Matt Vensel is in his first year at the Star Tribune after covering the Ravens for the Baltimore Sun for six years. He is a Pittsburgh native and a Penn State grad. Follow him at @mattvensel.


Mark Craig has covered the NFL for 23 years, and the Vikings since 2003 for the Star Tribune. He is one of 44 Pro Football Hall of Fame selectors. Follow him at @markcraignfl.


Master Tesfatsion is the Star Tribune’s digital Vikings writer. He is a 2013 graduate of Arizona State and worked for mlb.com before arriving in Minneapolis. Follow him at @masterstrib.


Behind Enemy Lines: Bears now curious in Josh McCown's long-term potential

Posted by: under Vikings, Bears, NFC, Packers, Adrian Peterson, Jared Allen Updated: December 29, 2011 - 9:39 AM

As the Vikings prepare for Sunday’s game at Mall of America Field, we asked Sean Jensen, who covers the Bears for the Chicago Sun-Times, to give us his up-close-and-personal scouting report. Here are four things you need to know

 
1)      The Bears have nothing at stake this weekend, but plenty to play for.
Like the Vikings, Chicago won’t put a ton of stock in the final result of Sunday’s game. But the Bears will use the regular-season finale to make critical evaluations at key positions. They will look to measure depth at cornerback and on the defensive line. Most of all, they want to see more from quarterback Josh McCown, who spent a chunk of this fall coaching high school football in Waxhaw, N.C., before being signed in November and making his first NFL start in four years last Sunday in Green Bay.
 
McCown played well, completing 19 of 28 passes for 242 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions. Jensen was thoroughly impressed with the quarterback’s arm strength, athleticism and ability to make difficult throws.
 
“This is a key question for the Bears,” Jensen said. “Was Sunday’s game a fluke? Or can McCown come back and have another strong performance? If so, they’d have to seriously look at him as their No. 2 quarterback behind Jay Cutler heading into 2012.”
 
That McCown even has this opportunity is undeniable proof that the Caleb Hanie experiment was a disaster. Hanie made four starts after Cutler went down with a broken thumb and was shockingly inept.
 
Said Jensen: “What you’d expect from any quarterback who’s on an NFL roster for them to make routine throws – the simple outs, the dump offs to the running back. And Caleb Hanie failed to make routine throws. … After training camp and the preseason, I thought he was a very competent No. 2 quarterback. But the thing you have to wonder about is whether he didn’t prepare himself correctly to make that leap into the spotlight.”
 
The curiosity in Chicago now revolves around whether McCown can establish himself as a more reliable insurance policy going forward.
 
2)      The Vikings may be kicking themselves for ever letting Kahlil Bell go.
The Bears’ current starting running back began his career in the Twin Cities, signed as an undrafted free agent in 2009. But the Vikings cut Bell before that season began.
 
Bell hasn’t exactly emerged as a superstar since landing in Chicago – he has 102 carries over three seasons. But he’s made the most of the opportunities he has gotten. And last week against the Packers he had 23 carries for 121 yards with four catches for 38 yards.
 
“What I like most about him is his cut-back ability,” Jensen said. “He stops on a dime and is able to explode in and out of his cuts. He has pretty good vision. He’s hard to take down. But the quickness he shows in making those cuts is phenomenal.”
 
Bell has been open in discussing his resentment toward the Vikings for not giving him more of a chance to shine. And while he would have had little opportunity to play much behind Adrian Peterson, Jensen can’t help but wonder if Bell would have been worth stashing as a back-up.
 
“You have to wonder if somebody in the Vikings’ organization is asking, ‘What if?’” Jensen said. “They’ve had so many issues trying to find that back-up running back. What if they had Kahlil Bell still there and they didn’t have to draft Toby Gerhart in [2010] and they then had that extra second-round draft pick? Now, heading into their offseason, they have to address the running back position yet again. Because there’s no guarantee Peterson will be ready for the start of 2012.”
 
3)      The Bears have had the wind knocked out of them with a deflating five-game losing streak.
Let’s not forget, in the middle-third of the season, Chicago may have been the second hottest team in football. Starting with a 39-10 destruction of the Vikings in Week 6, the Bears won five consecutive games over quality competition by an average score of 32-17.
 
Yet only a few hours after downing San Diego 31-20 at Soldier Field on Nov. 20, the Bears got word that quarterback Jay Cutler had broken the thumb on his throwing hand.
 
“The team was really rolling,” Jensen said. “The defense was starting to come around after a slow start. Devin Hester was doing what Devin Hester does. And they were putting up 30-plus points per game. They were hot. And then an hour-and-a-half after that San Diego win, the Cutler news comes out and everything started to unravel from that point forward.”
 
Now, the Bears have lost five straight and are out of the playoff chase. They’ve been left shocked, demoralized and feeling as if this was a wasted season with so many major playmakers already deep into their careers.
 
“Particularly on defense, a lot of the key players are into their 30s,” Jensen said. “So that window is closing.”
 
4)      Even without a Pro Bowl invitation, defensive end Julius Peppers can’t be ignored.
The NFC has three worthy Pro Bowl representatives at defensive end in Jared Allen, Jason Babin and Jason Pierre-Paul, three standouts with a combined 52 sacks. So Peppers, with 10 sacks this season, didn’t get snubbed in that regard.
 
The Bears also have three Pro Bowlers on their defense in linebackers Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs and cornerback Charles Tillman. But Peppers remains a force, one sack away from joining Allen in the 100-sack club. And admirably, he has played through injuries this season.
 
“I don’t know how he does it,” Jensen said. “It shows you how strong and talented he is. He has, however, slowed down a bit the last few weeks.”
 
In the first meeting with the Vikings, despite playing on a sprained knee, Peppers recorded two sacks and three quarterback hurries.

ADVERTISEMENT

Chicago 11:30 AM
Detroit
Philadelphia 3:30 PM
Dallas
Seattle 7:30 PM
San Francisco
Cleveland 11/30/14 12:00 PM
Buffalo
Washington 11/30/14 12:00 PM
Indianapolis
Tennessee 11/30/14 12:00 PM
Houston
San Diego 11/30/14 12:00 PM
Baltimore
NY Giants 11/30/14 12:00 PM
Jacksonville
Cincinnati 11/30/14 12:00 PM
Tampa Bay
Oakland 11/30/14 12:00 PM
St. Louis
New Orleans 11/30/14 12:00 PM
Pittsburgh
Carolina 11/30/14 12:00 PM
Minnesota
Arizona 11/30/14 3:05 PM
Atlanta
New England 11/30/14 3:25 PM
Green Bay
Denver 11/30/14 7:30 PM
Kansas City
Miami 12/1/14 7:30 PM
NY Jets
Edmonton 7:00 PM
Nashville
ULM 6 1st Half 13:43
Robert Morris 12
Santa Clara 12 1st Half 13:48
Tennessee 6
Oklahoma 12:00 PM
Butler
Austin Peay 1:00 PM
Brown
Princeton 1:00 PM
Texas-El Paso
Coastal Carolina 1:30 PM
Chattanooga
Kansas 1:30 PM
Rhode Island
Wisconsin 2:30 PM
Georgetown
FIU 2:30 PM
USC Upstate
Long Island 3:00 PM
Stony Brook
San Diego 3:30 PM
Xavier
Illinois 4:00 PM
Indiana State
Western Ky 5:00 PM
Saint Josephs
Cal State Fullerton 5:00 PM
Wright State
Michigan State 5:30 PM
Rider
UCLA 6:00 PM
North Carolina
Marquette 7:30 PM
Georgia Tech
Long Beach State 7:30 PM
Western Mich
Stephen F Austin 8:00 PM
Prairie View
UAB 8:30 PM
Florida
Rice 8:30 PM
Mercer
San Jose St 10:00 PM
Washington
Washington St 10:59 PM
UC Santa Barbara
Baylor 10:59 PM
Memphis
Ohio U 24 FINAL
Miami-Ohio 21
LSU 6:30 PM
Texas A&M
(6) TCU 6:30 PM
Texas
Northern Ill 11/28/14 10:00 AM
Western Mich
Nebraska 11/28/14 11:00 AM
Iowa
Western Ky 11/28/14 11:00 AM
(19) Marshall
UCF 11/28/14 11:00 AM
So Florida
Houston 11/28/14 11:00 AM
SMU
Akron 11/28/14 12:00 PM
Kent State
Ball State 11/28/14 12:00 PM
Bowling Green
Buffalo 11/28/14 12:00 PM
Massachusetts
Toledo 11/28/14 12:00 PM
Eastern Mich
Arkansas 11/28/14 1:30 PM
(17) Missouri
Navy 11/28/14 2:00 PM
South Alabama
(13) Arizona State 11/28/14 2:30 PM
(12) Arizona
Stanford 11/28/14 2:30 PM
(9) UCLA
(21) Colorado State 11/28/14 2:30 PM
Air Force
Virginia 11/28/14 7:00 PM
Virginia Tech
East Carolina 11/28/14 7:30 PM
Tulsa
North Texas 11/29/14 11:00 AM
TX-San Antonio
Old Dominion 11/29/14 11:00 AM
Fla Atlantic
(16) Georgia Tech 11/29/14 11:00 AM
(8) Georgia
Kentucky 11/29/14 11:00 AM
(24) Louisville
So Carolina 11/29/14 11:00 AM
(23) Clemson
West Virginia 11/29/14 11:00 AM
Iowa State
Rice 11/29/14 11:00 AM
Louisiana Tech
Michigan 11/29/14 11:00 AM
(7) Ohio State
Purdue 11/29/14 11:00 AM
Indiana
Illinois 11/29/14 11:00 AM
Northwestern
Cincinnati 11/29/14 11:00 AM
Temple
NC State 11/29/14 11:30 AM
North Carolina
Syracuse 11/29/14 11:30 AM
Boston College
Louisiana 11/29/14 11:30 AM
Troy
Utah 11/29/14 12:00 PM
Colorado
Texas State 11/29/14 1:00 PM
Georgia State
Idaho 11/29/14 1:00 PM
Appalachian St
Wyoming 11/29/14 2:00 PM
New Mexico
New Mexico St 11/29/14 2:00 PM
Arkansas State
UAB 11/29/14 2:30 PM
Southern Miss
(4) Miss State 11/29/14 2:30 PM
(18) Ole Miss
Notre Dame 11/29/14 2:30 PM
USC
(10) Michigan State 11/29/14 2:30 PM
Penn State
(22) Minnesota 11/29/14 2:30 PM
(14) Wisconsin
(5) Baylor 11/29/14 2:30 PM
Texas Tech
Florida 11/29/14 2:30 PM
(1) Florida State
Rutgers 11/29/14 2:30 PM
Maryland
San Jose St 11/29/14 2:30 PM
San Diego St
Tennessee 11/29/14 3:00 PM
Vanderbilt
Kansas 11/29/14 3:00 PM
(11) Kansas State
Connecticut 11/29/14 3:00 PM
Memphis
BYU 11/29/14 3:30 PM
California
ULM 11/29/14 5:00 PM
Ga Southern
Middle Tennessee 11/29/14 6:00 PM
Texas-El Paso
Hawaii 11/29/14 6:00 PM
Fresno State
Wake Forest 11/29/14 6:00 PM
Duke
Pittsburgh 11/29/14 6:00 PM
Miami-Florida
(15) Auburn 11/29/14 6:45 PM
(2) Alabama
(3) Oregon 11/29/14 7:00 PM
Oregon State
Utah State 11/29/14 9:15 PM
(25) Boise State
Washington 11/29/14 9:30 PM
Washington St
Nevada 11/29/14 9:30 PM
UNLV
Hamilton 11/30/14 5:00 PM
Calgary
Hartford 12:00 PM
Furman
Clemson 12:15 PM
Ohio State
Idaho State 1:00 PM
San Diego State
East Carolina 1:00 PM
(22) Syracuse
Santa Clara 2:30 PM
Texas-El Paso
Florida State 2:30 PM
Washington
Wichita State 2:30 PM
Fla Gulf Coast
Wisconsin 3:15 PM
(1) South Carolina
BYU 5:00 PM
BYU-Hawaii
Kansas State 5:00 PM
LSU
Charlotte 5:00 PM
Montana
Illinois 5:00 PM
(9) Kentucky
Central Michigan 7:00 PM
Richmond
Oklahoma 7:15 PM
South Florida
Princeton 7:30 PM
Wake Forest
(19) Oregon State 8:00 PM
Butler
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Date/Opponent Time W L Score
2014 preseason     
Aug 8 - vs. Oakland 7 pmX10-6
Aug 16 - vs. Arizona 7:30 pmX30-28
Aug 23 - at Kansas City 7 pmX30-12
Aug 28 - at Tennessee 7 pmX19-3
2014 regular season     
Sep 7 - at St. Louis NoonX34-6
Sep 14 - vs. New England NoonX30-7
Sep 21 - at New Orleans NoonX20-9
Sep 28 - vs. Atlanta 3:25 pmX41-28
Oct 2 - at Green Bay 7:25 pmX42-10
Oct 12 - vs. Detroit NoonX17-3
Oct 19 - at. Buffalo NoonX17-16
Oct 26 - at Tampa Bay NoonX19-13 ot
Nov 2 - vs. Washington NoonX29-26
Nov 9 - Bye
Nov 16 - at Chicago NoonX21-13
Nov. 23 - vs. Green Bay NoonX24-21
Nov. 30 - vs. Carolina Noon
Dec 7 - vs. NY Jets Noon
Dec 14 - at Detroit Noon
Dec 21 - at Miami Noon
Dec 28 - vs. Chicago Noon

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Grade the Vikings offense

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT