- Defensive end Willie Young explains the catch 22 when it comes to generating a disciplined pass rush to keep a quarterback like Russell Wilson in the pocket while generating sufficient pressure. Via Dan Wiederer at the Chicago Tribune:
“‘It’s like, what am I supposed to do?’ Young said. ‘Just sit here and pitty-pat with this tackle and get hung up on the block and let him just sit there in the pocket? Then I’ll come back to the sideline and hear that we’re not getting pressure on the quarterback.'”
There’s no doubt that its a delicate balance. But teams do it all over the league. In Wilson’s case, its fairly obvious that the priority was to keep him in there and generate what pressure you can. Most of us understand the issue.
- It was good to see some Bears return to practice this week. Ebon Britton needed to get back on the field. Although Kelvin Hayden didn’t exactly look great Friday night it might be too little too late for Isaiah Frey. I’ve got to believe that he’s on the bubble. Time is running out on Chris Williams, too. From Rich Campbell at the Chicago Tribune.
- Brandon Marshall gets a little love from ESPN as he becomes a major part of their .
- Patrick Finley at the Chicago Sun-Times makes a good point:
“[Quarterback David] Fales’ odds of making the final roster might have increased. If the Bears had hoped for him to join their practice squad, they likely wouldn’t provide other interested teams with four quarters of game film.”
Of course that still depends upon how well he plays. Probably the Bears aren’t going to let what other teams might think stand in the way of their own evaluation. So I would say that the fact that Fales will play the whole game is more of an indication of the Bears willingness to keep him on the roster by allowing him the opportunity to play his way on to it.
- Mark Potash at the Chicago Sun-Times comments on the Bears special teams:
“Thanks to the luxury of having [Devin] Hester in his prime, longtime coordinator Dave Toub usually had the Bears’ special teams ranked among the best in the NFL. Even when Hester wasn’t at his best, the Bears still found a way to return kicks and to cover them.”
No doubt Hester was nice to have, especially at his peak. But let’s not overestimate his importance. Those units were a lot more than Hester. I don’t care how many guys you were shuffling in and out to take a look at, there’s no excuse for the Bears special teams to be as bad as they’ve been. For all of the hand-wringing over the defense, this is where the real point of greatest concern lies.
One Final Thought
Speaking of hand-wringing over the defense, I’ve read and listened to a number of media members who have repeatedly referred to this defense as “old and slow” and most have said the defense looks like last year’s disaster. This column from Rick Morrissey at the Chicago Sun-Times is typical.
Let’s get one thing straight. What we saw on Friday did not look like last year’s defense. We saw all kinds of penetration and all kinds of pressure from the defensive line. That alone is a huge difference.
The Bears were victimized by a good, talented offense that was playing at their best. They hit them on a good night. Even given that, I’m disappointed that they didn’t show better but I understand what they were up against and I’ve a feeling it would have been a different story with a little more development, a little more game planning and with a little more time together as a unit later in the season. They wouldn’t have won. But it would have gone better.
I’m not saying the current version of the Bears defense is going to remind us of the ’85 Bears. But lets cut them a little slack. They’re definitively better than last year. It not going to be great. But its not going to be bad, either, and I think if we just relax and keep things in perspective that we’re all going to enjoy watching them.
Probably a lot of people were surprised at some of the cuts from Saturday thinking that players like Adrian Wilson and Nate Collins would stick until the final round. But the Bears were doing these guys a favor by letting them go early. They’ll now have plenty of time to seek out another team. Likely that’s part of the reason they were chosen.
Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune wonders if defensive end Austin Lane didn’t make the team with his performance against Seattle. He’s got a point. It’s something to keep an eye on.
Biggs also had this note:
“One of the first players the Bears added to revamp special teams this offseason was linebacker Jordan Senn, who signed a one-year deal on March 13. The move came right out of the gates in free agency and came as a surprise to his former team the Panthers. But Senn has been getting little work with the first team and that would be a sign right now that he is a longshot for the roster.”
I had Senn down as a core special teamer based upon the assumption that this was why the Bears signed him. But the depth chart at linebacker is crowded and obviously I was wrong as Senn was finally cut on Sunday. The Bears special teams are a mess and who those core players are going to be and whether special teams coordinator Joe DeCamillis is the guy to get them to perform are real issues.
John Mullin at csnchicago.com predicts that the Bears will keep six wide receivers: Alshon Jeffery, Brandon Marshall, Santoio Holmes, Josh Morgan, Chris Williams and Marquess Wilson.
He might be right but I’ve got my doubts about that group. Holmes hasn’t shown much yet and a lot will depend on the last preseason game for him. I think the Bears have serious doubts about Williams’s hands (both receiving and returning) and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Wilson end up on IR with the idea that the Bears will bring him back at midseason. There are some interesting decisions that need to be made here.
Mullin makes a good point in relation to the now settled backup quarterback competition. He believes that one factor was that the Bears could be confident that Jordan Palmer would be available if needed in an emergency but that Jimmy Clausen might well have been picked up by another team.
One Final Thought
Another season, another pack of injured Packers. This year they are already fighting the loss of nose tackle B.J. Raji and center JC Tretter. The Packers seem to be particularly adept at gathering themselves to overcome these setbacks, needing to lose Aaron Rogers last year before bowing under the weight. It’s already looking another banner year for major injuries up there and its likely they’re going to have to deal with the storm again.
We can only hope the Bears do as well as they are unlikely to be as healthy on offense as they were last year. This is where you find out what your coaching staff and the men under them are made of. Here’s hoping its of sterner stuff than last year where the defense totally collapsed under the pressure.
One Final Thought
Rich Campbell at the Chicago Tribune at the end of his Seahawks game story:
“In their last action before the games do count, the Bears’ first-stringers found out they didn’t measure up to the champions, and any talk of them possibly making a Super Bowl run of their own this season can stop until further notice.”
Look, I’m sorry to be a downer but anyone who thought this team was going to the Super Bowl before this game needs to get a grip. I’m a little disappointed that the Bears didn’t do better but I’m not surprised that they were out performed. Bears fans better get used to the idea that this group is going to be beaten this season by at least a few teams that are just plain better than they are.
I wasn’t the only one who raised his eyebrows when the Bears cut wide receiver Eric Weems on Saturday. Rich Campbell at the Chicago Tribune reports:
“His release comes as a bit of a surprise because he played on all four special teams units and was the Bears’ fourth-leading special teams tackler in 2013. The club is searching for core special teamers in light of their struggles this preseason.”
I always thought Weems gave good effort on special teams and he stood out on a number of occasions last year. He wasn’t the answer as a kick returner, though, and its obvious that he wasn’t going to give them much as a receiver.
Teams are apparently making some adjustments to the new points of emphasis on the rules this season. Making less contact with the receivers down field seems to be the one getting them most attention. From Dan Wiederer at the Chicago Tribune:
“To adapt to the new emphases, the Browns have spent part of the preseason with their defensive backs wearing kick-boxing gloves at practice, accessories that restrict players’ attempts to grab or use their hands in coverage.
“Rams defensive coordinator Gregg Williams has had his defensive backs holding tennis balls as a restraint.”
The video which the NFL has put out to demonstrate the new rules and points of emphasis to the players can be found here. It does a good job of clarifying a number of issues.
Campbell and Wiederer discuss the Beas back up quarterback competition. Campbell makes the point that Jordan Palmer may have an advantage in that he’s made a particular effort to stay after practice and get comfortable with many of the receivers. Even though to most eyes Jimmy Clausen has been the better quarterback, this sounds like the kind of thing that might make the difference with a guy like Bears head coach Marc Trestman. Palmer will be first up after Cutler on Friday night.
This criticism of Bears wide receiver Brandon Marshall seems to be uncalled for. The columnist either hasn’t done his homework or seems determined to overemphasize behavior that we all think is well behind him now.
Bears tickets offer the worst value in the NFL. Via Patrick Finley at the Chicago Sun-Times.
One Final Thought
Adam L. Jahns at the Chicago Sun-Times writes yet another article about how safety Chris Conte needs to put 2013 behind him.
We’d all like to do that.
We’ve heard ad nauseum about how much abuse Conte took, particularly after the last play of the last game against the Packers. Enough. It’s a painful episode in the history of the franchise that Packers quarterback Aaron Rogers called “the most satisfying of his career”. I don’t like thinking about it and I don’t like reading about it. It’s done.
If the members of the media will stop bringing it up and rubbing salt in the wound, I think we can all safely promise to forget it. Believe me, there’s nothing I’d like more.
The Tribune writers put their heads together to assess the state of the Bears roster and review the state of each position. Since the eight core special teamers who are going to play on each unit are going to be a huge part of determining who makes the team, its worth looking at who they might be. Here are my guys:
- Jordan Senn
- Dante Rosario
- Khaseem Greene
- Sherrick McMannus
- Danny McCray
- Matthew Mulligan
- Tony Fiammetta
- Trevor Scott
It’s worth noting that this leaves perennial special teamer, Craig Steltz, off of the list. Steltz missed a lot of camp with an injury. If he stays on, one of these players will come off. In my mind it came down to him, Mulligan or Scott and I think the other two offer more in terms of depth and the ability to help every week on game day at their respective positions. Mulligan can serve as an extra blocker in obvious running situations the way that Eben Britton did last year but can also serve as a receiving threat. Scott will likely make the team regardless and will rotate in occasionally as the fourth defensive end. By putting him on all of the special teams units they save a roster spot. McCray is undoubtedly far ahead of Steltz in all areas and has played before under special teams coordinator Joe DeCamillis
The absence of a wide receiver in this group is also notable. One of the bubble candidates will likely have to make it as the punt and kick returner. This was why Weems would have been valuable in this position. He would have contributed on the other units. But that wasn’t meant to be. There was a point where I wondered if Josh Bellamy might make the team as part of this group. He still might but he’ll have to be what Weems basically was last year if he does. It looks like he’ll contribute little to the passing game as a wide receiver.
I also left the running backs off but both Shaun Draughn and, especially, Ka’Deem Carey are candidates. Michael Ford‘s prospects are looking dim. Reading between the lines, he probably doesn’t offer a lot in pass protection as a running back. If he makes it, it will likely be as a kick returner and the Bears probably don’t want to use a roster spot for that kind of specialist who can’t contribute elsewhere. If they did, Devin Hester would still be here.
- Rich Campbell at the Chicago Tribune comments on the offensive production in Thursday’s preseason game:
“How the offensive production correlated to line play Thursday supports the argument that the line’s collective health last season was perhaps the most under-appreciated factor in the offense’s success. All five linemen started all 16 games. Their continuity fostered cohesion and sharpness as the season progressed.”
It also underscores a concern that has carried over from last year as well. The line’s lack of physical play was underscored by the poor job the Bears did running the ball Friday. It was one of the reasons why I was looking for changes up front, albeit minor ones. Instead, general manager Phil Emery opted to bet that the line would become more physical as the players grew together under Bears head coach Marc Trestman and offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer in their second year. Here’s hoping they were right. But you’ll forgive me if I have my doubts.
- Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune doesn’t like my suggestion that Ryan Mundy might be paired with Adrian Wilson at safety:
“Wilson and Mundy would leave the Bears without a true free safety and that is a key position for defenses against the proliferation of three-, four- and even five-wide packages. It’s also the position you want to think about when trying to cover the athletic tight ends across the league. That is why this pairing seems like a long shot to me. [Chris] Conte absolutely has a chance or he wouldn’t still be around. Let’s see how plays when he gets in preseason games.”
His point about Conte is well taken and was pointed out to me by a commenter on Facebook after posting my blog entry. In the absence of anyone else stepping up, the job may well turn out to be Conte’s by default. Having said that, I thought Danny McCray .
- Adam L. Jahns at the Chicago Sun-Times quotes defensive end Jared Allen on all of the penalty flags that were thrown Thursday:
“Jaguars cornerback Mike Harris’ roughing-the-passer penalty late in the game even infuriated Bears defensive end Jared Allen.
“‘If that is, I’m hosed,’ Allen said. ‘Because I’m going to get about 20 of those this year. At some point, in my opinion, you got to look at what’s better for the game. Are all these flags on the field better for the pace of the game? Is it a better fan experience? I don’t think so.'”
Allen has a point. I thought the call on Harris was particularly bad. I saw no contact with the quarterback’s helmet and the hit definitely wasn’t late.
Night games always feel long and Thursday night’s game was particularly bad with all of those penalties. If this carries over into the season, we aren’t going to be sleeping much.
- Hub Arkush at chicagofootball.com :
O’Donnell clearly has the edge as a draft pick and it’s up to Way to show that he’s definitively better. But setting that aside, I can’t say I’ve seen much difference between the two.
- Scott Krinch at CSNChicago.com gives the Bears defense some credit for bending but not breaking in the red zone. He has a point. Many a Lovie Smith defense operated the same way, giving up a lot of yards but holding teams to field goals time after time.
- I was a little surprised by this assessment from Michael C. Wright at ESPN.com:
“The Bears want to remain patient with Shea McClellin as he transitions to linebacker, but his play against the Jaguars seemed just about on par with his shoddy showing last week. McClellin did stuff the run once early on but continues to struggle at shedding blocks and making tackles in space.”
McClellin and, really, all of the linebackers looked better Thursday night. McClellin read plays and attacked the line of scrimmage and was frequently blitzed. I had no problem with him.
- Dan Wiederer at the Chicago Tribune makes the case that Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles may be a player to keep an eye on. Bortles surprised me Thursday night. He’s much more accurate that I thought he was.
One Final Thought
Rick Morrissey at the Chicago Sun-Times asks wide receiver Brandon Marshall how the team feels about him working a side job as an analyst on Inside the NFL during the season:
“‘You need to be very careful how you write this story and talk to me because this could be the last time you talk to me,’ he said.
“Um, OK …
“‘End of story,’ he said.
“‘I’m just asking …’
“‘End of story,’ he said.
“I can see it’s going to be hell writing the authorized Brandon Marshall book now.”
I read several articles on this before getting to the Morrissey column and had already concluded that it was a non-story. Now I’m interested.
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 :
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 :
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.