Quick Comments: Jaguars at Bears 8/14/14

Defense

  1. The linebackers, including Shea McClellin, played better to my eye. They were more agressive than last week and played down hill to attack the line of scrimmage.

  2. Danny McCray had some good open field tackles. That’s a good sign for him. Not so good for the defense.

  3. I know that no one worries about Xs and Os in the preseason. But I wasn’t very comfortable seeing all of those Jaguar wide recievers running so free and open in the Bears secondary. I hope that doesn’t carry over into the season.

  4. Trevor Scott and Cornelius Washingtone distinguished themselves.

Offense

  1. Once again, I’m not to impressed with the Bears ground game.

  2. How did everyone feel watching Alshon Jeffrey writhing in pain as a result of a cheap late hit? Your heart stop for a minute? That’s what it feels like when your season is about to go down the drain before it even starts.

  3. Looks like the Jaguars’ defense is a pretty hard hitting group.

  4. The pass protection was pretty good, I thought, just like last week.

  5. Clausen not quite as good with the ball placement this week. He did all of the right things otherwise, though. The interception won’t help him. Palmer looked about the same as last week. Both guys maybe made thier recievers wait for the abll a little too much.’

Miscellaneous

  1. Special teams were once agian not stellar. I’m looking at you, Joe DeCamillis.

  2. Let’s just say it wasn’t Eric Weems’ night. Having said that, I don’t think he has the burst to be a really good returner. It may be time to move on.

  3. It might be best if all of the returners concentrated on catching the ball.

  4. All those flags made this a long game. Here’s hoping that one way or another those doesn’t carry over into the regular season.

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Knowing Who to Believe and Other Points of View

Bears

  • Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune answers our questions. He gives his thoughts on something I know many of us are wondering, whether the Bears are going to go with more two tightend personnel groupings with what is a less than stellar wide receiver group on the team. The last point is an interesting one:

    “That is certainly one possibility, one that will depend on how the players behind Martellus Bennett perform. I received similar questions regarding the depth chart at tight end after the fine performance by Zach Miller in the preseason opener against the Eagles. That was one game and we have to wait and see how that group pans out but offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer and tight ends coach Andy Bischoff were confident the Bears had a deeper group at the position when camp opened and they might be right.”

    “Don’t discount the possibility fullback Tony Fiammetta could be more involved as well. Although it is interesting to note Football Outsiders reported the Bears averaged 4.6 yards per carry in a single back formation and 4.0 with two backs. That meshes with what personnel people have told me for some time – Matt Forte does better from a one-back set.”

  • Biggs on whether the Bears will keep a third quarterback on the roster:

    “Keeping a third quarterback hinges on how the third quarterback performs. I doubt Jimmy Clausen and Jordan Palmer both make it through so we’re looking at rookie sixth-round pick David Fales. My instinct tells me he’d probably be a candidate for the practice squad but he should get ample playing time between now and the time final decisions need to be made.”

    I would tend to agree. Some fans have told me that they fear that Fales would be claimed by another team if the Bears tried to get him through waivers to put him on the practice squad. As Biggs points out, that depends upon how well Fales performs. I’m guessing that if his performance remains at the level I’ve’ seen so far, he’ll safely clear waivers and it will be the practice squad.

  • Hub Arkush at chicagofootball.com talks about the competition at safety:

    “All of the vets at safety are career journeymen, with the exception of [Adrian] Wilson. If [Brock] Vereen can’t play Robin to Wilson’s Batman, it’s unlikely the Bears will take a meaningful step forward at the position.”

    Hub apparently doesn’t think much of Ryan Mundy but I’ve got a sneaking suspicion that he’s your starter at free safety if Wilson claims the other side.

One Final Thought

Hub again on rookie defensive tackle Will Sutton:

“Sutton looked to me to be the best three-technique tackle in this year’s draft and could make a huge impact sharing time at the three with Ratliff if he’s NFL ready. I’ve seen the lightning first step in Bourbonnais that might make him a disruptive force in opposing teams’ backfields, but now it’s time to see it in an NFL game against at least second team competition, if not the ones.”

Hub tends to be sparing in his praise. So when he does compliment a player you can generally believe its not just fluffy talk that’s meant to tell fans what they want to hear. If Hub says Sutton’s talent is for real, there’s good reason to believe it is. He’s a guy to keep an eye on.

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Typical Fan Responses and Other Points of View

Bears

  • Rich Campbell at the Chicago Tribune notes this exchange between safeties Danny McCray and Craig Steltz, who are competing for roster spots, on Tuesday at practice during kick return drills:

    “Safety Danny McCray, who lined up on the return unit opposite Steltz, yelled to Steltz about how odd it was to see him on the scout team instead of the active team in that drill. Steltz was on the first-string kickoff return unit last season, but a groin injury sidelined him for most of camp.”

    What seems odd is that McCray would mention it since he wasn’t with the team last year. Some would call that kind of trash talk being “competitive”. I call it being a jerk.

  • Adam L. Jahns at the Chicago Sun-Times quotes Bears head coach Marc Trestman on the back up quarterback competition:

    “We grade them every day. We’re watching all the tape. We’re making the corrections with each of them. It’s still a competition, and they know it. We’re repping them that way.”

    Speaking of reps it might be best for Trestman to make his decision sooner rather than later. Reps are scarce enough behind starter Jay Cutler without Jimmy Clausen and Jordan Palmer splitting them.

  • Patrick Finley at the Chicago Sun-Times describes this typical scene:

    “One day after receiving a rousing cheer when he intercepted a pass in practice, safety Chris Conte slipped on the wet grass on a pass play that resulted in a touchdown Tuesday.

    “Fans grumbled loudly enough for one veteran to suggest, a bit too loudly, that the hecklers be quiet.”

  • Finley goes on to quote Trestman after Tuesday’s playful practice:

    “I don’t know that any of us have been in winning environments where the team didn’t have a sense of humor and know how to use it at the right time.”

Elsewhere

One Final Thought

I thought this perspective on the popularity of fantasy football and the tendency of employees to spend company time looking up stats was unique. The study on lost wages comes from Chicago-based outplacement consultancy Challenger, Gray and Christmas. Via Alexia Elejalde-Ruiz at the Chicago Tribune:

“With the economy still chugging along, and no chance that any measurable dip in GDP in the third or fourth quarter would be the fault of fantasy football ($13.4 billion [in lost productivity] is less than 1 percent of the $1.5 trillion in wages paid out during the same period), [CEO John A.] Challenger said companies shouldn’t crack down on the practice but instead recruit employees into company-wide leagues to build camaraderie and morale.

“‘An across-the-board ban on all fantasy football or sports websites is likely to backfire and cause a drop in morale, loyalty and, ironically, productivity,’ Challenger said. ‘The end result could be far worse than any loss of productivity caused by an hour or two of team management each week.'”

I’m not a fantasy football guy. But if the economy is “chugging along” you wouldn’t know it from where I’m sitting. More camaraderie is always welcome and seems to be in short supply these days.

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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.

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