Coming off the worst loss in the Lovie Smith era, there are a lot of questions about personnel, but Smith isn't discussing them as the Bears prepare to host the Browns at noon Sunday.
Smith admitted nothing Wednesday afternoon in the way of potential personnel changes for Sunday, but general manager Jerry Angelo all but confirmed a shakeup on the team's Web site earlier in the day.
"Do we need to look at some personnel?" Angelo said. "Yeah, we do. There's some of that going on, as you'll see Sunday."
The most likely change is Josh Beekman for Frank Omiyale at left guard, although neither left tackle Orlando Pace nor right tackle Chris Williams has played well enough to be above reproach. Backup tackle Kevin Shaffer would be a logical replacement since he was a starter with the Browns the past three years and with the Falcons for two and a half years before that. Another scenario could see Omiyale moved outside to his natural tackle position in place of Pace or Williams, with Beekman taking over at left guard. Another possibility is rotating players at some positions.
Defensively, strong-side linebacker Hunter Hillenmeyer and middle linebacker Nick Roach are expected to switch positions, leaving the responsibility of relaying play calls, switching calls and getting players lined up in the correct position to the more experienced Hillenmeyer.
After the blowout loss to the Bengals, Smith said: "There were several things we did wrong, starting with just getting aligned. We weren't aligned properly at times."
After six-time Pro Bowl middle linebacker Brian Urlacher suffered a season-ending dislocated wrist in the season opener, Hillenmeyer took over and then started the next two games, as the Bears defeated the Steelers and Seahawks. But Hillenmeyer went down with a fractured rib in the Seattle game, and Roach took over. Roach, a third-year player, has 14 NFL starts, including the past three games at middle linebacker. Hillenmeyer, a seven-year veteran with 59 starts, re-entered the starting lineup last week at strong-side linebacker after Pisa Tinoisamoa suffered a knee injury a week earlier.
Smith refused to provide any clarity regarding any lineup changes.
"We make changes when we think it warrants a change," he said. "It's as simple as that. That's the only thing you can go on. If we think somebody gives us a better chance to win, we make changes. Guys realize that."
Pressed on what specific personnel changes might be expected, Smith again declined to expound.
"Our football team didn't play well, starting with me, Sunday," he said. "The last couple weeks we haven't played as well as we need to – all positions. So it's no more than that. So I don't talk about it. If we were going to make a personnel change, we wouldn't talk about those through the week. Offensive line [and] every position on our football team, [we] can't feel good about what we did."
LB Hunter Hillenmeyer
Getty Images: Jonathan Daniel
When the topic inevitably came back around, Smith said: "OK, I'm not going to talk about anything personnel-wise. To me, that's pretty clear. If that's all you want to talk about, there's nothing else to talk about."
Asked why he wouldn't discuss personnel changes, Smith said: "We don't want to give the opponent an advantage. We want them to wonder what we're going to do, like you are right now. That's the way it's been throughout. So it's not like there's something new that I'm coming up with right now."
Offensive coordinator Ron Turner also declined to address potential lineup changes, and when asked who lined up with the starters at left guard, he said: "We lined up in our normal lineup."
NOTES AND QUOTES
Quarterback Jay Cutler admits he has a tendency to try to do too much when he's trying to rally the offense from a big deficit, as in last week's blowout loss.
"You want to get big chunks of yardage, but you've got to somewhat stay a little bit balanced, if it's running out of [shot]guns or if it's catching them off guard at a certain point running the ball," Cutler said. "But your mind is, 'Throw it, throw it, throw it.' I get in that mode, as well.
"It's just a tough situation because defenses are going to start playing really conservative because they're not going to give up the big play, and they're going to make you eat up the clock, so it's a tough deal."
After throwing three interceptions last week, Cutler dropped to 21st in the NFL in passer rating at 82.9, but his fourth-quarter passer rating of 113.7 is third in the NFC behind only the Saints' Drew Brees (121.6) and the Packers' Aaron Rodgers (118.4). The Broncos' Kyle Orton leads the NFL with a 142.1 fourth-quarter passer rating.
The Browns' Derek Anderson is last in the NFL with a fourth-quarter passer rating of 7.8. He's also last in the NFL in third-down passer rating at 10.3. Cutler is 12th at 88.1, while Orton is fourth at 104.5. ...
Defensive tackle Anthony Adams denied that Sunday's blowout loss would erode the team's confidence.
"We've still got a lot of football left," he said. "We've still got 10 games left, and we can make a run or run away. I think we're going to make a run."
Adams said a sound thrashing could be just what the Bears needed, and they got it, especially on defense, where they allowed the Bengals to score on their first seven possessions.
"Sometimes you need a little bit of humble pie," he said. "We definitely got fed that." ...
Defensive tackle Marcus Harrison started in place of Tommie Harris a week after starting for Adams at nose tackle. Harrison got his most extensive playing time of the season and was credited with a season-high six tackles, which accounted for most of his soreness Monday.
"It was really two plays that did me in," Harrison said. "The play when I hit (Cedric Benson) in the backfield, and then, [at first], I thought it was Lance (Briggs) who hit me, but it was actually Nick Roach. I mean, those guys are flying around, those linebackers. He accidentally missed the guy and he hit me, and it felt like I should have been in a car wreck." ...
Tommie Harris, who missed all last week of practice with knee soreness and then was a healthy scratch for the game, essentially because of Smith's decision to rest him, practiced in full Wednesday.
"By giving him off last week, of course he was able to get a little bit more work in this week," Smith said. "That's got to be good for us. Tommie is a good football player when he's ready to go."
QUOTE TO NOTE
"Everyone is focusing on the line, but it's not just them. It's everybody. We can't look at it and say, 'On the offensive line, if we make one change, we're going to be better.' It's all the way across the board. It's us doing things to hurt ourselves. Everybody focuses on the offensive line for whatever reason. It's coaching, it's players, it's different positions. We've all got to relax and play like we're capable of playing and not press, which I think we're doing at times, and everything will take care of itself." – Offensive coordinator Ron Turner on the continuing fallout from the 45-10 loss to the Bengals.
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