As White Struggles Don’t Blame the Bears for Not Signing Jeffery

Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune answers your questions about what appears to be old news but probably won’t be:

“With Markus Wheaton’s latest injury setback, I’ve been reflecting on how few bona fide wins Ryan Pace has enjoyed in free agency. For every Akiem Hicks there is a litany of Antrel Rolles, Eddie Royals and Pernell McPhees. Mike Glennon might have the hottest seat in the NFL right now and there’s little doubt Alshon Jeffery would still be the WR1 on this roster. Now there’s this Roberto Aguayo business. Is this merely attrition/bad luck or a legitimate blind spot for the young GM? — David D., Rogers Park

I’ve always said that free agency is no place to build a foundation for a franchise. It can be a nice place to plug a hole here or there or add a little depth but you’re not going to successfully build a 53-man roster via free agency… As far as Jeffery, he didn’t have a lot of personal interest in returning to the Bears so it’s difficult to place blame on Pace for his departure. Had the Bears topped other offers by a wide margin I suppose it’s possible he’s still with them, but that’s rarely prudent. Keep in mind also that free agency is a two-way street.”

Exactly. Jeffery took a 1 year deal with the Eagles for $14 million, much less than anyone thought he’d get and probably less than the Bears offered long-term.

Let’s be honest. It wouldn’t have been smart for Jeffery to say it but the Bears were going to have to offer him the moon to stay with a losing franchise with a poor quarterback situation. Jeffery couldn’t find a groove here and Philadelphia is a rising franchise with a good, young, somewhat proven quarterback where he could put up numbers for a year and re-enter free agency. Chicago couldn’t offer that at the time and, really, couldn’t offer it now without further demonstrable progress from Mitch Trubisky.

The fact that the Bears couldn’t lock up Jeffery isn’t because Pace didn’t want him or failed to offer him a reasonable amount of money. Former Bears wide receiver Mushin Muhammad once said that Chicago is where wide receivers go to die. Jeffery obviously felt that he didn’t want to get stuck doing that here.

You may wonder why I’m dedicating an entire entry to talking about this now, months after Jeffery decided to go elsewhere. Well, one reason was that I was basically hibernating over the offseason and didn’t get a chance to offer my opinion then. But a better reason is wrapped up conveniently in another question to Biggs:

“Keep hearing that the Bears need Markus Wheaton because they lack a deep threat. Why wouldn’t Kevin White who runs a 4.3 be a deep threat? — @roybal5598

White set the scouting combine on fire before the Bears drafted him seventh overall in 2015 when he ran in 4.35 seconds. But when you consider the term “play speed,” it’s clear that White doesn’t play that fast… There was a notable difference on the field in the season opener last year when you saw Texans rookie wide receiver Will Fuller (who ran a 4.32-second 40 in 2016 at the scouting combine) play very fast. The leg injuries White has suffered could make him a somewhat different player. He didn’t show up in the preseason opener against the Broncos but the same can be said about the majority of the first team offense… Let’s see what White can do this season. Maybe he possesses the speed and route running to consistently make plays downfield. Like I’ve said in previous mailbags, we’re not going to be able to make a judgment on what White is and is not based on what he does in training camp and preseason. Let’s see how he produces when it counts.”

Again, true enough. But I think there’s good reason to doubt that White is going to improve his route running or his play speed quickly, if at all. And that’s if he stays healthy.

If White struggles to reach his potential amongst a scatter shot group of nondescript wide receivers, these questions about letting Jeffery go are going to come up frequently and fans are automatically going to blame the organization for not doing what it takes to keep Jeffery, particularly if he thrives with Carson Wentz in Philadelphia.

Should that happen, it will be important to keep the situation in perspective. Jeffery almost certainly didn’t want to be here and there was probably very little that the Bears could reasonably do about it.

Slow and Steady Progress Should Define John Fox’s Job Status

David Haugh at the Chicago Tribune continues to write what has been a consistent theme with the media since the offseason, albeit with a bit of a twist:

“Eventually, [head coach John] Fox might realize the chances to keep his job beyond 2017 improve if [Mitch] Trubisky beats out [Mike] Glennon and becomes the starter.”

“A 6-10 season, for example, with Glennon starting 16 games and Trubisky learning whatever backup quarterbacks learn by watching would cry out for a coaching change likely to coincide with Trubisky’s promotion in 2018. But a 6-10 season with Trubisky showing flashes under Fox and his staff might allow the coach to complete the final year of his contract when — lame-duck status or not — the continuity could benefit the young quarterback. Maybe positive signs despite a 5-11 or 4-12 record would have a similar effect.”

I don’t have a huge problem with the sentiment or the major point of the article (but see below).  My problem is with the “cry out for a coaching change” at 6-10 part.

What is most important for Fox right now is forward progress. And 6-10 with Glennon or Trubisky would be a significant improvement. Whether that justifies keeping Fox would, as always, depend on the circumstances, but I’d say that should be good enough under most conditions.

What people have to understand is that when the Bears hired GM Ryan Pace and Fox they embarked on a long, painful process of breaking this team down and rebuilding it almost from scratch. It’s true that most people probably didn’t think that it would take three off-seasons to complete just the breaking down part but, thanks to Jay Cutler, it did.

What that means from here on out is that the Bears and their fans need to look for improvement starting from a 3-13 base, their record in 2016. A progression from 3-13 to 6-10 to 8-8 or 9-7 to 10-6 would be slow but should be perfectly acceptable under almost any circumstances as long as its consistent and shows signs of being sustainable long-term.

Many in the media have pointed out, thanks to pulling the plug on Marc Trestman and Phil Emery so quickly, that the Bears are in danger of becoming “one of those teams” that is constantly turning over their front office, threatening consistency. They wonder why this happens even as they press to replace coaches like Fox, setting conditions that go beyond simple improvement and slow and steady progress. They demand that the Bears win immediately even as they bemoan the organization’s lack of patience.

Getting back to the point of the article, would starting Trubisky and having him perform well help the perception in terms of how the teams is progressing? No question and the point is well taken. But on the other hand, starting him and watching him fall apart before our eyes because he was rushed and wasn’t ready wouldn’t be good for morale anywhere in this city.

In any case, what needs to be appreciated is that, in terms of Fox’s job status, the point is irrelevant. Whether they start Trubisky or not, the organization needs to be patient and the bar for keeping Fox needs to be at an appropriate level. Coming off of 3-13, I think 6-10 ordinarily should be just fine.

Can the Bears Succeed with Aguayo Where the Buccaneers Couldn’t?

Dan Wiederer at the Chicago Tribune reports that the Bears claimed kicker Roberto Aguayo off of waivers Monday.

The kicker has a very strong leg but his accuracy has been suspect since he was drafted in the second round by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Aguayo’s accuaracy was only 71% in 2016, last in the NFL.

The Bears agreed to pay his $500,000 guaranteed salary and though head coach John Fox said that the money wasn’t “significant enough to not take a look” it indicates that this isn’t just a question of signing camp competition for kicker Connor Barth.

Barth is extremely accurate within 35 yards but you never got the feeling that the Bears were completely happy with him, especially after he had a bit of a rough start last year before pulling himself together for the majority of the season. His range is limited and, though Barth has a history with special teams coordinator Jeff Rogers, the Bears front office may figure that it’s time to sign a kicker who can do a little bit more.

It’s hard to know what’s been going on with Aguayo but guaranteeing him half million dollars may indicate that the Bears have an idea of what is wrong with him and how to fix it. If its mental, that may be tough to do but Aguayo was considered to be one of the best prospects ever coming out of college at Florida State where he must have faced at least some high pressure situations. The Bucs traded third- and fourth-round picks to move up 15 spots in the second round last year to select Aguayo.

According to Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune at least one unnamed special teams coordinator said Aguayo was confounding to him because the kicker struggles to replicate the same mechanics from kick to kick. The Bears appear to be betting that Rogers may be able to help with that in a way that the Buccaneers coaches couldn’t.

It will be interesting to see how it works out.

Poor Offensive Preseason Performance a Concern for Bears and Other Points of View

  • I found this article from Tom Peilissaro at NFL.com about Bears rookie quarterback Mitch Trubishy to be interesting:

“If I get unprompted texts from people with other NFL teams about something, I usually take that as a sign it’s resonating within the league. It happened with Dak Prescott last year. It happened again Thursday. One NFL scout who watched Trubisky’s debut live said he’d like to see him get some snaps with the starters next time out: ‘He looks like he’s in control.’”

It’s not just fans who saw something Thursday, though. People around the NFL took notice. And that was one early, encouraging sign for a Bears regime that, regardless of its present plans, has clearly invested in Trubisky as the future.

I’m really glad I’m not the only one who thought he might have seen something special from Trubisky Thursday night. Though I really do try to guard against it, sometimes you wonder if your hopes aren’t confusing your eyes and your brains. It’s starting to look like they weren’t.

As a precaution, this is still worth remembering:

  • Dan Durkin at The Athletic makes very good points about some of the things that offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains did to help Trubisky out.

“Loggains had Trubisky operating both from the pocket and on the move during that drive. Getting him moving on “swap” bootlegs not only gave him a run-pass option, it also cut the field in half to simplify his reads.”

“’I had the playsheet, I was able to study a little bit,‘ Trubisky said. ‘So I knew all my calls, I knew my plays, I knew what I was comfortable with. I talked it over with Dowell, so we were kind of on the same page, so I could go out there and just play free. That’s what I wanted to do. Go out there and play, do what comes natural and get into a rhythm.’”

These are all good thoughts and I pointed out some of them myself after the game.

It is, perhaps, no coincidence that the much maligned quarterback class of 2017, including Patrick Mahomes (Kansas City), Deshaun Watson (Houston) and Deshone Kizer (Cleveland) did so well last weekend. It seems obvious that the desperate need for quarterbacks has driven better coaching throughout the league and quarterback coaches seem to have a much better handle on how to bring these rookies, including the ones from spread systems in college, along.

“The consensus in talking to people around the league is the Bears will likely attempt to trade cornerback Kyle Fuller before roster cuts are due at 3 p.m. on Sept. 2. That’s what I gathered after speaking with a variety of folks from other cities over the last week. They seem to think it’s a matter of when and not if the Bears try to deal the 2014 first-round draft pick. Whether this is legitimate or not remains to be seen but there’s an awful lot of smoke and usually where there’s smoke you’re eventually going to find a fire.”

Assuming that he’s not going to make the roster, if the Bears can get anything at all for Fuller, it would be a win. But I’m not so sure that’s the case. Fuller was playing on the second team and I’m thinking he probably earned the spot.

Fuller was draft by another regime to be a zone cornerback and he’s found himself in a scheme that values man-to-man coverage skills. That means that there may be a market for him among teams with defensive schemes closer to what he was drafted for.

But if Fuller shows something on special teams – a big if, he may still be their best option as a back up. If that’s the case, they aren’t going to give him away by outright releasing him.

“Trubisky wasn’t the only draft pick to show up and play well. It was a nice debut for rookie guard Jordan Morgan and that’s a positive and a sign he could fit in as a backup. Of course, running back Tarik Cohen, who had been extra slippery in training camp, proved elusive in the open field. He’s got a nice burst and in my opinion what separates him from the last very undersized back the Bears had is Cohen had more lateral quickness than Garrett Wolfe. Just my take.”

Like almost everyone else who was paying attention, I also liked what I saw from Cohen. His small size allows him to hide behind the offensive linemen, particularly as he closes to press the hole and waits for an opening. That could sever him well. His performance was an indication that, maybe, he won’t also disappear once the season starts.

Morgan was a different story. He may have done well but he’s buried on the depth chart and no one is exactly pushing to make him the starter with backup Eric Kush out for the year and Kyle Long still recovering from surgery.

If Morgan has potential, the Bears need to push him up the depth chart and get him more snaps.

  • Kevin Fishbain from The Athletic points out that The competition at Safety is heating up. Ricky Eddie Jackson is splitting reps with a veteran Adrian Amos next to free-agent signing Quintin Demps.

“‘He missed a lot of the offseason, being a rookie, but he’s got a really good football IQ,’ [head coach John] Fox said. ‘I think you saw his return skills are capable. We averaged 10-plus yards in our punt return, which we were a non-factor a year ago. All-in-all I think he’s just going to continue to improve.’”

Amos isn’t around the ball much when it’s in the air and the Bears are a bit desperate to improve the production at the position. Mark Potash at the Chicago Sun-Times thinks it’s only a matter of time before Jackson replaces Amos. I’m not so sure.

DeAndre Houston-Carson is making the transition to safety and had two picks in Saturday’s practice. In the end, his range may make him the guy to watch once coaches are satisfied that he knows his way around the new spot.
‘=
* No one is making a big deal out of it but Potash points out that promising linebacker Nick Kwiatkowski is in the concussion protocol. Kwiatkowski is one of the players I’d like see emerge to play faster this year.

“While that may not be what the suddenly exploding Trubisky Fan Club wants to hear, is anyone screaming for Charles Leno to be benched after nearly getting Glennon killed on the pick-six he threw to Chris Harris, Jr.?

Cody Whitehair was awful Thursday night, yet we don’t hear anyone screaming for Hroniss Grasu.

Kevin White was invisible, Cam Meredith wished he was after dropping Glennon’s first pass and the first defense notched four penalties for 35 yards on its opening foray, yet only Glennon and Trubisky are in the spotlight.”

Hub is, of course, correct.

Don’t get me wrong. Glennon really wasn’t sharp and I think he knew it. He had no pocket sense or movement. He was too slow in his decision making. He was noticeably high and behind his receivers with his throws. He looked stiff and didn’t look comfortable or confident.

At least part of the problem seems to be that he’s having a hard time getting the timing down with the receivers and he looked like he was what you might kindly refer to as “rusty”.

However, I have some hope that Glennon will show better in the future if for no other reason than he was better on tape with the Bucs than he was Thursday. I am far more concerned about the rest of the offense, particularly at the wide receiver position where a scatter shot approach to the offseason has not led to a great deal of confidence that the group has any real playmakers. Fox elaborates:

“Asked how soon he will throw Glennon to the wolves, Fox answered, ‘I think like everything, the quarterback gets a lot of the credit, a lot of the blame regardless of what happens.

“’But our whole first unit was not very good. I don’t think we blocked very well. I thought we had some drops. We didn’t get off man coverage, which wasn’t something we were surprised about.

“So all in all, I think there was a lot of things that we saw on the tape, the players saw.‘”

Personnel problems at wide receiver aside, the Bears have new coaches both there and at offensive line. It has to be a major concern that both groups got beaten like a drum at the line of scrimmage Thursday night. I think that should worry Bears fans far more than Glennon at this point.

  • On the other hand, there’s this basic truth from Kevin Patra at NFL.com on Glennon’s performance:

    “[E]xcuses are like avocados; every millennial has one – or 60 – and they rot quickly.”

Suddenly Having to Fight to Keep Perspective When It Comes To Rookie Trubisky

I am not, by my nature, a positive person, at least when it comes to football. I don’t look at the world through navy and orange glasses. I don’t poke out my eyes and shutdown my brain to blind myself to and defend the team despite obvious problems because doing so is the only way to be a “real fan”.

And I absolutely, positively, under no circumstances, get excited about performances in the preseason.

But I admit it. I am happy today.

Despite the circumstances, I was impressed by I saw from Bears rookie quarterback Mitch Trubisky last night. The guy looked like he belonged and that means so far so good for a team that is desperate to see Trubisky or Mike Glennon, somebody, anybody, succeed as a franchise quarterback.

Yes, it was the preseason. Yes, the team under Trubisky was playing against Denver’s second and third stringers and, even if it was the first stringers, all-world defensive end Von Miller sat out. And, yes, the defenses were more vanilla than what the the Bears will see once the real bullets start flying.

But I was impressed anyway. I was impressed because Truibsky did so many things that were really good regardless of the level of competition:

  1. Trubisky is every bit as accurate as advertised. He was leading receivers and he generally put it in the right spot. For example, he should have had a third touchdown. He did just what he needed to do by throwing the ball low and away where only the receiver, tight end Daniel Brown, could get it, Brown dropped the ball despite the fact that it still hit him in the hands.
  2. Bears offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains put Trubisky on the move where he was still quite accurate. He rolled Trubisky out quite a bit and it allowed Trubisky to avoid pressure that both Glennon and Mark Sanchez were susceptible to. There were one or two really good throws despite the presence of guys who basically came free on the rush to get right in Trubisky’s face.
  3. Trubisky was completely unflustered despite of a lot of blitzing and movement from the defense, especially on the late TD drive in the first half. This was in contrast to what we’d read in camp reports where Trubisky was fumbling snaps after losing concentration in the presence of pre-snap movement. In this respect, Glennon was the one that looked like the rookie as he was noticeably nervous whenever anyone made a move at the second level of the defense.
  4. Trubisky showed good pocket presence and movement to avoid the rush. This might be the most important thing an NFL quarterback needs to be able to do – step up against pressure into a throwing lane to deliver a ball. I’m guessing it doesn’t usually come easily to spread quarterbacks who had 13 college starts. Trubisky didn’t have to do it often but when he did he looked like a pro.

All of these are things very good professional quarterbacks can do independent of the level of competition.

I can’t blame Glennon for the look on his face immediately after Trubisky’s first touch down to basically end the first half.

I’m sure he was anticipating what the media reports in Chicago would be like this week. I would warn Bears fans to not get too high or too low after one preseason game.

But, for once, I’m even having to remind myself of this basic rule. Because, against my nature and my better judgement, I’m very encouraged by what I saw from Mitch Trubisky.

WTH is Going On at Back Up Guard? And Other Points of View.

  • With the torn biceps injury to backup guard Eric Kush, Rich Campbell at the Chicago Tribune says that the Bears have apparently been trying different line combinations in left guard Kyle Long’s absence. One involved moving center Cody Whitehair to guard.

“That’s the thing I’m trying to work on,” Whitehair said, “Being able to play every inside position, just in case we do have injuries.”

Versatility is nice but shuffling guys like Long and Whitehair from position to position keeps them from stabilizing one spot and becoming the best that they can be. I’d much rather see Whitehair, who was developing rapidly last year, stay where he’s at and become a Pro Bowl center.

  • Another option according to Campbell is to put swing tackle Tom Compton at guard.

Brad Biggs, also at the Tribune, thinks the Bears will be looking to pick up a back up guard after final cuts are made but what’s wrong with rookie guard Jordan Morgan? Morgan, a fifth round draft pick, was listed as fifth (or sixth) on the depth chart at guard this week behind Will Poehls and Cyril Richardson. Not good.

Are the Bears really reduced to moving Whitehair or using a tackle at backup guard before the season has even begun?

  • On a related note, we had this Biggs question about the situation:

With the loss of Eric Kush on the O-line, how does that affect Taylor Boggs‘ chances of making the roster? — @seanquincey

Boggs was out with a concussion but returned to action quickly, so that was a positive sign. He has the ability to play center and guard and the loss of Kush certainly improves his chances. He’s got previous experience with offensive line coach Jeremiah Washburn as they were in Detroit at the same time. My guess is it could be a bit of an uphill battle for Boggs but he’s in the mix. He’s a smart player and offers a little bit of versatility.

Similar to the situation with Morgan, the fact that they’d rather put Compton in at guard with Kush gone and Long out tells you everything you need know about what they think about Boggs. He’s not good enough to back up Long at guard and former third rounder Hronis Grasu is most likely to get the nod at backup center. That leaves Boggs on the outside looking in.

How is the backfield shaping up behind Jordan Howard? — @thepallister

That’s a good question. Jeremy Langford has missed nearly all of training camp with a sprained right ankle suffered in a walk-through. Tarik Cohen has been exciting in Bourbonnais and I am interested to see how he performs in preseason. Ka’Deem Carey and Benny Cunningham are in the mix. It’s a little fuzzy how things are going to play out right now but Howard was electric last season and that’s a strength for the offense. Perhaps this is a position where the Bears could seek to add a player that gets cut loose by another team in a few weeks.

True enough but I’ve got a feeling that, once again against the odds, Carey sticks. Carey isn’t what you’d call dynamic but he’s a solid backup who contributes on special teams. It’s possible that Cunningham wins the return job and, if that’s the case, it may come down to a receiver or Carey. My gut tells me that with Cohen being a “joker back” with limited size and utility as a blocker, Carey gets the nod.

Langford is in deep trouble.

  • I also wanted to highlight something one more thing that Biggs mentions. The Bears really need 2016 third round pick Jonathan Bullard to step up this year and Biggs wrote just about the first positive thing I’ve read about him when he said that Bullard “ has been much better in training camp” than last year. That’s encouraging and I’ll once again be looking forward to watching him tonight against the Broncos.
  • I thought this comment from new quarterback Mike Glennon about the Bears receivers via Kevin Fishbain at The Athletic was interesting:

“I’d say it’s way deeper here [than in Tampa Bay],” said Glennon, whose Bucs had a clear No. 1 wideout in Mike Evans. “I mean there are guys here, I hate to say it that could be on a lot of different teams and make the team. So obviously realistically only 53 guys make the team and so that receiver number has to get cut down but I think it’s a very deep group, a lot of guys that are NFL-caliber players and I think we’ll just spread the ball out.”

Hmmmm… Sounds like Glennon has been drinking the navy and orange Kool Aid. I suppose “deep” might apply in a way because the scatter shot approach to the position this offseason led to there being a lot of bodies. But the Bears don’t have a proven number one receiver and I don’t think many competitive teams would want this group over their own.

  • Despite getting a lot of preseason buz, its notable that rookie tight end Adam Shaheen was third on the depth chart behind Dion Sims and Zach Miller this week. Most figure the Bears might be ready to move on from Miller given his injury history but this certainly doesn’t reflect that thought.

Things to Look for in the First Preseason Game: Two Defensive Rookies

As we quickly review some of the things that I’ll be looking at on Thursday with the Bears as they take on the Broncos in the first preseason game, I’d like to take a look at a few of the recent defensive draft picks that the Bears really need to see come through this year.

We will all, of course, be watching Leonard Floyd and Eddie Goldman on Thursday night. Floyd is a potential star outside linebacker in the making and the Bears aren’t the same without Goldman in the middle after his ankle injury last year, something that to their credit they recognized and partially addressed with the addition of nose tackle John Jenkins.

Both of these men have already shown enough to convince fans that they are capable of performing and, though both need to continue to develop, questions surrounding them have more to do with their health than their ability.

So with this post, I’d like to point to a couple of guys whose situation is a little different.

The Bears have completely rebuilt themselves up from scratch starting with Ryan Pace‘s first draft in 2015. Some of those picks have really come through but others have either been inconsistent or have proven to need time to develop. For one or two, its time to produce on their potential. If they don’t, their careers may be in jeopardy.

Jonathan Bullard was a 2016 third round pick that the Bears are depending upon to be part of their future at defensive end. Bullard came from a system at Florida where he was expected to penetrate in a Lovie Smith style of line play. But the Bears base defense is a 3-4 and Bullard is expected to be a two-gap lineman in that sort of scheme. That means he needs to hold up the lineman and read the play while covering the gaps to either side of him. It requires more strength and awareness than, perhaps, Bullard was expected to display in college and he had a hard time adjusting to it in his first year.

Although he’s apparently had a quiet training camp to this point, Bullard bulked up to over 300 lb in the offseason and apparently has progressed in the scheme to the point that there might be some hope for him. Coaches think the game has slowed down form him since his rookie year. They’d better hope so. Their starting ends are Akiem Hicks and either Jay Howard or Mitch Unrein and the first injury is going to throw him into the rotation, ready-or-not.

Similar to Bullard on the defensive line, the Bears need Nick Kwiatkowski, a fourth rounder from 2016, to develop into a starter quality NFL linebacker. Kiatkowski played a great deal last year with Jerrell Freeman missing games due to a suspension and Danny Trevathan‘s knee injury. Travathan is rehabbing but isn’t fully back.

Kwiatkowski played too slowly last year and apparently lacked the necessary play recognition skills to play the position at a high level. He needs to step up now and make plays in the middle and the Bears and their fans have to be hoping that he flashes more this preseason because he’s going to be needed as the first guy off the bench (assuming Trevathan is ready to play – a big assumption).

As young players that they hope are on the rise, both of these men represent important players not only for the Bears present but, they hope, for their future as well. How they perform this year will tell us a lot about how that future will shape itself and how quickly.

 

Things to Look for in the First Preseason Game: Two Offensive Rookies

 

I’m quickly reviewing some of the things that I’ll be looking at on Thursday with the Bears as they suit up against the Broncos in the first pre-season game. Next up, a couple of the more interesting rookies.

As most regular readers know, I was critical of the Bears approach to the last draft. Basically its my contention that the Bears took unnecessary risks during the offseason culminating in their selection of too many small school prospects making the draft, something which by its very nature is a crap shoot, into a series of all-or-nothing bets on long shots. One small school guy is OK. Four is insane.

Or so I thought.

I’m usually pretty skeptical of anything that comes out of training camp in terms of media reports. There’s no percentage in trashing a player in July. If you are ever going to be optimistic about your team, this is the time of year for it and no one sees any reason to squish that too soon.

But I have to admit that the almost daily reports about two of the newly drafted small school rookies have worn on me and now I’m intrigued. Article after article has touted how tight end Adam Shaheen (Ashland) and running back Tarik Cohen (North Carolina A&T) have been stringing good practices together and flashing potential. Both men are (apparently) showing a great deal of athleticism.  Both have the potential to be a matchup nightmare for defenses, Shaheen because of his size and Cohen because of his quickness and elusiveness.

I’m still skeptical. But I’m anxious to see how these men will perform. Small school prospects have a habit of disappearing once the big boys take the field and I can’t help but believe that Shaheen’s inexperience is likely to show. Cohen is a diminutive 185 pounds and players of that size have a bad habit of being overwhelmed by bigger men with more athleticism than they are used to seeing.  Up until now neither has been challenged by players approaching their own level of ability.

With no help coming from first round quarterback Mitchell Trubisky (if the Bears get their way) the Bears need their other picks from this draft to hit along with a few from previous drafts – but we’ll get to them later. The farther we get along, the more we will be able to believe that these guys are the real deal. Their performances at this stage will be crucial steps in their evaluation.

 

Things to Look for in the First Preseason Game: Quarterbacks

 

I hate the offseason. I mean I really do. Nothing but pure speculative judgments about personnel that we haven’t even seen play. Finally, this Thursday, we’ll get a chance to see what the Bears are made of as they take the field against the Broncos.

It would be easier to list the things that I won’t be looking for than the things that I will be. This is now truly General Manager Ryan Pace‘s team as the roster has been almost completely turned over since former head coach Marc Trestman and ex-General Manager Phil Emery left Halas Hall. Pace and head coach John Fox have now changed the culture of the team.  But do they have the talent to compete?

There are so many unknowns about this team you almost don’t know where to start. But over the next few days I’ll try to get you going starting exactly where you would expect – with the quarterbacks.

Although it will be fun to see the fresh second overall pick Mitch Trubisky play, he is apparently so undeveloped at this point its meaningless. If he plays well, it will be against third stringers who are playing vanilla defenses. If he doesn’t, it’s too early in his development to make a big deal out of it. He needs work.  We knew that.  Next summer will likely be the time to start paying attention to Trubisky’s performances, at least if the Bears get their way.

No, this preseason is about new veteran quarterback, Mike Glennon. What will be interesting to see is if Glennon is on the same page with these guys.

From what I’ve seen of him on tape, Bears fans are finally going to be able to leave behind the “see-it, throw-it” style that Jay Cutler lived and died with (mostly died with) for 8 years. We should see Glennon throwing with anticipation to receivers rather than waiting for them to get open and then trying to strong arm it in. This is, in my opinion, the only way to win consistently in the NFL and certainly it is the only way the Bears will ever see a top five quarterback perform (on their own team).

Not that Glennon is going to be a top five quarterback. If he was top twelve, I think everyone in town would be very happy. But at least he has a chance to be better than that.  Cutler never really did.

Glennon’s strength appears to be his accuracy and the fact that he usually puts the ball where only the receiver can get it. This means that his turnovers should be limited. However, this early in his progression with the team, that may not be entirely evident.

One draw back to throwing with anticipation is that you have to be on the same page with your receivers. The timing has to be good and quarterbacks of this type have a bad habit of looking very bad early on as they gradually get to know their guys on the other end of the pass. Missed connections tend to be frequent either because the receiver goes one way and the quarterback the other or because the timing is simply so bad that neither the ball of the receiver end up in the right spot.  It could be ugly for a couple weeks.  So keeping an eye on Glennon’s progress will be a key to the preseason. That starts on Thursday.

Mark Sanchez was the second string quarterback in Saturday’s scrimmage and he should get the second team snaps throughout the preseason. With Glennon still learning the offense and the personnel, he’ll go at least a quarter with Sanchez taking what’s left of the first half and probably playing into the third quarter. From there it will probably be Trubisky time as Connor Shaw hasn’t been practicing with an unspecified foot injury and may well not play.

Seeing how sharp Sanchez is with what apparently are limited reps in practice will be something to keep an eye on here.