- Return man Devin Hester sounds like a man who is trying to convince himself that he’s still got it. Via Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune:
“‘I look at my past history and I know what I am capable of doing,’ [Hester] said. ‘We all know I am the best return man that is stepping on this field. Coach Joe D. and I, we have spent a lot of time watching film on some of the things that can be corrected. It’s a team thing.'”
“‘The mistakes that I made and the mistakes that we made as a unit, those are easy to correct,’ he said. ‘At the end of the day, I am the best returner in this game, and I know that for a fact. What man can sit here and tell me that I lost it when I know what I am capable of doing?'”
- Dan Pompei at the Chicago Tribune answers your questions including this interesting observation:
“Who is the best fit for the slot WR position long term? — @Tjacobs78, from Twitter
“With the way the slot position is evolving in the NFL, that’s a difficult question to answer. In the past, most teams had a specific profile for a slot receiver—they wanted a quick, tough receiver who could create separation with craftiness, burst and change of direction on underneath routes. That is not necessarily the case anymore. Most teams play multiple players with different body styles and athletic talents in the slot. The Bears did it that way last year, and I anticipate they will do it the same way this year. I don’t believe they will have one slot receiver. They’ll have two or three players who get a lot of time in the slot. One is sure to be Earl Bennett though. He fits the traditional definition of a slot receiver. If the Bears can get advantageous matchups, you can count on Marshall spending some time in the slot too.”
On a related note, Cardinals coach Bruce Arians makes a good point as he talks to the Associated Press about wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald. Via Mike Florio at profootballtalk.com:
“’If you want a hundred balls, move around. If they know where you’re at, it’s easy to take you out of the game.’
“Of course, that means taking Fitzgerald out of his comfort zone.
“’I think as a human being you’re a bit of a creature of habit,’ Fitzgerald said. ‘I’ve played the same position since I was in junior high school. I’ve never had to really move around and you know I’ve gotten good at it. So I think we all resist change to a certain degree, especially if you’ve had a little bit of success. But as I’ve gone through the offseason workouts, I’ve definitely become more receptive of it.’”
Teams are doing a good job of moving their best players around to create mismatches now a-days and a good spot to do that is in the slot. Perhaps the most interesting thing to watch for scheme-wise this season will be what the Bears do with running back Matt Forte. There is much talk in Chicago about creating mismatches with the tight end but moving Forte, a versatile offensive weapon, around the formation will likely be a big key to the offense.
- Adam L. Jahns at the Chicago Sun-Times also wraps up the Bears minicamp with some observations to consider:
“Changes up front
“The Bears’ offensive line has undergone major changes personnel-wise and scheme-wise. Center Roberto Garza described it as a ‘totally different offense [with] totally different techniques.’ It’s an inside-out protection scheme under offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer.
“‘[It’s] different footwork, hand placement, some of the ways our combination blocks are being done differently, targets and things like that,’’ Garza said.
“Marc & Jay
[Head coach Marc] Trestman is doing everything he can to get to [quarterback Jay] Cutler and get the best from him. He has used a verbal clock to speed up his reads and release and brought in some of his former quarterbacks, notably Rich Gannon, to speak to him, Josh McCown and Matt Blanchard.”
These two points from Jahns were of interest because they tell us more about what to expect the offense will look like. Despite all of the talk about adapting to Jay Cutler’s strengths its now becoming evident that Trestman is going to expect him to adapt to his general style of offense rather than completely changing his own ideals to fit Cutler.
Blocking from the inside out means conceding the outside rush to keep a clean pocket up the middle for Cutler. It probably means that, with the occasional exception, we aren’t going to be seeing Cutler in roll outs or plays where the plan is to get him on the move where he often performed best in previous years. Trestman is going to expect him to step up and throw from the pocket the vast majority of the time.
Cutler probably also isn’t going to be able to scan the field and wait for receivers to pop open. If Trestman has Cutler on a verbal clock, counting seconds for him to get rid of the ball, that means Cutler is going to be expected to throw the ball on time to a receiver with anticipation. This has been tried before. Former offensive coordinator Mike Martz evidently worked to get Cutler to do the same thing. Cutler lost confidence in his receivers and eventually stopped trying to do it, leading Martz to give up. Personally, I have little hope that Cutler is capable of doing it here, either, but the situation is different this time around. This time if Cutler doesn’t adapt, he will be the one on the street, not Trestman. That, along with a more dependable group of wide receivers, could make the difference.
- Finally we have DJ Gallo at *ESPN.com** who has suggestions for sports-related gifts for this Father’s Day celebration. Here’s my choice:
“A book: a Father’s Day gift slightly less clichÉd than a tie. ‘Here, Dad, I got you a reading assignment as a gift.’ Congratulations — you are the Phil Jackson of sons, only with zero championship rings.
“If you must go the book route, get him a bundle of laughs on the cheap. For one cent, you can get Charlie Weis‘ book “No Excuses: One Man’s Incredible Rise Through the NFL to Head Coach of Notre Dame.” For another cent, you can get “Return to Glory: Inside Tyrone Willingham‘s Amazing First Season at Notre Dame.” And for a third cent, you can get Lance Armstrong‘s “It’s Not About the Bike: My Journey Back to Life.” That’s three cents (plus shipping and handling) for hundreds of pages of side-splitting laughter. Can’t beat that. (And by that, I mean the value, not Weis, Willingham or non-PED-fueled Armstrong. They’re all quite beatable.)