The Underdog Hype Machine Revs Up and Other Points of View


    • John Mullin at points out an interesting fact I hadn’t read anywhere else:

      “The Bears also introduced a second practice to run simultaneously with the regular one, so that twice the number of players are getting live action running selected plays.

      “‘You saw two practices actually going on on two different fields,’ [head coach Marc] Trestman said, ‘so we get more reps, more opportunity to get guys on tape and give them a chance to perform and to run plays.'”

    • Speaking of, when I read the headline, “Brandon Marshall listed as No. 2 wide receiver in Madden 15″ I actually thought it meant he’d been listed behind fellow receiver Alshon Jeffery on the Bears roster. It turns out that Marshall was number two overall. I supposed that speaks well of Jeffery. From Paul Roumeliotis.
    • Adam L. Jahns at the Chicago Sun-Times for the benefit of those who haven’t been paying attention:

“One basic premise has emerged [about the new defensive scheme]: the linebackers will have the ­freedom to play instinctively. To do that, different techniques up front will be used more often.

“In the simplest terms, defensive tackles will be required to control blockers instead of always ­maintaining assigned single gaps.”

“A line featuring [Lamarr] Houston at tackle with [Jeremiah] Ratliff and [Willie] Young at end opposite [Jared] Allen has given the offense fits.”

  • Michael C. Wright at elaborates on the scheme changes up front:

    “Last year, the Bears employed [former Bears head coach] Lovie Smith’s system, which emphasized penetration along the defensive line. The players were used to simply shooting the gaps to stop the run on the way to the quarterback. That’s all changing in 2014. The coaching staff wants Chicago’s defensive linemen to be technicians with their hands so they can engage opposing offensive linemen, stack them at the line, shed, and run to the ball. In the previous scheme, Chicago’s defensive linemen simply didn’t know how to use their hands effectively. Many times when they penetrated, they overran the ball because more and more now, teams are employing zone schemes that allow backs to pick their holes instead of the old-school leads, counters, and powers. By becoming better at using their hands, the D-line can also keep opposing offensive linemen off the club’s rangy linebackers, which in turn allows them to run around and make plays. In fact, [defensive coordinator Mel] Tucker recently turned on film of Chicago’s defensive line during a meeting, and many of the players on the roster that were a part of last year’s team were shocked at how badly the group played. What Tucker pointed out, according to one player in that meeting, was that last year, the group didn’t know how to use its hands. The joke among defenders now is that if one of the team’s linebackers has scratches or paint from the opponent’s helmets on their own, the defensive line isn’t sufficiently doing its job to keep offensive linemen off the linebackers. The Bears are expecting higher tackle totals this year among the linebackers, and the defensive line will be largely responsible for that.”

  • From Patrick Finley at the Chicago Sun-Times:

    “For all the excitement surrounding [punter Pat] O’Donnell’s leg, the team’s two long snappers — 10-year Canadian Football League vet Chad Rempel and the unproven Brandon Hartson — struggled mightily on the first day in full pads.

    “Their snaps missed in all directions; one even sailed over a punter’s head.

    “If the snaps didn’t improve, ­[special teams coordinator Joe] DeCamillis hinted the team would look elsewhere, a tough task this early in training camp.”


  • As mentioned, the good news on special teams came from the punting, itself. From Rich Campbell at the Chicago Tribune:

    “O’Donnell, the sixth-round rookie, outperformed Tress Way during the team punting periods. O’Donnell’s distance, hang time and placement were superior overall.”

    “‘I’m learning that you can’t outkick your coverage,’ O’Donnell said. ‘In college, you can kind of get away with it. Definitely learning how to hit that 45-yard ball, fair catch, so it’s all net (yardage), and not getting that big return when you hit a 60-yard punt.'”

  • Also from Finley:

    “[Defensive coordinator Mel] Tucker said there was ‘no dropoff’ for defensive end Shea McClellin on his first day in pads.”

    Yes, well, not at defensive end, no.

  • Former NFL defensive back Matt Bowen on safety Adrian Wilson for the Chicago Tribune:

    “The former Pro Bowler understands leverage, he can play top down from his Cover-2 landmark and he knows how to practice like a pro in terms of alignment and responsibility in the secondary.

    “However, when watching Wilson, I didn’t see that extra gear — or burst — that allows safeties to get off the numbers in Cover-2 or transition versus the throw as an underneath defender in three-deep coverage.”

  • Dan Wiederer at the Chicago Tribune on Ratliff:

    “Tight end Martellus Bennett, who was a teammate of Ratliff’s in Dallas for four seasons, admires Ratliff’s intelligence and humility but loves that he also ‘plays angry and nasty.’

    “‘You want defensive lineman who don’t use knives and forks. They eat everything with their hands,’ Bennett said. ‘You want to find guys who are closer to being barbarians.'”

  • Mullin points out that quarterback Jay Cutler is taking second team snaps in camp this year:

    “Last year the Bears came to camp with just three quarterbacks — Cutler, Josh McCown, Matt Blanchard — in part because the plan was to give Cutler increased snaps in what was a new offense.”

    “This year, with four quarterbacks, the approach is still to acclimate him, this time to personnel. The Bears avoided significant injuries on offense other than those to Cutler, and a goal is to have comfort levels with more just the starters.”

    “‘He’s not only working with the 1’s,’ Trestman said, ‘but he’s working with the guys, not only Alshon and Brandon, Marquess [Wilson] but the other guys are in this competition to make this team at wide receiver.'”

  • Mullin also makes a good point about how performances camp are already demonstrating the improvement in the Bears depth on defense:
  • More concern about the linebacking corps on Sports Talk Live:


    • When I heard that Colts owner Jim Irsay was handing out $100 bills to fans at the teams training camp, I thought it was weird. When I read the probable explanation from Mike Florio at, it actually got weirder.
    • Things sound a little rough for the Jets right now. From Josh Alper, also at
    • There are signs that the NFL may finally be getting ready to act on Los Angeles. From Sam Farmer writing for the Chicago Tribune:

“This season, for the first time, the San Diego Chargers, Oakland Raiders and St. Louis Rams are all on year-to-year leases, possibly setting the stage for one or more of them to move. (NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and others have repeatedly ruled out the possibility of an expansion franchise, insisting that if L.A. gets a team it will be because of relocation.)

“Cowboys owner Jerry] Jones makes it sound as if the league is poised to act, but we’ve heard this kind of talk many, many times over the years. Neither the NFL nor L.A. has budged in this two-decade standoff.”

One Final Thought

Defensive tackle Nate Collin got most of the defensive underdog hype from the press yesterday after the first day of one-on-one padded drills in camp. But Bob LeGere at the Daily Herald chose to give defensive end Trevor Scott some love. Something tells me fans may want to pay attention to this one. He’s coming off of a torn ACL in 2010 and sometimes they take a while to come all the way back (as Collins, who tore his last year, is likely to find out). Sometimes you just have to wait for the right situation to manifest itself after that. The Bears might turn out to be that for Scott and they might have picked him up at the just right time.

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