“David Fales, quarterback: ‘‘Jay Cutler has been great. Anytime you have someone with the experience he does, with that ability and talent, it’s so helpful. He’s reached out to me on several occasions, which he didn’t have to do, so that means a lot.’’”
This has become a common theme. Recall that backup Jimmy Clausen mentioned that Cutler spent a weekend studying with him after he was picked up by the Bears. I think Cutler learned a lot from his experiences with Josh McCown.
“‘[Palmer] knows the system very well and had some work last year — but not a lot, even in practice,’ Cavanaugh said. ‘So that’s where he’s catching up now is on the field, and he’s doing a good job. He’s a tall [6-5], strong-armed guy who’s smart and makes good decisions.’
“The Bears covet quarterbacks who can make decisions and avoid turnovers more than anything in Trestman’s offense, and Cavanaugh said those are two of Palmer’s strengths.”
Clausen has been generally considered to be the better quarterback in camp because of his willingness to push the ball down field. But its possible that’s not what the Bears are really looking for in a back up quarterback.
“Jones will be an interesting test case for the Bears coaching staff — can they find the right spot for him and develop his unique ability? Jones was incredibly versatile at Florida State — he played the strong side and weak side linebacker positions in 4-3 defenses; and inside and outside linebacker positions in a 3-4. But for some strange reason, players like that sometimes find themselves without a position in the NFL. It’ll be interesting to see if the Bears can find the right spot, because they seem to know they have something to work with, but also that it won’t happen overnight.”
This statement goes against the comments of many observers who have’t been impressed with Marquess Wilson. It may speak more to the mediacrity of the competition. Via Potash:
“Second-year pro Marquess Wilson still leads the competition for the No. 3 wide receiver spot, [Bears head coach Marc] Trestman said in a rare acknowledgement of positional rankings.”
“‘He was Mr. Intensity before that was the cool thing to be,’ Collinsworth said. ‘He was born to coach. In football, passion sells. It’s hard to go to practice every day. Something hurts all the time or it’s hot or the pads stink. Football is a lifestyle of ‘something is wrong.’
“‘With Reggie, every day was sunshine. Every day was the greatest day of his life that he got to walk around the field and play football.'”
“On a day in which the defense was active and energetic, linebacker Lance Briggs made plays. During one session of 11-on-11 work, Briggs broke on a Cutler pass to Martellus Bennett and deflected it, punctuating the play by running past the bleachers with his right fist in the air. Some fans, however, are never happy. ‘Next time catch it!’ one yelled to Briggs.”
Although I’d never heard of him before the Bears signed him, linebacker DeDe Lattimore‘s name keeps popping up in reports from camp. He’s making plays against back ups but the more I see his name, the more I think it may mean something.
Speaking of under the radar players, I think this report from Michael C. Wright at ESPN.com is notable:
“Veteran defensive end Trevor Scott hasn’t received much publicity throughout camp, but he’s proven deserving over the first several days of camp. In addition to size and physicality, Scott showcases a plethora of pass-rushing moves on a day-to-day basis that could make him a contributor to the rotation up front. One staffer called Scott ‘the real deal so far’ at camp.”
Lattimore is probably competing for a spot on the practice squad. But Scott very well might be a major contributor before this thing is all over. He’ll be someone to watch very closely in the preseason games.
“Special teams units are often filled with younger players, but there is no shortage of established veterans [general manager Phil] Emery has brought in this offseason to bolster [special teams coordinator Joe] DeCamillis’ transitioning unit. From [Jordan] Senn to Danny McCray to M.D Jennings to Ryan Mundy, not to mention returning contributors like Sherrick McManis and Eric Weems, the Bears have a wealth of experienced and prideful core special teamers.”
Unlike many fans, I gave DeCamillis a pass for the most part last year. They can’t all be Dave Toub.
But that’s all over. Emery paid a lot of attention to special teams in the offseason and if they under-perform again, I strongly suspect that DeCamillis will (and should) pay the price.
I think labeling this one “unofficial” might be more accurate:
San Antonio Chamber of Commerce executive Richard Perez told SiriusXM NFL Radio that the Raiders are taking “a serious look” at the city. Via Mike Wilkening at profootballtalk.com:
“Perez also shed some light on Davis’ message to city officials.
“‘I will you tell that I felt very, very comfortable and confident that his word was true,’ Perez said. ‘And he said, ‘Look, you know, I’m not telling you that I’m coming today, but I will tell you that I’m looking, and you all are definitely someone that we’re looking very closely at.’'”
This probably isn’t smoke. The Raiders are on a one year lease and Steelers owner Art Rooneytold Sirius “The Raiders have a stadium situation that’s difficult. Something is going to have to give.” With the 49ers the NFL doesn’t need two teams in the Bay Area. Whether its San Antonio or somewhere else, the possibility that the Raiders will move sooner rather than later is very real.
Even with the difficulties involved in this particular case, I’m not entirely sure why Josh Gordon‘s hearing is taking so long. But it can only mean good things if you’re a Browns fan. From Darin Gantt at profootballtalk.com.
William C. Roden at the New York Timeson the effect that Rex Ryan is having on the Jets. Ryan has toned it down in recent years because in an effort to keep a lower profile, something the organization apparently wanted at the time. Not so this year:
“With his job possibly on the line, Ryan has apparently decided that if he is going to get fired, he will go out the way he came in — with bravado on full throttle.
“[Offensive tack D’Brickashaw] Ferguson said the importance of Ryan’s return as the coach with the bullhorn was that he was re-establishing confidence in his players.
“‘When you believe, ‘Maybe I can do it,’ and you have people who motivate you and encourage you, it really puts you in a position to say: ‘You know what? This is going to happen; I need to buy in.’ ‘”
Former Bears Scouting Director Greg Gabriel at the National Football Poston Julius Peppers, now with the Packers:
“Peppers will have some big games early in the season and many in the media will criticize the Bears for letting him go. The problem with that criticism is that the season isn’t five or six games, it’s 16. I have no doubt that the Julius Peppers we see in September will not be the Julius Peppers we see in mid-November and December. I am sure his play will drop off dramatically, just like it has over the last few years. When you are in your mid-30s and have played 13 years in the NFL, that’s what happens.”
Bashing Peppers, especially among Bears fans, is fashionable nowadays. But everyone, including Gabriel, would be well advised to remember that Peppers release was almost entirely about his cap number. If he’d been making less, he’d still be a Bear and we almost certainly wouldn’t be hearing any of this.
“The Packers are waiting for a tight end to emerge from a three-man competition with no guarantee anyone will in the club’s effort to replace Jermichael Finley.
“For the second straight offseason, Aaron Rodgers lost a primary target at wide receiver as James Jones departed via free agency for the Raiders.
“But the Packers have Rodgers back, healthy and rested, and that alone makes them the favorite in the NFC North.”
It’s hard to argue with him. The addition of Eddie Lacy to the running game and Peppers to the defense is going to make them very tough. Again.
But it goes well beyond that. Over the years the Packers have shown a bad habit of getting it done when they have to. The Bears often haven’t. Not as often as the Vikings. But pretty often. They’re are going to have to start showing that they can perform when it counts if they want to be in the Packer’s class. I’m pretty sure that’s what part of what Trestman means when he says that they have to get “tougher”.
“I want to single out defensive end Jared Allen for two stops he made against the run in third-and-short situational drills. Allen’s affinity for sacks is well documented. On third-and-short, though, when the offense has the luxury to either run or pass, Allen read the running plays and executed accordingly. His suddenness getting off blocks helped the defense win the downs, as did his understanding of where his help was.
“‘I just try to set an edge and make sure the ball doesn’t get outside me, and then try to fall back in and help on the tackle,’ he said.”
Pretty much all reports indicate that linebacker Shea McClellin is having a rough transition to linebacker. Campbell’s is no exception:
“McClellin plays with the second-string nickel package and the first-string base defense, which means he currently is not on the field in many obvious passing situations. That could change during games, of course, but it’s something to keep an eye on, especially because the Bears have touted McClellin as a pass rush specialist as they try to jumpstart his career at linebacker.”
“Defensive end Willie Young senses a heightened sophistication in the Bears’ defense compared with the one he played in during his first four seasons with the Lions. Said Young: ‘I didn’t have too many responsibilities besides getting after the quarterback and doing everything on the run. … (Here) you definitely have to have some brains. You have your responsibilities. It gets more complex than that. But everybody has a job to do and everybody is held accountable to be where they’re supposed to be.'”
Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribunequotes Young on how he managed only three sacks last year when he had a massive 48 quarterbacks hurries last year:
“‘Some sacks I just completely freaking blew,’ Young said. ‘Beating the tackle so quick, moving so fast, it’s, ‘Whoa! How did I miss this guy?’ You just name (the game) and go down the list, there were games I could have had five sacks. Could is a big word with my statement.'”
Let’s hope its a word he can drop this year. Most of the time when this happens its because the defensive lineman is going so hard after the quarterback that he can’t control his body and make adjustments to the quarterback’s movement in the pocket. Whether Young can get to the quarterback with the same consistency and still maintain the balance needed to finish will be interesting to see as the season progresses.
“‘His mental side of the game I am very impressed with,’ Slauson said. ‘The things that he picks up about what I do, now I have to change my whole game for him.
“‘A lot of times you go against a rookie and you’re like, ‘Ah, I can just take a normal set because I know he doesn’t know a lot.’ But that worked for a day. He’s changed everything, and now I’ve got to change. It’s awesome.'”
To this day this topic is so painful it was all I could do to just scan the article.
“The most common ‘new’ flag we’ll see in preseason, they said, is a false start penalty for offense linemen — particularly centers — who made sudden movements, under the guise of communicating with their teammates, to try to draw an offside penalty.”
Kevin Fishbain at chicagofootball.comadds this one which may turn out to be more important:
“In the past, a grab of the jersey would be ignored if it did not impede a receiver’s route to make a catch, but with the precision of so many timed routes around the league (like the Bears’ offense), jersey grabs will be watched closely. Cornerbacks Charles Tillman, Tim Jennings and Kyle Fuller, who can all be very physical, will need to keep that physicality inside the five yards when the quarterback is in the pocket, otherwise flags will fly.”
“Coach Jim Harbaugh would describe the maturation of his quarterback in terms a techie could appreciate.
“‘Colin [Kaepernick] is at the highest level, where he can auto-correct,’ Harbaugh said of his fourth-year quarterback at training camp this week. ‘You know, like auto-correcting in texting or whatever. Even if a coach makes a mistake, it’s wrong in the script, the play is called into him wrong, he just auto-corrects it and doesn’t ask, ‘Hey, is that right or wrong?'”
The 49ers seem to be depending upon former Bears wide receiver Brandon Lloyd to do big things this year:
“‘He does this thing in meetings that I have not seen before,’ [Harbaugh] said. ‘He’ll be sitting in his chair watching the tape and go through his route. And all of a sudden here comes a swim move [pantomiming the move], or a slap of the arm. And then sometimes he’ll stand up and, you know, it’s a jab step.
“‘Talk about full speed mentally and 100% engaged in the meeting. I mean, I’ve never seen a guy at any level go through a meeting like that. It just makes me giggle and giddy to watch him do it. Wish I had seen that earlier in my career and could have adopted that into my meeting game. It’s awesome.'”
As this video from Mike Florio at profootballtalk.com implies, most people think the contract that offensive tackle Tyron Smith signed yesterday with the Cowboys is a horrible deal. It’s 10 years with relatively little money guaranteed. That’s OK if all it affects is Smith but the contract is so egregiously bad that the NFLPA and most of the agents are angry and they fear that the will affect negotiations for other players.
One Final Thought
The NFL is implementing what amounts to a GPS system (though that’s not precisely what it is) for players on the field in 15 stadiums this year. The system provides positioning data to broadcasters and, eventually, coaches. I’m having a hard time getting excited about this but we’ll see where it goes. Via Ellen Jean Hirst at the Tribune.
“Irvin pointed out how Marshall uses his size and speed to separate on horizontal routes. At 6-foot-5, Marshall is imposing. So when Marshall bears down (pun intended!) on a cornerback at the top of his route, a cornerback has to respect Marshall’s physical presence, sometimes by backing off. That often helps Marshall create space coming out of his break.
“He lauded [Alshon] Jeffery’s fluidity and spatial awareness after Jeffery caught a deep pass from quarterback Jay Cutler near the right sideline at the end of practice. From a wide split, Jeffery drove his route up the field, pushing rookie cornerback Kyle Fuller inside. That created space for Cutler to target his pass toward the sideline. Cutler exploited the space with an accurate throw that Jeffery ran underneath and caught. Irvin appreciated how Jeffery created the space for himself with his route direction and then smoothly got back to the outside.
“After practice, Fuller said he must be more aware of the space between him and sideline and narrow that to limit Cutler’s margin for error and Jeffery’s range to catch the ball. Such lessons are part of his daily development at this point.”
“When he was pressured during team drills, he climbed the pocket to extend the play. He kept both hands on the ball — a technique coach Marc Trestman and quarterbacks coach Matt Cavanaugh want their quarterbacks to prioritize in the pocket — and maintained a sound, athletic base. That enabled him to keep his eyes downfield and complete a pass to Chris Williams over the middle.
“On a similar play earlier in camp, Fales’ legs were too close together as he shuffled forward. That resulted in him being too upright. He had to quickly reset into a throwing position, but the awkwardness resulted in an errant pass.”
It wouldn’t be right to do it or I would have quoted most of this article for the blog. It’s recommended reading.
“With only 10 career starts, McCray was considered just a special-teams addition. But the Bears have lived up to their promise that the competition would be wide open.
“‘Everyone has an equal chance,’ McCray said.
“‘Danny has worked to an extent that he gets a chance to get some work there,’ [head coach Marc] Trestman said.
“‘We just wanted to see how Brock handles the situation. And how does Danny handle moving up? It all goes into the gathering of information to make decisions at the end.'”
Though offensive guard Kyle Long has been cleared to play by doctors, Mark Potash at the Chicago Sun-Timesnotes that the two days of noncontact work before he actually practices in pads Saturday night is required by the collective bargaining agreement.
Potash also says that “Will Sutton continues to look like the rookie DT who will make the most impact this season. But it’s early.” I would say that Sutton is more likey to appear to make the most impact. The position of nose guard isn’t very glamourous, especially if Ego Ferguson‘s primary responsibility will be to keep the offensive lineman off of the linebackers. But its probably going to be darned important.
“Linebackers coach Reggie Herring and defensive backs coach Jon Hoke worked with the offense — Herring with the tight ends and running backs and Hoke with wide receivers — in a ball security drill. Marc Trestman is very vocal about ballcarriers putting the ball away. Herring and Hoke can offer pointers from the perspective of having coached defensive players on stripping the ball.”
“According to the online sports book Bovada, 95 percent of the money wagered on the Bears’ upcoming season has Chicago favored to win more than 8.5 games, meaning only five percent of the public is betting they won’t have a winning record after going 8-8 last season.”
Shame on Tony Andracki at csnchicago.com (or whatever editor is responsible for the assignment) for drumming up this non-story so early in the year.
“Trestman spent several minutes after practice working with backup quarterbacks Jordan Palmer and Jimmy Clausen, putting the duo through rope-ladder drills. Holding the ball, the quarterbacks simulated their drops through the ladder. It appears the coach is working to improve the quarterbacks’ footwork.”
Not to be too critical but I would have liked to have heard that Cutler was doing it with them.
Potash also notes that reciever Chris Williams had some first-team reps in practice. On a related note, Potash apparently isn’t ready to concede the third reciever positon to Marquess Wilson like the rest of us:
“Still waiting for someone to emerge as the No. 3 receiver. Marquess Wilson leads but almost by default. Williams and [Eric] Weems have been the most impressive challengers. But it’s early. “
The question of who is going to step up at this position isn’t a trivial one. This article from Hub Arkush at chicagofootball.com emphasizes the point:
“Last Monday, a funny thing happened to the Chicago Bears on their march to Super Bowl XLIX. Alshon Jeffery missed practice No. 4 of this year’s training camp with a minor toe injury. Then, the Bears’ perceived juggernaut of an offense stopped working.
“To say the passing game ground to a halt is a bit of an overstatement but Brandon Marshall started dropping passes, Jay Cutler threw a pick and then started missing receivers and the defense clearly won the day.”
“I can’t imagine anyone even debating that Marshall and Jeffery aren’t the best wide receiver duo in the NFL, and if both are healthy throughout this season the Bears can be an offensive juggernaut.
“But Monday confirmed something I’ve feared all summer. The team is dangerously thin behind its dynamic duo and when one goes down, the whole offense can run amok.”
Arkush goes on to evaluate the competition. Its the kind of thing that makes those who root for the underdog smile. But teh rest of us who recognize that effort can only go so far may have cause for conern:
“After Marshall and Jeffery, Chris Williams and Eric Weems have clearly been the next best pass catchers in camp, not including Matt Forte and Martellus Bennett, of course.
“The irony here is that Williams was brought in to return kickoffs and punts and Weems specializes in special teams as well.
“One standing on the other’s shoulders could barely look Marshall or Jeffery in the eye.”
Like Arkush, I recognize that with Matt Forte and Martellus Bennett also catching passes, the Bears offense will probably be fine with Marshall and Jeffery. But heaven help us if one of them goes down.
“Offseason signs of growth in Cutler depict the man Marshall describes. But as good as Marshall’s intentions were, casting Cutler the player as a preseason MVP candidate only establishes unrealistic expectations set unnecessarily high. Cutler needs to run the offense. Protect the football. Make smart throws and decisions. Every now and then, show off that $127 million arm and be the reason the Bears beat a team they shouldn’t.
“But win the MVP? Cutler could enjoy the most successful year ever and lead the Bears into the playoffs without finishing in the Top 10.”
“That’s where the [Bears head coach Marc] Trestman effect — a higher completion percentage, fewer mistakes and fewer bad games — could turn Cutler into an MVP candidate. An efficient Cutler is an elite quarterback.”
I’m going with Haugh on this one. The word “elite” is thrown around too easily, especially when it comes to quarterbacks.
For instance, Aaron Rogers makes the players around him better. He makes up for a host of deficiencies on a small market team that depends heavily upon younger draft picks and almost never spends anything significant in free agency. In contrast, Cutler needs those around him to make him better and when the ship is sinking, he goes down with it. Hub Arkush at chicagofootball.com indirectly helps me make my point:
“Last Monday, a funny thing happened to the Chicago Bears on their march to Super Bowl XLIX. Alshon Jeffery missed practice No. 4 of this year’s training camp with a minor toe injury. Then, the Bears’ perceived juggernaut of an offense stopped working.
“To say the passing game ground to a halt is a bit of an overstatement but Brandon Marshall started dropping passes, Jay Cutler threw a pick and then started missing receivers and the defense clearly won the day.”
Cutler is (depending on how you define “MVP”) neither the best player in the league, nor the most valuable.
I know it sounds like I’m trashing Cutler. I’m not. He can be a fine quarterback and if he performs to his abilities the Bears will be lucky to have him. But there are only – maybe – four quarterbacks in the entire league that you could really call “elite”. He’s just not one of them.
Cutler’s not going to be the MVP. Or if he is, it won’t be justified. It’s just not who he is.
“Right now, his ability to play any position and be effective — to me, he’s more valuable than any guy I got. He’s the only guy right now that I feel comfortable that can line up at every position and know what to do and be effective.”
I also thought this nugget from Potash was interesting:
“One particularly intriguing Herring project is Christian Jones, an undrafted rookie from Florida State who signed with the Bears in part because of Herring, who played linebacker with Jones’ father, Willie Jones Sr., at Florida State in 1978.
“‘He has a great body you want to develop,’ Herring said of the 6-3, 240-pound Jones. ‘He’s a great kid. We’re excited about him being here. He’s raw. There is a process. But we are very pleased with where he is.’”
Given the log jam at linebacker, Jones is starting to sound like a practice squad candidate. But that’s assuming the Bears believe that no one will try to put him on their roster if they release him.
“You know what? I really enjoy watching my teammates make plays. I always have been that way. That’s just the way I am. A lot of guys are, ‘I want to make the play,’ but I genuinely get excited to watch my teammates make plays.”
“‘I hope they’re leaning on each other,’ Pasqualoni said. ‘Because this is too hard to try to do all by yourself. I hope they’re leaning on each other and I hope they’re leaning on the older guys as well.'”
The guys at chicagofootball.comreview the action from Monday (they had yesterday off). The thoughts of Kevin Fishbain on the defensive line were interesting. The unit will be critical to the Bears success. He’s particularly impressed with Trevor Scott, calling him the Bears fourth best defensive end. I’m not too surprised. We’ll see if it translates into performances in the preseason games.
“‘It’s the Buffalo Bills, and they will do everything they can to make that work there,’ consultant to the Toronto group recently told the Buffalo News.
“Which doesn’t make it any better.
“‘They will do everything they can to make that work there’ possibly means, ‘They’ll dog paddle in Buffalo, saying all the right until the lease allows them to load up the Mayflowers and declare, ‘Well, we did everything possible to make it work there. Bye.'”
“I believe [Lamarr] Houston is a particularly sensitive case when it comes to discipline. Houston and Willie Young, another new defensive lineman. They came from perhaps the two dumbest organizations in the NFL — the Raiders and Lions, respectively — so it’s likely neither has learned what tough really is. The Raiders act like they earn bonuses for stupid play, while the Lions under Jim Schwartz were unanimous winners in the Village Idiots race.
“But guess what: It’s a lot tougher to display discipline than lash out with fists. So the Bears fights or scuffles or skirmishes fail the tough-guy test.”
Bears running backs coach Skip Peteon Matt Forte. Via Dan Wiederer at the Chicago Tribune:
“‘The guy has an unbelievable feel for the game. And once he’s seen something, he doesn’t forget it. So early in a game, he’ll see how a defender is playing on a certain route or fitting on a certain block. Then the next time around, when that play’s called, he already has that sense for what he wants to do. He has such a terrific understanding of the structure of a defense and the responsibility of the guys on defense — who can come on a pressure, who’s supposed to fit where. That helps him make quicker decisions on all he has to do.'”
The competition for roster spots at positions like defensive line and safety seem to get the most attention. But it seems to me like the real problem spot is linebacker. Michael C. Wright‘s roster projection for ESPN.com is typical. He’s keeping Khaseem Greene and Christian Jones but kicking the Bears best special teams player, Jordan Senn, to the curb. The final list of personnel at this position is going to be interesting.
“Undrafted rookie strong-side linebacker Christian Jones continues to stand out because of how fluidly he runs, especially for such a big backer (6-foot-3, 240). The more I watch him drop in coverage, change directions and run, the more convinced I become that he’s going to make the 53-man roster.”
“Position coach Reggie Herring called Jones raw on Sunday, but the Bears really like his physical ability.”
Campbell has been paying close attention to the one-on-one pass rush drills between the offensive and defensive linemen. He is careful to state that the defensive linemen have an advantage in these drills. But his reports on the daily battles between Jordan Mills and Lamarr Houston aren’t doing anything to make me more comfortable with Mills at right offensive tackle.
I also found this report from Campbell to be significant:
“Rookie Pat O’Donnell did not punt as well Monday as he did Sunday. O’Donnell didn’t hit the ball consistently cleanly. In the second punting period — the one I charted — Tress Way unofficially averaged 51 yards and 4.26 seconds of hang time on four punts. O’Donnell unofficially averaged 45 yards and 3.74 seconds on his four punts. And, no, there were no ‘Mega Punt’ chants for O’Donnell on Monday.”
“One thing I’ve noticed over the first few days of training camp is that Way and kicker Robbie Gould are often together.”
Reports like this one from Matt Bowen at the Chicago Tribune are an encouraging sign that Marquess Wilson will win the number three wide receiver spot and will be an upgrade at the position over Earl Bennett:
“A very fluid athlete, Wilson doesn’t have elite lateral quickness, but he has improved his release points at the line of scrimmage along with his footwork at the top of the route stem when coming back downhill to the football.”
Not to make too big of a deal out of these things early in camp but Alshon Jeffrey (sore foot) and Matt Slauson (right shoulder) not finishing practice is a tad alarming. Slauson had surgery on the shoulder in the offseason but was supposedly fully recovered. Cornerback Tim Jennings remains out with a sore quadriceps muscle. Add the fact that Kyle Long, who was supposed to be back on the field by now, was still out due to a viral infection and these issues may add up to something of significance. Wiederer would seem to agree:
“Long’s absence might be the most troublesome at this point. The Bears continue to insist that they don’t expect the Pro Bowl lineman to miss extended time. But head coach Marc Trestman admitted that Long’s development certainly isn’t being furthered with all the missed practice the past week.”
“‘The only struggle that I’ve had with the transition is just how strong everybody is,’ said Sutton, a two-time Pac-12 defensive player of the year at Arizona State. ‘The weight room is one of the biggest factors out here right now. I’m a young guy out here with guys who have been doing it for a while, so experience plays a role. I’ve just got to get out here and take the room weight room seriously.’”
I’m not surprised. Sutton is one of those undersized guys that former head coach Lovie Smith used to love. He is supposed to be relying on his quickness to get by rather than his strength. He undoubtedly does need to get stronger and that will help. But that’s never going to be his strong suit. So he’d better find another way to get it done.
“Coach Marc Trestman seemed irked by a question from a reporter who referred to a story that indicated Trestman preferred Jordan Palmer to Jimmy Clausen as the backup quarterback.
“‘That couldn’t be,’ Trestman said. ‘I’ve never said anything to that at all. I’ve said that it’s a competition, that it’s an open competition. I’ve never been asked a question in two years like that, but my answer is as simple as it can be, and that is that it’s a competition. I haven’t even thought about at this point who that guy would be. I want to let it happen, and it will.’”
“[Wide receiver Brandon] Marshall actually called out [rookie cornerback Kyle] Fuller’s name and waved him over to face him during one-on-one drills. After one incompletion, Marshall gave Fuller a fist bump while walking back to their lines.
“‘I love going against Brandon Marshall,’ Fuller said.”
Bob LeGere at the Daily Herald was the only reporter to note that Marshall had “a bad case of the drops” yesterday. It didn’t stand out as much last year but Marshall is known for dropping the ball more than most wide receivers. Here’s hoping that the tendency doesn’t return this year.
“It looks to me and a number of other veteran observers like, if the season started tomorrow, [Jimmy] Clausen is the second best QB in camp. [Quarterbacks coach Matt] Cavanaugh is just glad Marc Trestman doesn’t have to make that call yet.”
Tight end Dante Rosariomay be in trouble. From Kevin Fishbain at chicagofootball.com:
“Dante Rosario had a false start and a drop, but did have a catch up the seam late. Matthew Mulligan may have the early edge at No. 2 tight end.”
Mulligan had the edge going in as it is. He’s a very good blocker that could eliminate the need to bring in back up tackle Eben Britton as an extra lineman in running situations. Mulligan is more of a threat to catch passes in such a role.
On a similar, ominous note, we haven’t heard defensive end Cornelius Washington‘s name much in camp.
“Cutler has a different demeanor this year, Bennett said.
“‘Usually, he could just easily go through the motions in [individual drills], especially when it’s hot,’ he said. ‘But he’s working on his drops, he’s working on his releases, he’s working on everything, just like every other player on the team.’
“Told of the comment, quarterbacks coach Matt Cavanaugh laughed that Bennett ‘has a different perspective’ and said he has never seen Cutler ‘disengaged’ in practice.”
“Rookie nose tackle Ego Ferguson flashes the ability to get up-field in one-on-one individual pass-rush drills, but Ferguson has ended up on the ground on at least three separate occasions since the pads came on. Ferguson needs to find the perfect combination of speed and balance to ensure he doesn’t take himself out of the play when games begin for real next month.”
Are you ready for some football? Apparently this guy is.
“[Redskins offensive coordinator Sean] McVay worked under [former Tampa Bay head coach Jon] Gruden for one year before the Bucs staff was fired. Then Gruden founded the Fired Football Coaches Association, which offered coaches a place to watch tape, exchange ideas, and in McVay’s case, absorb a lot of knowledge.”
One Final Thought
Defensive tackle Austen Lane messes with the head of Arthur Arkush at chicagofootball.com when he spins this tale:
“Ever wonder about what type of banter occurs immediately before a training camp practice scuffle ensues?”
“See, Lane and Britton were formerly teammates in Jacksonville – Lane a 2010 fifth-rounder, Britton a second-round pick one year earlier – and they know what makes the other one tick. But would you believe if we told you tempers flared due to a disagreement over fictional books?”
“‘We’re in the huddle, whatever, and he started talking to me about how Divergent is the better book series,’ Lane quipped after practice. ‘And I said, ‘no you’re stupid, Twilight is better.’ And that went back and forth … and then by the third play, I had to stand up for Twilight, man. And I stood my ground and we got in a little scrapple. But that happens when you talk about book series.'”
You know right away that its a joke. Not because science fiction books aren’t worth fighting over to a geek like me. But no one who isn’t a 14 year old girl would claim to have read Twilight. And it definitely wasn’t the better series.
“The Bears also introduced a second practice to run simultaneously with the regular one, so that twice the number of players are getting live action running selected plays.
“‘You saw two practices actually going on on two different fields,’ [head coach Marc] Trestman said, ‘so we get more reps, more opportunity to get guys on tape and give them a chance to perform and to run plays.'”
Speaking of CSNChicago.com, when I read the headline, “Brandon Marshall listed as No. 2 wide receiver in Madden 15″ I actually thought it meant he’d been listed behind fellow receiver Alshon Jeffery on the Bears roster. It turns out that Marshall was number two overall. I supposed that speaks well of Jeffery. From Paul Roumeliotis.
“Last year, the Bears employed [former Bears head coach] Lovie Smith’s system, which emphasized penetration along the defensive line. The players were used to simply shooting the gaps to stop the run on the way to the quarterback. That’s all changing in 2014. The coaching staff wants Chicago’s defensive linemen to be technicians with their hands so they can engage opposing offensive linemen, stack them at the line, shed, and run to the ball. In the previous scheme, Chicago’s defensive linemen simply didn’t know how to use their hands effectively. Many times when they penetrated, they overran the ball because more and more now, teams are employing zone schemes that allow backs to pick their holes instead of the old-school leads, counters, and powers. By becoming better at using their hands, the D-line can also keep opposing offensive linemen off the club’s rangy linebackers, which in turn allows them to run around and make plays. In fact, [defensive coordinator Mel] Tucker recently turned on film of Chicago’s defensive line during a meeting, and many of the players on the roster that were a part of last year’s team were shocked at how badly the group played. What Tucker pointed out, according to one player in that meeting, was that last year, the group didn’t know how to use its hands. The joke among defenders now is that if one of the team’s linebackers has scratches or paint from the opponent’s helmets on their own, the defensive line isn’t sufficiently doing its job to keep offensive linemen off the linebackers. The Bears are expecting higher tackle totals this year among the linebackers, and the defensive line will be largely responsible for that.”
“For all the excitement surrounding [punter Pat] O’Donnell’s leg, the team’s two long snappers — 10-year Canadian Football League vet Chad Rempel and the unproven Brandon Hartson — struggled mightily on the first day in full pads.
“Their snaps missed in all directions; one even sailed over a punter’s head.
“If the snaps didn’t improve, [special teams coordinator Joe] DeCamillis hinted the team would look elsewhere, a tough task this early in training camp.”
As mentioned, the good news on special teams came from the punting, itself. From Rich Campbell at the Chicago Tribune:
“O’Donnell, the sixth-round rookie, outperformed Tress Way during the team punting periods. O’Donnell’s distance, hang time and placement were superior overall.”
“‘I’m learning that you can’t outkick your coverage,’ O’Donnell said. ‘In college, you can kind of get away with it. Definitely learning how to hit that 45-yard ball, fair catch, so it’s all net (yardage), and not getting that big return when you hit a 60-yard punt.'”
“The former Pro Bowler understands leverage, he can play top down from his Cover-2 landmark and he knows how to practice like a pro in terms of alignment and responsibility in the secondary.
“However, when watching Wilson, I didn’t see that extra gear — or burst — that allows safeties to get off the numbers in Cover-2 or transition versus the throw as an underneath defender in three-deep coverage.”
“Last year the Bears came to camp with just three quarterbacks — Cutler, Josh McCown, Matt Blanchard — in part because the plan was to give Cutler increased snaps in what was a new offense.”
“This year, with four quarterbacks, the approach is still to acclimate him, this time to personnel. The Bears avoided significant injuries on offense other than those to Cutler, and a goal is to have comfort levels with more just the starters.”
“‘He’s not only working with the 1’s,’ Trestman said, ‘but he’s working with the guys, not only Alshon and Brandon, Marquess [Wilson] but the other guys are in this competition to make this team at wide receiver.'”
Mullin also makes a good point about how performances camp are already demonstrating the improvement in the Bears depth on defense:
More concern about the linebacking corps on Sports Talk Live:
When I heard that Colts owner Jim Irsay was handing out $100 bills to fans at the teams training camp, I thought it was weird. When I read the probable explanation from Mike Florio at profootballtalk.com, it actually got weirder.
Things sound a little rough for the Jets right now. From Josh Alper, also at profootballtalk.com.
“This season, for the first time, the San Diego Chargers, Oakland Raiders and St. Louis Rams are all on year-to-year leases, possibly setting the stage for one or more of them to move. (NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and others have repeatedly ruled out the possibility of an expansion franchise, insisting that if L.A. gets a team it will be because of relocation.)
“Cowboys owner Jerry] Jones makes it sound as if the league is poised to act, but we’ve heard this kind of talk many, many times over the years. Neither the NFL nor L.A. has budged in this two-decade standoff.”
One Final Thought
Defensive tackle Nate Collin got most of the defensive underdog hype from the press yesterday after the first day of one-on-one padded drills in camp. But Bob LeGere at the Daily Heraldchose to give defensive end Trevor Scott some love. Something tells me fans may want to pay attention to this one. He’s coming off of a torn ACL in 2010 and sometimes they take a while to come all the way back (as Collins, who tore his last year, is likely to find out). Sometimes you just have to wait for the right situation to manifest itself after that. The Bears might turn out to be that for Scott and they might have picked him up at the just right time.
“James Anderson was the Bears best linebacker last year and he wasn’t even invited back because the Bears refuse to quit on Emery’s first, first-round draft choice, McClellin, and they believe last year’s number two, Jon Bostic can play as well.
“There is no longer any denying McClellin can’t play with a hand on the ground in the NFL so he’s been given the starting strongside linebacker spot. Allegedly there’s a competition for the spot with Bostic, but it’s clear it’s McClellin’s to lose.”
“At Saturday’s practice McClellin looked uncomfortable and awkward. The reality may be that while he did have exceptional athletic skills for the defensive end spot – he just didn’t have the strength, power or instincts – at linebacker his athleticism is just average if that.”
“The best linebacker on the field Saturday was actually 2013 fourth-round pick, Khaseem Greene. Like Bostic he appears much more fluid and instinctive this year and parlayed that into an interception of Jordan Palmer he returned for a touchdown.”
Well, I don’t know about Anderson being the Bears best linebacker last year but I have no trouble believing that McClellin is struggling. He’s not going to stand out as an athletic linebacker at this point where speed is going to be much more likely to be apparent with little or no contact. Let’s hope that McClellin can show off more strength when the pads go on. Its early yet and McClellin isn’t likely to look very instinctive next to linebackers who have a year or more of experience under their belts.
Still, like Arkush, I’m worried that McClellin’s draft status is causing him to be handed a position that he doesn’t deserve (at least not yet). This wouldn’t be a good sign on an organizational level where such things need to be avoided. Also like Arkush, I’m starting to wonder if all of those fans and media who thought that McClellin should have been trained to be Brian Urlacher‘s replacement when he was drafted weren’t right all along. Physically, at least, he certainly appears to be better suited to the middle linebacker spot. Like Urlacher, who started off as a strong-side linebacker, I’m not at all sure the Bears have gotten McClellin’s situation right, yet.
“‘That wasn’t an empty threat,’ Allen says. ‘It’s a weird thing. As much as I love the game and still want to play, football is what I do but not who I am by any means. I love my family. I have other interests. So above all else, I wanted to believe in what I was playing for.
“‘I’m not going to play football if I’m not happy going to work. So for me it was finding a spot where a) I have a chance to win; and b) I believe in everything they’re selling.'”
“‘My last few years in Minnesota, there were guys who weren’t bought in. There were times when I wasn’t bought in. I was telling guys, ‘Listen, I’m not 100 percent into this.’ And you have to dig deep to convince yourself to get back on board.'”
“The long catch (over cornerback Kyle Fuller) highlighted the good day Jeffery had catching the ball. His sure hands are nothing new, but he showed them off several times Saturday. His best catch occurred about 15 yards down field coming back to the ball with cornerback Charles Tillman on his back.
“Jeffery’s strong, reliable hands have become an important part of the Bears’ passing success, particularly because Cutler likes to throw with trust in his receivers.”
“Jeffery said he trains to strengthen his grip by churning quantities of dried rice.”
Some might enjoy this talk by Trestman to the Illinios football team. The video is dated April, 2014:
I thought this video was funny. I’m more than a little afraid of what that ways about me.
Wide receiver Stephen Hill is under the gun in New York and head coach Rex Ryan hasn’t been all that helpful. Most organizations pull together behind a draft pick no matter how people felt behind the scenes. But that’s apparently not Ryan’s style. Via Mike Florio at profootballtalk.com:
“‘Well, nothing told me he would [contribute],’ Ryan said in 2012 to Don Banks at SI.com]. ‘Nothing. When I saw the tape [of his collegiate play] I was concerned. But Mike Tannenbaum and [senior personnel executive] Terry Bradway and all our scouts were adamant about this guy. They were adamant that this guy can do it. He can run all these routes, he had good hands and he’s got 4.2 speed at 6-foot-5. He was the guy they all wanted, but honestly, when it came down to it, a wideout? Not my dream pick. But now that we have him, of course, I want to claim him: ‘Oh, that was my pick.’ But it really wasn’t.'”
Ron Jaworskiwhen asked whether he would take Nick Foles or Russell Wilson. From Florio:
“‘I’m taking Foles,’ Jaworski said. ‘Not even close. Russell Wilson is just… because of that system he is in. Russell Wilson plays with that defense, the best in football. He just managed the game very well. I think Russell Wilson has played terrific, a great maturity, but I’m going to take Nick Foles.’
“While Jaworski is entitled to his opinions (and ESPN is entitled to milk three days or programming out of each of them), this one seems a little kooky.”
I’m inclined to agree with Jaworski, here. Though I must say that you could also argue that Foles is as much of a system quarterback as Wilson.
“Nearly a third of the Vikings’ 24 completions in team drills went to running backs, and they put a particular emphasis on setting up screens for Adrian Peterson…. [Head coach Mike Zimmer said,] ‘Once he gets the ball in his hands, if it’s in the open field, it’s bad news.'”
Agreed. Peterson has been totally under-utylized in this regard in the past. The change is undoubtedly a result of the thinking of new offensive coordinator Norv Turner, someone who knows how to use a running back. This isn’t good news for the NFC North.
“For the second day in a row, the Vikings used a nickel package with three safeties, and Zimmer said he also has a three-corner, one-safety base look that he’ll unveil at some point.”
“It seems like Norv Turner’s offense will employ pulling guards more often than Bill Musgrave’s scheme did; the Vikings had rookie David Yankey pulling on a number of plays. There will still be some zone blocking, but it doesn’t seem like the Vikings will be as married to that style of offensive line play as they were with Musgrave.”
“[Titans' rookie quarterback Zack] Mettenberger was sucker-punched last weekend by an Alabama fan while at a bar with fellow rookie Taylor Lewan. A man came up to him and said, ‘Roll Tide.’
“The former LSU quarterback, says he answered ‘Good luck with that’ before being slugged. The man ran out of the bar before being chased down. A police report also was not filed.”
One Final Thought
Seattle head coach Pete Carroll and wide receiver Doug Baldwinaren’t on the same page when it comes to running back Marshawn Lynch‘s holdout. From Michael David Smith, also a profootballtalk.com:
“Carroll says Lynch needs to get to camp because Lynch signed a contract and needs to honor it. But shortly after Carroll made those comments, Baldwin took to Twitter and said he hates hearing from NFL teams about how players have to honor their contracts, because teams routinely cut players who have years left on their contracts.
“‘I hate the ‘but you signed the contract’ argument,’ Baldwin wrote. ‘Players can’t say that s–t when organizations cut them.’”
And I can’t stand it when players try to make Baldwin’s argument. You don’t like the terms of the contract? Don’t sign it. Otherwise be a man of honor and live up to its terms.
No one owes you a pro football career. If you don’t like the threat of being cut at any time you can try blogging for a living.
“The battle figures to be between [Jordan] Palmer and [Jimmy] Clausen, with performances in exhibition games weighing significantly. Palmer remains in the lead position because he has been around longer, but if the Bears were convinced he’s the guy, they never would have added Clausen in June.
“Cutler devoted a weekend to helping Clausen take a crash course on the playbook after he signed, a possible clue to the dynamics of the situation.”
Biggs also explains why former Bears quarterback Kyle Orton is an unlikely possibility. Orton wanted to retire but didn’t want to do so because if he had, he would have owed the Cowboys a portion of his signing bonus money. So he boycotted the offseason and then threatened to come to camp rather than pay the money. Now that the Cowboys have released him, its unlikely that he’ll continue to play.
“Cornerback Charles Tillman re-routed receiver Marquess Wilson at the line of scrimmage on one passing play when Wilson lined up inside. Tillman forced an outside release by jamming Wilson with his left hand, and Wilson never got open. His ability to beat press coverage is one element to keep an eye on throughout the preseason, as the second-year pro tries to solidify his role as the No. 3 receiver.”
“Trestman understood what the moment meant to his rookie. He ran across the field from the left sideline to commend Fuller with a high-five and a slap on the helmet.”
I thought it was interesting that while Campbell emphasized Fuller’s two interceptions, Mark Potash at the Chicago Sun-Timestook a more balanced approach by also noting that Fuller “was burned for a long touchdown and was victimized by a push-off from Brandon Marshall.” Potash had a couple of other interesting notes:
“At one point, defensive end Lamarr Houston moved inside, with Willie Young playing left end.
“The Bears’ first-team defense worked against a Wildcat package with Armanti Edwards at quarterback.”
Patrick Finley at the Chicago Sun-Timeshas something for those who are constantly wondering why the Bears don’t trade running back Matt Forte:
“If it’s possible, Forte is more valuable this year than last. The reason is the chasm between him and his backups.”
“Short of quarterback Jay Cutler, whom the offense prioritizes protecting at all costs, Forte is the Bears’ most irreplaceable offensive star this season.”
“The pictures say so much more. In a way, the stream of images of [quarterback Johnny] Manziel partying is a worse reflection on the Browns than it is on Manziel. Other teams understood who Manziel was, which is why his stock was devalued on draft day. Now the Browns understand it, too.”
For those who are about to point out that there’s nothing wrong with what Manziel is doing, I won’t totally disagree as long as he performs on the field (though Pompei points out how unlikely that is under the circumstances). But the real issue is Manziel’s insistence on advertising his partying ways through social media, shoving it in the faces of fans who would much rather he concentrated on football until he proved he could play first. The Browns’ issues with Manziel almost certainly have more to do with that than anything.
From the moment the Browns put in a card with Teddy Bridgewater‘s name on it, then switched it to Manziel, almost certainly at the insistence of the owner, you knew the Browns were no different that they’ve ever been – a totally dysfunctional franchise that does a disservice to its fans through poor management year after year.
“Before the first preseason game at Tennessee on Aug. 9, the Packers will hold a practice (one that is closed to fans) on Aug. 8 and will not practice at all on Aug. 7. The team will follow the same type of schedule for the remaining three preseason games and, as McCarthy disclosed on Friday, that will continue into the regular season.
“‘It’s a philosophical change,’ McCarthy said during his annual pre-training camp news conference.
“McCarthy used to hold the belief that it was best to get players off the field — and off their feet — 48 hours before kickoff. Now, it appears that for a Sunday regular-season game, the Packers will hold a practice on Saturday but not on Friday. Typically, their on-field preparation had been completed by Friday afternoon. “
“Trestman said he would have to watch the video to determine how those plays broke down, but his take on the dichotomy between sides of the interceptions highlighted how he views the pursuit of improvement during these weeks set aside for development.
“‘There are moments in practice when somebody’s going to have a heck of a play, and when they do, somebody just failed,’ he said. ‘My perspective is: how do we respond when these things happen?
“‘We see how everybody responds after failing. And how they respond after success, because that’s what a game is — somebody wins and somebody loses on every play and how they respond is the most important thing as a professional.'”