I understand that by giving these guys Saturday off, the Bears are effectively giving them two days in a row. But I still think it’s odd. They’re usually more fan-friendly. Via Rich Campbell at the Chicago Tribune.
On a related note, cornerback Tim Jennings‘s continued absence is becoming troublesome. Remember that he’s effectively trying to reconnect with the nickelback position. This is almost certainly stunting his growth.
Hub Arkush at chicagofootball.com on the continued absence of Chris Conte and Craig Steltz due to offseason surgery:
“It’s hard to guess how significant their injuries are to the team’s future at safety as both players could be long shots to make the club this year after Adrian Wilson, Ryan Mundy, M.D. Jennings and Danny McCray were all brought in via veteran free agency and Brock Vereen was drafted in the fourth round.”
“Wilson got his first reps with the starters at Friday’s practice and quite a few more Saturday night. While both starting safety spots will almost certainly be up for grabs for at least a few more weeks, the five-time Pro Bowler will be extremely difficult to unseat if he proves to be 100 percent healthy.”
“Wilson and Mundy are the most experienced and accomplished of the safeties in camp and while both have played mostly strong safety, it’s hard to ignore they ran together with the first unit at Saturday night’s practice.”
I would have to agree with Hub. We’ll see how the preseason goes but I think Bears fans might have seen what will eventually turn out to be the starters last night.
“There was another shotgun snap on the ground, this time by Roberto Garza. It’s happening too frequently.”
Most writers (including me) have trashed the idea of signing Kyle Orton to back up quarterback Jay Cutler. Most of us are convinced that Orton left the Cowboys because he wants to retire. Nevertheless statements made by general manager Phil Emery to ESPN radio make it apparent that he hasn’t ruled it out. Via Michael C. Wright at ESPN.com:
“‘There’s an interest on our end on looking at any player that can help this team, and we continue to do that,’ Emery said. ‘We want to keep looking at players that can really have a legitimate chance to make our team. If there’s a quarterback, a wideout, a defensive person — a DB that could help us — we’re certainly gonna look at him.’ “
John Mullin at CSNChicago.compoints out that the Bears third preseason game will be more significant than usual because its against Seattle:
Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune and Dave Birkett at the Detroit Free Press get together in this video and echo many of my own thoughts on the NFC North race:
Former NFL general manager Charlie Casserly doesn’t seem to be thrilled with the Dallas Cowboy’s linebackers. To say the least. From The Dallas Morning News:
“[Rolando] McClain … let me say this. I would never have taken this guy with the eighth pick in the draft. I think this guy is not good enough. I don’t think he’s physical enough. I don’t think his instincts are good. I don’t think he can cover; I don’t think he can play. To me, it was a trade that is a waste of time. They were hoping, I guess, to get a big guy in the middle because [Justin] Durant and [DeVonte] Holloman aren’t that kind of a guy. Hey, I’m going to go see them in 10 days. I hope he’s not there to waste my time with him.”
“The veteran quarterback from Forney [High School] hasn’t been sharp throughout the first week of camp. He’s struggled with his accuracy and seems far behind backup quarterback Brandon Weeden at this point.”
Frank Buffington, also at Cowboys Nation, has an interesting take on the ability of Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett as a game manager:
“Last season, Jerry Jones talked about Garrett learning and improving as a head coach. Jones appears to be banking on Garrett being able to either learn to be better in game management situations or simply hoping that he improves with experience. But what if assessing multiple variables in mere seconds while under tremendous pressure and while performing several other tasks just isn’t a particular talent or ability that Garrett has? Garrett appears to be a very analytical thinker, which is an asset for the development of a long term strategy. However, studies of personality types indicate that analytical people typically struggle when forced to make quick decisions. This is likely because they like to analyze and process a large amount of information when making decisions, which typically isn’t possible when a quick decision is required.”
Buffington goes on to suggest that the Cowboys hire a “game management specialist”. Not too sure about that one…
Packer’s first round pick Ha Ha Clinton-Dixremains a back up behind Micah Hyde. It’s still early but considering how miserable the Packers were at the position last year, I’d say its not a good sign that Clinton-Dix hasn’t broken the lineup over one of the incumbents. From Tyler Dunne of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
To my eye the Packers were one of the worst tackling teams in the NFL last year. So I guess its no surprise that there’s some distress in Packer land about the lack of tackling in camp. Also from the Journal Sentinel.
The Packers are an anomaly in that, though they seem to draft reasonably well, Tom Silverstein at the Journal Sentinel points out that they’ve continued to miss in the first round. And its killing their defense.
“Even though they know the officials are placing an emphasis on contact in the passing game, they did not expect what they saw. There were about 20 reps in the [receiver-defensive back one-on-one drill] and by unofficial count, the officials threw flags on 10 of them. Only one was on a receiver.”
Ben Goessling at ESPN.comquotes Vikings special-teams coach Mike Priefer, on the NFL experimenting with a rule to move extra points back to the 15-yard line:
“Eventually, it’s probably going to change. I’ve kind of accepted that fact. It’s going to be tougher for the northern cities that have the wind and the weather because a 33-yard field goal, to me, is still not a chip shot. Even the extra point, I know it’s 99 percent, but it’s something they want to change and if they want to do it, we have to embrace it like any other change on special teams. You’ve got to embrace it and change what we do a little bit and move on.”
“During Family Fest, the players are introduced by the public address announcer by position before the workout, and they run out of a smoke-filled tunnel as fireworks go off as they enter the field. As the offensive players were announced, they ran out of the tunnel individually. When the defensive players were announced, each position group came out of the tunnel simultaneously, as somewhat of a display of solidarity.”
I’ve never been a big fan of these player introductions. The NFL isn’t the NBA (thank goodness). Each player at least to some extent suppresses his individuality for the good of the team. The introductions of single players or even of position groups counter a lot of what the game is about.
I know they’re traditional and the Bears work hard to make them look nice with all of the smoke and the inflatable tunnel and all. But, really, would fans miss them all that much?
“‘Yeah, I mean, it was probably more difficult for Jim than us,’ Hall said. ‘You know, we were going through all week practicing a certain call, knowing that we were going to call it in certain situations. And there would be certain times where Mike WOULD overrule Jim.’”
“‘And football, especially defense, it’s a game of chess moreso than checkers,’ Hall said. ‘You can’t go out there thinking you’re going to just put a chip here and jump. You’ve got to almost set it up four or five plays ahead of time, knowing you’re going to come back to something that looks pretty similar to the defense you just ran.”
Just how much input a head coach should have in these situations is an interesting question. He is, after all, called the “head coach” for a reason. In the end, its his “head” on the block. You aren’t hired to coach the offense. You’re hired to coach the whole team.
“‘Honestly, I trust [offensive coordinator Norv Turner]‘s judgment,’ Zimmer said. ‘I’ll come in and talk to him about, ‘How are we going to get this guy blocked this week? What do you think the best runs are?’ We talked about a couple things last night. But the biggest input for me will be, ‘Alright, it’s this situation, Norv; we need to run the ball here. We’ve been running it down their throats. Let’s not throw it three times. Let’s get another run in there, give the ball to Adrian [Peterson] or whatever it is. Or things that I see on tape; they’re having a hard time [with] no-backfield formations, or things like that.’”
But even that might be going too far. If the Vikings start losing (and the odds are they will) such interference might be resented in the same way that Shanahan’s was.
I’ve pushed repeatedly for Bears head coach Marc Trestman to be more involved with the defense and I hold to that. But its evident that it should have its limits. When I think about these types of situations I’m reminded of the way that former Rams head coach Dick Vermeil handled the penchant of offensive coordinator Mike Martz to pass the ball too much. Verimeil said he would occasionally call up to the booth and gently remind Martz not to forget about the run. But he never told him what to call or when to call it. My guess is that’s about as far as it should go on game day.
“David Fales, quarterback: ‘‘Jay Cutler has been great. Anytime you have someone with the experience he does, with that ability and talent, it’s so helpful. He’s reached out to me on several occasions, which he didn’t have to do, so that means a lot.’’”
This has become a common theme. Recall that backup Jimmy Clausen mentioned that Cutler spent a weekend studying with him after he was picked up by the Bears. I think Cutler learned a lot from his experiences with Josh McCown.
“‘[Palmer] knows the system very well and had some work last year — but not a lot, even in practice,’ Cavanaugh said. ‘So that’s where he’s catching up now is on the field, and he’s doing a good job. He’s a tall [6-5], strong-armed guy who’s smart and makes good decisions.’
“The Bears covet quarterbacks who can make decisions and avoid turnovers more than anything in Trestman’s offense, and Cavanaugh said those are two of Palmer’s strengths.”
Clausen has been generally considered to be the better quarterback in camp because of his willingness to push the ball down field. But its possible that’s not what the Bears are really looking for in a back up quarterback.
“Jones will be an interesting test case for the Bears coaching staff — can they find the right spot for him and develop his unique ability? Jones was incredibly versatile at Florida State — he played the strong side and weak side linebacker positions in 4-3 defenses; and inside and outside linebacker positions in a 3-4. But for some strange reason, players like that sometimes find themselves without a position in the NFL. It’ll be interesting to see if the Bears can find the right spot, because they seem to know they have something to work with, but also that it won’t happen overnight.”
This statement goes against the comments of many observers who have’t been impressed with Marquess Wilson. It may speak more to the mediacrity of the competition. Via Potash:
“Second-year pro Marquess Wilson still leads the competition for the No. 3 wide receiver spot, [Bears head coach Marc] Trestman said in a rare acknowledgement of positional rankings.”
“‘He was Mr. Intensity before that was the cool thing to be,’ Collinsworth said. ‘He was born to coach. In football, passion sells. It’s hard to go to practice every day. Something hurts all the time or it’s hot or the pads stink. Football is a lifestyle of ‘something is wrong.’
“‘With Reggie, every day was sunshine. Every day was the greatest day of his life that he got to walk around the field and play football.’”
“On a day in which the defense was active and energetic, linebacker Lance Briggs made plays. During one session of 11-on-11 work, Briggs broke on a Cutler pass to Martellus Bennett and deflected it, punctuating the play by running past the bleachers with his right fist in the air. Some fans, however, are never happy. ‘Next time catch it!’ one yelled to Briggs.”
Although I’d never heard of him before the Bears signed him, linebacker DeDe Lattimore‘s name keeps popping up in reports from camp. He’s making plays against back ups but the more I see his name, the more I think it may mean something.
Speaking of under the radar players, I think this report from Michael C. Wright at ESPN.com is notable:
“Veteran defensive end Trevor Scott hasn’t received much publicity throughout camp, but he’s proven deserving over the first several days of camp. In addition to size and physicality, Scott showcases a plethora of pass-rushing moves on a day-to-day basis that could make him a contributor to the rotation up front. One staffer called Scott ‘the real deal so far’ at camp.”
Lattimore is probably competing for a spot on the practice squad. But Scott very well might be a major contributor before this thing is all over. He’ll be someone to watch very closely in the preseason games.
“Special teams units are often filled with younger players, but there is no shortage of established veterans [general manager Phil] Emery has brought in this offseason to bolster [special teams coordinator Joe] DeCamillis’ transitioning unit. From [Jordan] Senn to Danny McCray to M.D Jennings to Ryan Mundy, not to mention returning contributors like Sherrick McManis and Eric Weems, the Bears have a wealth of experienced and prideful core special teamers.”
Unlike many fans, I gave DeCamillis a pass for the most part last year. They can’t all be Dave Toub.
But that’s all over. Emery paid a lot of attention to special teams in the offseason and if they under-perform again, I strongly suspect that DeCamillis will (and should) pay the price.
I think labeling this one “unofficial” might be more accurate:
San Antonio Chamber of Commerce executive Richard Perez told SiriusXM NFL Radio that the Raiders are taking “a serious look” at the city. Via Mike Wilkening at profootballtalk.com:
“Perez also shed some light on Davis’ message to city officials.
“‘I will you tell that I felt very, very comfortable and confident that his word was true,’ Perez said. ‘And he said, ‘Look, you know, I’m not telling you that I’m coming today, but I will tell you that I’m looking, and you all are definitely someone that we’re looking very closely at.’’”
This probably isn’t smoke. The Raiders are on a one year lease and Steelers owner Art Rooneytold Sirius “The Raiders have a stadium situation that’s difficult. Something is going to have to give.” With the 49ers the NFL doesn’t need two teams in the Bay Area. Whether its San Antonio or somewhere else, the possibility that the Raiders will move sooner rather than later is very real.
Even with the difficulties involved in this particular case, I’m not entirely sure why Josh Gordon‘s hearing is taking so long. But it can only mean good things if you’re a Browns fan. From Darin Gantt at profootballtalk.com.
William C. Roden at the New York Timeson the effect that Rex Ryan is having on the Jets. Ryan has toned it down in recent years because in an effort to keep a lower profile, something the organization apparently wanted at the time. Not so this year:
“With his job possibly on the line, Ryan has apparently decided that if he is going to get fired, he will go out the way he came in — with bravado on full throttle.
“[Offensive tack D’Brickashaw] Ferguson said the importance of Ryan’s return as the coach with the bullhorn was that he was re-establishing confidence in his players.
“‘When you believe, ‘Maybe I can do it,’ and you have people who motivate you and encourage you, it really puts you in a position to say: ‘You know what? This is going to happen; I need to buy in.’ ‘”
Former Bears Scouting Director Greg Gabriel at the National Football Poston Julius Peppers, now with the Packers:
“Peppers will have some big games early in the season and many in the media will criticize the Bears for letting him go. The problem with that criticism is that the season isn’t five or six games, it’s 16. I have no doubt that the Julius Peppers we see in September will not be the Julius Peppers we see in mid-November and December. I am sure his play will drop off dramatically, just like it has over the last few years. When you are in your mid-30s and have played 13 years in the NFL, that’s what happens.”
Bashing Peppers, especially among Bears fans, is fashionable nowadays. But everyone, including Gabriel, would be well advised to remember that Peppers release was almost entirely about his cap number. If he’d been making less, he’d still be a Bear and we almost certainly wouldn’t be hearing any of this.
“The Packers are waiting for a tight end to emerge from a three-man competition with no guarantee anyone will in the club’s effort to replace Jermichael Finley.
“For the second straight offseason, Aaron Rodgers lost a primary target at wide receiver as James Jones departed via free agency for the Raiders.
“But the Packers have Rodgers back, healthy and rested, and that alone makes them the favorite in the NFC North.”
It’s hard to argue with him. The addition of Eddie Lacy to the running game and Peppers to the defense is going to make them very tough. Again.
But it goes well beyond that. Over the years the Packers have shown a bad habit of getting it done when they have to. The Bears often haven’t. Not as often as the Vikings. But pretty often. They’re are going to have to start showing that they can perform when it counts if they want to be in the Packer’s class. I’m pretty sure that’s what part of what Trestman means when he says that they have to get “tougher”.
“I want to single out defensive end Jared Allen for two stops he made against the run in third-and-short situational drills. Allen’s affinity for sacks is well documented. On third-and-short, though, when the offense has the luxury to either run or pass, Allen read the running plays and executed accordingly. His suddenness getting off blocks helped the defense win the downs, as did his understanding of where his help was.
“‘I just try to set an edge and make sure the ball doesn’t get outside me, and then try to fall back in and help on the tackle,’ he said.”
Pretty much all reports indicate that linebacker Shea McClellin is having a rough transition to linebacker. Campbell’s is no exception:
“McClellin plays with the second-string nickel package and the first-string base defense, which means he currently is not on the field in many obvious passing situations. That could change during games, of course, but it’s something to keep an eye on, especially because the Bears have touted McClellin as a pass rush specialist as they try to jumpstart his career at linebacker.”
“Defensive end Willie Young senses a heightened sophistication in the Bears’ defense compared with the one he played in during his first four seasons with the Lions. Said Young: ‘I didn’t have too many responsibilities besides getting after the quarterback and doing everything on the run. … (Here) you definitely have to have some brains. You have your responsibilities. It gets more complex than that. But everybody has a job to do and everybody is held accountable to be where they’re supposed to be.’”
Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribunequotes Young on how he managed only three sacks last year when he had a massive 48 quarterbacks hurries last year:
“‘Some sacks I just completely freaking blew,’ Young said. ‘Beating the tackle so quick, moving so fast, it’s, ‘Whoa! How did I miss this guy?’ You just name (the game) and go down the list, there were games I could have had five sacks. Could is a big word with my statement.’”
Let’s hope its a word he can drop this year. Most of the time when this happens its because the defensive lineman is going so hard after the quarterback that he can’t control his body and make adjustments to the quarterback’s movement in the pocket. Whether Young can get to the quarterback with the same consistency and still maintain the balance needed to finish will be interesting to see as the season progresses.
“‘His mental side of the game I am very impressed with,’ Slauson said. ‘The things that he picks up about what I do, now I have to change my whole game for him.
“‘A lot of times you go against a rookie and you’re like, ‘Ah, I can just take a normal set because I know he doesn’t know a lot.’ But that worked for a day. He’s changed everything, and now I’ve got to change. It’s awesome.’”
To this day this topic is so painful it was all I could do to just scan the article.
“The most common ‘new’ flag we’ll see in preseason, they said, is a false start penalty for offense linemen — particularly centers — who made sudden movements, under the guise of communicating with their teammates, to try to draw an offside penalty.”
Kevin Fishbain at chicagofootball.comadds this one which may turn out to be more important:
“In the past, a grab of the jersey would be ignored if it did not impede a receiver’s route to make a catch, but with the precision of so many timed routes around the league (like the Bears’ offense), jersey grabs will be watched closely. Cornerbacks Charles Tillman, Tim Jennings and Kyle Fuller, who can all be very physical, will need to keep that physicality inside the five yards when the quarterback is in the pocket, otherwise flags will fly.”
“Coach Jim Harbaugh would describe the maturation of his quarterback in terms a techie could appreciate.
“‘Colin [Kaepernick] is at the highest level, where he can auto-correct,’ Harbaugh said of his fourth-year quarterback at training camp this week. ‘You know, like auto-correcting in texting or whatever. Even if a coach makes a mistake, it’s wrong in the script, the play is called into him wrong, he just auto-corrects it and doesn’t ask, ‘Hey, is that right or wrong?’”
The 49ers seem to be depending upon former Bears wide receiver Brandon Lloyd to do big things this year:
“‘He does this thing in meetings that I have not seen before,’ [Harbaugh] said. ‘He’ll be sitting in his chair watching the tape and go through his route. And all of a sudden here comes a swim move [pantomiming the move], or a slap of the arm. And then sometimes he’ll stand up and, you know, it’s a jab step.
“‘Talk about full speed mentally and 100% engaged in the meeting. I mean, I’ve never seen a guy at any level go through a meeting like that. It just makes me giggle and giddy to watch him do it. Wish I had seen that earlier in my career and could have adopted that into my meeting game. It’s awesome.’”
As this video from Mike Florio at profootballtalk.com implies, most people think the contract that offensive tackle Tyron Smith signed yesterday with the Cowboys is a horrible deal. It’s 10 years with relatively little money guaranteed. That’s OK if all it affects is Smith but the contract is so egregiously bad that the NFLPA and most of the agents are angry and they fear that the will affect negotiations for other players.
One Final Thought
The NFL is implementing what amounts to a GPS system (though that’s not precisely what it is) for players on the field in 15 stadiums this year. The system provides positioning data to broadcasters and, eventually, coaches. I’m having a hard time getting excited about this but we’ll see where it goes. Via Ellen Jean Hirst at the Tribune.
“Irvin pointed out how Marshall uses his size and speed to separate on horizontal routes. At 6-foot-5, Marshall is imposing. So when Marshall bears down (pun intended!) on a cornerback at the top of his route, a cornerback has to respect Marshall’s physical presence, sometimes by backing off. That often helps Marshall create space coming out of his break.
“He lauded [Alshon] Jeffery’s fluidity and spatial awareness after Jeffery caught a deep pass from quarterback Jay Cutler near the right sideline at the end of practice. From a wide split, Jeffery drove his route up the field, pushing rookie cornerback Kyle Fuller inside. That created space for Cutler to target his pass toward the sideline. Cutler exploited the space with an accurate throw that Jeffery ran underneath and caught. Irvin appreciated how Jeffery created the space for himself with his route direction and then smoothly got back to the outside.
“After practice, Fuller said he must be more aware of the space between him and sideline and narrow that to limit Cutler’s margin for error and Jeffery’s range to catch the ball. Such lessons are part of his daily development at this point.”
“When he was pressured during team drills, he climbed the pocket to extend the play. He kept both hands on the ball — a technique coach Marc Trestman and quarterbacks coach Matt Cavanaugh want their quarterbacks to prioritize in the pocket — and maintained a sound, athletic base. That enabled him to keep his eyes downfield and complete a pass to Chris Williams over the middle.
“On a similar play earlier in camp, Fales’ legs were too close together as he shuffled forward. That resulted in him being too upright. He had to quickly reset into a throwing position, but the awkwardness resulted in an errant pass.”
It wouldn’t be right to do it or I would have quoted most of this article for the blog. It’s recommended reading.
“With only 10 career starts, McCray was considered just a special-teams addition. But the Bears have lived up to their promise that the competition would be wide open.
“‘Everyone has an equal chance,’ McCray said.
“‘Danny has worked to an extent that he gets a chance to get some work there,’ [head coach Marc] Trestman said.
“‘We just wanted to see how Brock handles the situation. And how does Danny handle moving up? It all goes into the gathering of information to make decisions at the end.’”
Though offensive guard Kyle Long has been cleared to play by doctors, Mark Potash at the Chicago Sun-Timesnotes that the two days of noncontact work before he actually practices in pads Saturday night is required by the collective bargaining agreement.
Potash also says that “Will Sutton continues to look like the rookie DT who will make the most impact this season. But it’s early.” I would say that Sutton is more likey to appear to make the most impact. The position of nose guard isn’t very glamourous, especially if Ego Ferguson‘s primary responsibility will be to keep the offensive lineman off of the linebackers. But its probably going to be darned important.
“Linebackers coach Reggie Herring and defensive backs coach Jon Hoke worked with the offense — Herring with the tight ends and running backs and Hoke with wide receivers — in a ball security drill. Marc Trestman is very vocal about ballcarriers putting the ball away. Herring and Hoke can offer pointers from the perspective of having coached defensive players on stripping the ball.”
“According to the online sports book Bovada, 95 percent of the money wagered on the Bears’ upcoming season has Chicago favored to win more than 8.5 games, meaning only five percent of the public is betting they won’t have a winning record after going 8-8 last season.”
Shame on Tony Andracki at csnchicago.com (or whatever editor is responsible for the assignment) for drumming up this non-story so early in the year.
“Trestman spent several minutes after practice working with backup quarterbacks Jordan Palmer and Jimmy Clausen, putting the duo through rope-ladder drills. Holding the ball, the quarterbacks simulated their drops through the ladder. It appears the coach is working to improve the quarterbacks’ footwork.”
Not to be too critical but I would have liked to have heard that Cutler was doing it with them.
Potash also notes that reciever Chris Williams had some first-team reps in practice. On a related note, Potash apparently isn’t ready to concede the third reciever positon to Marquess Wilson like the rest of us:
“Still waiting for someone to emerge as the No. 3 receiver. Marquess Wilson leads but almost by default. Williams and [Eric] Weems have been the most impressive challengers. But it’s early. “
The question of who is going to step up at this position isn’t a trivial one. This article from Hub Arkush at chicagofootball.com emphasizes the point:
“Last Monday, a funny thing happened to the Chicago Bears on their march to Super Bowl XLIX. Alshon Jeffery missed practice No. 4 of this year’s training camp with a minor toe injury. Then, the Bears’ perceived juggernaut of an offense stopped working.
“To say the passing game ground to a halt is a bit of an overstatement but Brandon Marshall started dropping passes, Jay Cutler threw a pick and then started missing receivers and the defense clearly won the day.”
“I can’t imagine anyone even debating that Marshall and Jeffery aren’t the best wide receiver duo in the NFL, and if both are healthy throughout this season the Bears can be an offensive juggernaut.
“But Monday confirmed something I’ve feared all summer. The team is dangerously thin behind its dynamic duo and when one goes down, the whole offense can run amok.”
Arkush goes on to evaluate the competition. Its the kind of thing that makes those who root for the underdog smile. But teh rest of us who recognize that effort can only go so far may have cause for conern:
“After Marshall and Jeffery, Chris Williams and Eric Weems have clearly been the next best pass catchers in camp, not including Matt Forte and Martellus Bennett, of course.
“The irony here is that Williams was brought in to return kickoffs and punts and Weems specializes in special teams as well.
“One standing on the other’s shoulders could barely look Marshall or Jeffery in the eye.”
Like Arkush, I recognize that with Matt Forte and Martellus Bennett also catching passes, the Bears offense will probably be fine with Marshall and Jeffery. But heaven help us if one of them goes down.
“Offseason signs of growth in Cutler depict the man Marshall describes. But as good as Marshall’s intentions were, casting Cutler the player as a preseason MVP candidate only establishes unrealistic expectations set unnecessarily high. Cutler needs to run the offense. Protect the football. Make smart throws and decisions. Every now and then, show off that $127 million arm and be the reason the Bears beat a team they shouldn’t.
“But win the MVP? Cutler could enjoy the most successful year ever and lead the Bears into the playoffs without finishing in the Top 10.”
“That’s where the [Bears head coach Marc] Trestman effect — a higher completion percentage, fewer mistakes and fewer bad games — could turn Cutler into an MVP candidate. An efficient Cutler is an elite quarterback.”
I’m going with Haugh on this one. The word “elite” is thrown around too easily, especially when it comes to quarterbacks.
For instance, Aaron Rogers makes the players around him better. He makes up for a host of deficiencies on a small market team that depends heavily upon younger draft picks and almost never spends anything significant in free agency. In contrast, Cutler needs those around him to make him better and when the ship is sinking, he goes down with it. Hub Arkush at chicagofootball.com indirectly helps me make my point:
“Last Monday, a funny thing happened to the Chicago Bears on their march to Super Bowl XLIX. Alshon Jeffery missed practice No. 4 of this year’s training camp with a minor toe injury. Then, the Bears’ perceived juggernaut of an offense stopped working.
“To say the passing game ground to a halt is a bit of an overstatement but Brandon Marshall started dropping passes, Jay Cutler threw a pick and then started missing receivers and the defense clearly won the day.”
Cutler is (depending on how you define “MVP”) neither the best player in the league, nor the most valuable.
I know it sounds like I’m trashing Cutler. I’m not. He can be a fine quarterback and if he performs to his abilities the Bears will be lucky to have him. But there are only – maybe – four quarterbacks in the entire league that you could really call “elite”. He’s just not one of them.
Cutler’s not going to be the MVP. Or if he is, it won’t be justified. It’s just not who he is.
“Right now, his ability to play any position and be effective — to me, he’s more valuable than any guy I got. He’s the only guy right now that I feel comfortable that can line up at every position and know what to do and be effective.”
I also thought this nugget from Potash was interesting:
“One particularly intriguing Herring project is Christian Jones, an undrafted rookie from Florida State who signed with the Bears in part because of Herring, who played linebacker with Jones’ father, Willie Jones Sr., at Florida State in 1978.
“‘He has a great body you want to develop,’ Herring said of the 6-3, 240-pound Jones. ‘He’s a great kid. We’re excited about him being here. He’s raw. There is a process. But we are very pleased with where he is.’”
Given the log jam at linebacker, Jones is starting to sound like a practice squad candidate. But that’s assuming the Bears believe that no one will try to put him on their roster if they release him.
“You know what? I really enjoy watching my teammates make plays. I always have been that way. That’s just the way I am. A lot of guys are, ‘I want to make the play,’ but I genuinely get excited to watch my teammates make plays.”
“‘I hope they’re leaning on each other,’ Pasqualoni said. ‘Because this is too hard to try to do all by yourself. I hope they’re leaning on each other and I hope they’re leaning on the older guys as well.’”
The guys at chicagofootball.comreview the action from Monday (they had yesterday off). The thoughts of Kevin Fishbain on the defensive line were interesting. The unit will be critical to the Bears success. He’s particularly impressed with Trevor Scott, calling him the Bears fourth best defensive end. I’m not too surprised. We’ll see if it translates into performances in the preseason games.
“‘It’s the Buffalo Bills, and they will do everything they can to make that work there,’ consultant to the Toronto group recently told the Buffalo News.
“Which doesn’t make it any better.
“‘They will do everything they can to make that work there’ possibly means, ‘They’ll dog paddle in Buffalo, saying all the right until the lease allows them to load up the Mayflowers and declare, ‘Well, we did everything possible to make it work there. Bye.’”
“I believe [Lamarr] Houston is a particularly sensitive case when it comes to discipline. Houston and Willie Young, another new defensive lineman. They came from perhaps the two dumbest organizations in the NFL — the Raiders and Lions, respectively — so it’s likely neither has learned what tough really is. The Raiders act like they earn bonuses for stupid play, while the Lions under Jim Schwartz were unanimous winners in the Village Idiots race.
“But guess what: It’s a lot tougher to display discipline than lash out with fists. So the Bears fights or scuffles or skirmishes fail the tough-guy test.”
Bears running backs coach Skip Peteon Matt Forte. Via Dan Wiederer at the Chicago Tribune:
“‘The guy has an unbelievable feel for the game. And once he’s seen something, he doesn’t forget it. So early in a game, he’ll see how a defender is playing on a certain route or fitting on a certain block. Then the next time around, when that play’s called, he already has that sense for what he wants to do. He has such a terrific understanding of the structure of a defense and the responsibility of the guys on defense — who can come on a pressure, who’s supposed to fit where. That helps him make quicker decisions on all he has to do.’”
The competition for roster spots at positions like defensive line and safety seem to get the most attention. But it seems to me like the real problem spot is linebacker. Michael C. Wright‘s roster projection for ESPN.com is typical. He’s keeping Khaseem Greene and Christian Jones but kicking the Bears best special teams player, Jordan Senn, to the curb. The final list of personnel at this position is going to be interesting.
“Undrafted rookie strong-side linebacker Christian Jones continues to stand out because of how fluidly he runs, especially for such a big backer (6-foot-3, 240). The more I watch him drop in coverage, change directions and run, the more convinced I become that he’s going to make the 53-man roster.”
“Position coach Reggie Herring called Jones raw on Sunday, but the Bears really like his physical ability.”
Campbell has been paying close attention to the one-on-one pass rush drills between the offensive and defensive linemen. He is careful to state that the defensive linemen have an advantage in these drills. But his reports on the daily battles between Jordan Mills and Lamarr Houston aren’t doing anything to make me more comfortable with Mills at right offensive tackle.
I also found this report from Campbell to be significant:
“Rookie Pat O’Donnell did not punt as well Monday as he did Sunday. O’Donnell didn’t hit the ball consistently cleanly. In the second punting period — the one I charted — Tress Way unofficially averaged 51 yards and 4.26 seconds of hang time on four punts. O’Donnell unofficially averaged 45 yards and 3.74 seconds on his four punts. And, no, there were no ‘Mega Punt’ chants for O’Donnell on Monday.”
“One thing I’ve noticed over the first few days of training camp is that Way and kicker Robbie Gould are often together.”
Reports like this one from Matt Bowen at the Chicago Tribune are an encouraging sign that Marquess Wilson will win the number three wide receiver spot and will be an upgrade at the position over Earl Bennett:
“A very fluid athlete, Wilson doesn’t have elite lateral quickness, but he has improved his release points at the line of scrimmage along with his footwork at the top of the route stem when coming back downhill to the football.”
Not to make too big of a deal out of these things early in camp but Alshon Jeffrey (sore foot) and Matt Slauson (right shoulder) not finishing practice is a tad alarming. Slauson had surgery on the shoulder in the offseason but was supposedly fully recovered. Cornerback Tim Jennings remains out with a sore quadriceps muscle. Add the fact that Kyle Long, who was supposed to be back on the field by now, was still out due to a viral infection and these issues may add up to something of significance. Wiederer would seem to agree:
“Long’s absence might be the most troublesome at this point. The Bears continue to insist that they don’t expect the Pro Bowl lineman to miss extended time. But head coach Marc Trestman admitted that Long’s development certainly isn’t being furthered with all the missed practice the past week.”
“‘The only struggle that I’ve had with the transition is just how strong everybody is,’ said Sutton, a two-time Pac-12 defensive player of the year at Arizona State. ‘The weight room is one of the biggest factors out here right now. I’m a young guy out here with guys who have been doing it for a while, so experience plays a role. I’ve just got to get out here and take the room weight room seriously.’”
I’m not surprised. Sutton is one of those undersized guys that former head coach Lovie Smith used to love. He is supposed to be relying on his quickness to get by rather than his strength. He undoubtedly does need to get stronger and that will help. But that’s never going to be his strong suit. So he’d better find another way to get it done.
“Coach Marc Trestman seemed irked by a question from a reporter who referred to a story that indicated Trestman preferred Jordan Palmer to Jimmy Clausen as the backup quarterback.
“‘That couldn’t be,’ Trestman said. ‘I’ve never said anything to that at all. I’ve said that it’s a competition, that it’s an open competition. I’ve never been asked a question in two years like that, but my answer is as simple as it can be, and that is that it’s a competition. I haven’t even thought about at this point who that guy would be. I want to let it happen, and it will.’”
“[Wide receiver Brandon] Marshall actually called out [rookie cornerback Kyle] Fuller’s name and waved him over to face him during one-on-one drills. After one incompletion, Marshall gave Fuller a fist bump while walking back to their lines.
“‘I love going against Brandon Marshall,’ Fuller said.”
Bob LeGere at the Daily Herald was the only reporter to note that Marshall had “a bad case of the drops” yesterday. It didn’t stand out as much last year but Marshall is known for dropping the ball more than most wide receivers. Here’s hoping that the tendency doesn’t return this year.
“It looks to me and a number of other veteran observers like, if the season started tomorrow, [Jimmy] Clausen is the second best QB in camp. [Quarterbacks coach Matt] Cavanaugh is just glad Marc Trestman doesn’t have to make that call yet.”
Tight end Dante Rosariomay be in trouble. From Kevin Fishbain at chicagofootball.com:
“Dante Rosario had a false start and a drop, but did have a catch up the seam late. Matthew Mulligan may have the early edge at No. 2 tight end.”
Mulligan had the edge going in as it is. He’s a very good blocker that could eliminate the need to bring in back up tackle Eben Britton as an extra lineman in running situations. Mulligan is more of a threat to catch passes in such a role.
On a similar, ominous note, we haven’t heard defensive end Cornelius Washington‘s name much in camp.
“Cutler has a different demeanor this year, Bennett said.
“‘Usually, he could just easily go through the motions in [individual drills], especially when it’s hot,’ he said. ‘But he’s working on his drops, he’s working on his releases, he’s working on everything, just like every other player on the team.’
“Told of the comment, quarterbacks coach Matt Cavanaugh laughed that Bennett ‘has a different perspective’ and said he has never seen Cutler ‘disengaged’ in practice.”
“Rookie nose tackle Ego Ferguson flashes the ability to get up-field in one-on-one individual pass-rush drills, but Ferguson has ended up on the ground on at least three separate occasions since the pads came on. Ferguson needs to find the perfect combination of speed and balance to ensure he doesn’t take himself out of the play when games begin for real next month.”
Are you ready for some football? Apparently this guy is.
“[Redskins offensive coordinator Sean] McVay worked under [former Tampa Bay head coach Jon] Gruden for one year before the Bucs staff was fired. Then Gruden founded the Fired Football Coaches Association, which offered coaches a place to watch tape, exchange ideas, and in McVay’s case, absorb a lot of knowledge.”
One Final Thought
Defensive tackle Austen Lane messes with the head of Arthur Arkush at chicagofootball.com when he spins this tale:
“Ever wonder about what type of banter occurs immediately before a training camp practice scuffle ensues?”
“See, Lane and Britton were formerly teammates in Jacksonville – Lane a 2010 fifth-rounder, Britton a second-round pick one year earlier – and they know what makes the other one tick. But would you believe if we told you tempers flared due to a disagreement over fictional books?”
“‘We’re in the huddle, whatever, and he started talking to me about how Divergent is the better book series,’ Lane quipped after practice. ‘And I said, ‘no you’re stupid, Twilight is better.’ And that went back and forth … and then by the third play, I had to stand up for Twilight, man. And I stood my ground and we got in a little scrapple. But that happens when you talk about book series.’”
You know right away that its a joke. Not because science fiction books aren’t worth fighting over to a geek like me. But no one who isn’t a 14 year old girl would claim to have read Twilight. And it definitely wasn’t the better series.
“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 CSNChicago.com, 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.
“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.”
“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.’”
“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.”
“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 profootballtalk.com, it actually got weirder.
Things sound a little rough for the Jets right now. From Josh Alper, also at profootballtalk.com.
“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 Heraldchose 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.