Q&A: Who is No. 1 receiver?

Q: Since Martz envisions Devin Hester as a slot receiver, who is the true No. 1 receiver now on the team? — Rick Maldonado

A: It wasn’t Tony Dungy who decided that Marvin Harrison would be Peyton Manning’s top target for all those years. Manning decided that. Likewise, Jay Cutler is the person who will decide who the team’s No. 1 receiver will be, and based on what we saw last year, it seems clear that he has a connection with Devin Aromashodu. Remember how Cutler signalled to Aromashodu and then threw back-shoulder passes against Charles Woodson and the Packers. That’s the type of communication that a quarterback has with his No. 1 receiver.

Q: Even with the departure of Kevin Payne, the Bears still have 6 safeties: Chris Harris, Major Wright, Craig Steltz, Josh Bullocks, Danieal Manning and Al Afalava. Assuming none of them get injured or traded and the team must trim down to five, which one is least likely to make the 53-man roster?

A: Chris Harris is a lock to make the final roster. So is Wright. Manning’s chances are excellent because he can also play nickel and is a dangerous returner. That leaves Bullocks and Afalava. As a second-year player with starting experience, Afalava has more upside. Bullocks will need to have a great camp to secure a roster spot.

Q: Which member of Chicago’s famed 85 defense do you think was the key member? — Kevin Armstead

A: Since you picked Dan Hampton later in your e-mail, which is a rock-solid choice for many of the reasons you mentioned, his ability to play dominate at end and tackle ranking high among them, I’ll take Mike Singletary. He was the guy in the middle, reading formations, directing traffic and making plays all over the field. The lick he put on Eric Dickerson in the playoffs that season is one of the most underappreciated tackles in in memory. He should have a statue erected for that play alone. It was a text-book example of how a middle linebacker should fill a hole.

Q: Do you really think the Bears are content with the left guard situation? What about the Justin Smiley speculation? — Timmy B

A: The Bears are content with their left guard situation. Offensive line coach Mike Tice said as much during the recent minicamp. Smiley is the one veteran, however, that interests the Bears. Smiley is expected to be released by the Dolphins. When that happens, expect the Bears to take a long look. Based on what I’m hearing, he’s their best shot at adding a veteran.

Q: In retrospect, how big a factor was Brian Urlacher’s absence last season? It seems to me Urlacher’s absence, while symbolically significant, was not too much of a factor considering the depth we had a linebacker. — Bears Geoff

A: The Bears were ranked 28th in the league in total defense in 2007. They were ranked 21st in ’08. That was WITH Urlacher. Without him, they finished 17th last season, which is why those who like to conveniently blame last season’s woes on Urlacher’s absence aren’t thinking things through. Despite losing Urlacher’s considerable talent, the linebacking corps wasn’t the unit’s biggest weakness last season. Urlacher’s return will help but the defensive line needs to rush the passer and the secondary needs to cover people.

Q: Whatever happened to Adrian Peterson? I remember talk of the Bears were going to release him, but don’t remember them doing it. And do you think Garrett Wolfe gets cut this year? They’d be foolish to use him instead of Kahlil Bell. — Shaun

A: Peterson is a free agent. While it’s possible that the Bears could still re-sign him and bring him to training camp that they haven’t do so already would seem to indicate they are prepared to move forward without him. In my opinion, Peterson is a solid special teams player who is no more than a third-string running back. It’s also my opinion that Wolfe’s roster spot is in serious jeopardy. The Bears overvalued the ex-NIU star, as they have done to several draft picks in the recent past. The problem is, he has struggled with pass protection, which makes him a liability.

Q: When does training camp open? (I’ve been asked this question by several readers)

A: The Bears aren’t saying, at least not yet. They want to make sure they have all the details ironed out before making an official announcement later this month. My guess: July 29.

Q: With Dez Bryant, the Cowboys are loaded at wide receiver, and I hear rumors that Patrick Crayton is on the block. I know Jerry Angelo & co seem to think all is well at wide receiver, but this guy is worth taking a look at. What are the chances of the Bears making an offer? — Anders Rune

A: You wouldn’t want to make a living predicting what the Bears will do, not after the Cutler trade and the Julius Peppers acquisition. Angelo has been consistent in his praise of his wide receivers. He doesn’t want to sign/acquire a veteran because he’s afraid it will retard the development of what he believes is a talented young core. Martz backed him up on this during the recent minicamp. Given all that, I don’t see them making a move.

Q: I know Mike Martz is a huge fan of Cutler publicly. But have you heard anything from others on the team that make you believe he really believes Cutler is the most physically gifted quarterback he’s ever been around? — RJ

A: He told me so himself. I asked him that question point-blank before he even took the job. Not only did he say “yes” but there was no hesitation.

Q: Do you think Dan LeFevour has a shot at the Pro Bowl this year? He’ll be wearing a Bears uniform, after all. — Kevin Bumstead

A: As Bill Swerski might say, If he was playing with 10 Mike Ditka’s, he’d make the Pro Bowl every year.

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