The Things That Make Us Tick and Other Points of View

Bears

  • Bears running backs coach Skip Pete on 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.
  • On a related note, Rich Campbell at the Chicago Tribune has been impressed with Jones:
  • “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.”

    Adam L. Jahns at the Chicago Sun-Times added this:

    “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.”

    Jeff Dickerson at ESPN.com reports that Long saw a doctor on Monday.

  • Jahns quotes defensive tackle Will Sutton:

    “‘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.

  • Its unusual to hear that Trestman sounded this upset. Via Jahns:

    “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.’”

  • Jahns noted this exchange:

    “[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.
  • Hub Arkush at chicagofootball.com on the back up quarterback competition:

    “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.”

  • Bowen agrees with Arkush.

  • Tight end Dante Rosario may 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.
  • Patrick Finley at the Chicago Sun-Times quotes tight end Martellus Bennett on quarterback Jay Cutler:

    “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.”

  • Dickerson writes about the progress of the younger Bears along the defensive front:

    “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.

Elsewhere

  • Buried in Dan Pompei‘s article about the state of the Washington Redskins for Sports on Earth was this nugget regarding an organization I never heard of before:

    “[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.

Not that I would know that.

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The Underdog Hype Machine Revs Up and Other Points of View

Bears

    • John Mullin at CSNChicago.com points out an interesting fact I hadn’t read anywhere else:

      “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.
    • Adam L. Jahns at the Chicago Sun-Times for the benefit of those who haven’t been paying attention:

“One basic premise has emerged [about the new defensive scheme]: the linebackers will have the ­freedom to play instinctively. To do that, different techniques up front will be used more often.

“In the simplest terms, defensive tackles will be required to control blockers instead of always ­maintaining assigned single gaps.”

“A line featuring [Lamarr] Houston at tackle with [Jeremiah] Ratliff and [Willie] Young at end opposite [Jared] Allen has given the offense fits.”

  • Michael C. Wright at ESPN.com elaborates on the scheme changes up front:

    “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.”

  • From Patrick Finley at the Chicago Sun-Times:

    “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.”

    Fantastic.

  • 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.'”

  • Also from Finley:

    “[Defensive coordinator Mel] Tucker said there was ‘no dropoff’ for defensive end Shea McClellin on his first day in pads.”

    Yes, well, not at defensive end, no.

  • Former NFL defensive back Matt Bowen on safety Adrian Wilson for the Chicago Tribune:

    “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.”

  • Dan Wiederer at the Chicago Tribune on Ratliff:

    “Tight end Martellus Bennett, who was a teammate of Ratliff’s in Dallas for four seasons, admires Ratliff’s intelligence and humility but loves that he also ‘plays angry and nasty.’

    “‘You want defensive lineman who don’t use knives and forks. They eat everything with their hands,’ Bennett said. ‘You want to find guys who are closer to being barbarians.'”

  • Mullin points out that quarterback Jay Cutler is taking second team snaps in camp this year:

    “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:

Elsewhere

    • 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.
    • There are signs that the NFL may finally be getting ready to act on Los Angeles. From Sam Farmer writing for the Chicago Tribune:

“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 Herald chose 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.

Posted in Chicago Bears, Indianapolis Colts, New York Jets, Points of View | Leave a comment

Wishing for More Honor Among Men and Other Points of View

Bears

  • Hub Arkush at chicagofootball.com never makes half-hearted statements:

    “Fans and some media who keep suggesting if the defense can just be a little better, maybe just average, that it makes the Bears a contender are nuts.

    “Average defenses don’t win Super Bowls, or even get the chance to lose one.”

  • Arkush seems to be very concerned about the situation at linebacker and is extremely tough on Shea McClellin:

    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.

  • Dan Wiederer at the Chicago Tribune quotes new Bears defensive end Jared Allen on the possibility that he was going to retire if he didn’t find the right fit in free agency:

    “‘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.'”

  • Rich Campbell at the Chicago Tribune on wide receiver Ashon Jeffery‘s performance:

    “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.”

  • Patrick Finley and Gavin Crowellat the Chicago Sun-Times on the second skirmish in as many practices at Bears camp:

    “Offensive tackle Jordan Mills called his skirmish with defensive end Lamarr Houston — their second since organized team activities — ‘nothing but competition.’”

    “Defensive end Willie Young’s helmet came off during the skirmish, and he didn’t play the rest of practice. Trestman said Young had a sore quad.”

    Its funny that Young’s “sore quad” became an issue right after the dust up. Let’s hope head coach Marc Trestman didn’t have Young on his mind when he called these fights a “safety issue”.

  • Mark Potash at the Chicago Sun-Times has a timely reminder for overly some optimistic fans:

    “Interceptions in training-camp practices without pads are fool’s gold more often than not.”

  • Kevin Fishbain at chicagofootball.com notes that wide receiver Terrence Tolliver had two drops yesterday. Not a good sign.
  • 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.

Elsewhere

  • 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 Jaworski when 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.

  • I would agree with Florio in that the surveilance video of this incident might be even more interesting than that of Ray Rice.
  • Ben Goessling at ESPN.com has this significant bit of information from Vikings camp yesterday:

    “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.

  • A couple of other interesting points from Goessling:

    “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.”

  • Here’s another one for the “people are idiots” file:

    “[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 Baldwin aren’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.

Posted in Chicago Bears, Points of View | Leave a comment

Two Sides of the Same Coin and Other Points of View

Bears

    • Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune follows my own thoughts on the back up quarterback competition:

      “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.

    • Rich Campbell at the Chicago Tribune makes this interesting observation:

      “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.”

    • Campbell also notes Bears head coach Marc Trestman‘s efforts to do a better job of courting the defense this season as Kyle Fuller racked up an interception:

      “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-Times took 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-Times has 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.”

Elsewhere

  • Dan Pompei at Sports on Earth points out an unvarnished fact:

    “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.

  • Packers head coach Mike McCarthy is tinkering with the teams’ schedule as it prepares for games this year. From Rob Demovsky at ESPN.com:

    “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. “

One Final Thought

Campbell quotes Trestman on a couple of interceptions by Kyle Fuller at the expense of the the offense:

“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.'”

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Just “Skip” “Bayless” and Other Points of View

Bears

    • I’ve paid as little attention as possible to the Chris Kluwe situation because in all liklihood, neither side will turn out to be in the right. Kluwe sounds, and has always sounded, like he’s a little less than balanced and the Vikings never seem to handle anything right. But I did find this aspect of the report on whether Kluwe was let go do to his views on gay marriage to be interesting. From Scott Krinch at CSNChicago.com:

      “Included in the report were statements from ex-Bears general manager Jerry Angelo and former NFL punter Craig Hentrich, who were hired by investigators to review Kluwe’s 2012 performance.

      “Angelo said that if he held the title of general manager for the Vikings during the 2012 season, he would have ‘in all likelihood’ released Kluwe.”

    • Bears radio analyst and former offensive lineman Tom Thayer is interviewed by Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune. His thoughts on how the Bears can improve in short yardage situations were interesting:

      “First of all, you have to put yourself in a winning position in terms of the scheme and how you’re going to come off the block in (those) scenarios. Look at the scenario when (Nick) Fairley was able to get a jump on the snap count in Detroit because it was quiet. You have to make sure that you have devised a scheme that, no matter where he is before the snap, he is in a blockable position. That is the first thing. Make sure you go to the line of scrimmage with the understanding that 100 percent of the time you’re going to get a hat on a hat so at least you have the opportunity to succeed in short yardage.

      “Then it’s the running back seeing the right hole. It’s the receiver and everybody understanding what must happen for the play to succeed.

      “It’s a difficult thing to process because you don’t get a chance to go 100 percent live (in practice) and there is a lot of difficulty coming out of your stance on the goal line to make sure you are explosive going forward or pulling one way or the other. You hope your offense is around for three or four years to be perfect in short yardage and always be the aggressor. (You don’t want) the defense in a better position (than you) before the snap.

      My distinct impression was that the Bears offensive line lacked physical strength in these situaitons. Not “toughness”. This might be worth a fill post.

    • The 2013 Bears were 4-6 in games in which they posted a 100-yard receiver. But they were 3-2 in games with Matt Forte netting 100 rushing yards. Discuss.
    • Biggs interviews former NFL safety Matt Bowen. Bowen reminds us of something I’ve heard many, many times but some how always forget when actually watching the game:

Michael Ford, an undrafted rookie last year, and Ka’Deem Carey, a fourth-round pick, are vying to be Matt Forte’s primary backup. What are the challenges for an inexperienced running back?

“Pass protection is No. 1. If you can’t pass protect, you can’t play. It is pass protection and ball security. Everything you do afterward is extra. Everyone wants to see a running back show that speed through the hole, produce in the screen game, produce in the check-down game. But it has to start with pass protection and ball security.”

    • I’m used to reading articles about how good Bears negotiator Cliff Stein is (and he is). But this one by Patrick Finley at the Chicago Sun-Times has some details that better explained why:

      “Stein ‘doesn’t try to embarrass you,’ a prominent agent said. ‘He tries to make you look good in front of your client. He’s all about the win-win.

      “‘Some teams want to crush you. Some guys, it’s like playing tennis and they want to beat you. Cliff is more like playing in a best-ball golf tournament.’”

      “Angelo tells the story with wonder and respect. Before draft-pick salaries were codified by the collective-bargaining agreement, the Bears agreed to terms with a high selection who had a relative serving as his agent.

      “After other picks in his round had signed, it was clear the Bears were paying about $200,000 below market value. They knew the agent would look bad and the player would be shorted.

      “‘Cliff came to me and said: ‘Jerry, we gotta do something about this. We cannot embarrass this guy. We certainly can’t make the player feel like we took advantage of him,’’ Angelo said.

      “The Bears didn’t have to do anything — the agent wouldn’t represent another player — but Stein suggested the contract take on a different structure to make up the difference.”

    • How do you feel about the coming Bears season? I surprised myself by scoring an optimistic 18 on this poll. So obviously its flawed. From Mark Potash at the Chicago Sun-Times.
    • Mark Potash at the Chicago Sun-Times qualifies the Bears’ offensive performance last year:

      “But despite that [overall] production, there were few points in the season where the Bears’ offense looked like an unstoppable machine that could score at will. They scored 30 or more points six times, but none came against a playoff team. And only the Steelers (a 40-23 victory) and Lions (a 40-32 loss) ranked in the upper half of the NFL in total defense, and just barely (the Steelers were 14th, the Lions 15th).

      “The Bears were great at scoring with the wind at their back. But when times were tough they looked like a work-in-progress. When the defense and special teams fell apart against the Eagles in Week 16 in Philly — with a chance to clinch the NFC North — the offense was caught in the undertow, gaining 257 feeble yards in 54-11 loss.”

    • Finley gives us a reminder:

“Linebacker Lance Briggs’ contract is up after this season, but don’t count on the Bears signing him to an extension this fall. [general manager Phil] Emery reiterated his stance against discussing specific deals but said it was ‘normal for us’ not to re-sign players during the fall.”

One Final Thought

Dan Pompei at Sports on Earth on quarterback Matt Schaub‘s miserable 2013 season:

“The doubts of others have a funny way of becoming self-doubts for quarterbacks. And a quarterback who doesn’t have conviction in his ability has no chance to lead others.”

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The Way to Answer a Simple Question and Other Points of View

Bears

  • Dan Wiederer at the Chicago Tribune interviews Bears head coach Mark Trestman. Its pretty evident that Trestman is reticent about talking relationships with individual players. But ask him about team building and you get a soliloquy. I thought this section was particularly interesting:

    “And when we play on Sundays, if the talent is the same throughout the league — which it arguably is — which games are won or lost in the fourth quarter? If the coaches are all coaching at a high level — which arguably they are? So then what’s the difference? It’s that we treat each other well, the relationships we build.

    “When you hear players talk at retirement or they talk at the Hall of Fame, what do they talk about most? The relationships they had. The bonds. That’s almost universal. It’s the bonds. It’s not the touchdown passes, the catches. It’s the bonds. Those guys make the Hall of Fame because their bonds allowed them to win championships or have great success.”

  • Speaking of the Trestman interview, kudos to Wiederer for asking several times what he planned to do better. Fans learn a lot from these honest assessments and Trestman is just the right guy to give them. I also found this part to be a relief:

    “And by now allowing Aaron (Kromer) to pull back a little bit but still stay involved, but be in our quarterback meetings a little bit more is helpful. Just to have him for feedback because he’s so knowledgeable.

    “And that really helps me because I feel like I can tend to the full team a little bit more. I feel like we’re in place enough now where although I was around the defense and around the special teams, I felt like I wanted to be around them more. Loosening the reins and moving Pat Meyer into the (offensive line coach) position allows me to get enough of where we are offensive and defensively to interact with the players to have a sense that I’m involved and invested in all three phases. That can only help our accountability and our communication.

    “And I wanted to be in a place where I could be more supportive of (defensive coordinator Mel Tucker) and his staff. So those are some things I noticed and felt. And I felt that amid the injuries we had that I wanted to make sure that the next time around we would be doing a better job of constantly reminding ourselves that we have to develop every player on the team and do a better job with that. Then if we do get an injury bug, the guys who are going into games are more prepared. Those are some of the things I saw. I think that was an honest evaluation.”

    I expected nothing less.

    I’ve pushed hard for this in previous posts. I totally understand Trestman’s focus on the offense in his first year. There’s only so much you can do and you have to take care of the first things first. But now he has take advantage of the opportunity to coach the whole team. I’m glad he’s recognized the problem. I don’t think former Bears head coach Lovie Smith ever did.

    This is going to be an important year for Trestman as a head coach. This is the year he proves he can coach the whole team and not just a third of it.

  • Receivers coach Mike Groh on wide receiver Alshon Jeffery. From Wiederer:

    “He has elite level hand-eye coordination and body control. His extension for the ball is unmatched in my opinion. And then he has unbelievable hands. You know when you get into a very nice car, like an expensive German car, and you close the door and you feel that suction, that vacuum? That’s what his hands are like.”

  • My only criticism of Adam L. Jahn‘s list of 10 Bears players who are “on the spot” this year is that it he got to number 4 before he named a lineman. Make no mistake about it, as the line of scrimmage goes, so go the Bears this year. From the Chicago Sun-Times.
  • Michael C. Wrightat ESPN.com has a few surprises on his projected roster. Going with only five wide recievers and two tight ends so you can keep 10 defensive linemen seems risky to me. He also has Khaseem Greene losing out to Christian Jones at linebacker.
  • Arthur Arkush at chicagofootball.com addresses the state of the Bears offensive line. He predicts a grim future for former hope for the future James Brown

    “With [Matt] Slauson missing the offseason while recovering from shoulder surgery, [Ebon] Britton filled in at left guard. But once [Kyle] Long and [Jordan] Mills joined Slauson on the sideline out of precaution – Mills is coming off foot surgery – Britton moved to right tackle, with [Michael] Ola and [Taylor] Boggs at left and right guard, respectively. The odd man out was James Brown, two years removed from showing promise as a starting guard but a healthy scratch 16 times last season. Brown enters camp squarely on the roster bubble.”

  • Rich Campbell at the Chicago Tribune has some good advice for those of us who will be paying attention to the position battle at free safety this summer:

    “Watch the exhibitions to see who tackles best — a major weakness among last year’s safeties.”

  • I thought this tid bit from Dan Pompei at the Bleacher Report was interesting:

    “The Bears are working with a sleep therapist in an attempt to maximize performance and enhance quality of life for their players. The therapist met with the team and had players fill out questionnaires about sleep patterns. Suggestions and sleep plans were drawn up for individuals. Some of the players who have gotten with the program are reporting feeling more energetic and alert.”

  • Michael C. Wright at ESPN sums up the Bears problems on defense last year including one new reason for their ineptitude I hadn’t heard yet:

    “No Bears opponent scored less than 20 points last season. But injuries, inexperienced backups and ineffective coaching at some positions played a role, as did other factors such as limited practice repetitions for the defense. According to multiple sources, Chicago’s defensive players over the course of a week of preparation for an opponent typically received approximately half the practice repetitions they had normally taken under [former Bears head coach Lovie] Smith’s staff as offensive preparation had become a premium with the new regime.

  • Donovan McNabb is already a bitter old man. From CSNChicago.com.

Elsewhere

One Final Thought

Chicago is a finalist to get the 2015 NFL Draft. But that’s not the only thing that caught my eye in this article.. It was NFL commissioner Roger Goodell‘s’ answer to the question of when a decision will be made. Via Sam Farmer for the Chicago Tribune:

“I believe the decision will come in late summer, but we’re not going to be bound by that. We’re going to do the right thing.”

That’s all I can ask.

I’m frequently put in a position where I’m trying to plan around another person’s schedule. One of the most irritating things that a person can do when you ask them about completion of a project is to simply refuse to give you an idea of when it will be done out of fear of drawing criticism if they can’t meet the deadline. This leaves you the with no clue as to when to expect it and no way to plan around them. To such people, I say look to no further than this as an example of how to handle such things.

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The Competition at Tight End and Other Points of View

Bears

“The Bears aren’t loaded at the position, but Wilson was beginning to look like a situational player before the [Achilles tear].”

  • Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune gives me more fodder for this blog by answering your questions.  He’s got some interesting opinions about the competition at tight end:

With the release of Fendi Onubun, who is the favorite to back up Martellus Bennett at tight end? – Big D., Chicago, from email

Following the release of Onobun at the conclusion of minicamp last Thursday, the Bears added Jeron Mastrud to the 90-man roster, giving them five tight ends for training camp. That means four players will be vying for what will likely be two spots on the 53 behind starter Martellus Bennett. Dante Rosario, Matthew Mulligan and Zach Miller have been with the team since the start of the offseason. I can tell you that internally at Halas Hall the club feels better about the depth it has than the public does right now. Mulligan is an interesting player. He’s entering his sixth season and has good experience, appearing in 60 games over the last four seasons with the Patriots, Rams, Jets. At 6-4, 267 pounds, he runs better than the Bears expected and it will be interesting to watch him when the pads go on in training camp. He’s primarily a blocking tight end and if he moves better than former tight  ends Matt Spaeth and Kellen Davis, I think there is probably a spot on the roster for him. Rosario is in a better position this year too after the Bears traded for him during Week 1 a year ago. He was trying to learn on the fly as the Bears put him into action. Rosario had 182 snaps on offense (17.2 percent) and 352 snaps on special teams, which ranked second on the roster behind only linebacker Blake Costanzo.

“‘I have had more time to spend learning the ends and outs of the offense and everything else and special teams,’ Rosario said last week. ‘Not just that but getting to know the guys better and building a relationship. Kind of makes you feel like you fit in a little bit more.’”

First, I think “Big D.” has a pretty high opinion of Fendi Onobun if he thinks he was the favorite to back up Bennett before being released.

Like Biggs, I like Matthew Mulligan’s chances.  His specialty with the Rams and Jets was as what amounted to an extra lineman in running situations, a position that Ebon Britton played last year.  Britton is now listed on the Bears website as a guard and its obvious that the Bears have plans for Mulligan to fill that role this year.  If he can catch just the occasional pass he’ll be an upgrade.

  • Biggs also tells us why the Bears weren’t interested in bringing linebacker James Anderson back:

“Why didn’t Bears re-sign James Anderson? The Packer fumble? Faith in Shea McClellin? Maybe Lance Briggs didn’t like him? What’s the reason? — @mattahrens from Twitter

“It wouldn’t be fair to place blame on any one player for the fumble that wasn’t picked up against the Packers and Briggs doesn’t make personnel decisions, he plays football. When the Bears signed Anderson last year, the scouting report I got on him after a solid career with the Panthers was that he had a tendency to wear down in the second half of the season. I think we saw that play out last year with the Bears. Anderson, 30, was steady in the first half of the season and not as good as the schedule reached November and December. When you consider draft picks like McClellin as well as Jon Bostic and Khaseem Greene, yeah, the Bears need to see if they can get on the field and stick. It wasn’t surprising to me the Bears did not pursue Anderson in free agency. There are bigger pieces they need to replace on defense.”

  • Biggs also answers a question about why guard Kyle Long isn’t being moved to tackle.  I won’t bore you with a repetition of the “strength up the middle” philosophy of offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer except to say that Biggs reiterates it.  However, this portion about why Brain de la Puente won’t be starting at center any time soon was new and to the point:

“I also think you probably overrate de la Puente. He was a free agent and got little to no interest as a starter on the open market with the Saints actively working to replace him. That is what led him to take a backup job with the Bears on a one-year deal.”

I understand why fans might overestimate de la Puente.  But they have to understand that de la Puente has serious problems blocking the run.  The Bears are likely hoping that Kromer, his former line coach, will bring out the best in him.  But he’s not a better center than Roberto Garza right now.

  • Former Viking great John Randle has some advice for rookie defensive tackle Will Sutton:.  Via John Mullin:

“‘[Sutton] should start a book,’ Randle told CSNChicago.com recently at the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s ‘Chicago Salute to Greatness’ at the Glen Club in Glenview. ‘You’re ‘profiling’ guys, ‘stalking’ them. I gotta know [an opponent’s] strengths and his weaknesses.

“‘I kept a book, an actual book, of what I did with a guy, what worked, what didn’t. I knew people thought of me as a fast guy, so first play of the game, I’d line up wide and then bull rush. Next play, maybe stutter-step but then bull-rush again. Then maybe ‘hump[-move]’ him like Reggie White.’

“Then Randle laughed. ‘And then the next time, maybe I start raving about his kids or him being such a good dad. Keep ‘em off balance.’”

Elsewhere

  • Florio on the move of Rams first round draft pick Greg Robinson inside to guard:

“Robinson’s struggles aren’t a complete surprise to league insiders who had their doubts about Robinson’s ability to be dominant at the next level.  Robinson’s reference to the intensity of the playbook won’t surprise skeptics, either, given that Robinson dealt with a limited range of plays and protections at Auburn.  It makes the Rams’ risk even bigger, especially since they’ve moved Robinson to a position that typically doesn’t demand a top-five draft pedigree.”

Let’s also not forget that he’s also facing one of the best front 7’s in the game i practice, albeit only in minicamp.

One Final Thought

  • Soldier Field has always had competition for the wort field in football from Pittsburgh.  This won’t help them:

“Last summer a Kenny Chesney concert made a mess at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, with fights, arrests and trash all over the place.

“This summer the home of the Steelers has again hosted a concert. And the only thing different this year is that it was Luke Bryan instead of Kenny Chesney.

“But those numbers don’t tell the whole story. For a fuller picture, look at the video taken of the trash, drunkenness and debauchery. Last year, the Steelers weren’t happy about some of the fallout from the Chesney concert, which the team thought painted Heinz Field in a negative light. The Steelers probably won’t be happy about this morning’s mess, either.”

Be sure and take a look at that video.  These hillbillies are a piece of work.

 

 

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Trestman Still Seeing the Game from the Offensive Side and Other Points of View

Bears

  • Patrick Finley at the Chicago Sun-Times reports that defensive backs coach Jon Hoke shoulders some of the blame for Chris Conte’s poor performance last year:

“Hoke said he should’ve done a better job coaching last year, when, he said, the Bears’ secondary would have benefitted from a healthier front seven.”

With coaching changes at the defensive line and at linebacker, it did occur to me that Hoke got a bit of a free pass last year.  My assumption was that, unlike those who were replaced, he’s a veteran coach who has shown in the past that he can do a good job.  Nevertheless, I’d like to know more specifically what he did wrong and what he’ll do better.

  • I thought this explanation that defensive coordinator Mel Tucker gave of what he wanted the linebackers to do was interesting.  It’s at the 14:00 mark in the following clip of his press conference last week and it’s worth a listen.  It sounds like getting someone to establish these principals was a major reason for the change in coaches at the position.

Tucker Presser

  • Mark Potash at the Chicago Sun-Times  quotes Bears head coach Marc Trestman on the value of toughness in the defense:

“‘Salty helps as long as your fundamentals and technique are sound.  Tough guys without system doesn’t work very good. It all goes together. That’s what makes great defenses. We think we’ve got the right guys to do it. We’ll see. We’ve got a lot of work to do.”

“The Bears hosted a group of agents including Drew Rosenhaus at Tuesday’s practice, allowing them to see their practice and overall environment.”

  • Adam L. Jahns at the Chicago Sun-Times on the release of quarterback Jerrod Johnson:

“Clausen’s work was limited in minicamp. He spent more time with his helmet in his hand than throwing in drills. Johnson, meanwhile, seemed to get fewer repetitions than only [starting quarterback Jay] Cutler. He was cut hours after minicamp ended.”

I was a bit worried that after spending so much time with the team last year and in the offseason, Johnson was given the heave ho simply because the Bears drafted quarterback David Fales.  But it seems evident that Johnson was given every opportunity to show that he should stick before being released.

D.J. Williams, Jon Bostic and Shea McClellin may be competing for starting spots, but there should be enough roles for all in coordinator Mel Tucker’s defense. Bostic may start in the nickel package and Williams in the middle of the base defense while McClellin becomes the blitzing linebacker/situational rusher that Tucker envisions.”

“A year ago, veteran defensive lineman Israel Idonije would have been a lock for the Bears. Now he’s looking for work after being cut after an uneventful minicamp spent mostly with third- and fourth-teamers. His departure is a sign of the improved competition.”

Elsewhere

“Changing duties: At one point during position drills, defensive line coach Mike Trgovac worked with the offensive linemen. A few yards away, offensive line coach James Campen ran the defensive line drill. That was something new this offseason, but it makes senses that a defensive line coach could give pointers to offensive linemen and vice versa.”

  • Michael Rothstein at ESPN.com gives some interesting reasons for why Brandon Flowers might be a risky proposition for a Lions organization that could use defensive backfield help:

“Multiple reports explained part of the concern with Flowers was he didn’t really fit in the Kansas City scheme implemented last season. It was one heavily reliant on press coverage from the outside cornerbacks. Well, this could be a problem for the Lions with Flowers. “All indications – including from [cornerback Darius] Slay himself – is that Detroit is going to be heavily aggressive this season and will likely use a lot of press coverage in man situations on the outside. This doesn’t mean Flowers wouldn’t be able to adapt to it, but signing him would be a risk in this scenario because of the money they would have to likely pay the former second-round pick.”

A combination of historically bad cornerback play and extensive use of press coverage wouldn’t seem to me to be a smart move in Detroit. We shall see.

“The question then turns to the type of talent the FXFL can attract as it starts play. The Canadian Football League and Arena Football League both have footholds as NFL alternatives. Moreover, though the NFL only has a seven-round draft, hundreds of undrafted free agents are signed by clubs in the spring. Also, with practice squads, the NFL already has an in-house developmental system.”

One Final Thought

Trestman continues to talk about adding toughness on defense.   At about the 4:40 mark he says, “We’re certainly seeing it from the offensive side.”

Trestman Presser

I’m a little disappointed in this comment. Trestman, in my judgment, badly needs to spend more time with the defense.  This is needed both to improve them through his coaching experience from the offensive side and to court them in terms of keeping them happy with what is still a relatively new regime.  Like Lovie Smith before him with the defense, effusive praise is given to Trestman from players on the offensive side of the ball.  But you hear those comments much less frequently from members of the defense, probably because he doesn’t work enough with them personally and because they subsequently, and somewhat naturally, get the impression that they aren’t as valued as the offensive players.  Good head coaches like Bill Belichick in New England coach both sides of the ball, not just the side they specialized in as coordinators. It was my hope that offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer dropping “offensive line coach” from his title was an indication that he would be taking on more of Trestman’s responsibilities with the offense so that Trestman would have more time to work with the defense.  But this comment indicates that Trestman still views the team from an offensive perspective.

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Probably Should Have Just Made Brad Biggs a Co-Author and Other Points of View

Bears

“As I look at the Bears’ schedule, I see two tough games: San Francisco and New England. Do you see any others and do you think the Bears will win the division and the Super Bowl? – LaVonte R., Chicago, from email

“I imagine you’ve stopped by after reading Steve Rosenbloom, huh? The Bears defeated the Packers in Marc Trestman’s first game as head coach in the rivalry. But Green Bay has won seven of the last eight meetings between the teams. Those two games would strike me as “tough.” There are some other challenging points on the schedule. The Bears should be a contender in the NFC but we’ve been saying that every spring for how long now? To get to the Super Bowl, they’ll have to find a way past some very talented teams in the NFC West in the Seahawks and 49ers.”

“General manager Phil Emery chose to stay out of the high-stakes safety market in free agency as Jairus Byrd and T.J. Ward got big paydays. With bigger holes up front, the Bears wrote contracts with $34.35 million guaranteed to defensive ends Jared Allen, Lamarr Houston and Willie Young. If the front is dramatically improved, there will be less pressure on the back end.

“Skepticism persists. Senior Bowl director Phil Savage, the former GM of the Browns, ranked the safety tandems entering 2014 on SiriusXM NFL Radio last week. He had the Bears 32nd.”

I’m probably one of the few people in Chicago that likes what the Bears did at the safety position.  For one thing, like the Bears, I haven’t completely given up on Chris ConteRyan Mundy was a good, young pickup and, with Brock Vereen already running with the starters in mini-camp, I believe the Bears have laid a foundation for the future.  And they did it without breaking the bank.

  • Here’s another question for Biggs regarding an issue I know we all have a stake in:

“My question is in regards to tickets to home games.  I am planning on attending the Nov. 16 game against the Vikings. I’m struggling to decide what to do about game tickets. My airline is already reserved! I am bringing my 70-year-old aunt and grandstand seats do not seem feasible. What are the odds of snagging tickets through Ticketmaster when they go on sale? Any buzz yet when they will be available? – Tawnya C., Carson City, Nev.

“The Bears put single-game tickets on sale July 18 last summer and tickets went on sale on July 13 in 2012. Barring a change in plans, I’d expect the club to maintain a similar timeline this year. Generally, an announcement is made several days before the ticket window opens. My guess is tickets will be sold relatively quickly. Good luck.”

Elsewhere

“The pendulum always swings far with coaching changes, and this one was a textbook example. [Former head coach, Jim] Schwartz, at least from a perception standpoint, is fiery and uber aggressive. [Current head coach, Jim] Caldwell, from a perception standpoint, is calm and restrained. A disciple of Tony Dungy, Caldwell is not likely to get in any handshake smackdowns. He won’t tell fans where to stick it when he’s walking off the field. And he probably won’t spike many headsets. His steady leadership could bring out the best in a group that has been prone to crossing lines that should not have been crossed.

The Lions are talented and they’ve gotten better in the offseason. If they are actually more disciplined than they have been in the recent past they are going to be a handful.

One Final Thought

  • Yes, here is yet another question for Biggs.  If he’s reading this I’ll offer him half of everything they pay me to write these blog entries.

“Is there any chance the Bears play Jon Bostic in the nickel but start D.J. Williams and Shea McClellin in the base package? — @pmthompson9 from Twitter

“The only thing that will not change is Lance Briggs is going to be the starter on the weak side. Everything else is up in the air right now. From what I’ve seen through OTAs, they’re trying different combinations and allowing Bostic and McClellin to get time in the middle and on the strong side. I’ve maintained all along Williams is the man to beat out in the middle but this competition reaches the next level when training camp opens.”

This is all technically true.  But my impression is that McClellin is more likely to play in special situations than as a regular in the base defense.  This was backed up by defensive coordinator Mel Tucker’s statement in Wednesday’s press conference where he said that he saw McClellin as “more of a blitzer than a four down rusher.”  It’s at the 5:00 mark.

Tucker Presser

 

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Bears Working to Counter Issues of Depth

Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune answers your questions:

“Depth seems to be a key issue for NFL teams in playoff contention every year.  Where do you see the biggest depth risk for the Bears?  Wide receiver, offensive line or linebacker? – Pat G., Ortonville, Mich.”

“Depth is a factor but from where I sit it’s overblown. Victories on Sundays are typically determined by elite players. One scout a long time ago told me it’s about which teams’ blues (elite players are called blues by scouts) have a better game. That will determine the outcome of most games because reality is when front-line players are lost, it’s difficult to compete, period. The Bears have plenty of bodies at linebacker right now but only one locked in starter. That is a position to keep an eye on. They made a move to shore up depth at cornerback in the first round of the draft. Safety is a great unknown and there isn’t a lot behind Martellus Bennett at tight end. But under the NFL’s salary cap and with some players on the roster commanding high pay, it’s going to be downright impossible to feel covered with veterans at every position.”

I’m going to simultaneously agree and mildly disagree with Biggs here.  I think depth is an issue in that you at least need players who can step in and not be liabilities when your blues go down.  Having quality backups is important but, as he points out, your ability to add depth is limited by things like the salary cap.  So the difference in how teams make up for injuries to stay in the hunt comes down to what you can do with what depth you can get.

When quarterback Jay Cutler went down last year, I’d like to think that Josh McCown’s excellent play in his place was the result of good coaching. I’ve thought for some years that the Bears needed a head coach that had a background in coaching quarterbacks and was overjoyed when they hired one in Marc Trestman after Lovie Smith’s departure. If that’s the case, then whoever the back up is this year – and I’m betting on Jordan Palmer – will play every bit as well as McCown did and we’ll know the Bears were more than just lucky last year.

You might also note that the Bears went out and got the best offensive line coach they could find and made him offensive coordinator. That isn’t a coincidence as the performance of the line affects every aspect of the offensive play.  By the same theory, this bodes well for the depth there. And the new coaches for the defense will also help in this respect to prevent the total collapse we saw in the front seven last year.

Having said that, if Alshon Jeffery or Brandon Marshall go down for any period of time, the offense is going to be in more trouble than most would under the same circumstances. No amount of coaching is going to overcome that loss. As Biggs points out, the depth at tightend is deplorable and its probably the most injured position in football. I’ve seen nothing from Michael Ford that makes me think he’ll be a decent starter and I’ve literally seen nothing of Ka’Deem Carey, period. So I’m not holding my breath on Matt Forte’s backups, either.

Bottom line, I wouldn’t get my hopes up that the offense won’t take at least a little bit of a fall this year when it is less healthy than last year (as is likely going to be the case).

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