In this week's edition of "Five questions," PFW publisher/editor and Bears expert Hub Arkush grades the job done by Lovie Smith thus far this season and says it's almost time to pull the plug on the Henry Melton experiment at three-technique.
1. What grade do you give Lovie Smith for the job he's done so far this season?
Arkush: I give him a B-minus. Lovie really struggles on game day, but the rest of the week he's as good as they come. Game decisions, clock management, replay challenges, use of timeouts — all pretty much terrible. But show me a coach over the last couple of decades who has won anywhere near as many games with such incomplete rosters and a flat-out lack of talent at a number of positions.
2. Do you think Jay Cutler is a better quarterback than he was one year ago?
Arkush: No, he looks like pretty much the same guy to me. I thought he was maturing until the last couple of games when he started backsliding into old bad habits, displaying some poor mechanics and worrying more about rebelling against his offensive coordinator than making his system work. The idea some fans have that Cutler challenging Martz is somehow good for the team is ridiculous. Cutler has elite talents and ability that he may never fulfill if the Bears don't get him the weapons he needs so he can focus on the games rather than the distractions.
3. Do you see any progress being made by Henry Melton in his first season as a full-time starter?
Arkush: Actually he's going backward, and I think it's close to time to give up and move on. He's a running back in a D-lineman's body, and it's time to accept that and move on. He should be spelling Israel Idonije at left end to give the team some occasional pass-rush pressure. Amobi Okoye and Stephen Paea should be sharing all the snaps at the three-technique to find out if either of them can give you what Melton can't.
4. What's your assessment of Chris Williams' performance this season?
Arkush: Williams is sometimes adequate at guard but often below average. He's had a few flashes in the run game but nothing consistent and is a liability in pass protection if he doesn't get help. He occasionally looks the part pulling on the run, but he appears to have no ability to find a block once he gets out there. You can get away with a guard like him if you're very good at tackle and center, but the Bears are just OK in the middle and are lacking at tackle.
5. How much will it help the Bears' offense to get Earl Bennett back from injury?
Arkush: It's very hard to say, not knowing how they'll use him. He's clearly the best wide receiver on the team and will provide Cutler a security blanket he's been missing. But based on the Bears' unexplainable love affairs with Devin Hester and Roy Williams, he'll probably take snaps away from Johnny Knox, who is their best big-play threat outside. Bottom line is his return can't hurt, but the way they use him may severely limit how much it helps.
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