1. The names on the injury report are accumulating to form a long list in what has apparently been a tough, competitive camp. Two names that have been on the list for the majority of camp continue to slip under the radar, OLB Roy Robertson-Harris and ILB Nick Kwiatkoski.
Robertson-Harris hasn’t been seen on the field since the first practice. That’s a long time to be ill. He’s an undrafted free agent at one of the few positions that is deep with talent. I have to believe that his chances of making the roster, not good to begin with, are now virtually nil. His chances of making the practice squad are rapidly slipping away.
Probably more disturbing to the Bears is the absence of Kwiatkoski with a nagging hamstring problem. Though the Bears are talented up front at inside linebacker with the acquisition of Jerrell Freeman and Danny Trevathan, they are not particularly deep and the Bears drafted Kwiatkoski to fill that role and play special teams as he develops behind the veterans. That plan is flying out the window and he’s going to be a liability on the roster if he doesn’t recover soon.
2. Amongst the many question marks that were looming this, the play of center Hronis Grasu may loom as the largest. Grasu struggled last year at center, being over powered far too often for anyone’s taste. There are some generally positive reviews of Grasu’s performance on the training camp practice field in the press and head coach John Fox seems to think that things are looking up.
“He’s a very sharp kid,” Fox said. “[With regard] to develop the pro body, he’s added some bulk and strength. He is athletic ready. Combining that with some of the speed and the strength of his game is at a higher level. I like what I’ve seen from him so far.”
This is all moot now that it looks like Grasu will be out for the year with a torn ACL. But looking forward to next year, one subtle thing that may help Grasu is a possible shift in the primary blocking scheme.
Speculation in the press is that one reason why popular left guard Matt Slauson was let go is that he didn’t fit what the Bears ideally wanted to do in that area. Last year the Bears went with a mixture of schemes but the thought is that they’d like go go more zone blocking this year.
That could be good news for the still slightly under-sized but very athletic Grasu, who may find himself in a more comfortable position next year with techniques that better fit his style.
3. Another big question is running back Jeremy Langford. Langford is stepping into an offensive backfield without veteran Matt Forte and he’s being targeted to take up some of the slack.
Much was made of a few big pass drops last season but the biggest concern for Langford may be his 3.6 yards per carry. He averaged only 1.13 yards after contact. That’s second to last out of 47 players with at least 100 carries, according to ESPN Stats and Info.
Coaches have been stressing to Langford the need to finish plays and have been trying to get him to fall forward for more yards.
“It’s just having that mindset to get yards after contact,” Langford said. “You do a lot of different drills in practice to keep your base wide, so in the games it kind of comes naturally.”
Langford’s yards per carry will be something worth monitoring during the preseason into the early regular season.
4. Adam Jahns at the Chicago Sun-Times notes that “[quarterback Brian] Hoyer’s struggles in camp are starting to mount”.
Hoyer is with a completely new team and getting every think straight in terms of timing and cohesion with his receivers are expected to be slow. These thing have a habit of rapidly coming together as he gets more reps to iron out his difficulties and to work with his teammates. I’ll be more concerned if we’re seeing poor performances from him in the fourth preseason game.
With tight end Zach Miller entering the concussion protocol Monday, general manager Ryan Pace acknowledged that the team is more than a little concerned with its depth at the position:
“To be honest with you guys,” Pace said, “in Year 2 with where we’re at, you’re addressing a lot of needs and sometimes you don’t hit every single one of them. But there’s still a lot of avenues to continue to do that.”
I’ve already credited the Bears with showing some creativity when it comes to solving the problem at this position by converting defensive lineman Greg Scruggs to tight end. We need to see more of that in the coming days and years.
In the mean time look for them to scan the waiver wire for pick ups as cuts start to be made on other teams. One pro personnel boss has said that there were some teams with an excess at tight end but not many.
“Dallas, Green Bay, NYG, and Washington are heavy at tight end but don’t know if they are shopping anyone. Miami has a lot of bodies at TE but not great talent.”
The Bears traded a draft pick for Khari Lee last season and you have to think they are hoping that he’ll show something this year after serving basically as a blocking tight end last year. So far he reportedly hasn’t had a good camp, having sprained his shoulder. Nevertheless, its not out of the realm of possibility that the Bears will take another bite at the apple and try it again.
5. Dan Wiederer at the Chicago Tribune says that the young safeties, Adrian Amos and Harold Jones-Quartey are making great strides through camp.
That may be true but in scanning the camp reports, I think it’s a bit worrying that I rarely see Amos mentioned. He wasn’t around the ball much in pass coverage last year and the Bears are looking for him to take the next step. He will be worth watching closely during the preseason. It was somewhat comforting to see an interception mentioned here. But I’d like to see more and I’m sure the Bears would, too.
6. With Rolando McClain being suspended for the first 10 games of the regular season and not having reported to training camp, the Cowboys are on the search for linebackers. One such option was examined Tuesday in former Eagle Emmanuel Acho, younger brother of Bears linebacker Sam Acho.
The coinciding Acho’s reminded me that, while the Bears will be scanning the waiver wire looking for cast offs from teams strong at tight end, other teams will be looking carefully at their cast offs from one of their strongest position groups – outside linebacker. One such cast off might be Sam Acho and it brings up the possibility that one brother may replace another on the Cowboys roster.
7. Reporters are finally getting past the puff pieces and taking a good look at the BEras roster. Not surprisingly, Hub Arkush at Pro Football Weekly is getting a good start by justifiably questioning the offensive line.
Hub’s doubts about the offensive line are probably overly negative, which is not uncommon for him. He suggested that Bobbie Massie “will be an upgrade over Jordan Mills – and maybe even [Kyle] Long at right tackle”. Maybe? He absolutely will. Or he had better be because Long was definitely not good last year. And I can not emphasize enough how much of an upgrade Long is at right guard over Vladimir Ducasse and Patrick Omameh.
But where Hub hit the mark – and this won’t be the last we hear this and offensive line won’t be the last position we hear it about – is when he points out their lack of depth. Once the starters go down virtually anywhere except running back and outside linebacker, we’re talking about a big dip in talent.
The guess here is that once the injuries start to hit, the Bears won’t fair well this year. But no one is going to want to play them early.
8. Though my worries about Robbie Gould aren’t big, I am mildly concerned. He did miss some big kicks last year. From Rich Campbell at the Chicago Tribune on Thursday.
“[Gould] attempted field goals today in a team period for the first time in training camp. By my count, he made 5 of 8 tries, all from inside 42 yards. He hit the left post on the first attempt from about 35 yards. The second attempt was blocked by safety Harold Jones-Quartey, and the third attempt hit the right post but went through the uprights. The Bears can get Gould attempts at Soldier Field on Saturday at the practice there.”
Gould did, however, make 14 of 14 at Soldier Field Saturday during Family Fest.
Nevertheless, Gould might concentrate better with a little competition in camp. Watching him in warm ups before games, he loves to set up his kicks right next to the opposing kicker and compete with him on how many warm up kicks he can make from a given distance. That kind of competition might be worth a roster spot early in the process in August.
9. Guard Ted Larsen has been in four fights in nine practices and Fox says he’s getting tired of it.
“It was disappointing today,” Fox said. “That kind stuff happens a little bit at camp, but we’re getting too close to games. You’ve got to be able to control that and not lose control of your emotions. We’ve got work to do.”
Larsen didn’t do any fighting when he was a member of the Cardinals because players had to do gassers immediately. If Fox really wants to prevent them, that might not be a bad policy.
10. One Final Thought: David Haugh at the Chicago Tribune and I don’t often agree but I’m on board with him when he expresses some doubts about how quarterback Jay Cutler will fare with new offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains.
“‘I hate saying this, but I think we’re a little more similar than I’d like to be,’ Loggains said.
“In one of the strangest sentences you will read about the Bears in preseason, Cutler actually could have a calming effect on Loggains.”
I very much doubt that. Cutler is handling off field matters better than ever. I’ve pointed out before that he has grown since he got married and started having kids. The last time I did that was January, 2014 – the offseason before he helped get Marc Trestman fired. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me seven times…
Nevertheless, I will continue to give Cutler credit for handling these situations correctly. But that doesn’t mean that once the bullets start flying, he is going to be the calmest person on the field (nor should he have to be).
Outwardly he’s generally stoic but every Bears fan knows that Cutler generally needs some reassurance that the Bears coaching staff, particularly the offensive coordinator, know what they are doing and can guide him and the team out of whatever hole they find themselves in.
Most players need that. But the guess here is that Cutler really needs it. Otherwise, subconsciously or not, he’s going to conclude that its hopeless.
Adam Gase was obviously able to give that confidence to him and that enabled Cutler to show a resilience and mental toughness last year that we haven’t seen before from him.
Like Gase, when the team is up against it and the breaks are beating the boys, I assure you that Loggain is going to have to be the calm, logical voice with a plan. If not, this won’t work.