between has shortened our weeks. We’ll get back on schedule for the stretch run, so keep the inquiries coming.

Q: Where is Corey Dillon? Isnt he available? Tiki Barber might come out of retirement for a real chance to win a title.

Tyree T., Chicago

Tyree: Id assume Dillon is kicking back with the phone nearby waiting to hear from the New England Patriots. While Dillons agent Steve Feldman told the Sun-Times in September that his client would be interested in joining the Bears, the team wasnt seeking any help at the time. When I checked with Feldman earlier this month, he said Dillon no longer had an interest in the Bears.

And that change of heart has nothing to do with the changing weather. Dillon would gladly return to the undefeated New England Patriots for another run at a Super Bowl ring. They might not need him, though. As far as Barber goes, his agent also told the Sun-Times back in September that Tiki was quite happy as a talking head these days.

The Bears may still bring a running back in with Cedric Benson lost for the season, but they were in no rush to make that move Monday, and its almost a guarantee anyone they do bring in will not be a household name. Many teams operate with only four backs and thats what the Bears have now with backup fullback Lousaka Polite expected to dress for Sundays game vs. the Giants for the first time this season.

Q: With Cedric out for the season, are there any backs available who would come in for the short term? The two that come to mind are Corey Dillon and Marshall Faulk (Lovie ties from St. Louis)?

Scott, Parts Unknown

Scott: See above for Dillons lack of interest, and what in the world would possibly motivate Marshall Faulk to come play for a team in a six-way tie for seventh place in the NFC? Besides, have you seen him on NFL Network? He doesnt look ready for action. Faulks playing days are over. Now, he just awaits a call from Canton, Ohio.

Q: Im not going to claim to have answers or explanations but I do have questions. Why is Adam Archuleta allowed to start?

Armando D., Charlotte, NC

Armando: It was another rough outing for Archuleta against the Denver Broncos, no question. His career certainly doesnt look to have the shelf life of John Lynchs. Lynch starred in this defense before and still looks suitable in a Denver uniform in his 15th season. Its not because Archuleta doesnt take care of himself, I can tell you that. Hes in terrific condition.

If he cannot cover tight ends, like the Broncos Tony Scheffler, deep down the field than it is going to be time to re-evaluate him. It could well be Archuleta is who the Redskins said he was. The problem right now is with injuries wiping out Mike Brown and Kevin Payne, there really isnt another viable option on the roster. When hes been in there, Brandon McGowan has committed far bigger blunders. I think Seahawks tight end Marcus Pollard is still open on that fourth-and-one.

Add Archuletas struggles to the growing list of concerns for general manager Jerry Angelo this coming offseason. Angelo talks in terms of needs and wants when he goes into free agency and the draft. His needs are likely to trump his wants this time around.

Q: Who is going to call out the receivers and the receiver coaching for leading the league in drops? Maybe Moose [Muhammad] will complain about the quarterback again and ask for a replacement. I can hardly wait til his contract is up. He is more concerned with his TV show on Comcast than playing football.

Michael K., Parts Unknown

Michael: First, the Bears do not lead the league in drops although they are not far off the pace. Muhammad has seemed rather clever in his assessment of the quarterbacking in these parts for some time now, but hes made valid points at times too. While I understand he is on the downside of his career, youre going to have to wait a while if youre going to sit tight for his contract to expire following the 2009 season.

Granted, Muhammads numbers are not what they should be right now, but in terms of a preparation standpoint, I can say that Muhammad works harder than most players and is very professional in his approach. That being said, the Bears need an infusion of youth and talent at the position, particularly if they do not re-sign Bernard Berrian. They seem to be adept at collecting No. 2, No. 3 and lots of No. 4 receivers, but never a true No. 1.

Q: I suspect Nathan Vashers absence is the biggest reason the defense [stinks]. Will he be back for the Giants game?

Theodore P., Chicago

Theodore: A teammate said that Vasher ran pain-free last week for the first time since suffering his groin injury way back on Sept. 23 in Week 3 against Dallas. Lovie Smith seemed to intimate that Vasher could actually be close to getting back to work. For weeks, check that more than a month weve heard nearly daily how hes making progress. Id be real guarded with my expectations for Vasher if he can play this week. Its been so long, and hes done so little in the time its taken the injury to heal, that hed only be able to play in a limited role.

As to whether or not Vashers absence is the primary culprit for the lack of turnovers and general struggles that have the team in the bottom-third of nearly all major statistical categories, I cant say thats the case. Do they beat Detroit earlier in the year with him? Maybe. But rookie Trumaine McBride has held up pretty well. Hes proven to be tougher and more skilled than anyone expected a seventh rounder to be. How about the loss of Mike Brown and Dusty Dvoracek, coupled with the disappearance of Mark Anderson, struggles of Adam Archuleta and health of Brian Urlacher as reasons that are as big or bigger?

Q: With Garrett Wolfe moving up into the No. 2 role now that Cedric Benson is lost for the season, what kind of production do you anticipate for him?

Marty U., DeKalb, Ill.

Marty: Limited. There will certainly be some times when Adrian Peterson needs to come to the sideline for a quick rest, but as long as the Bears are pursuing a possible playoff bid, theyre going to stick with the known quantity in Peterson. Wolfe looked good in open space on a 25-yard run at the end of the first half on Sunday, but the Broncos were guarding against a deep pass.

Getting Wolfe in open space has been a problem in the few chances he has had. At least Ron Turner has stopped running him into the middle of the line. Wolfe didnt show a whole lot that I saw in the preseason. Maybe he can provide a spark as a change-of-pace guy, but it just seems so hard for the Bears to get a guy and find a way to adequately feature him.

Q: Last year the defense played really well and yet we had a coaching change. This year, the offensive play calling stinks and the offense is bad. Shouldnt we have another coaching change?

Craig A., Whitewater, Wis.

Craig: There has been turnover on Lovie Smiths staff every offseason. Just using that as a barometer, youd have to think there is a fair possibility change could be in the air come January. Much will depend on how the final five games play out, and whether or not assistants are seeking jobs elsewhere or being asked to seek jobs elsewhere.

I dont think Ron Turner has covered himself in glory this season. All the talk was how the mid-ranked Bears offense could ascend to join the leagues elite. Certainly there have been major shortcomings at quarterback and Turner took the development of Rex Grossman on himself when quarterbacks coach Wade Wilson was ushered out. The wide receivers have struggled, the line has struggled and the running backs certainly have underachieved. There are not significant injuries to blame this on.

Its conceivable someone takes the fall at the end of the season for this. Its also possible they find some momentum, although I cant believe I am typing that when weve yet to see the Bears win consecutive games. Your question will be much better answered come Jan. 1.

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