LAKE FOREST, Ill. – Senior writer Larry Mayer sits down with general manager Jerry Angelo to discuss the most pressing issues involving the Bears every Wednesday exclusively on ChicagoBears.com.
This feature will provide you with inside information directly from Jerry that you can’t get anywhere else. Jerry will candidly discuss relevant issues affecting the Bears that fans are most interested in.
Johnny Knox caught a team-high six passes for 70 yards and 1 TD against the Steelers.
JA: It’s very unusual for a rookie, let alone a fifth-round pick. With a first- or second-round pick, there are going to be expectations. But with a fifth-rounder, there really aren’t any expectations. There’s probably only a 50/50 chance he’s going to make the team, let alone come in and play. So far it’s been a great story. It’s a testament not only to his talent, but to the kind of person he is in terms of his work ethic and his attention to detail. I feel that he’s handled the big show so-to-speak with a very pragmatic approach, and we’ve seen that every day. Everybody around here has said something good about him at some point. So we’ll keep our fingers crossed.
LM: What do you recall about Knox during the pre-draft process? What stood out to you?
JA: We didn’t really get interested in Johnny until late in the process. We went down to the Texas-versus-the-Nation all-star game in El Paso, and we noticed him down there. From my perspective, that’s really where he jumped out at us. He got himself invited to the Combine in part because of his good performance at that all-star game—during the week of practice and in the game itself. When he got to the Combine, he ran one of the fastest times. That’s a pretty good feat given all the talented players who are there.
We were in the fifth round of the draft and Lovie [Smith] looked at the board along with the scouts and said, “How about this Johnny Knox?” He said, “We really don’t have anybody like him.” We all talked together and we thought given the other players that we were considering that he had the traits we look for at the position. He was probably a little bit more unknown given his level of competition [at Division II Abilene Christian], but we knew that with Jay [Cutler] being on board, [Knox] could be another potential weapon, so we went ahead with it.
LM: How well do you think the defense performed in its first game without Brian Urlacher?
JA: We had a winning performance, and that’s the bottom line. We bent, but when we had to hold, we held. Pittsburgh’s two missed field goals were part due to the fact that we put them in a position where they weren’t gimmes. There was a sack in there and they lost some field position. So when we really had to draw a line in the sand, we did. We held our ground. They had a few runs that were over 10 yards. I would say that’s the thing that we certainly can improve on, and I’m sure we will. But overall I thought it was a very good performance against a very good offensive football team.
LM: When asked last Wednesday about the possibility of signing a veteran linebacker, you said you wanted “to get through this week and see where we’re at.” What’s the latest on that situation?
JA: We’re going to stay status quo again this week. We came out of the game healthy. We liked the performance of our linebackers. We were happy with Hunter [Hillenmeyer], and both Jamar [Williams] and Nick [Roach] did a good job. They rotated, and that worked out pretty well. What we saw is what we anticipated was going to happen based on our knowledge of our players. We’ll go through this week, and we’re going to take it one week at a time. Hopefully we’ll get Pisa [Tinoisamoa] back in the near future, and that will give us the insurance that we need at the position.
LM: You also said last week that Jay Cutler would bounce back from his poor performance in Green Bay and that “he’s got to come back. That’s the only option.” But how exciting was it to see how well he played against the Steelers and how he took over the game on the Bears’ final two scoring drives?
JA: That’s who he is; that’s Jay Cutler. What we saw in Green Bay was an aberration. A lot was written and talked about. Quarterback is the most scrutinized position in sports and it certainly got its full share of scrutiny last week. But we expect that of Jay. He expects it of himself. After the game he said that when things are tough, he wants the ball in his hands. It will be in his hands, and we have a lot of confidence with that.