Reader Q&A: Brad Biggs' Bears mailbag

Chicago Bear Eric Weems makes his heads-up play on the Vikings punt during Sunday's game.

I am still not sure what we saw in the game Sunday. When Minnesota touched the punt back into the field and Eric Weems knocked it into the end zone (and out of the end zone), would it have been a Minnesota touchdown if the Vikings had could recovered the ball in the end zone before it slid out the back end? – Ray Geiselman

This was one of the most popular questions of the week with many inquiries about what was a terrific heads-up play by Weems. Vikings cornerback Marcus Sherels prevented the punt from going into the end zone and as cornerback Josh Robinson and linebacker Audie Cole were about to down the ball at the 3-yard line, Weems arrived and knocked the ball into the end zone and it subsequently went out of the back of the end zone.

Once the ball was touched first by the Vikings, it became a free play for the Bears. Weems could have picked the ball up and fumbled it right there and the ball would have been awarded to the Bears at the 3-yard line. Tribune contributor Matt Bowen said when he played for the Redskins that special teams coach Danny Smith described it as a “free play” and in this instance Weems gained 17 yards for the offense as the Bears got the ball on the 20-yard line on the touchback.

Here is the definition from the NFL, Rule 9, Section 2, Article 2:

FIRST TOUCHING BEYOND THE LINE: “First touching” is when a player of the kicking team touches a scrimmage kick that is beyond the line of scrimmage before it has been touched by a player of the receiving team beyond the line. If the ball is first touched by a player of the kicking team, it remains in play. First touching is a violation, and the receivers shall have the option of taking possession of the ball at the spot of first touching, provided no penalty is accepted on the play, or at the spot where the ball is dead. First touching does not offset a foul by the receivers.

It’s not something new to Bears special teams coordinator Joe DeCamillis. When he was with the Cowboys, Bryan McCann picked up a ball that the LionsJohn Wendling batted away from the end zone. McCann ran 97 yards for the game’s go-ahead touchdown in the 2010 game.

“I call it ‘no consequence’ because once they touch the ball as the kicking team right there on the punt, that’s basically a free ball for us to do anything we want with it,” DeCamillis said. “What happens is, if (Weems) would have fumbled the ball, if (McCann) would have fumbled the ball, it still would have just reverted back to the spot. There’s no consequence that happens to us right there. That means that (Weems is) paying attention to the rule, he understands it, and it worked out to us.”

I don't get it. Why are the Bears being chastised for starting D.J. Williams at middle linebacker over the rookie Jon Bostic? After all, he was signed for his experience. And why is Earl Bennett being used so sparingly? I am aware of their offensive weapons, but I thought that he was to be a major contributor in the coaches’ eyes? -- Chuck Durante Guilin, China

I continue to receive a high volume of questions about the situation at middle linebacker and with the third wide receiver and Earl Bennett. When it comes to Williams, yes, I think he is starting because he is more experienced and has a better handle on the nuances of the defense at this point. That being said, in my opinion he hasn’t been around the ball a whole lot through the first two games. Tackling statistics are subjective and the Bears coaches have credited him with seven solos and six assists, giving him four and two, respectively, in the win over the Vikings. Against a run-heavy team like Minnesota, you would expect Brian Urlacher to have far greater numbers. In fairness to Williams, he shouldn’t be compared to Urlacher. It also should be pointed out Williams is coming off the field in the nickel package, so there he was not in the action for 19 of the 64 Vikings plays. My hunch remains Bostic gets on the field at some point this season but I don’t know if the coaches want to shake up the lineup when things are going well.

As far as Bennett, his playing time increased significantly from the opener when he had 16 snaps to the last game when he was on the field for 32 of the 66 plays. Bennett was only targeted twice, but he made two catches, including a big 16-yard reception on the field-goal drive at the end of the second quarter and he doesn’t appear to be in jeopardy of losing any playing time. It’s all predicated on the game plan and how much the team wants to deploy three-receiver sets.

Any idea when the Bears could try Jon Bostic at middle linebacker or is he forever stuck on special teams not seeing any time on defense? -- @CloudyFuture from Twitter

Forever stuck on special teams? It’s been two games. I think the team has expectations that are high for Bostic, just like the fan base, but the coaches probably saw enough in preseason (along with the big plays) to tell them he needs more time to develop.

We are giving so much love and attention to the legacy of Brian Urlacher's career in Chicago and rightly so. I loved watching the guy on the field and wore his jersey on Sundays. But when is he gonna shut up?  It seems like every week there is a report about something he said about the Bears. Jay Cutler didn't call him, the Bears’ fake injuries (to stop the clock), I was treated unfairly.  My question is, does this become an issue in the locker room and is this the reason they may not have wanted him around with a new regime instilled?  Think about if he was in the clubhouse like many Bears fans wanted. – Billy Menz, Philadelphia

I think there are multiple layers involved here, Billy. General manager Phil Emery will disagree with me, but it is my opinion the Bears made a contract offer to Urlacher they knew he would refuse. The Bears maintained back in the spring they genuinely wanted him to return. I don’t believe the contract offer was crafted with Urlacher’s relationship with Cutler or the prospect of him playing under Marc Trestman in mind. I think the Bears put a dollar value on a player that felt was declining on the field -- and I think they should have known how he would respond to that offer. Urlacher is in the media business now and someone has given him some good advice because he’s come out with some statements that have garnered attention. That’s one way to make a mark quickly in his new career path. What Urlacher says is not an issue to the players in the locker room. Many of them, almost all of them that were around for any time, remain close to Urlacher. That doesn’t mean they have to agree with everything he says. It’s not a big issue that Urlacher and Cutler were not fast friends either. A lot of people can go to their work and get in a room with 52 co-workers and probably find people they’re not real thrilled with on their team. That’s life.

Is Michael Bush hurt? I don’t understand why Marc Trestman would throw the ball on first-and-goal? Moreover, why Jay Cutler would throw it over the middle? -- @loydj2 from Twitter

Bush is healthy and he really hasn’t played enough to get too dinged up. Bush had just five snaps against the Vikings and was on the field for 14 plays in the opener, nine in the final drive when the offense was running out the clock. Trestman wanted to use the element of surprise in the play you are referring to when he put heavy personnel on the field with three tight ends, fullback Tony Fiammetta and Bush. I thought running it from there would have been a good idea, but I don’t call plays. The Bears liked the matchup with Martellus Bennett but he was double covered. Fiammetta was also well covered after Cutler’s play fake to Bush. That led Cutler to third option Steve Maneri over the middle. Trestman suggested Cutler would probably have been better off throwing the ball away.

Who is going to take the third wide receiver spot? Earl Bennett, Marquess Wilson or Joe Anderson? -- @mjwtruth from Twitter

Bennett has been the man pretty much all along with the exception of the time he missed with a concussion. I don’t foresee this changing soon either although Anderson was on the field for three offensive snaps against the Vikings. It’s hard to knock Bennett for making only two catches against Minnesota. Jay Cutler threw only targeted him twice. I’ve documented pretty thoroughly how Bennett has not been a big-time performer since his contract extension. Entering this season, his production mirrored that of Devin Hester as a wide receiver since the new deal. However, I still believe Bennett is the third-best receiving option for this offense and I suspect he’s got some big games ahead of him. Given a chance to play, I don’t see Anderson or Wilson suddenly outperforming Brandon Marshall or Alshon Jeffery and I also doubt they would be an upgrade over Bennett, who has a better grasp of the offense.

People keep writing that Bears are weak at corner behind starters. Besides Isaiah Frey, what is the situation there? -- @ssrangarajan from Twitter

Zack Bowman is the top backup on the outside and Frey is playing the nickel and the fourth option on the outside behind starters Charles Tillman and Tim Jennings. Sherrick McManis is also in the mix along with undrafted rookie free agent C.J. Wilson. I don’t think any NFL team would be very secure with a fourth cornerback starting, maybe with the exception of the Seahawks, who had enough young talent to release Antoine Winfield in final cuts. I don’t think the depth chart looks much different here than it has in some recent seasons. The plan, of course, was to have Kelvin Hayden as the nickel back before he was injured.