Cardinals Darren Fells Will Be Player to Keep and Eye on Sunday

The Cardinals have a great deal of speed at wide receiver with Larry Fitzgerald and John Brown. That’s going to be bad enough against a Bears defensive backfield that lacks overall speed. But Rich Campbell at the Chicago Tribune emphasizes another threat that the Bears defense will have to deal with:

“Cardinals tight end Darren Fells never played college football, but you wouldn’t know that from his Week 1 stat line: four catches for 82 yards and a touchdown.

“The 6-7, 281-pounder played basketball at California-Irvine and professionally in Belgium, Finland and Argentina. He spent the majority of 2013 on the Cardinals’ practice squad and since has developed into a threat.

“‘The biggest thing for a basketball player is: will he stick his face in the fan? Is he going to block anybody?’ coach Bruce Arians said. ‘Once he bought into how to block … he has become a really reliable player.'”

Darren-FellsFells will be a serious threat to a Bears linebacking corp that frequently looked lost in coverage last Sunday against the Packers. Bears fans will be looking for that to improve both this week and over the course of the season.

Bears Offense Under Pressure from a Blitzing Cardinals Defense

Rich Campbell at the Chicago Tribune reviews a few keys to Sunday’s game against the Cardinals. One thing that you expect to get from them is a lot of blitzing:

“The Cardinals blitz about 40 percent of the time, running back Matt Forte said. That’s a relatively high rate. Their frequent stunts and picks up front will test an offensive line operating with Kyle Long in only his second game at right tackle.”

“‘How you get people out of doing that is picking up the blitz and hitting plays on them,’ Forte said. ‘We have to not be afraid of, ‘Oh, they’re going to blitz,’ but, ‘OK, if they blitz, we have to hit them where it hurts.””

Campbell emphasizes the adjustments that have to be made along the offensive line. But at least as important will be quarterback Jay Cutler‘s ability to read the blitz in concert with his receivers to burn the defense. Both Cutler and the receivers have struggled with this in the past and frequent miscommunications have occurred. In particular, Cutler has a bad habit of missing free blitzers coming off the edge, especially from his left. Performance in situations where the Cardinals bring more men than can be blocked will be a key to Cutler’s success.

This will be another opportunity for the Bears coaching staff to show themselves to be superior to others the Bears have had here over the past two decades. The players certainly looked better prepared last week than we’ve seen around here in a while, especially offensively. Whether they can take the next step against a dynamic defense like the Cardinals is going to be a good question. I look forward to finding the answer.

There Are “Injuries” and Then There Are “Injuries”

brain-injuryAdam Jahns at the Chicago Sun-Times is off base with this comparison between quarterbacks Jay Cutler and Carson Palmer:

“But [Arizona head coach Bruce] Arians is the perfect coach for him at the perfect time. The No. 1 pick in 2003, Palmer just happened to connect with Arians in his 30s, a decade into his career.”

“The point is, it’s never too late for a quarterback to find that right fit, especially at a time when college schemes have impeded their development and most NFL teams desperately need them.

“It’s an interesting notion to consider as Bears quarterback Jay Cutler prepares for his second start under coach John Fox and offensive coordinator Adam Gase.

“Can Fox and Gase finally be the right guys for Cutler?”

This doesn’t fly with me. Palmer was always a pretty good quarterback whose career was simply derailed by injury. He happened to hit upon both Arians and a pretty good Arizona surrounding cast at the same time to revive his career. Cutler’s only injury is in his brain, which simply isn’t wired in a way that’s likely to generate wins.

 

I’m much more inclined to agree with Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune, who was spot on this morning when he said that “…Jay Cutler is in Year 10 and has won one playoff game. If you don’t believe the quarterback you have can win the Super Bowl for you, you’re spinning your wheels until you get one.”

In a Rush to See the Bears Do It to the Passer

Steve Rosenbloom at the Chicago Tribune is excessively tough on the Bears in his Tuesday column. But one thing that he had spot on was the disturbing lack of pass rush Sunday:

“This is, what, Tuesday, and the Bears still haven’t touched Aaron Rodgers.

“Waiting. Wait. Ing.”

” I couldn’t find Pernell McPhee. Same goes for Jared Allen and Lamarr Houston.”

He’s right. The outside linebackers did a good job on Sunday against the run. But they get paid to rush the passer and they get paid a lot. Packers quarterback Aaron Rogers was not only barely touched on Sunday, they barely got close.

The Packers offensive line is good when its healthy. But they’re not that good.

The Bears aren’t going to beat many teams without a pass rush. The Arizona line isn’t exactly a strength of their team and and their quarterback Cason Palmer is a statue that won’t be running around the way Rogers did.  So there will be an opportunity to improve this coming Sunday. If the Bears don’t, it will be very disturbing. Buckle up.

Bears May Try to Use the Cardinals Aggressiveness Against Them

Kent Somers at the Arizona Republic tells us what the Bears next opponent, the Arizona Cardinals did and didn’t do well against the Saints on Sunday:

“The Saints used the Cardinals’ aggressiveness against them. Quarterback Drew Brees continually hit running backs with screens and swing passes whenever the Cardinals would blitz. The Cardinals worked on those plays throughout camp, but in the game, defenders were too anxious to attack Brees.

“They neglected to decipher that there was a reason they were running free – they weren’t being blocked. “

I would expect the Bears to pick up on this and copy this game plan with one or two variations. For instance, though the Bears will certainly throw the screen passes, we know that the they would also like to run the ball against a Cardinals team that is rough and tough up front. Perhaps this means that we’ll see more counter plays from the Bears where, as above, they can take advantage of the Cardinals aggressiveness.

Something to keep an eye on.

Quick Comments from Selected Late Sunday NFL Games

Some quick observations on some of the games that I caught late in the day after the Bears game was over.

Broncos – Ravens:

There was a huge question about Peyton Manning‘s arm before their game against the Ravens this weak. Manning has been struggling with his arm strength all preseason and has put up some ugly game tape. Pre-game reports that he’d been putting more zip on the ball after starting to wear a glove on his throwing hand, something he didn’t do in the preseason. However, I’m inclined to attribute more of it to the huge windup he’s developed in an effort to get more behind his throws. He was also much more inaccurate than he has been in the past.

Manning actually didn’t do too badly. But that long release may haunt him all season, as it did on a Jimmy Smith pick six on Manning’s first throw of the second half.

On the other side Denver constantly harassed Joe Flacco with a ferocious pass rush. Both Denver and Baltimore struggled to protect their quarterbacks and I’m now officially concerned about both of these offensive lines.

Finally, Terrell Suggs‘s torn achilles will keep him out for the year. That’s bad news for my Ravens Super Bowl pick.

Titans – Buccaneers:

The Jameis WinstonMarcus Mariota match up looked very much like you’d expect it it.

Mariota looked far more pro-ready, being in command of the offense the entire game against that nice, standard cover-two defense. He threw four touchdowns in the first half alone.

Winston was far more up and down, mostly down, as he was in the preseason. Winston has quit a way to go before he’s going to be a competent NFL quarterback and its going to be a long season for the Bucs.

Another thing to keep an eye on is that Buccaneer running game, which looked very effective. If Winston develops at all, he’s going to get a lot of help from some wonderful running by Doug Martin.

The Bears play the Buccaneers on December 27.

Chargers – Lions:

Preseason reports had people wondering if Chargers first round running back Melvin Gordon was headed towards bust territory. I wouldn’t say that Gordon looked bad so much as he looked disappointingly nondescript. But as expected, the Lions Ameer Abdulla was the guy to watch in this game. His tendency to accelerate through his cuts and continue to gain momentum is rapidly putting him into an upper class of running backs.

There should be concern about that Lions defense without Ndamukong Suh. The Chargers dissected them in the second half both in the running game and with the pass. They made it look far too easy for any Lions fan comfort. Or for the comfort of the Bears, who are going to be visiting San Diego in November.

I’m not entirely sure what was wrong with Matthew Stafford but he looked awful in this game. You might generously say that he wasn’t on the same page with his receivers but his accuracy was very suspect. This is a situation to keep an eye on in the competitive NFC North.

Cardinals – Saints:

The Bears next opponent is the Arizona Cardinals. My initial impression watching them beat up on the New Orleans Saints is that this is a rough, tough team up front on both sides of the ball. If the Bears run on this team like they did on the Packers in the first half, more power to them. I have my doubts.

The Saints looked completely flat. I’m really surprised as offseason reports indicated that they were muscling up to become more physical. If they did, they didn’t show it. Sean Payton didn’t have this team prepared to play in this game. The Saints have to pick it up.

Cowboys – Giants

Tony Romo had ages to throw the ball in this game. That Dallas offensive line is a wall. No one got close. And they road graders blocking the run. Honestly, I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a better offensive line.

The Cowboys are a tough team. Which why I was shocked that the Giants were actually ahead at half. They were badly out played and the statistics were sick – they only had the ball for about 8 minutes of the half. But the Cowboys kept shooting themselves in the foot with turnovers and but you have to give the Giants credit. They hung tough.

The Giants offensive line wasn’t nearly as impressive as the Cowboys but Erik Flowers looks like he’s going to turn out to be a pretty good pick at left tackle. And of course, they have Odell Beckham, who drew a safety rolled to his side all night. I was also impressed by their coverage teams on special teams. But they were out classed you figured that they were eventually going to lose – and they did.  But the Cowboys did everything they could to give it away.

Some Creativity May Be Required For Teams Seeking Tight Ends in the Draft

Feb-20-Maxx-Williams

Tom Carpenter at ESPN highlights one of the more interesting things to look for inthe upcoming draft: where Minnesota tight end Maxx Williams (above) will go. Anyone who watched the combine knows that the tight end class is pretty grim and Williams is generally considered to be the best of them.

“Why is Williams’ draft stock slipping?

“Like most young tight ends — he is just 20 years old — he struggles at times with his blocking and route running.”

“Williams also reportedly came off a bit immature and self-centered during NFL combine interviews, as he struggled to give good answers to some difficult questions.”

The Arizona Cardinals, Baltimore Ravens and New Orleans Saints are all picking late in round 1 and may be tempted to take a chance on Williams.  The Bears cold also use a second tight end opposite Martellus Bennett.

There is an alternative. In the mock draft that I’m participating in the Atlanta Falcons representative took wide receiver Devin Funchess as a tight end instead of taking Williams. Funchess is 6-4 1/2, 232 lb and if he can learn to block, he could be tough to stop as a receiving tight end. Teams needing pass blocking tight ends might even resort to converting offensive tackles or linebackers.  It will be interesting to see if that’s what teams decide to do instead of taking a risk on the borderline tight end prospects that are available up and down the draft.

Adrian Peterson – The Saga Continues

Chris Wesseling at nfl.com reviews the current state of the Adrian Peterson saga in Minnesota:

“After meeting at Peterson’s home earlier this month, general manager Rick Spielman recently requested a dinner session with the star running back’s agent, Ben Dogra, at the upcoming NFL Annual Meeting in Phoenix. Dogra declined, NFL Media’s Albert Breer reported, per a source with knowledge of the situation. Yahoo’s Charles Robinson first reported the news.

“Multiple sources close to Peterson have informed Breer that the major sticking point is Kevin Warren‘s recent promotion from general counsel to COO. Under the impression that Warren worked with the NFL to place him on the Exempt/Commissioner’s Permission List last September, Peterson still wants out of Minnesota, Breer added.”

“Robinson has reported that the Cardinals will offer a high draft pick if Peterson becomes available. Franchise icon Larry Fitzgerald deemed the prospect of adding a player of that caliber a ‘game-changer’ for Arizona.”

A few thoughts here:

  1. First, Peterson is doing himself no favors by retaining Dogra as his agent. Dogra reportedly engaged in a heated exchange with Vikings vice president of football operations Rob Brzezinski at the NFL Combine during which he was said to have screamed that Peterson would never play for the Vikings again.”Super agent” or not, anyone who loses his cool in a public exchange that should be purely business shouldn’t be negotiating contracts. Dogra’s got a combative style and his grudge against Brzezinski at least is well-known. He’s not going to be the kind of guy who is going to be capable of the kind of dispassionate thinking needed to act in the best interests of his client.
  2. Second, Dogra is obviously campaigning to get Peterson traded. By telling teams that the Vikings have no intension of releasing him, he’s trying to get them to make offers rather than wait and see if they can get him for nothing. But if either the Cardinals or Dogra think anyone is going to get Peterson for “a high round pick”, they’re dreaming. Even in his 30s, Peterson almost certainly has many years left. If the Vikings accept anything less than a package that includes multiple first round picks they’re fools. And they’re not fools. Peterson is worth far more to the Vikings than anything anyone else is likely to offer.
  3. Finally, Dogra can try to get Peterson traded all he wants, Peterson’s best option will likely be to play in Minnesota. He’ll almost certainly get more money there than anywhere else. In addition, if the Vikings play hardball – and I think they eventually will when push comes to shove – Peterson’s likely options will be to play for them or lose a ton of money in salary sitting at home. Players threaten to sit out all the time but rational thinking almost always prevails and the player ends up playing. Again, assuming that Dogra actually manages to recommend what’s best for his client, that’s what Peterson will do.

Some Personal Favorites for Bears Head Coach and Other Points of View

Bears

  • Matt Forte‘s thoughts after the Minnesota game were probably very pertinent to the Bears current situation. Via Dan Wiederer at the Chicago Tribune:

    “Sometimes we line up in a formation that we ran a specific play out of a few more times than we should have. Defenses are smart. They watch film, read their keys and they know stuff like that.”

    The Vikings were keying on the screen game and stopping it cold. The Bears never adjusted. Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune supports my claim:

    “The Bears said they didn’t gameplan to get Matt Forte the eight receptions he needed to surpass Larry Centers for the NFL single-season record for a running back at 102. It just happened. Unfortunate thing is the eight catches went for only 23 yards. That is proof they were not all designed. According to Pro Football Reference, it was only the fifth time since 1960 a player has had eight catches and 23 or less yards. In 1995, Jets running back Adrian Murrell had nine receptions for 12 yards in a 12-0 loss to the Saints.”

    The Bears never really adjusted offensively to any of the things that defenses were doing to them. Not Sunday. Not before Sunday. Not in game. Not between games. The vast majority of the time the only thing they did at half time as far as I could tell was recommit to the original plan. And the original plan always looked the same. And not surprisingly the results looked the same. That’s probably a major reason why Marc Trestman is no longer the Bears head coach.

  • Of all of the players I thought the comments upon Trestman’s departure of wide receiver Brandon Marshall were probably the most interesting. From Rich Campbell at the Chicago Tribune:

    “‘You have some guys that aren’t used to change, which is kind of unique,’ Marshall said. ‘So when change happened, a lot of guys, they didn’t respond well, and that really hurt us.

    ‘Everybody sees it differently. For me, I know every coach comes in, they’re going to do things differently. I was able to bend a little bit, and there were some guys that wasn’t able to bend, and it trickled down into our locker room, and it kind of, like, hurt us. That’s why we’re here.'”

    “‘We just didn’t come together. Players didn’t come together. Coaches didn’t come together. And unfortunately, we got guys that’s fired and you’ve got players that’s going to be cut and traded.'”

    I wasn’t happy to hear that former defensive players like Lance Briggs and special teamers like Robbie Gould were agitating after the coaching change. But I think its ironic that the defense and special teams arguably were the units that came together and performed the best late in the year. It was the offense that was totally dysfunctional and they were the ones that, as a unit, were most responsible for getting Trestman fired..

  • I probably like wide receiver Brandon Marshall more than most fans at the moment. But the guy’s got to settle down. Via David Just at the Chicago Sun-Times.
  • I actually watched most of the press conference that George McCaskey and Ted Phillips held at Halas Hall. Like most of the media, I was fascinated by McCaskey’s response when he was asked about how his mother and the primary owner Virginia felt about the changes there (the Chicago Tribune won’t let me embed it but the video is here).  McCaskey paused a long time before answering, obviously considering carefully how much he wants to talk about his 91 year old mother. When you see any of the family with her in public its obvious that they goes to great lengths to protect her when she’s out and about. After he decided to answer the question candidly, his comments were the hit of the press conference.Even though I figured the family was trying badly to get her a championship and, for obvious reasons, were trying to get it darned soon, like most people I figured that Virginia had little influence on how the Bears were being run. I think I was wrong. It was very obvious to me that George meant it when he said Virginia was “pissed off”. You can see Phillips nodding his head in the background of this video as George McCaskey spoke. The bet here is that he’d heard about Virginia’s dissatisfaction and he may very well have heard it directly from her.
  • Chris Hine at the Chicago Tribune asks if nice guys can coach in the NFL. I think the answer is the same in the NFL as it is anywhere else. You can be nice. You can’t be soft.
  • I couldn’t agree more with Mike Freeman at the Bleacher Report.
  • David Haugh at the Chicago Tribune writes about the NFL Network report that Ravens assistant general manager Eric DeCosta wouldn’t be interested in the Bears’ GM job if Bears president Ted Phillips “still” was involved in football decisions. Honestly, I can’t remember a situation where I heard that Phillips ever was involved in making “football decisions”. He’s involved in hiring the GMs but surely people recognize that the final decision on such things are ownership’s. Phillips is, for all practical purposes, an advisor in the process to George McCaskey. An extremely influential one, to be sure – he does, after all, have to work with whoever the hire is. But no one is going to be hired without McCaskey’s full approval. It’s basically his decision. And, more to the point, the operation of the team has always fallen under the responsibility of the GM and his staff with, by every account, very little interference from anyone above that. It sounds to me like someone needs to talk to DeCosta and explain the situation to him. And maybe to Haugh as well.
  • Haugh did have one comment that I do agree with and understand perfectly well:

    “If Phillips wants the Bears to benefit from his experience, behind the scenes, he will reinforce the perils of hiring a coach before the general manager. A strong chain of command depends on the general manager’s compatibility with a coach he chooses — not one forced on him. It’s interesting that the Bears requested permission Tuesday to interview NFL coordinators Adam Gase and Todd Bowles for their coaching vacancy, which is best filled by somebody with experience. But the names of possible GMs on their radar carry more significance because that represents the Bears’ logical first move.”

    Ordinarily the thought of interviewing and hiring a head coach before hiring a GM would have driven me crazy. But I think I might have an idea of what’s going on here. Given Ernie Accorsi‘s involvement, I’m going to guess that he’s advised them to start by showing interest in the popular candidates and, possibly, by interviewing them. That gets their foot in the door before other teams have a chance to snatch them up.

    But I’m also going to guess that he’s told them that it would be best to hire the GM first and let him have huge input, if not make the final decision, if possible. Indeed, that’s what sources have told Patrick Finley at the Chicago Sun-Times here. Only in the case of a guy that they’re 100% sure is the right head coach would they actually make the hire.

    The guess here is that the search for a GM will go right smartly, as well. It sounds to me like the Bears are moving with a sense of urgency, knowing that the right guys might not be available if they wait around. And, of course, if they wait too long to hire the head coach the better available assistants will be gone as well.

  • I thought Mark Potash at the Chicago Sun-Times had an interesting take on former GM Phil Emery:

    “Emery was dedicated and thorough, but he did not have a manager’s touch. The first indication was his poor handling of Brian Urlacher’s departure from the team in 2013 — with a low-ball contract offer and an approach that didn’t give him the respect he deserved. You can quibble about the details, but if Urlacher — one of the greatest Bears in franchise history — leaves the organization with disdain, you’ve done something wrong.”

    I thought, and still think, that Urlacher’s dissatisfaction with the way this happened had more to do with him than Emery. And as to the last statement, remember that Brett Favre‘s parting with the Packers didn’t exactly go well, either. But few of us would argue that the Packers were wrong.

    Having said that, perhaps in retrospect we should have considered this to be the first sign that that Emery had some flaws in this area.

  • I have a very strong suspicion that former Accorsi associate Marc Ross is the next GM of the Bears. Perhaps the Bears have a thing for people whose names are Marc with a ‘c’. Here’s hoping this one works out better.
  • I found this report from John Mullin at csnchicago.com that Emery was the reason why former defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli didn’t stay on in the same role after Love Smith’s departure to be interesting:

    “At the time, the plan was to retain the highly regarded Marinelli to run the defense. And he had planned to, remaining on even after close friend Smith was fired. But back in mid-January 2013, as part of their final selection process for a head coach to replace Smith, Emery and the organization had Marinelli interview the three finalists for the head-coaching job.

    “Marinelli was asked to rank the three. He did. [Bruce] Arians was his runaway first choice; [Darrell] Bevell was the second; Trestman was a distant third.

    “Emery selected Trestman.

    “When he learned of the decision, Marinelli abruptly angrily resigned and left Halas Hall for Dallas and a de facto demotion to defensive line coach.”

    Not that Emery made the right decision but has anyone considered the fact that Bruce Arians was going to bring in Todd Bowles as his defensive coordinator (via Potash)? You could actually argue that one reason why Arians wasn’t hired was because Emery wanted Marinelli more and then, ironically, lost out on both in the process.

  • Of note this year has been the development of linebacker Christian Jones. Biggs comments:

    “Linebacker Christian Jones showed continued development throughout the course of the season. He looks like he could challenge for a starting position next year. Jones said he wants to become stronger against the run so he can play more downhill.”

    To my eye all of the young linebackers got better as the season wore on and I’d say they all need to get play downhill more. The key is probably play recognition, something I’m guessing will only some with experience.

  • I don’t know what the Chicago Sun-Times number one sports story of the year is going to be but which ever one it is, its the wrong one. Because the number one sports story is their number 2 story. Hockey isn’t as popular as football and the Cubs and White Sox split the town in half. Though I’m sure my personal guess – Jackie Robinson West – pulled at some heart strings and will be a popular choice, no one paid any attention to them until the final week of the story and no one was paying any attention to them a week afterwards. Nothing move the needle in this town like the Bears.

Elsewhere

  • So much for head coach Jim Caldwell ringing discipline to Detroit. The Lions might be the dirtiest football team I’ve ever seen. And they’re killing themselves with it. Dominic Raiola really let that team down. Now Ndamukong Suh tried his best to do the same thing. Via the Chicago Tribune.
  • Darin Gantt at profootballtalk.com reports that the Arizona Cardinals are very interested in how quarterback Drew Stanton has been treating his knee. The knee has become infected. The problem? He didn’t have surgery or any treatment from the team that would lead to such an infection. So the belief is that he got unauthorized treatment outside the facility. Not good for him or the team that needs him badly to return for the postseason.

One Final Thought

Biggs runs through 23 potential head coaching candidates.

Generally speaking I’m sticking to my guns and saying that the Bears need a head coach who can coach quarterbacks. That was, in my opinion, the one single thing that was unquestionably right about Marc Trestman.

But as I ran through this list I saw one one exception to that rule: David Toub. Much though I love Rex Ryan (suggested here by Potash), Toub is the better non-offensive/quarterback-oriented choice because he’s one of the few guys – maybe the only realistic guy – that I have confidence would be able to consistently find the right offensive coordinators to succeed. He’d be absolutely perfect.

Just one other note. I’ll be disappointed if the Bears aren’t seriously considering Packers offensive coordinator (and former quarterbacks coach) Tom Clements. Though Biggs didn’t have him on his list . Someone who had learned what its all about under Mike McCarthy might be a good fit. He’s probably ready.

The Bears Offense Is Taking Shape and Other Points of View

“‘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?'”

“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.

“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.

“Books

“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.)