The Bears’ defense played well last season, but it is aging and could use an infusion of youth at tackle. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times
Updated: October 25, 2011 12:30AM
Never has Sal Paolantonio been such a welcome sight on TV as he was Monday.
With every ‘‘Breaking News’’ update, the Philadelphia-based ESPN reporter might as well have been dressed in a red suit, a red hat and black boots, counting down the number of shopping days until Christmas.
We are an NFL-deprived society that needs its fix. And it appears the fix is on the way.
‘‘We’re down to circumcising mosquitoes,’’ Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones reportedly said Friday.
Heading into Tuesday, it now seems like it’s down to finding tiny, post-surgical Band-Aids.
And thank goodness.
If the lockout officially ends by the target date of Friday, the NFL will seem like a fantasy football league on speed, with a frenzy of player movement and signings.
That means Bears general manager Jerry Angelo will be on the clock, which are basically the 10 scariest words one could mutter about the Chicago sports scene.
In any case, it will be the most important few days in the Angelo regime. That’s because the Bears are a team that has to win now, in large part because the window is closing on an aging defense.
If Angelo is able to work out a deal with free-agent defensive lineman Anthony Adams, the Bears will have seven starters 30 or older on defense. It would be one thing if that defense had a few Super Bowl rings to flash, earning it the benefit of the doubt. But when the face of the defense is linebacker Brian Urlacher, who is 33 and has a history of injury problems, reading the playbook might be secondary to reading the latest AARP publication.
Defensive tackle first
If there was one group that carried the Bears’ defense last season, it was their front seven, which allowed just more than 90 yards per game rushing, second in the league to the Pittsburgh Steelers’ 62.8.
So while Bears fans are screaming about receiver help being a top priority, defensive tackle should be atop Angelo’s to-do list. It’s a strength that can be bolstered and be made younger at the same time.
Keeping Adams is an option, but a bolder move would be to chase down the Seattle Seahawks’ Brandon Mebane, 26, or to make a run at the New York Giants’ Barry Cofield, 27. That would give rookie Stephen Paea some time to grow.
The Bears have holes to fill on offense, starting with the line. No quarterback should be allowed to be sacked 52 times in a season. Jay Cutler’s problems last season had more to do with getting the time to find a receiver than with a lack of reliable targets.
Re-signing free-agent center Olin Kreutz is a must. Top pick Gabe Carimi and J’Marcus Webb could give the Bears standout tackles for years to come. But guard is another story, and that’s where Angelo needs to upgrade.
Roberto Garza showed improvement on the right side, but Chris Williams is a backup, not a starter. When you make a blockbuster trade to acquire a franchise quarterback, you can’t count on Williams to keep him upright and healthy.
Santana Moss merits look
If there is a receiver the Bears should kick the tires on, it’s the Washington Redskins’ Santana Moss. Forget recently-released-from-jail Plaxico Burress or the New York Jets’ Braylon Edwards. This is about having a receiver who can run the precise routes offensive coordinator Mike Martz’s system demands. If not Moss, then move on to another position.
Either way, there is so much to do in so little time.
That calls to mind one important question: Do you have the confidence in Angelo to handle the ultimate cram session? Since becoming the Bears’ GM in 2001, Angelo has been more about excuse-making than playmakers. Be it draft picks gone wrong or entire draft classes underachieving, the buck stops on Angelo’s desk — until he throws it on the floor.
Last season earned him a bit of a reprieve, with the Bears winning the NFC North before falling to the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Championship Game. But that team was more smoke and mirrors than substance. If Angelo thinks otherwise and feels a little tinkering will net the same results, put the Bears down for 7-9 and call it a season.
By Friday, GMs around the league could be taking center stage.
Get ready for some deep sighs from Bears fans.