Preseason Games Are about “Toughness of Mind” and Other Points of View

Bears

  • Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune quotes defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli on the value of tonight’s preseason opener:

“’I love practice, but you look at this to get all the things you’re teaching and to see if the habits are starting to become developed,’ defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli said. ‘You find out about conditioning and you find out the toughness of mind. Some of these guys can crack and some won’t crack; they’ll just keep playing. Sometimes you look for that — that toughness of mind.’”

“Keep an eye on the tight end in [offensive coordinator] Mike Tice‘s offense. The Bears have shown a lot of Ace personnel (two wide receivers, two tight ends, one back) in camp and that leads to options in the passing game. With the tight ends involved, you can create some matchups in the middle of the field, use boot action and target soft spots in zone coverage.”

This is true but only if you show that you can run the ball with the double tight end.  If not, they’ll treat the smaller tight end like a wide receiver and play nickel.  Unless the tight end is very good, he’ll lose that match up.  It might not be evident tonight as teams put individual players in difficult positions just to see what they can do.  But eventually its going to be a factor.

‘‘’I thought one guy would separate himself and jump out there, but that didn’t really happen,’ Tice said after Monday’s practice.”

This was never a legitimate competition anyway.  I’m guessing Chris Williams lost this job the minute Webb showed up to camp in shape.  Biggs at the Chicago Tribune appears to agree:

“Tice and [head coach Lovie] Smith both professed faith in Webb during the offseason. Webb is more of a prototypical left tackle but he was far too inconsistent in 2011 to enter camp as the unquestioned starter. Williams’ presence, in the final year of his contract, should push him.

“If the Bears didn’t pull Webb from the position last season, why are they going to replace him now?”

Williams had only one practice with the starters at left tackle before the decision was made.  Tice has way too much pride in his pet project to give up so easily.  Webb is going to be in there until he loses his mind one too many times and Cutler gets hurt again.

“Clearly, Tice was sending a message to Webb. It looked like he sent one to Williams, too, when Williams was removed from the order he had been working in practice after an exchange with Tice. Tice declined to comment after practice.”

“At least one NFL team is curious if the Bears will part ways with Williams before the season begins based on an inquiry from a personnel man.”

“The 6-foot-3, 320-pound Louis, who played basketball in high school and lined up at tight end in college, is accustomed to walking on his toes. But to master the craft successfully, he knows he has to get used to playing with his feet on the ground.

“To compensate, Louis has made a conscious effort to modify his everyday steps during training camp at Olivet Nazarene University.

“’I try to walk more flat-footed now,’ he said. ‘Offensive linemen play with flat feet, so I have to work on it really hard.’”

  • Sean Jensen at the Chicago Sun-Times gets Bears backup quarterback Jason Campbell to open up about the Raiders trade for Carson Palmer last season after his collar bone injury:

“‘It was hard to swallow,’ Campbell said. ‘After the whole trade, [Raiders head coach Hu Jackson] told me, ‘I just want to win, and I want to win now.’

“I was like, ‘Dang. In this game, there’s really no patience.’”

“Tice has removed all seven-step drops from the passing game. Everything the Bears do now will be on three-and five-step timing. That means Cutler will have to improve his diagnostic skills, in the pocket and especially at the line of scrimmage. An underrated athlete blessed with arguably the league’s strongest arm, Cutler, though no dummy, has never had to rely heavily on his mental aptitude. Martz’s system may have been complex, but because it was so rigid and rule-oriented, Cutler didn’t always have to be much of a decision maker. (He didn’t even have the power to change protections, let alone call an audible.) Martz was more concerned about Cutler’s mechanics (which have improved but can still be too inconsistent from play to play).

“Tice will undoubtedly ask his quarterback to be more a thinker and less of a reactor, though he won’t try to make Cutler become Peyton Manning. To highlight Cutler’s strengths, Tice will incorporate more moving pockets (bootlegs, rollouts, etc.) into the passing game.”

“Marshall isn’t the only risky new receiver. There are many who believe the rookie possession target Alshon Jeffery will be too lazy and moody to live up to his second-round billing. If he is, the Bears could be in a bit of trouble because the reliable veteran Earl Bennett is not as effective outside as he is in the slot and the intriguing second-year man Dane Sanzenbacher lacks the size to play on the perimeter, at 5-foot-11, 180 pounds.”

“‘He’s a great back,’ [Michael] Bush said.

“Added [Matt] Forte, ‘He’s very easy to get along with.

“‘At the end of the day, we’re kind of the same. We never get too high or way too low. In the end, it’s going to work out pretty good for everyone.’”

“I was excited we got Michael Bush this year. He is a physical runner and has a burst outside too. Do you envision plays where both Matt Forte and Bush are in the backfield at same time? Justin C., Woodsboro, Md.

“It may be something that Mike Tice tinkers with from time to time as a changeup, but I would not foresee a steady diet of it. If you are trying to run the ball with both Forte and Bush in the backfield, you can get a better blocker on the field than either Forte or Bush, whoever is not carrying the ball. If you are trying to throw the ball with Forte and Bush in the backfield, you can get a better route runner on the field than one of those players. Although it often seems like an enticing idea, there are reasons you don’t see too many teams using two halfbacks together. It just doesn’t work very well. The new trend is for teams to use multiple tight ends together. That does work very well, and I would expect for the Bears to go that route quite a bit.”

  • McClure quotes running backs coach Tim Spencer after a fumble by Forte in practice:

“‘He kind of got a little thumb injury, and I’m not trying to make any excuses for him, but it did kind of hit him on his thumb,’ Spencer said.”

May be something to keep an eye on.

“Harvey Unga said after Friday’s practice he is trying to get accustomed to playing the H-back role and performing some of the duties of a tight end. The Bears selected Unga in the supplemental draft to play running back.”

Dom DeCicco got his share of reps in the middle during the offseason as Urlacher rested, but such hasn’t been the case for DeCicco during camp.”

  • Steve Rosenbloom at the Chicago Tribune has an interesting thought about how to handle the apparent problems Brian Urlacher is still having with his knee:

“So, back to the top: It only matters if Urlacher misses a real game, but the question will be whether he can make a second game. That seems to be the subtext here: The Bears have a lot of time to let Urlacher rest before the season opener, which remains a month away, but what about the second game?

 

“And it’s not just any second game, either. It’s a second game just four days later and it’s in Green Bay.

 

“If Smith’s suspicious and unsatisfying answers indicate Urlacher’s questionable readiness to play a full season, then the Bears ought to act like the Packers game is his season opener. “

 

“Tell Urlacher to skip the opener against the Indianapolis roadkill and get ready for the more important game four days later in Green Bay.”

  • Marinelli says Shea McClellin is pressing. From Fred Mitchell at the Chicago Tribune:

“Marinelli says he is trying to unclog McClellin’s mind so he doesn’t think too much.

“’It’s the words I choose,’ Marinelli said. ‘I keep talking about, ‘Make sure you’re getting off the ball, I’ll clean you up.’ So as long as he keeps coming off the ball then we can clean this up. He’s kind of thinking, ‘Am I going to get punched this way.’ We have to create on the go.’”

“McClellin had been struggling in one-on-one pass rush drills but in live drills with the reserves at the end, he blew past starting left tackle J’Marcus Webb.”

Sounds like a routine play that most of the league could make to me.

“Paea making a move?

“Second-year defensive tackle Stephen Paea continues to make progress, according to defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli.

‘‘’He’s coming,’ Marinelli said. ‘I’m very pleased with all of his work — at the nose, the [three-technique] and the nickel. He shows tremendous skill. Great pad level. He’s healthy. When he’s out there, you can feel him.’”

Paea probably is the defensive tackle to keep an eye on this year.  Much has been made about the progress of Henry Melton but I’ve seen nothing from him that makes me think we didn’t think we saw him top off last year.  Something tells me if anyone is going to step up this year, its going to be Paea.

  • Former defensive end Alex Brown will retire as a Bear.  Via Biggs.
  • This is the kind of thing that could spell trouble for D.J Moore.  From McClure:

“Veteran Kelvin Hayden, who entered camp healthy and competing with Tim Jennings at left cornerback, slid over to nickel back for the first time during practice Thursday at Olivet Nazarene University.”

Moore doesn’t seem worried:

“Ain’t no challenge to me at the nickel position,” Moore said. “Shoot, if this is not my position, it don’t really make sense.”

Now those are the words of a man who may be headed for a fall if I ever heard them.  By all accounts Hayden has been playing well and he may be the third best corner in camp.  Ahead of Moore.

  • I thought this excerpt from a Biggs article was interesting:

“The Bears are working on Hester improving catching short punts that sometimes take long rolls and back the offense up.

“‘Teams were trying to kick the rugby kick short and have it hit the ground where there was a chance it would hit us or roll,’ [special teams coordinator Dave] Toub said. ‘We want him to go up and fair catch those balls. Fair catch it. We’ll get out of your way, but catch it.’”

“‘I think it’d be nice if all the players could go up under one [lawsuit] and represent all the players,’ Dent said recently. ‘Obviously, everybody wants to make some money off that, just like everybody wants to make money off our Super Bowl team.

“‘Everybody wants their little piece of the pie. But I just haven’t figured out what.’”

Elsewhere

“Yes, the Packer defense took a step back. After ranking fifth (in yards allowed) en route to a Super Bowl title in 2010, it ranked 32nd in 2011. Opponents averaged a league-high 299.8 yards per game throwing against Dom Capers’s unit. This data is a bit misleading, though, as the potency of Green Bay’s offense led to a lot of garbage time or shootout games. Yes, Green Bay’s defense must bounce back this season, but it doesn’t have as far to bounce as you’d think. If it did, the Packers would not have gone 15-1(!).”

“How is James Starks looking in Packers camp so far? @splurge76, from Twitter

“He didn’t do much when I saw him, but I know Packers coaches have not been doing handstands about his performance. I asked Green Bay offensive coordinator Tom Clements about Starks, and this is what he said. ‘Early on he was a little tentative. He’s getting better. He is the kind of guy who needs reps. The more times he has to carry the ball the better he gets. He has a lot of ability. He runs hard.’  The running game is an issue in Green Bay.”

  • Center Jeff Saturday said the Packers’ offense is completely different from the offense he was a key part of in Indianapolis.  Via Pompei:

“The offense we had there is dead,” he said. “I don’t think anybody runs it. So there isn’t a ton of carryover. But I like this offense.”

  • The eldest son of Eagles head coach Andy Reid has been found dead at the Eagles training camp facility.  Via Mike Florio at profootballtalk.com.
  • Pompei points out that former Bear Caleb Hanie’s back up job in Denver is by no means secure:

“Hanie is competing for a job with the Broncos.  He opened up camp as the clear No. 2 quarterback, but all three Broncos backups have been alternating as the No. 2 in recent practices.  Some believe second-round rookie Brock Osweiler has emerged as the favorite to be Manning’s primary backup.

“‘It’s kind of like we have a 2A, 2B, and 2C right now,’ Broncos coach John Fox said. ‘Caleb has probably had the most experience of the three, but Adam Weber with us all last year. Brock got in early, and got a lot of good reps during OTAs.’”

When you are being mentioned in the same breath with “Adam Weber”, that can’t be good.

One Final Thought

I’m really fascinated by the fact that the writers at the Sun-Times seem to be absolutely convinced that Shea McClellin is going to be a linebacker.  For instance, we have this from Potash in a story about Brian Urlacher’s knee injury:

“Rookie defensive end Shea McClellin fits the Urlacher mold better than anybody on the team. He’ll probably find his way there by mistake, just as Urlacher did.”

I tend to believe the team when they say that McClellin is a defensive end.  but I’m going to be really interested to see if these writers turn out to be right.

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