Inside the locker room Thursday at Halas Hall, defensive tackle Matt Toeaina took a few minutes during his first full day as a Bear to introduce himself to new teammates.
Fellow defensive tackle Jimmy Kennedy, practically a veteran in comparison having arrived two days before Toeaina, nodded as he walked by.
Across the room, old pro Babatunde Oshinowo was busy helping a TV reporter cpronounce his first name so it would sound right on the evening news.
That's 1,061 pounds of new blood the Bears imported into active roster this week due to losses on the defensive line that further depleted the NFL's 25th-ranked run defense.
It's a heavy burden figuring out how to stop Vikings rookie running back Adrian Peterson, one that could weigh on the Bears' minds for a good chunk of the next decade.
To prepare themselves for that long-term reality, the Bears might consider responding over time the way they started this week until they fix what's broken about the Cover-2 run defense.
Call it the Bears' Peterson Principle: Elevate as many healthy linemen as it takes until the defense is no longer incompetent stopping the run.
Peterson's emergence in Minnesota this season threatens to change the emphasis for the Bears defense and others in the NFC North as much as any newcomer to the division since Barry Sanders. In the near NFL future teams will conclude stopping the Vikings means stopping Peterson, who threatens to make Minnesota legitimate playoff contenders for awhile.
Peterson looks too good to be considered a fad, returned too quickly from a knee sprain to be considered injury prone, and possesses too much maturity to think he will squander his potential.
So in addition to auditioning defensive tackles to see if they're good enough to rest Tommie Harris for the final two games or let Darwin Walker go in the off-season, the Bears might have to shift their thinking early in the draft.
A team strength suddenly looks like a soft spot in a much-harder division to win.
Sure, the Bears need to draft an offensive lineman, a running back and will consider a quarterback. But they have selected only one defensive tackle in the last three years (Dusty Dvoracek) and Harris' iffy health makes the position a priority next April.
There's plenty of time to speculate about that question. Here are some others with more clear-cut answers.
Do you think the Bears are considering trading one of the defensive ends? There'll be a logjam next year when Dan Bazuin comes back with Israel Idonije, Alex Brown, Adewale Ogunleye and Mark Anderson. Could they get a good guard or tackle or a good safety? --Killer Kane, Dubuque, Iowa
Maybe but none of the guys you mentioned -- Ogunleye, Brown or Anderson -- should be traded. Idonije is too valuable on special teams too. Bazuin is unproven and a risk, so it would be unwise to overreact based on his potential. Put Brown back in the starting lineup and use Anderson in spot duty again in '08. Ogunleye is having a Pro Bowl-caliber year even if he might not make it due to how many other DEs are enjoying fine seasons too.
Devin Hester has proved to be most dangerous in the open field with some blockers, so why not use him in two RB sets where Turner can call screen passes and outside runs to Hester? --Alex, Evanston
In the first half against the Redskins, one of the potential roadblocks to such an innovative idea arose. Hester had trouble getting lined up and running the right route as a wide receiver so expanding his duties to include running back, where pass protection rules are strict, might be asking too much. Athletically, it makes sense. But the move would force Hester to learn another part of the offense he already has struggled to learn.
I know you think the Bears probably won't bring back Mike Brown next season. But seeing as how the team lacks even one quality safety on the entire team, shouldn't they at least consider trying to sign him cheap and hope to pick up another safety in the draft/free agency? --Aaron, Iowa City
If the Bears restructure Brown's deal to pay him the veteran's minimum with incentives, then it might be worth inviting him to camp to see how long he can stay healthy. Safety has become a position of desperation for the Bears. But his scheduled salary of $2.44 million seems too high for a player they can't count on due to injuries. That also makes putting Brown any higher than No. 2 on a depth chart an invitation for disappointment.
Do you believe that the hit on Rex Grossman was unacceptably egregious? In my opinion, it was 100 percent intentional. It was below his knees. If that hit had occurred on Brett Favre, Peyton Manning or Tom Brady, the guy would have been flagged, ejected, fined and then suspended! --Daniel Aguirre, Princeton, W.Va.
In going for Grossman's left knee, Cornelius Griffin should have been penalized 15 yards under a rule change adopted in 2006 that prohibits pass-rushers from being allowed to "forcibly hit a quarterback below the knees.'' The proposal, which passed 25-7 that year, was made after quarterbacks Carson Palmer, Brian Griese and Ben Roethlisberger sustained knee injuries after getting tackled low. A suspension sounds too harsh, especially because Terrence Metcalf blocked Griffin in that direction, but a penalty flag should have been thrown.
What inside info do you know about the Bears trading Kyle Orton? I'm pretty sure you alluded to it twice this week. I think that a terrible idea unless the Bears are planning on re-signing Rex, which would be the worst idea ever. --Frank, Scottsdale, Ariz.
We disagree. If Orton plays well in the final three games of this season, his value around the league will never be higher. The Bears need to recoup a draft pick they lost in acquiring Darwin Walker and Orton could be a smart way to do that. Teams in rebuilding mode as the Bears will be need draft picks. Signing Grossman could be an affordable way to find a quarterback and still address other positions. And dangling Orton doesn't mean the Bears have to deal him. They just might conclude that bringing Orton back to compete for the job with Grossman in training camp represents the way to go.
Can someone at Halas Hall explain why the Bears dropped Adewale Ogunleye into pass coverage on two (that I saw) 3rd-and-long situations? No pressure on the Washington quarterback, best pass rusher 15-plus yards downfield, and both were converted for first downs! --Mark Seloover, Clinton, Ohio
If you paid close attention to the Redskins' TD pass to running back Ladell Betts, you also saw defensive tackle Tommie Harris dropping into coverage. That happens occasionally in certain zone blitzes where linemen end up following running backs or receivers who cross their face. It's not ideal, not when Ogunleye has provided the most consistent pass rush this year. But it's also typical of a Bears defense that has developed a knack of being in the wrong place at the right time for big plays.
Why don't the Bears try moving their coordinators out of the cozy boxes upstairs and onto the field? Maybe they could get a better feel for the flow of the game. God knows Turner's play-calling needs SOMETHING and Lovie looks like a statue out there! --Tom Chekel, Mt. Prospect
Well, that's an interesting idea because most Bears fans are in favor of any move that would get Turner further away from the action instead of closer -- anywhere outside the stadium would suit most of Turner's critics. The cozy boxes, as you call them, do serve a purpose and provide a vantage point coaches can't get from the sideline view. Defensive coordinator Bob Babich moved upstairs he said to improve his view but - he didn't acknowledge this -- also because his emotions often got the best of him on the sidelines. That rah-rah stuff might work well in college but calling NFL defenses requires measured thought more than unbridled passion, so the best place to think is in the coaching booth.
Will the Bears draft one of the top three quarterbacks this year in Brian Brohm (Louisville), Andre Woodson (Kentucky )or Matt Ryan (Boston College)? Do any of these guys have what it takes to be a franchise quarterback for the Bears and who would fit best? If not a quarterback, is it possible the Bears could draft Felix Jones (Arkansas)if he comes into the draft he has great speed the bears would love? --Michael, New Zealand
Get ready for the glut of mock drafts that likely will have the Bears choosing any one of the top three quarterbacks considered first-round choices: Brohm, Ryan and Woodson. The order depends on what scout or executive you poll and the Bears have done their due diligence on all three. That's standard, especially for a team as perennially challenged at the position. They have a bigger need for immediate help at offensive tackle or guard, so if they draft as high as 11th as they could, then it's more conceivable the Bears could get an offensive lineman to help in '08 than a quarterback ready to step in immediately.
How aggressively do you think the Bears will work the cap to try to upgrade the team this off-season? Some teams go shopping every year and never have cap problems because they work all the angles to stretch what they can spend under the system. The Bears have brought in one "major" free agent in two years -- Ricky Manning, Jr. --Mark Early, Arlington, Va.
The Bears finagle their way under the salary cap as well as any team in the league. Expect them to take measures beginning after this season to unload some high salary-cap hits next year, putting the future of veterans such as Fred Miller and Darwin Walker in question. The past two years, the Bears didn't have to be too aggressive but that's changed. They need to look at free-agency for an offensive lineman, a running back and possibly a safety or wide receiver.
The Bears say nobody's told them yet, but are they really out of the playoffs? --Mark M., Lynnwood
According to the sports statistics web site www.sportsclubstats.com, losing to the Redskins reduced the Bears' chances for a wild-card spot from 3.2 percent to 0.92836 percent. So, yeah, they're really out of it unless you're paid to think or say otherwise.Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times