On the Use of Twitter and Other Points of View

Bears

  • I was glad to hear tight end Martellus Bennett say that he would have handled the episode that led to his suspension “differently”. And the team seems satisfied with what they see. But I would have felt better about his return had he publicly admitted he’d done something wrong. From Dan Wiederer at the Chicago Tribune
  • Adam L. Jahns at the Chicago Sun-Times quotes cornerback Tim Jennings on trying to get his conditioning back after recovering from a bad quadriceps:

    “That’s what camp’s about — execute even when you’re tired.”

  • Linebackers coach Reggie Herring on Shea McClellin. Via Rich Campbell at the Chicago Tribune:

    “‘The bottom line is he’s out here and he has had an excellent camp, a nice OTAs,’ Herring said Monday. ‘He moves as good as any of these other linebackers. He has made plays as good as any backer out here.”

    That might be technically true. But if it is, it says more about the Bears other linebackers than it does about McClellin. More to the point was this quote:

    “It’s a process. Y’all be patient. We’ll know after the first [or] second game where we’re at with him.”

    The Bears are supposed to be starting linebackers who are ready to play now. If not now, then certainly by game 1. If you don’t have one, you go out and find one. Instead, in a camp that is supposed to be all about competition, McClellin has been given a starting job that he hasn’t yet earned, probably won’t have earned by the start of the season and may never earn. Kevin Fishbain at chicagofootball.com supports my point as he feels the need to mention this fun fact in his article today:

    “It had been assumed in the winter and then leading up to camp that the two young, early draft picks would compete at the ‘Sam’ linebacker spot, and it’s still early yet, but the Bears have stuck with McClellin as the starting strong-side linebacker, and [Jon] Bostic as the starting nickel linebacker and second-team middle linebacker.”

    Good organizations start the best guys based upon how they play, not their draft status. Apparently this isn’t one of them. Not a good sign for the long-term.

  • Special teams coordinator Joe DeCamillis on the possibility that Chris Williams might get an opportunity to return punts and kicks this Thursday. Via Wiederer:

    “‘You’ve got to catch the ball in a real live game and catch punts in a real live situation,’ DeCamillis said. ‘So we’ll see those things going forward.'”

    Something tells me that Williams is so far down the depth chart because he’s been dropping balls, not just as a returner, but as a wide receiver, as well.

Elsewhere

  • The Dolphins worked out former Bears quarterback Rex Grossman yesterday. Via Josh Alper at profootbaltalk.com.
  • Florida State inexplicably asked FSU fans to Tweet questions to quarterback Jameis Winston using the #AskJameis tag. Some of the more creative responses are worth reading. From Sean Newell at Deadspin.The incident is a lesson for those who want to be “edgy” and take advantage of trendy concepts like social media, but don’t really understand the fact that they have zero control over the very public results.
  • Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune addresses about the annual debate about tackling in training camp. The Bears don’t have live contact practices.:

    “Take a visit to Green Bay and you hear more shoulder pads crunching in the first 10 minutes than you do in most 2½-hour Bears practices.

    “‘It’s actually rewarding to hear you say that because sometimes you get criticism from people,’ Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. ‘It’s like, have you ever been to another training camp? How does your line develop? How does the front end of your offense and defense develop if you don’t have those [live] drills? Those combinations, they don’t just show back up where the fits are right and the feet are together and the balance and the anticipation coming off.”

    Ordinarily I would agree with McCarthy. But in fairness, I saw no obvious, systematic deficiencies in the tacking by the Bears in their first exhibition game.

One Final Thought

From Steve Rosenbloom at the Chicago Tribune:

“New NFL rule: Everything that football players do is a penalty.”

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Adrian Wilson Strikes a Different Tone and Other Points of View

Bears

  • The highlight of my night Friday was seeing undersized wide receiver Chris Williams beat press coverage off of the line and catch a dead, solid perfect pass from quarterback Jimmy Clausen. The fact that it went for a touchdown was just icing on the cake.

    The kicker? Williams pulled his hamstring before making the catch, not after. From Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune:

    “‘Things happen,’ Williams said. ‘I felt it right away. I went the distance not feeling 100 percent. I am disappointed I didn’t get to finish (the game).'”

  • Biggs continues with this interesting comment:

    “Williams’ speed sets him apart and that is why it’s a little hard to understand why he wasn’t given a shot in the return game. The plan was to work him and he was injured midway through the third quarter.

    Eric Weems was first up in the return game. The Bears ought to know exactly what they can get from the veteran when it comes to returning punts and kickoffs. Williams is the unknown and the guy they made multiple runs at last season before finally luring him off the practice squad of the Saints. Seems to me they should have prioritized Williams in the return game. We’ll see how long he is sidelined.”

    I think the fact that it was the third quarter and Williams hadn’t gotten a shot at returning the football might say more about Williams than the coaches. He wasn’t on the three-deep depth chart at wide receiver that the Bears released early last week making him at least seventh on the list. Something tells me he’s going to have to make a lot more plays like the one he made Friday night if he want to make the team.

  • David Haugh at the Chicago Tribune on tight end Zack Miller, who likely had the best game of any Bear Friday night:

    “Depth behind [Martellus] Bennett represented a preseason concern, but Miller quietly has accrued respect. As far back as organized team activities in June, one offensive coach described Miller as a ‘less-than-one-rep guy,’ who doesn’t forget anything once he is told. On Saturday, wide receiver Brandon Marshall tweeted a picture of Miller above the caption: ‘This boy balled last night.'”

  • Kevin Fishbain at chicagofootball.com provides snap count analysis from Friday’s game:

    “It took some time before James Brown got on the field, but he played a team-high 56 snaps, taking over at guard when Brian de la Puente got hurt and then left tackle. He seems to be in good shape to be one of, or the final O-lineman to make the team with his versatility and experience, but the Bears have plenty of tape to watch from Friday.”

    I’m going to disagree with Fishbain here. I think that Brown is in serious trouble. We haven’t heard his name much in camp and a lot of guys have been playing ahead of him. Injuries like the one to de la Puente aside, I’m going to guess he’s not on the roster come September.

    Fishbain also notes that running back Jordan Lynch got no special teams snaps, not good news for those fans hoping the hometown boy will make the roster. Lynch is probably, if anything, headed for the practice squad.

  • John Mullin at csnchicago.com is keeping an eye on the linebacking situation and makes some good points:

    “Coaches typically adhere to dictums that the best five offensive linemen will start, the best four defensive linemen will start and so on, often with only marginal allowances for assigned positions. With that in mind, how the Bears approach their linebacker situation this week and into Thursday’s game with Jacksonville becomes of added interest even with the organization’s statement that different starting combinations would be explored all through preseason.

    “Specifically, a question after Friday night is whether Shea McClellin remains the starter at strong-side linebacker, and whether he is tabbed as one of the three best linebackers. That is not a given.”

    The problem – for everyone but McClellin – is that fellow linebacker Jon Bostic didn’t play a whole lot better. Truth be told, Khaseem Greene probably played the best of the three and I’m beginning to wonder if he isn’t going to get a better shot at a starting role.

  • Its worth noting that safety Adrian Wilson hit like a hammer Friday night. His conduct during the game and his comments afterward sounded quite a bit different from those he made before the game indicating that he “had nothing to prove”.

One Final Thought

Dan Pompei at Sports on Earth describes a locker room environment in Seattle that is in stark contrast to the message of peace, love and family that Bears head coach Marc Trestman tries to send:

“They are unlike almost every other NFL team — not because they just won a Super Bowl, but because their locker room is a shark tank. Defensive end Michael Bennett said the Seahawks are the most competitive team he ever has been a part of. So in order to restock, the Seahawks need to add players [in the draft] who won’t be eaten alive in a viciously competitive environment.

“It isn’t just the 49ers or Packers who are potential impediments to player development in Seattle — it is the Seahawks themselves. Softer players have been chewed up and spit out on the Renton practice fields by an unforgiving group of veterans. It is no given that a fresh-faced kid out of college can stand up to an accomplished, physical, mouthy, intimidating veteran like Richard Sherman.”

Discuss.

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Pre-Game Wrap Up and Other Points of View

Bears

  • During pre-season games like the one last night, most of us watch the pass rush when we evaluate the defensive line and forget about everything else. But Bears head coach Marc Trestman has his head on straight. Via Rich Campbell at the Chicago Tribune:

    “Trestman was particularly pleased at first glance by how the Bears defended the run. The Eagles’ top two backs, LeSean McCoy and Darren Sproles combined for 11 yards on four carries.

    “‘I was looking at how we were setting the edge,’ Trestman said. ‘Did we have the opportunity to make some tackles and do some clean tackling? I saw a little bit of that.'”

  • Campbell notes quarterback Jay Cutler‘s performance:
  • “Cutler completed 9 of 13 attempts for 85 yards and a touchdown, good for a passer rating of 112.7. He threw off his back foot multiple times, and he overthrew receiver Eric Weems when he fell away from the target, but he also made several pinpoint throws.”

    That’s a pretty accurate assessment from my view. Cutler went through a stretch where his mechanics fell apart in the face of pressure. But when he calmed down and corrected it you couldn’t have asked for better performance. Here’s hoping that the few bad plays were just an anomaly and/or rust.

    As to Cutler’s potential backups, I thought both of the contenders, Jordan Palmer and Jimmy Clausen were just OK. Not bad but less than impressive. Like most of the experts, I’d give Clausen a slight edge. He’s a little smoother, a little stronger and a little more accurate with his ball placement.

  • Campbell continues:

    “[Cutler's] 23-yarder to tight end Dante Rosario on third-and-10 perfectly cleared the jumping linebacker and dropped down before the safety arrived to break up the pass. And his throw to [tight end Zack] Miller fit through a tight window at the catch point.”

    I was as impressed with the tight ends as I was unimpressed with the wide receivers not named Marshall and Jeffery. Here’s hoping they can fill the void.

  • Dan Wiederer at the Chicago Tribune quotes rookie quarterback David Fales before last night’s exhibition game:

    “‘I’m excited to finally get some live bullets,’ Fales said after Wednesday’s practice in Bourbonnais. ‘I’m eager to see how I’ll react. It will be a lot different for me than practice when you’re running plays and you can’t tell for sure if you’ve been sacked and you don’t really know what would happen in game conditions. So with these live bullets, you get out there and compete, you go through your reads and you have some fun.'”

    Overall I thought Fales did pretty well last night. He wasn’t asked to throw a whole lot because the Bears wanted to get a good look at that stable of running backs and they wanted to run the clock out. And they probably just wanted the darned thing to end.

    Fales has a big wind up when he throws the ball any distance. It would be nice to see him cut down on the length of that release.

  • Matthew Paras at chicagofootball.com quotes Fales on his practice struggles in the red zone:

    “‘Everything happens faster,’ Fales said of the red zone. ‘It’s just a different game. Your feet have to be faster and you have to react faster. You can’t go through all your progressions. It’s one or maybe two, but it’s one throw away.'”

  • I thought Reggie Herring had an interesting perspective before the match up. From Mark Potash at the Chicago Sun-Times:

    “‘Who has play-making ability under the lights,’ Bears linebackers coach Reggie Herring said. ‘When you go against your same opponent over and over, there is a tendency to have a comfort level. And then when you go under the lights and play a game, some guys get stage fright. And some can produce and show maturity.

    “‘So that’s what we’re looking for — who can perform under the lights when everybody’s watching. Who can tackle and make plays and execute the defense under a real game situation.'”

    I’m sorry to say that I don’t think Herring saw a whole lot of good once his pupils hit the field. You can count on Hub Arkush at chicagofootball.com to stay grounded amidst all of the talk about how good many of the starters at other positions looked:

    Jon Bostic followed a strong early training camp with a disappointing performance, and prized rookies Ego Ferguson, Will Sutton and Ka’Deem Carey were all for the most part invisible.”

    Unfortunately I would add Shea McClellin to that list.

    I don’t think any of the linebackers played very well, including the starters. They weren’t playing down hill and attacking the football. McClellin, in particular, looks lost in space. I think everyone has to improve here.

    In fairness to Carey, I didn’t think he did a bad job in pass protection – a very good sign for him. Some of the other competitors for that back up position didn’t show nearly as well in this respect.

  • Scott Krinch at CSNChicago.com on punter Pat O’Donnell:

    “The Bears’ sixth-round pick was nicknamed ‘Mega-punt’ during training camp for his booming, 70-yard punts.

    “That wasn’t the case for O’Donnell in his Soldier Field debut. His two punts went for an average of 43.5 yards, with a long of 47.”

    In fairness to O’Donnell he was trying to drop one of those inside the 20 yard line.

  • The Tribune notes that viewers were unable to see half of the first quarter (i.e. when the starters were in) because of technical difficulties.

    After this incident things were fine. But from the pre-game through to the poor video feed, it was amateur hour before that. The student run television station at my alma mater, the University of Missouri, could have done it better. The local FOX affiliate needs to pick up its game for the rest of the preseason.

  • Offered a choice of five Bears by a Tribune poll asking who was the most impressive, one which most notably included tight end Zach Miller, over 30% of you picked Jordan Lynch. Come on, guys.

    By the way, shame on the Tribune for not at least including a token lineman on either side of the ball on this list. Both of these starting units were missing key personnel and both were the most impressive as a whole.

Elsewhere

  • I’m all for teams finding creative ways to make money that don’t involve extorting fans for it. But even I think this might be going too far

One Final Thought

Paul Bessire at predictionmachine.com continues to spread good cheer amongst Bears fans:

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Trestman-Emery Relationship “Bears” Watching

David Haugh at the Chicago Tribune adds another aspect related to the suspension of tight end Martellus Bennett that I didn’t think of:

“In acting so boldly, [Phil] Emery did the best thing for the Bears, even if the [general manager]‘s show of strength potentially weakened the perception of his coach. It was [head coach Marc] Trestman who ended practice early Monday because of the fight, and it should have been Trestman who announced the discipline because the Bears expect more from their players.”

Its food for thought.

When Jerry Angelo was GM I was constantly berating him in this space for interfering with former head coach Lovie Smith. It was (and still is) my opinion that the GM’s job mostly ends when the season starts because the process of roster building mostly ends. I didn’t think anyone should hear from the GM too much after that point because I think the players need to be answering to one voice in the locker room and I think it should be the head coach’s. You don’t want the players listening to the head coach and wondering what the GM thinks.

Similarly, I (along with many Bears fans) was critical of Smith for interfering too much in scouting and in personnel matters in the offseason. Its fairly obvious that Trestman has no such problem as this excerpt from an article by Adam L. Jahns at the Chicago Sun-Times on wide receiver Santonio Holmes‘s tryout indicates:

“‘I did not [see the workout],’ coach Marc Trestman said Wednesday at Olivet Nazarene University. ‘I’ve got it on tape. I haven’t looked at it.

“‘[How Holmes performed is] something for our personnel department at this time because I don’t have a response because I didn’t look at it.'”

Presumably that means that he didn’t see Greg Herd, the wide out they eventually signed, workout, either.

Should the announcement of Bennett’s suspension have come from Trestman? I’m going to leave it at a definite “maybe”. There are a few reasons why it may be OK in this particular case.

  1. Trestman and Emery seem to be on the same page most of the time and they appear to work together better than Smith and Angelo did. They aren’t constantly interfering with each other. With a clear separation of powers, Trestman trusts Emery’s judgment, and that of scouts whose full time job is to evaluate non-Bears personnel, without too much question. Emery appears to be willing to let Trestman do his job and coach in the same way. The relationship reminds me of that between Packers GM Ted Thompson and head coach Mike McCarthy. And that’s a good thing.
  2. Trestman is preaching peace, love and family to the team. Having Emery do the announcing, even if its clear that everyone, including Trestman, agreed to the punishment, allows Emery to play the heavy in the relationship while Trestman – to a limited extent – plays “good cop”.
  3. The question of discipline of this kind is a mutual decision. Its something that has to be decided on an organizational level. There’s nothing wrong with the head of the organization making the announcement if its clear that everyone was involved in the decision – and it was.
  4. Assuming last year was typical, we won’t be hearing much from Emery during the season and Trestman will, indeed, be doing most of the talking. Emery did the rounds on the talk shows to speak about the state of the Bears at mid-season (as is perfectly appropriate). But with maybe a few exceptions that was it.

Overall I’m happy with what I see when I look at the Trestman-Emery relationship. Unlike that between Angelo and Smith, there’s no undercurrent that gives you a feeling that there’s a power struggle going on. Trestman doesn’t appear to want to play GM and the GM doesn’t appear to want to play coach. With that relationship, I see no reason why this team shouldn’t continue to run smoothly on an organizational level.

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Prepare for Disappointment. And Other Points of View.

Bears

  • Adam L. Jahns at the Chicago Sun-Times passes on the fact that Isaiah Frey is out with a hamstring issue. The return of Kelvin Hayden and the pick up of first round draft pick Kyle Fuller already put a lot of pressure on Frey. This could be very bad news for a player who I thought might be on the bubble to begin with.
  • I’ve wondered a couple times if quarterback Jimmy Clausen wasn’t still behind Jordan Palmer on the depth chart because he wasn’t giving the Bears the feeling that he’d be as good at protecting the ball. So I thought this report from Rich Campbell and Dan Wiederer at the Chicago Tribune was significant:

    “Clausen’s push to be Jay Cutler‘s backup gains momentum with each practice in which he demonstrates greater command of the offense. On consecutive plays during team drills Tuesday, he connected with receivers Chris Williams and Josh Bellamy on short, safe passes near the left sideline. Coaches have been pleased by his mechanics and arm strength. For the four-year veteran, comfort in the offense and minimizing mistakes are the keys to winning the job.”

    This quote from offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer also supports my point. Via Jahns:

    “‘By no means are we looking for a superstar,’ offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer said. ‘We’re looking for a guy who can read a coverage and throw it to the correct guy or work with the unit and make him successful.'”

  • Campbell quotes grumpy old man Adrian Wilson before tomorrow’s game:

    “‘It’s preseason. I don’t, I mean, it’s my 14th year. I hate having to (answer) questions about a preseason game. I just don’t feel like I have to prove anything to anybody. I’ve got (five) Pro Bowls, (one) first-team All-Pros, so why do I have to prove anything to anybody? I just don’t feel like I have to do that.'”

    Well, I hate to break it to Wilson but he does have something to prove. He’ll be 35 years old in October and he’s coming off of an serious injury that caused him to miss last season. He also had a serious drop off in 2012. Those five Pro Bowls don’t mean anything in a “what have you done for me lately” league and nothing should tell that to Wilson more clearly than the fact that he was still available for the Bears to sign to a low risk contract in late June.

    It’s possible, given the context of the answer, that Wilson was strictly saying that he didn’t have to prove anything to the fans and the media (which is absolutely true). But if Wilson’s attitude really is that he doesn’t have to compete for a job, there’s a good chance he’s not going to have one. In fact, he might not make it past the first cut.

  • Wilson’s attitude is in direct contrast to that linebacker D. J. Williams, who implies that he, at least, will be putting forth some effort against the Eagles. Via Matthew Paras at chicagofootball.com:

    “‘Playing one of the opponents that I say personally embarrassed [us] last season, we’re eager to see how far we’ve come and still see what we have to do,’ Williams said. ‘I want to shut them out. That’s how you approach every game, whether it’s preseason, regular season or practice.'”

  • I thought this exchange, as passed on by Wiederer, was rather humorous:

    “[Kicker Robbie] Gould later stopped on his way to lunch to chat with a pair of young fans leaving the cafeteria with executive Brian McCaskey. After Gould walked away, it took one of the boys 10 seconds to realize what had just happened. ‘Oh my god! That was Robbie Gould?’ he shouted. ‘I had no idea that was Robbie Gould!’ Gould laughed and shouted back, ‘I had no idea either.'”

  • Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune answers a question on a topic that continues to fascinate me.

    “If Christian Jones continues to improve, is there any way he could he start at strong-side linebacker? If so, would Shea McClellin or Khaseem Greene be cut? — @steveoatms from Twitter

    “Jones has been an intriguing player to watch in training camp because of his combination of size at 6-foot-3, 240 pounds, and his athletic ability. But he’s still raw and I’d be surprised if he pushes for a starting job. Now, maybe he lights it up in preseason but my hunch is he will take some time to develop. A better question right now would probably be can Jones push for a spot on the 53-man roster and based on the practices, I think he has a shot. I doubt seriously McClellin will be let go and figure Greene makes it as a reserve and a core special teams player. But we’ve got the entire preseason ahead of us.”

    The Bears will have to carry an extra linebacker if they want to keep all three along with special teams ace Jordan Senn. That won’t be easy to do and the easiest out for the Bears would be to try to stash Jones on the practice squad. The Bears may end up having to release a good player here and its’s going to be a position to watch closely.

  • Rick Morrissey at the Chicago Sun-Times reports Bears head coach Marc Trestman‘s response to a question about the culture he’s trying to build with the team. Not surprisingly, its a pretty windy speech. Here’s the gist of it:

    “‘It’s really that simple. If you understand the definition of [trust, respect and humility] and you love football and want to play it and are a baller, we’ll find a place for you. We’re also in a position where we don’t expect everybody to understand that immediately. That’s a process; that’s a transformational process. It doesn’t take one week. It doesn’t take one month. It may not take a year. It may take more.'”

    “Given how long that quote is, you might think that Trestman has hijacked my column. I think he just explained the heart of the trouble with [suspended tight end Martellus] Bennett, without getting into specifics. Bennett apparently has been showing only trace amounts of trust, respect and humility lately.”

    I’d say Morrissey has it right on the button. However, Morrissey goes on to question whether Trestman isn’t over-reacting to Bennett’s problem. I think that, even after noting Trestman’s soliloquy on team building, he might be missing the larger issue at stake. Related to that, I thought this quote via Jahns was to the point:

    “Bennett’s suspension — and how he reacts when it concludes — figures to remain a storyline for some time. Left tackle Jermon Bushrod said, ‘You can’t go against what the head coach and management do [in these cases].

    “‘If they feel like [a suspension is] in the best interest of the team [and] the individual, then so be it. We have to learn from it. He has to learn from it. Everyone who is [watching] has to learn from it.'”

  • I’d be curious to know what was behind this little piece of insanity. Via Liam Ford at the Chicago Tribune.

One Final Thought

Paul Bessire at predictionmachine.com suggests on Sports Talk Live that Bears fans temper their expectations. It will surprise no one who knows me that I tend to agree:

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Martellus Bennett: Himself Alone

When I was in high school I worked part time with a fellow employee, who, like me, was very young. She told me that she was having a hard time with the job because she had a problem “taking orders”. In watching her, it was very evident that she was what I would call a “contrarian”. If you told her to do something she automatically fought against it, as if by instinct, not because what she was asked to do was wrong but because she was being asked to sublimate her will to that of others, even if it was for the collective good. I don’t know what happened to her but I hope she lost that attitude. Because it was going to be either that or she was going to starve.

David Haugh at the Chicago Tribune doesn’t think things are going to get that far after the Bears’ indefinite suspension of Martellus Bennett, supposedly for his training camp fight with cornerback Kyle Fuller:

“It would be overstating matters to say the ‘Black Unicorn’ just came one step closer to football extinction, but Bennett needs to realize rules apply to him, too, no matter how charismatic he acts in front of the cameras. When Bennett addressed reporters in Bourbonnais after the incident, it became clear he thought he could charm his way through a situation the Bears considered more serious than he did.”

Bennett should have known that this issue was going to turn out to be more serious than the average training camp dust up when the disruption caused Bears head coach Marc Trestman to call off practice 30 minutes early. Bennett has only himself to blame for the severity of the punishment. Had he kept quiet and shown some remorse after the event, he likely would have gotten by with a fine. But even likely knowing that he was at least partly at fault, Bennett couldn’t bring himself to go along with the program and admit it. Instead, he made it clear after the incident that a fine wouldn’t be a deterent stating, “I can afford it”. Likely that’s what prompted the team to take it a step further.

But I’d say that matters go even deeper than a simple loss of temper in training camp and its likely that Bennett indeed does not think the rules don’t apply to him. Rick Morrissey at the Chicago Sun-Times agrees:

“This can’t be the whole story. An NFL team fining and suspending a player indefinitely for getting into a fight with a teammate during training camp?”

My thoughts on the real reason for this suspension parallel those of Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune as he addresses Bennett’s real problem, which actually dates back to his rookie year when he appeared on HBO‘s “Hard-Knocks”

“Before Bears coach Marc Trestman called practice short Monday afternoon after Martellus Bennett slammed first-round pick Kyle Fuller to the ground, a defensive player called the tight end out.

“Bennett, as he’s apt to do, was walking back to the huddle after a rep in team drills with the first-team offense. It’s a distinctive strut and one he has had since day one a year ago.

“‘Run it back, run it back, run it back,’ the player said with Bennett walking the whole way.

“You see, Bennett’s practice habits aren’t just disruptive when he erupts, upset that Fuller slung him to the ground by reaching in, grabbing at the ball and yanking. No one walks more when they’re supposed to jog and jogs more when they’re supposed to run after the play than Bennett.

“In an up-tempo practice setting, he’s the one in 22 that takes his time after the play is over. Bennett’s lackadaisical approach does not go unnoticed by teammates and coaches, who long for more hustle and concentration from the veteran.”

Trestman also supported the notion that Bennett’s problems with the team go beyond the immediate issue of his fight with Fuller when he failed to answer this question. Via Dan Wiederer at the Chicago Tribune:

“On whether the suspension was based solely on Bennett’s Monday tantrum …

“‘It’s a fair question. And I can only say that every decision we made is based on one thing — a balancing act in what’s best for our football team collectively, our organization, and that’s what went into our decision.’ “

The Bears knew what they were getting in Bennett when they signed him so its a little late to be worrying about his attitude. The guess here is that the suspension is meant to wake him up and curtail the worst of his abuses.

Bennett obviously believes that he’s being a team player by doing what’s best for him. Why hustle on the practice field? He doesn’t need that kind of conditioned response to assure that he’s used to playing fast in the real game. As a veteran he’s shown in the past that he can do that.

But what he doesn’t understand is that his immaturity hurts the team. The real challenge that the Bears face is to get Bennett to understand that if everyone isn’t pulling in the same direction and doing, not just what’s needed for themselves, but what’s needed for those around them, then what you are left with is a bunch of individuals. That might be tougher than anyone suspects. Because no one is more individual than Bennett.

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It Evidently Doesn’t Take Much in the Heat of Summer and Other Points of View

Bears

  • Patrick Finley at the Chicago Sun-Times on the injury to the collar bone of Marquess Wilson:

    “When Marquess Wilson crashed to the ground Monday, so did the Bears’ best chance of finding a reliable wide receiver alongside two Pro Bowl performers.”

    “The Bears are left with a smattering of in-house candidates to play alongside the league’s best pass-catching duo. None is as tantalizing as Wilson, whose promise outshone his two catches as a rookie.”

    I would have to agree. Along with everyone else, I found this injury to be disappointing. Though reports like this one from Hub Arkush at chicagofootball.com seem to indicate he had a habit of occasionally disappearing, almost everyone acknowledged that Wilson was making plays in camp. That was enough to make him the prohibitive favorite for the number three role. Most reports seem to indicate that Eric Weems now has the inside track but I have to say that I have little faith in any of the candidates. The preseason will be interesting to watch but the guess here is that Wilson was the Bears only hope for getting more out of the position this year.

  • I found this excerpt from Arkush to be interesting:

    “Wilson, his right arm in a sling, explained after practice, ‘I was just trying to make a play. It’s an opportunity. Me being a receiver, I saw the ball and in my mind I said, ‘Go get it.’

    “The problem, according to head coach Marc Trestman, is that diving for balls in practice is something he teaches his guys not to do. ‘That’s probably the hardest part about coaching. You hear us say it all the time: ‘Stay off the ground, stay off the ground.’

    “‘Diving for balls is probably one of the most difficult things not to do when you’re a competitive player,’ Trestman conceded. ‘We promote it, talk about it a lot, but in my experience it’s very difficult to stop when a guy goes to make a play on a ball.'”

    I’d say “difficult” doesn’t cover the half of it. Wilson was competing for a job. Pretty tough not to try to show what you can do when given a chance.

  • Hub did also offer some words of comfort:

    “It is important to note that the Trestman offense gets the bulk of its production and explosiveness primarily from two wide receiver and two tight end (one catcher, one blocker) sets with the running back heavily involved in the passing game.

    “As long as Marshall and Jeffery stay upright, there is no reason to quell your optimism yet.

    “But, as I wrote just the other day, should something now happen to cause one of those starters to miss meaningful time, combined with the Bears brutal first half schedule, it would leave 2014 playoff hopes twisting precariously in the wind.”

    That was going to be true with or without Wilson.

  • Cornerback Isaiah Frey gets one of the first mentions of his name I’ve read all camp from Rich Campbell at the Chicago Tribune. That’s not a good thing. Frey was behind Kelvin Hayden at nickel back last season and Hayden is now behind Tim Jennings.
  • Adam L. Jahns at the Chicago Sun-Times quotes Ryan Mundy on playing free safety, as he did in Monday’s practice:

    “‘There’s some characteristics that you could say that this is what you want your free safety to have [and] this is what you want your strong safety to have,’ Mundy said. ‘But through my experience, you have to be able to play both because throughout a game you have different formations, shifts, motions, situations. A lot can take you from a free safety to strong safety.'”

  • Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune on rookie quarterback David Fales:

    “As far as Fales, my best guess is he would be a practice squad candidate. If he performs well in preseason, that could change quickly. But the shift in the NFL has been to carry only two quarterbacks on the 53-man roster, especially if you have a starter you really like. It creates some roster flexibility. Maybe the Bears are more excited about Fales than I imagine. This question can be better answered in a few weeks.”

    Sounds about right.

Elsewhere

One Final Thought

For those of you who are wondering what caused the hullaballoo over tight end Martellus Bennett and his camp fight with cornerback Kyle Fuller, here’s the video.

It doesn’t look like much to me. In fairness to the reporters on the scene, you can hear some yelling towards the end that might be the beginnings of Bennett losing control.

Posted in Chicago Bears, New York Jets | Leave a comment

Star Quarterbacks Are People, Too. And Other Points of View

Bears

  • Rich Campbell at the Chicago Tribune notes, as I did earlier, that perhaps the most interesting roster decision the Bears are going to have to make is at linebacker. He’s the first person I’ve read who has suggested this, though:

    “[There might be] two spots for three players — Shea McClellin, the 2012 first-round pick who has converted from defensive end; Khaseem Greene, last year’s fourth-round pick with more special teams experience than McClellin; and undrafted rookie Christian Jones, who has shown himself to be among the Bears’ most physically gifted youngsters.

    “If Jones plays well in exhibition games, the Bears won’t be able to stash him on their practice squad. McClellin, whom general manager Phil Emery has steadfastly supported, must show promise in these exhibitions.”

    .

  • The Bears released their first depth chart of the season as passed on by Dan Wiederer at the Chicago Tribune. It was notable for a number reasons:
    • Though virtually everyone assumes that Marquess Wilson has won the third wide receiver job, the Bears chose to name a starting fullback (Tony Fiammetta) and list Wilson along with Eric Weems on the second team.
    • Weems was the punt and kick off returner, not Chris Williams. Everybody’s favorite underdog, Williams was not listed anywhere on the chart (with Kevin Fishbain at chicagofootball.com pointing out that the third team pair was Josh Bellamy and Josh Morgan).
    • They listed McClellin alone at strong side linebacker. There continues to be some who are wondering if he’s being handed a position he didn’t earn. He’ll be worth watching closely on Friday.
    • Ryan Mundy is your strong safety and Brock Vereen is your free safety. For now.
    • Danny McCray and M.D. Jennings are the back up safeties with veteran Pro Bowler Adrian Wilson nowhere to be found (John Mullin at csnchicago.com notes that he’s listed with the third team). Adam L. Jahns at the Chicago Sun-Times notes that Wilson might be facing an uphill battle to make the roster if he doesn’t start because he doesn’t play special teams.
    • Jordan Palmer apparently has the edge over Jimmy Clausen for the back up quarterback job. Reports consistently indicate that Clausen has been more impressive in camp but I’m starting to wonder if Palmer isn’t simply doing more what the Bears want in terms of taking care of the ball.
    • Shaun Draughn was chosen as the back up running back over Michael Ford and Ka’Deem Carey.
    • Trevor Scott was listed as the fourth defensive end over David Bass and Lane Austen. Bears 2013 draft pick Cornelius Washington appears to be in deep, deep trouble here.
    • The two punters and two long snappers were listed together with the Bears failing to make a choice between the competitors.
  • Mark Potash at the Chicago Sun-Times compares this year’s second team to last year’s. He thinks the depth is better on defense. I would rather say its better on the defensive line. Other than that, I’m not too sure I see a big difference anywhere.
  • Being a punter involves more than just kicking the ball. From Jahns:

    “‘The field goals are different than college,’ said [rookie punter and holder Pat] O’Donnell, a sixth-round pick. ‘Especially here in Chicago, if the wind is blowing left-to-right or right-to-left, the hold changes quite a bit.

    “‘[Kicker Robbie Gould]’s showing me how to adjust to that. He’s been a great mentor for it. He demonstrates it. He works with it every single day. He ­critiques it on film.'”

  • A fan ran out onto the field during Family Fest at Soldier Field. It was notable for this exchange:

    “After pondering aloud why someone would run onto a field full of pro football players, [Judge Adam] Bourgeois asked [John J.] Annoreno, ‘Why you gotta be so silly?’

    “Annoreno, still bedecked in a Jay Cutler jersey, had no answer for the judge.

    “‘I bet if you sat across the street in the county jail, you’d know,’ Bourgeois said.”

    Moron.

Elsewhere

  • Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune visits Lions training camp:

    “The Lions lit about the last fire they can under DT Nick Fairley, declining to pick up his fifth-year option for 2015 that would have cost the team less than $6 million. Fairley, drafted 13th overall in 2011, has been a consistent underachiever and has struggled to remain in shape. He still has considerable upside but needs to commit himself, and the Lions are about done waiting for that to happen.”

  • Nate Ulrich at the Akron Beacon Journal think s that Johnny Manziel is closing the gap on Brian Hoyer in Cleveland’s’ camp:

    “In the first unscripted, live action of training camp, Manziel’s run-around-and-create-something-on-the-fly style was on display more than any other time since the Browns drafted him 22nd overall May 8. It’s his greatest strength, though it’s not always evident in a regular practice setting.”

    It’s not always evident in a practice setting because the practice is supposed to prepare you for the games. I don’t know what kind of football they watch in Akron, but “run-around-and-create-something-on-the-fly” doesn’t win games in the NFL. It can help you win games. But if its all you can do, I assure you it will add up to a bunch of losses.

    Assuming that the coaches know what they’re doing and don’t give in to public pressure and assuming the owner doesn’t interfere – a very big assumption – there’s no way Manziel starts unless he learns to throw from the pocket. And nothing I’ve read or heard has indicated to me that he’s anywhere close to having done that.

  • Armando Salguero at the Miami Herald on their penchant for changing offensive coordinators:

    “The folks who love the shifting and motion and so forth love to tell you it helps keep the defense from locking in on guys. It is harder to bracket a receiver who is moving presnap. It also creates indecision for the defense.

    “But the folks that approach offense in a stationary presnap fashion — like the Dolphins did under Mike Sherman the past couple of years — will tell you their way of doing things is also well-thought.

    “‘When you’re stationary as a football team or ahead of your emphasis on stationary, you might be able to make more adjustments offensively, check a play in another direction, redirect things, signal things differently,’ [head coach Joe] Philbin said.

    “‘If you’re snapping a ball and guys are moving, you don’t really have that option. And so you have to kind of go with the play. Your intent is that you’re going to create a little bit of indecision, limit the play speed of the defense with all the shifting and motioning and so forth. The flipside is you’re not always 100 percent sure of the adjustments and you may get stuck into a look that maybe is less than ideal.'”

    “It says here that both approaches have won. Both approaches have been highly successful.

    “The bottom line is talent.”

  • Gene Collier at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette gives a reasonably humorous perspective on the state of the NFL before last nights “Hall of Fame Game”:

    “Real, live, reasonably authentic football returns to your televisions tonight, America, and you’ve really, really missed it, right?

    “Well, me neither.

    “The NFL is the perfect new illustration of that old country lyric: ‘How can I miss you when you won’t go away?'”

    “Most Americans walk around filled to the neck with NFL info, but if you’re planning your own live look-in tonight, you should be aware of some things for which you are perhaps unsuspecting.

    “First, the Dallas Cowboys are not on.”

  • Ray Fittipaldo, also at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, lets us know that, much though he would like for it to appear otherwise, LeGarrette Blount hasn’t changed much since his days at Oregon:

    “[Vince] Williams went up against [Le'Veon] Bell in the backs-on-backers drill Friday before 7,000 fans at Latrobe Memorial Stadium. Williams bull-rushed Bell and pushed him deep into the backfield. The whistle did not blow and they continued to battle until Williams landed on top of Bell.

    “The fight turned into an all-out melee a few seconds later when running back LeGarrette Blount, who was not dressed for practice, rushed to Bell’s defense and dived into the pile. Chaos ensued until coaches were able to break up the fight.”

  • Jim Sohan at the Minneapolis Star Tribune thinks that the Vikings organization has bucked its history and finally stabilized. I would have thought that he’d have seen enough of Rick Spielman as a general manager to know better.

    Full disclosure in fairness to Spielman: Mike Zimmer looks like a pretty good choice as head coach. And Norv Turner is a great offensive coordinator. And I do have a man-crush on Teddy Bridgwater.

    OK. Maybe I need to re-think this…

  • If you’re wondering why I think Brdgewater was a brilliant pick, this excerpt from Matt Vensel provides one reason. Again, from the Star Tribune:

    “After Matt Cassel was unable to lead the first-team offense to a touchdown in a situation in which a field goal wouldn’t cut it, Bridgewater coolly guided the second-stringers 60 yards for a touchdown. Not counting a spike to stop the clock, Bridgewater completed each of his six attempts for all 60 yards and the touchdown, which came on a 20-yard strike to wide receiver Rodney Smith.

    “Chatting with reporters after practice, Bridgewater acknowledged that the two-minute drill ‘went good.’ But he was still stewing over the interception he threw in the red-zone drill moments earlier.

    “‘I’m not so happy about the way it ended as I am [upset] about the interception I threw in the red zone. That’s something I’ll learn from,’ Bridgewater said. ‘Coach Zimmer always stresses that we have to outsmart our opponent. If you have points, try to keep those points. I’m not as happy about the touchdown as I want to be.'”

  • Bob McGinn at the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel interviews Green Bar general manager Ted Thompson. I guess that success is relative in the NFL:

    “Q. The Packers’ only playoff victory in the last three seasons was over the Joe Webb-quarterbacked Minnesota Vikings. Have the Packers underachieved in the postseason from 2011-’13 considering you have a quarterback like Aaron Rodgers in his prime?

    “A. We would have liked to have won more, but that’s the way it worked out. The NFL is not an easy business. We’re aware of that, and when you get in the playoffs it gets turned up several notches. We’re hoping to do better this year.”

    Looked at objectively, the whole division has under-achieved when you come right down to it.

One Final Thought

You know, when its all said and sifted, all-world quarterback Peyton Manning is just as big a geek as I am. Maybe bigger.

Posted in Chicago Bears, Cleveland Browns, Denver Broncos, Detroit Lions, Green Bay Packers, Miami Dolphins, Minnesota Vikings, Pittsburgh Steelers | Leave a comment

On the Value of Player Introductions and Other Points of View

Bears

  • I’m sure that Jared Allen was due for a veteran’s day off. But they had to give it to the new defensive end that everyone wants to see on Family Night at Soldier Field? Jeremiah Ratliff also got the night off.

    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.
  • Patrick Finley at the Chicago Sun-Times notes that Outkast was reunited during Lollapalooza across the street Saturday. That’s probably why Ratliff and Allen needed the night off.
  • 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.

  • Also from Campbell:

    “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.com points 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:

Elsewhere

  • 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.”

    Damn.

  • Brandon George a The Dallas Morning News says that Caleb Hanie is making the same impression on the Cowboys that he did with Bears fans:

    “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.”

  • Steve Van Over at the Cowboys Nation has a request:

    “Tell me I did not read that Jerry Jones sent out playoff ticket options? No, really. I want you to tell me.”

    Sorry, Steve. Can’t help you, buddy.

  • 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…

  • Nick Fairley might still face a suspension from the NFL for his DWI in 2012. From Kyle Meinke at MLive.com.
  • Packer’s first round pick Ha Ha Clinton-Dix remains 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.
  • Officials visited the Packers during their Family Night on Saturday and the defense got a little shock. From Rob Demovsky at ESPN.com

    “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.com quotes 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.”

One Final Thought

Wright on the player introductions last night:

“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?

Honestly, they’re a waste of time and money.

Posted in Chicago Bears, Dallas Cowboys, Detroit Lions, Green Bay Packers, Points of View | Leave a comment

Where Does Being the “Head” Coach Stop and the Interference Begin?

DeAngelo Hall confirms to Comcast Sports Net‘s Chick Hernandez that former Redskins head coach Mike Shanahan was occasionally overruling defensive coordinator Jim Haslett‘s defensive calls last year. Via Dan Steinberg at the Washington Post:

“‘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.

Contrast Shanahan’s handling of the situation to what new Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer plans to do. As documented by Ben Goessling at ESPN.com:

“‘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.

Posted in Chicago Bears, Minnesota Vikings, Washington Redskins | 1 Comment