It’s Wednesday, the start of a busy week of preparation for Sunday’s game with Arizona, but let’s jump into the mailbag before we get rolling.
Q: What do you think the chances are Anquan Boldin will play Sunday?
Mark B., Hammond, Ind.
A: The Cardinals said Boldin would be day-to-day on Monday, one day after he aggravated his sprained right ankle in Arizona’s loss to Carolina. The injury first occurred back on Oct. 11 and as Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic points out, the Cardinals may have to make the difficult decision of sitting Boldin on Sunday to ensure that he can heal up moving forward here. No one is going to question the toughness of Boldin, who missed only two games last season after surgery to repair fractures in his jaw and sinus, a result of a vicious hit by Eric Smith of the New York Jets.
“If I’m good enough to play, I’m going to play,” Boldin told reporters in Arizona on Monday. “If I’m able to run, I’m going to play football.”
But Somers makes a case that Boldin is hurting the team right now and the Cardinals would be better off with Steve Breaston as the foil to Larry Fitzgerald with Jerheme Urban and/or Early Doucet getting expanded opportunities.
And that leads me back to Fitzgerald. There’s a very worthwhile piece on him by ESPN.com’s Mike Sando that I suggest you check out. Would you believe he’s averaging just 10.8 yards per reception? That’s more than three yards off the pace he was on last season. The wide receiver who obliterated the postseason record books has a long catch of 27 yards this season. Now, the injuries to Boldin have something to do with it, but defenses have long honored Fitzgerald as Arizona’s No. 1 target.
“It seems like every time we try to throw it down the field, we’re getting Cover 2,” Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt said. “It’s a guessing game.”
The Cardinals, once again, don’t have much in the way of a running game. As one scout said, you can go with six defenders in the box against them and not worry too often about being pounded. That gives a defense extra tacklers downfield to bring down Fitzgerald and prevent him from breaking the big one. But none of this is new. There’s no new scheme to slow him down. Kurt Warner, despite the protests of Fitzgerald’s younger brother earlier this season, isn’t the problem.
It probably will not last all season, but if it continues for another week it’s good for the Bears, who know a little something about Cover 2.
Q: While most fans have complained about the playy of left tackle Orlando Pace and left guards Frank Omiyale and Josh Beekman, my concern has to do with right tackle Chris Williams. He is the first-round draft pick of Jerry Angelo that has not been performing well. Is he the biggest issue on this offensive line right now?
Justin F., Chicago
A: When you’re talking about the future of the offense, sure. Williams was drafted 14th overall last season and the plan was for him to be the left tackle of the future starting then. There is no question Williams has had some rocky moments here. There have been enough false starts to channel memories of Fred Miller, and while Jay Cutler probably could have gotten rid of the ball, it was Williams’ man who recorded the first sack on Sunday against Cleveland. But let’s consider right now that Williams has seven career starts to his credit. I don’t subscribe to the “redshirt class” theory that the Bears often like to peddle with their draft classes, but when Williams missed half of last season following back surgery, that made this the first season we could use to really evaluate him. He’s young and the hope is he will grow into the position. He needs to play better but so does everyone else on the line. You’re absolutely right, Williams is the most important one to watch when you’re thinking longterm, especially considering he’s the first offensive lineman in the first round for general manager Jerry Angelo since Marc Colombo in 2002. But in the present, I believe the Bears need to find a way as a unit to become more effective running the football. Period. If they can do that they’ll be able to add some needed balance to the offense.
Q: I understand that Johnny Knox has played well, but he is still a rookie. Devin Aromashodu led the Bears in the preseason, Jay Cutler even lobbied for a tall receiver like him in training camp. It seems just like last year when Brandon Rideau led the team in the preseason and never saw the field, only this time there is no question as to whether or not he has the speed to play the game. On top of that I can think of several times where a tall receiver could have helped in the red zone. I know he was hurt a the beginning of the season, but he has not been on the injury report since week one. So what is going on, the passing game is not lighting it up, and Rashied Davis has not made a big impact on special teams. Why not change things up and activate Aromashodu on game day and even use Kellen Davis more in the red zone? I believe it could only improve the red zone offense. With the upcoming games I think both these players could help, so what is with the Bears and why are they not being used?
Richard N., Lombard
A: Aromashodu was active at Cincinnati and I believe the hope was to get him involved some offensively before that game spun quickly and irretrievably out of control. Running back Adrian Peterson was healed up from a knee sprain this past week and he claimed the spot that Aromashodu had. I know he looked good in brief parts of preseason and also in training camp, and it certainly has to be frustrating for him that his chance on offense has yet to materialize. But I would disagree with you that Davis has not made a big impact on special teams. He’s one of the core players for Dave Toub’s units, and while his holding penalty on Devin Hester’s punt return Sunday didn’t help, the play is probably made on Hester if he doesn’t grab some jersey there. Davis might not have overwhelming special teams statistics, but he’s counted on as a core contributor. The Bears have a big red zone target in tight end Greg Olsen and have not utilized him very well there other than the times that they have been right at the goalline. Who do you want Kellen Davis on the field in place of? He’s gotten more time on offense than in the past and he has some touchdown receptions as proof too. What I think might help them in the red zone is if they throw the ball into the end zone more when they get inside the 20. Take a shot at the end zone. That would have been a better call than running Garrett Wolfe behind Olsen as a lead blocker as they did vs. the Browns. But I’ve gone over the play calling enough in other stories. We’ll see when a chance arises for Aromashodu, but it really likes it may take an injury for his opportunity to come. Could the Bears be better at receiver? Sure. But that’s maybe the least of their offensive concerns right now, in my opinion.
Q: Do you believe the Bears can catch the Vikings?
Nelson M., Parts Unknown
A: Well, they’ve got their work cut out for them, that’s for sure. The Bears (4-3) are already two games behind the Vikes (7-1) in the loss column and they even up on the number of games played this weekend with Minnesota on a bye. The good news for the Bears is that they have yet to play Minnesota, which means Brett Favre still has a chance to cool off. But coming out of the bye, the Vikings have three straight home games vs. Detroit, Seattle and then the Bears on Nov. 29. It’s cliche, but Lovie Smith is dead on when he talks about the significance of the month of November. The Bears have got a lot of work cut out for themselves between now and then. When you look briefly at the idea of the wild card race, games vs. Arizona, San Francisco and Philadelphia in the next three weeks take on added significance. The loss at Atlanta didn’t help that cause, either. Don’t worry, we’ll have plenty of time to break the Vikings down in the coming weeks.
Thanks for reading and thanks as always for participating.