Skipping Bayless and Other Points of View

Bears

  • Phil Thompson at the Chicago Tribune notes that there were no Bears evident at Jimmy Clausen‘s wedding. His Twitter background image is one of himself in a Carolina Panther’s uniform.

    Slow news day.

  • Nate Atkins at chicagofootball.com . Smith’s situation is reminiscent of what happened to current Bear Lamarr Houston. He succeeded as a 3-4 five technique, in his case for the Texans, then signed on with Oakland to be a 4-3 defensive tackle. Like Houston, Atkins struggled with the transition. Also like Houston, he might be a good bet to bounce back in the defensive scheme that he is best suited for. This sounds like good thinking to me – and like something Bears general manager Ryan Pace might very well do.
  • Kevin Fishbain, Hub and Arthur Arkush debate the best and worst free agent signings by the Bears for chicagofootball.com. I’m going to go ahead and agree with Hub that Mason Foster was probably their best signing. There are too many question marks at inside linebacker and they needed someone they could depend on there. Id say dependable is Foster’s floor.

    A mildly disturbing trend that runs throughout this article is the subtle suggestion that the Bears are consistently overpaying for players like Eddie Royal and Alan Ball. These suggestions tend to be a lot more than subtle in the national media where I’ve heard the Royal signing openly ridiculed. These won’t be spectacular errors if they don’t work out but I’d rather see that money spent a bit more wisely.

  • Arthur Arkush evaluates wide receiver prospect Kevin White. I’m starting to become a little wary of White. He relies heavily on his physical ability to beat defenders. That might be OK but what happens when he gets to the NFL and finds out he can’t dominate every corner like he did in college. More and more I agree with scouts that the much more savvy Amari Cooper is the safer pick.

Elsewhere

  • NFL analyst Rodney Harrison isn’t a believer in the Jets. Via Dan Hanzus at nfl.com:

    “‘The Jets are, all of a sudden, on a high thinking they’re going to win a championship,’ Harrison said on NBC Sports Radio, per ESPN. ‘You’re not going to win a championship, you’re not even going to make the playoffs, because you don’t have a quarterback. If you go into the season and you’re expecting Geno Smith to improve, it’s not going to happen. He might get a little better, but when times get tough, when adversity hits, guess what he’s going to do? He’s going to fold just like the last couple years.'”

    Sound familiar Bears fans?

  • Kevin Patra at nfl.com says that the punishment of the Atlanta Falcons for pumping crowd noise into the Georgia Dome has come down. The NFL fined the Falcons $350,000, took away their fifth-round selection in the 2016 NFL Draft, and suspended team president Rich McKay will also be suspended for at least three months from the Competition Committee beginning April 1.

    I think the Falcons are being made an example, here. I’m virtually certain that they’re nowhere near the only team in the NFL to do this. When the Rams were in the same division with the Saints the players talked about the noise being so loud on their bench in the Super Dome that they had to turn the speakers on the sideline around just to hear themselves talk.

  • Bucky Brooks at nfl.com has quarterback Marcus Mariota falling to the Chargers at 17. It’s not impossible. But it’s going to be tough for the Saints who are probably starting to plan for a future without Drew Brees, to pass on him at 13.

    Mariota’s a risky pick for most teams, though. He could easily fall pretty far. The other thing to consider is that’s easy trade up range for the Eagles, who are sitting at 20. Mariota played under head coach Chip Kelly at Oregon and Kelly has called him the best player in the draft.

  • Mary Kay Cabot at cleveland.com thinks that the Browns will try to move up to take Mariota, as well. That sounds like exactly the kind of thing owner Jimmy Haslam might push for.
  • Matt Vensil at the Minneapolis Star-Tribune says that 6-9, 351 lb offensive tackle Babatunde Aiyegbusi, who signed with the Minnesota Vikings after flying over from Poland to try out is now experiencing the items commonly found in an American diet including tacos, pink lemonade, chicken wings and waffle fries. What’s the over-under on his weight by the time training camp starts?

One Final Thought

I really don’t care that a student trashed Cam Newton in his elementary school paper. But the comparison to former Chicago Tribune and current ESPN lazy blow hard Skip Bayless by profootballtalk.com‘s Darin Gantt is right on target:

“And actually, he’s better than Bayless, because there’s at least an intellectual honesty to the kid’s claims.”

Skip-Bayless

I think I’d get more out of it if I switched on the TV and found the 10 year old yelling at me.

No, They’re Not Kidding. And Other Points of View.

Bears

  • The Bears re-signed Dante Rosario. Rosario’s value is really on special teams and the Bears probably still need to find a tight end who can block the run. From Rich Campbell at the Chicago Tribune.
  • Hub Arkush at chicagofootball.com points out that Bears head coach John Fox likes a runningback by committee. That leads him to speculate that the Bears might take a running back with their second round pick. That would fit in well with this ESPN report that Georgia’s Todd Gurley had an “extended conversation” with Bears southeast area scout Sam Summerville at his pro day.
  • Former Bears Director of College Scouting Greg Gabriel at the National Football Postthinks the Bears will trade back in the draft. He also thinks the Vikings will fill their need at guard and Detroit will fill their need at defensive tackle. Bud Dupree has that kind of look that would land him in Green Bay ahead of any decline from Julius Peppers.
  • Gabriel also writes for WSCR in Chicago. He does a very good job of breaking down the type players Bears defensive coordinator Vic Fangio used in the 3-4 defense that San Francisco played. It involved smaller, penetrating linemen rather than the big bodied 2 gappers that teams like Baltimore use. They also had smallish, speedy linebackers and tall corners. Whether these were the players Fangio preferred of this was a case of making the best of the players you are given is unknown. What scheme Fangio will use here is a matter of debate but if you think he’ll try to play the same scheme in Chicago that he did in San Francisco, these are the types of players to expect the Bears to collect.

Elsewhere

  • Matt Vensel at the Minneapolis Star-Tribune dreams that the Falcons, Giants and Rams are all going to over-draft offensive linemen to allow Amari Cooper to fall to them. I think it far more likely that they’ll have their choice of those linemen and, in fact, they could do a lot worse than Brandon Scherff. He’d do a wonderful job of solidifying their left guard spot, vacated by the release of Charlie Johnson.
  • The Vikings biggest need may be a starting cornerback opposite Xavier Rhodes so its no surprise that Vikings general manager Rick Spielman and coach Mike Zimmer were watching Michigan State cornerback Trae Waynes rather closely at his pro day. He’s probably a slam dunk pick for them in the first round. Via Ben Goessling at ESPN.
  • Mel Kiper “re-drafts” the 2009 prospects for ESPN. You don’t think the draft is a crap shoot? Out of the 32 new “first round picks” not one was drafted in the original top nine. Michael Crabtree was the highest original pick to make the list at 10 and two of the players in the new round originally went undrafted.
  • Kyle Meinke at mlive.com acknowledges that Detroit has taken a step back n free agency, largely due to losses at defensive tackle. However he believes that the team may make up for it, not by signing more talent, but by continuing to develop the talent that they have.He’s got a point. Good organizations are the ones that not only draft talent but coach it up to get the most out of it. This may be the most overlooked aspect of Green Bay’s success and its one that the Bears are going to have to emulate as well if they want to get younger and more competitive at the same time.
  • Rex Ryan plans to have the Bills practice largely on two fields in camp, a change from Doug Marrone who ran 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 drills on one field. The idea is to maximize reps for the quarterbacks who are competing to start, EJ Manuel, Matt Cassel and Tyrod Taylor.Both the Bills and the Jets are planning on challenging the old saying that, “If you have two quarterbacks competing to be the starter you don’t have one.”
  • How does an owner solve a problem where he signed a player who abuses women to a huge contract? He trots out his daughter and sells her for the sake of public relations. From David Moore at the Dallas Morning News.
  • Defensive lineman Kevin Vickerson has been signed by the Jets according to Rich Cimini at espn.com. In retrospect I’m kind of wondering why the Bears weren’t interested here.
  • Mike Florio at profootballtalk.com thinks the value of having a veteran combine is minimal. I’m going to mildly disagree. Having a standard medical on these veterans can be pretty valuable and some teams may be holding off on working out and talking to some of these veterans until they get a solid handle on it.
  • Regular readers know that I have a man-crush on Teddy Bridgewater. Those who don’t want to read anymore about it can stop now. Because Bridgewater gets it as he addresses his rookie season via Brian Murphy at the Pioneer Press:

    “‘I wasn’t impressed,’ he told the Pioneer Press this week.

    “‘Yes, we did some good things as a team,’ he continued, ‘but we could have been much better finishing games. That’s what separates championship teams and determining whether you’re playing games in January or watching games in January.'”

  • The Chargers and the Raiders propose a shared stadium for Carson, CA and suddenly Rams owner Stan Kroenke is presenting detailed plans at the NFL owner’s meetings for his Inglewood stadium with offices for two teams… Things are getting even more interesting in Los Angeles.
  • Mike Florio at profootballtalk.com is surprised that it took nearly a week for Chris Borland to conclude that he should voluntarily give back a portion of his signing bonus. I’m not the lest bit surprised. The NFLPA can’t be happy to see anyone give back signing bonus to teams under any circumstances and this decision might further undermine the case that any players brings to keep his bonus in the future.
  • And in the former Bear, LOL department:

One Final Thought

Kyle Samec at the Cowboys Nation Blog says that Greg Hardy makes the Cowboys “a legit threat, whether people like it or not”. Is that to the opponents or just their women?

That Thing That New Head Coaches Bring

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Dan Hanzus at nfl.com answers your questions (again):

“I’m making the Jets (4-12 in ’14) my early favorite. There are a lot good vibes around Florham Park right now, with the additions of Darrelle Revis, Brandon Marshall, Antonio Cromartie and more. New coach Todd Bowles has a real secondary to work with — something Rex Ryan couldn’t claim last year — and I can easily see the Jets making a four-to-six win jump with better quarterback play, whether that be from Geno Smith, Ryan Fitzpatrick or, yep, Marcus Mariota.

“Also look out for the Buccaneers (2-14), who will get better in a hurry if they hit on Jameis Winston.”

I’ve commented extensively now about teams winning in March not winning in January. But having said that, there is something about having a new coaching staff that rejuvenates a team. No one’s job is safe and everyone focuses a little more and competes a little harder that first year. So its not out of the question that that Jets – or the Bills – bounce up with a good record this year.

I’d like put the Bears into this class.  They’ve got plenty of skill position players on offense.  They added an ascending pass rusher in Pernell McPhee.  You could argue that Jared Allen simply has a down year and could be much better rested rushing in subpackages.  Lamar Houston was slow to adjust to defensive end in a 4-3 and will almost certainly be more comfortable in a 3-4.  But unfortunately with Jay Cutler returning as quarterback and a transition to the 3-4 going on defensively, the guess here is that most of the benefit that new Bears head coach John Fox brings will be for the long haul.

Either Enforce the Rules or Don’t Have Them at All

DarrelleRevis

Mike Florio at profootballtalk.com reviews the tampering allegations against the New York Jets in regards to their eventual singing of Darrelle Revis:

“The problem arose when [owner Woody] Johnson said publicly on December 29 that the Johnson would ‘love for Darrelle to come back,’ a textbook violation of the tampering rules. (Johnson later said he ‘misspoke,’ a term which suggests Johnson actually meant to say he would ‘not love for Darrelle to come back.’)”

“In this specific case, the full body of evidence includes a March 3 report from [Manish] Mehta that Johnson was leaning heavily on his front-office staff to bring Revis back. Mehta’s source, undoubtedly a member of the team’s front office, committed a separate violation of the tampering rules by leaking the information to the media, since it had the clear impact of making it known to the football-following world that the Jets were indeed in play for Revis at a time when only the Patriots should have been talking to Revis. While the NFL has no jurisdiction over Mehta, the questioning that occurred at team headquarters on March 8 surely extended to Mehta’s story from March 3.”

Someone is going to have to explain to me what there is to investigate. This is open and shut. I know that most teams don’t take tampering too seriously as its apparently done in secret all the time. But if the league doesn’t punish the teams in blatant situations like that of the Jets, I don’t see how they can continue to have any rules regarding the matter at all.

Being of Two Minds and Other Points of View

Bears

  • David Haugh at the Chicago Tribune petty much sums up why Brandon Marshall isn’t a Bear:

    “The Bears questioned where Marshall’s focus was, or he never would have been dealt. According to [Bears head coach John] Fox‘s football glossary, Marshall qualifies as Pro Bowler more than Super Bowler, a point underscored when the wide receiver wondered in his first meeting with Fox and general manager Ryan Pace whether he could work for Showtime again on Tuesdays during the season. A Super Bowler would have volunteered to quit his part-time TV job and established himself as a team-first, me-second guy. That never happened because that’s not Marshall.”

    I’m still not totally convinced that Marshall couldn’t have simply been told, “No. No Showtime. I expect your Fall to be God, family and football 24 hours a day, seven days a week.” But I can’t hardly blame Fox and Bears general manager Ryan Pace for wanting players who don’t need to be told that. In fact, you could argue that if you need to be told, your commitment will never be completely there anyway.

    There’s a good part of me that does’t care much for this trade. The Bears are going to miss Marshall’s talent on the field. He certainly played like a warrior right down to the very end of a miserable season and, unlike some of the players on this team, he’s one guy that no one could accuse of lacking heart. The locker room tirades weren’t good but at least they were rooted in a desire to win.

  • Anyway Marshall won’t have to fly to New York on Tuesdays now. Marshall never really understood what the problem was with doing the show even as his own statements danced around the real issue. Via Patrick Finley at the Chicago Sun-Times:

    “‘What’s more detrimental: a guy that goes out Friday night, smokes, drinks, do all that stuff, out ’til 4, 5 in the morning?’ Marshall said last month. ‘Or a guy on his day off flying to New York, an hour and a half flight, talking a little football and coming back?’

    “The hardest part, he said, was the show’s ‘tough questions’ surrounding the Bears’ 5-11 season.

    “‘How do you answer those questions?’ he said. ‘How do you keep those boundaries between, ‘Hey, I’m on television,’ but the No. 1 priority is to keep the team first.'”

    It’s true that spending what was probably more like four or five hours on a plane every Tuesday wasn’t a big deal. What Marshall either didn’t understand or didn’t acknowledge is the distraction that his appearances undoubtedly were for him the rest of the week. The bet here is that if Marshall was honest with himself he’d realize that a part of his mind all week was thinking about how he was going to answer those “tough questions” on Tuesday. That’s a part that wasn’t concentrating on football.

  • Steve Rosenbloom at the Chicago Tribune characterizes Marshall on the way out the door as a “loser”. It’s a message that resonates with me if for no other reason than it’s something I’ve said in my criticism of of quarterback Jay Cutler many times. The Bears are reportedly talking to former Bears coaches and staff about Cutler. Here’s hoping they were as frank as their evaluation as they apparently were with Michael C. Wright at ESPN.com:

    “At least 10 former Chicago Bears staffers from the Lovie Smith and Marc Trestman regimes said recently they believe the team can’t consistently compete for championships as long as it fields a lineup with Jay Cutler under center.”

    “Two teammates, who also asked to remain anonymous for this story, characterized Cutler as a divisive figure with whom they’d rather not continue to play.”

    “One more former staffer said the Bears could win with Cutler as long as the coaches handcuff him to the system.

    “But that’s precisely what the staff did when Mike Martz served as offensive coordinator during the 2010 and ’11 seasons, according to another former coach, and Cutler and Martz were often at odds”

    “One staffer said that while Cutler was injured and Josh McCown was flourishing as the replacement in 2013, there was a significant faction in the locker room that believed the latter should’ve remained the starter. Another coach said that fairly early in the 2014 season, it was apparent the team had made two mistakes: (1) not re-signing McCown, and (2) continuing to stand behind Cutler after it was clear he was not going to consistently operate within the confines of Trestman’s offense.”

    “[E]very one of the former staffers interviewed from the Smith and Trestman regimes pointed out similar flaws in the quarterback. Two ‘R’ words — ‘renegade’ and ‘rogue’ — were often used by the former staffers when asked about Cutler’s ability to play within the confines of an offensive system.”

    This is just about the most damning article about Cutler I’ve ever seen. The only think that could make it worse is if the sources gave their names. Most of it confirms what I always thought except that I believe that Cutler not only refuses to operate within the confines of the offense, I’m pretty sure he’s simply not capable of it.

    Given that, as Wright also points out, general manager Ryan Pace is close to former offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer, who I think we can safely say did not have a high opinion of Cutler, I’ll believe Cutler will be back next year when I see it.

  • Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune wonders if a Cutler trade won’t follow on the heels of the Marshall deal:

    “One NFL source said the Titans are the only realistic destination in terms of a trade for Cutler. It would be something if Pace could move Cutler and his guaranteed salary of $15.5 million for 2015. The solution isn’t to start Jimmy Clausen, re-signed to a one-year contract Friday, or David Fales. But the Bears might believe the sooner they shed Cutler and begin the process of searching for their next quarterback, the better. They might desire as clean of a slate as possible, and moving on from Cutler after trading Marshall would sure accomplish that.”

    As anyone who reads this blog knows, it’s been my feeling for a long time now that this is exactly what the Bears should do. Despite Biggs statement about the Titans there’s a part of me that wonders if Eagles head coach Chip Kelly isn’t clearing cap space to be used in part for Cutler. He’s not ideal but he’s a better fit for that offense than the guys he currently has.  Admittedly that’s a long shot.

    However, it’s also possible that the Marshall trade was simply a message to Cutler – the two ‘R’ words used in the previous item to describe Cutler won’t be tolerated under the current regime. We’ll see how it all works out.

  • Take this report of the Bears interest in quarterback Marcus Mariota for what its worth.
  • John Mullin at csnchicago.com reviews the list of the Bears own free agents and one name popped up that I’d forgotten about: long snapper Jeremy Cain. The Bears might want to get Cain re-signed. I don’t think you want to be caught out without a reliable long snapper and to my eye, Cain made the grade last year.

One Final Thought

Former Bears safety Anthony Walters :

“‘Part of you loves when pain is inflicted on you,’ Walters said. ‘It’s a grown man’s sport. I remember if I got hit so hard or if I hit somebody so hard where there may have been a moment of wariness, I’m like, ‘Wow, that was exhilarating.’

“‘It’s almost a rush and it’s hard to explain that. That’s what we grow up loving.'”

Being Human. And Other Points of View.

Bears

  • I knew the minute I saw the headline that Rick Morrissey at the Chicago Sun-Times had written this. Similar to Hub Arkush, Morrissey’s cynicism can be refreshing when you want someone to write a hard truth. But both tend to go too far and see things in an unbalanced, unnecessarily negative light. This is one of those times. I find the implication that its acceptable for players like Dominic Raiola to occasionally cross the line into dirty play to be unacceptable. Morrissey says, “To be clear, I’m not condoning Raiola’s behavior” but then goes on to say that we shouldn’t be outraged by it because that’s just the way true, competitive football players are. What nonsense.
  • And just to spite me, Arkush chimes in with a positive comment buried amongst his negativity:

    “What else can go wrong this season? Well, the Bears could beat the Vikings and drop several spots in the draft, and my gut tells me that’s what’s going to happen. There is a chemistry among a tight group of veterans on this team, and what we learned last Sunday is that they’re not going to embarrass themselves.”

    I don’t know which veterans he’s talking about but Robbie Gould and Jay Cutler, who is saying all the right things verbally while saying, “I’m still a sulking boy” by wearing a Vanderbilt hat in press conferences, are giving them a bad name.

    If this is Cutler’s last game as a Bear, his legacy with me will be associated with Brian Urlacher‘s most perceptive comment when he referred to Cutler (off the record) as a female body part. Physically Cutler is as tough as anyone you’d ever like to see. But Urlacher was still dead on.

  • John Mullin at csnchicago.com weighs in with his own perceptive comments as he begins to put a bow on the 2014 season. Most of this article is an indictment of Bears head coach Marc Trestman but I took some other interesting tidbits from it as well:

    “Trestman too often appeared out of touch with the NFL ‘way’ both on and off the field.”

    “Much of [the team dysfunction] traced to Trestman, who in ill-advised and clumsy exercises of damage control only succeeded alienated his central team leader.

    “Teammates voted Cutler one of the captains going into the 2013 season. But Trestman this year installed a system of rotating captains instead. He named Cutler as a captain just three times through the first 15 games, only once more than second-year right guard Kyle Long. Defensive end Jared Allen has been a co-captain in the last five and six of the last seven games.”

    My assumption was that Trestman was instituting the rotating captains in part to keep the BBQ-shilling Lance Briggs from being named permanently. It never occurred to me that Cutler, with his evident lack of innate leadership skills, might also be a target. If he was then it was useless. Cutler is who he is and that’s not a leader. Perhaps this was a recognition of that rather than an inducement to improve in that area. Either way it is an indictment of both men.

  • Mullin continues:

    “Starting to describe a mistaken route by Brandon Marshall against the Green Bay Packers in Week 10 this year, Trestman began saying that Marshall had run a wrong route, then caught himself and redirected into something about miscommunication. That effectively threw blame on Cutler and began the real unraveling of the coach-quarterback relationship, the most important for any team.”

    Assuming this was the case, you would think that Cutler would recognize that such misdirection would help him more often than it would hurt him. But the see comment above about the female body part.

  • And finally, one last quote from Mullin’s article:

    “Trestman talked often of wanting to keep team business in-house, yet took no steps to curtail repeated outbursts by Marshall and imposed no more discipline on [Aaron] Kromer than to order an apology for speaking to an an outsider about frustrations with Cutler. Asked for reactions to various player actions, Trestman typically professed that he hadn’t heard what was said or hadn’t seen what was done or had happened.”

    “They were small things and not what should have affected play on the field. But some question existed throughout on whether Trestman truly related to players on levels that mattered to them. He spoke of things like ‘growing the man’ and every quarterback having his own ‘journey,’ which is true but not coin of the communications realm in the NFL. And treating someone like a man doesn’t automatically make him one.

    “Perhaps just coincidentally, the Bears were degenerating into an undisciplined team on field, reflected by penalties and overall sloppiness on all phases. Trestman’s second season marked the first time in 30 years that a coach’s team became more penalized from his first year to his second. In just 14 games the Bears already were dramatically ahead of their year-one rate of infraction under Trestman.”

    It’s almost certainly not a coincidence and Mullin undoubtedly strongly suspects that. Indeed, treating someone like a man doesn’t automatically make him a man. I’m reminded of what former NFL safety Matt Bowen wrote for the Chicago Tribune earlier this month:

    “To be honest, players want to be held accountable. They want to be pushed, challenged. That’s how they improve and it resonates throughout the building when poor performances are deemed unacceptable.”

    Trestman lives in an ideal world where people push themselves and hold themselves accountable. It’s a lamentable truth that more often that not reality doesn’t match that. His failure to recognize this might have been his greatest mistake.

    There is a lot more to this article. I’ve already quoted too much of it but if I extracted more excerpts a lot of them would be just to add “Me, too.” Its well written and well worth a read.

    My guess is that this is the first of many such articles from many different sources that will come after Black Monday. It will be interesting to see what new facts come out of them.

Elsewhere

  • Mary Kay Cabot at the Cleveland Plain Dealer quotes Browns linebacker Karlos Dansby on what he sees as a wasted season for the Browns top two picks of the 2014 draft:

    “‘There’s so much ([cornerback Justin] Gilbert) could’ve done better and he didn’t put forth the effort,’ said Dansby. ‘So yeah, it’s a wasted year.

    “‘Like [quarterback] Johnny [Manziel] said the same thing, it’s a wasted year for him. That’s how he feels. He’s like ‘damn, I’ve got to take this more seriously. I’ve wasted all this time.’ That’s basically what he’s saying. So it’s like ‘don’t waste your time man, because it’s precious bro. You never know when you’re going to be done. You’re one play away from never playing this game again.”

    “Dansby said he was surprised to hear Manziel publicly admit Tuesday that he has to take it more seriously because this is his job now.

    “‘When did you figure that out?’ said Dansby.”

    Its possible that Gilbert and Manziel will suddenly turn it on and start working harder. But I think its far more likely that this is who they are. Some people with the Browns are evidently going to have to start paying less attention to the physical talent and more attention to what these prospects have inside. And given that Manziel wasn’t the general manager’s choice, the guess here is that its the coach and the owner who interfered to get Manziel on board.

  • You can see why Jets players love head coach Rex Ryan. Compare his statements about Sheldon Richardson‘s Pro Bowl snub to the mealy mouthed response Trestman or former Bears head coach Lovie Smith likely would have made. Ryan’s comments are contrasting Richardson with Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald.  Via Dom Cosentino at NJ.com:

    “Rex Ryan on Wednesday admitted he was ‘kind of shocked’ Jets defensive end Sheldon Richardson wasn’t selected to the 2015 Pro Bowl. And after initially saying he thought it might have been because the Jets have won just three games this season, Ryan dropped the hammer.

    “‘If it kept him out of the Pro Bowl because some guy had X-amount of sacks, and that guy can’t hold his jock as a player, to be honest with you, I think that’s kind of strange to me,’ Ryan said.

One Final Thought

I did find this Morrissey comment to be amusing:

“Part of me says this season can’t end soon enough. Another part of me wants it to go on forever. Drama, controversy, finger-pointing — it’s a columnist’s dream. Who stays and who goes? Phil Emery? Marc Trestman? Jay Cutler? All of them? None of them? The real season starts after the [Vikings] game.”

I, personally, follow the league for the game on the field and like it best when the players are overcoming adversity to triumph over obstacles. But the downside of being human also comes with that and I guess I’ll take what I can get.

Why Not Both? And Other Points of View

Bears

  • There won’t be any Game Comments for the Jets contest tonight. I’ll have the game on tape but its unlikely that I’ll have time to watch it before tomorrow afternoon. Looking forward to seeing what you all have to say.

  • Mike Mulligan at the Chicago Tribune on why Bears head coach Marc Trestman shares the blame for the team’s special teams woes:

    “Legend has it when Norv Turner came to the Cowboys as offensive coordinator under Jimmy Johnson in 1991, he was told a couple of games into the season that special teams would be a priority that week. Turner would get three wide receivers active, but one of them had to be the return guy.

    “Trestman hasn’t put those kind of restraints on his offense. With injuries to Alshon Jeffery and Brandon Marshall going into the 49ers game, the Bears had five wide receivers on the active roster and another inactive.”

    I’m not entirely sure how fair this criticism is. Trestman had no way of knowing whether Marshall or Jeffery were going to last the game or, if they did, whether they’d actually be healthy enough to be of any use. Trestman could have easily been stuck with what amounted to two active wide receivers.

    Having said that, Mulligan is right in that the Bears probably haven’t prioritized special teams. The lack of depth that was exposed last year on the defensive side of the ball has undoubtedly made them skittish about coming up short on the non-special teams units on game day and, again in fairness, they’ve needed that depth as player after player has gone down to injury. The roster is a mess and its natural enough that special teams would be the unit to suffer the most.

  • I almost never pay much of any attention to anything former Bears head coach Mike Ditka has to say. But I have to admit he had more guts than I did.

  • Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune answers your questions:

    “I know Roberto Garza is a leader on the O-line, but Brian de la Puente looks to be a better player. Any chance he keeps the job for good? — @petemeyer5 from Twitter

    “The Bears handed the ball off to running back Matt Forte 12 times and he gained 21 yards Sunday night at San Francisco. That is not the production the team is seeking in the running game. That’s not on de la Puente and I’m not saying with Garza in there it would have been dramatically different. The Bears did hold up well in pass protection against a 49ers front that was missing Aldon Smith and rarely blitzed. I think the expectation is Garza returns to the lineup when he is healthy.”

    I think Biggs doesn’t want to just come out and say it but de la Puente has had well-documented issues with his run blocking. Those issues cropped up after current Bears offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer left de la Puente’s former team, the New Orleans Saints. It’s possible that reuniting with Kromer has solved them but, like Biggs, I wouldn’t want to bet on it.

    The Bears running game has been pretty miserable through two games. I haven’t concentrated on de la Puente’s play and I certainly wouldn’t want to even say that it contributed to the problem. But it’s fair to at least wonder if it won’t be that much better with Garza back in the lineup.

  • What can the Bears expect from the Jets? On offense it will be a heavy ground attack, of course. On defense We’re going to see exactly what you’d expect from a son of former Bears defensive coordinator Buddy Ryan. Adam L. Jahns at the Chicago Sun-Times quotes offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer:

    “This defense has brought more zero blitzes in the first two games than we saw all last year — zero blitzing meaning it’s one-on-one in coverage behind the blitz that they’re bringing. Every receiver just has one guy.”

    Given the Jets strength against the run, I think we can expect a large dose of the short passing game again. That means a lot will ride on the Bears ability to execute on offense without shooting themselves in the foot. If they don’t play better in this game than they did in the first two, this is probably a loss.

  • Jahns also points out that the Jets Geno Smith has some of the worst statistics of any quarterback in the league when he’s pressured which makes me wonder if the Bears may blitz more.

  • Mark Potash at the Chicago Sun-Times makes the case that quarterback Jay Cutler is better in hurry up situations:

    “The theory is that the finicky Cutler is an easily distracted quarterback who thrives when the show is mostly his. The more options he has, the more voices he hears, the more time he has, the worse he gets.

    “As it is, the hurry-up offense seems to make a big difference. Since 2009 — when Cutler joined the Bears — Cutler is fifth among NFL quarterbacks with a 90.6 passer rating in the last two minutes of a half or a game.

    “And of the quarterbacks in the top five, Cutler is the only one whose rating improves in those hurry-up situations. “

    I think it’s likely that we’re going to see Cutler more and more in no huddle situations. It’s evident to me that the coaches aren’t just blowing smoke about Cutler having a better handle on the offense this year. He seems to be more vocal at the line of scrimmage and has an even better command of the unit. I’d expect that, if they don’t already, that the coaches will have the confidence to hand him the reins more very soon.

One Final Thought

David Haugh at the Chicago Tribune evaluates the state of the Bears ahead of tonight’s game against the Jets:

“If the Bears were a novel, they would be a mystery. If they were an election poll, an overwhelming majority of Chicagoans would click ‘Undecided.’ If forced to interpret what the Bears have proved so far this season, it would be little other than they are like so many NFL teams in the salary-cap era; capable of winning or losing every week regardless of the opponent depending on how they protect the football and create turnovers.

“A cynic would label that a mediocre football team. An optimist would call that a playoff contender.”

A realist would call them both.

It Evidently Doesn’t Take Much in the Heat of Summer and Other Points of View

Bears

  • Patrick Finley at the Chicago Sun-Times on the injury to the collar bone of Marquess Wilson:

    “When Marquess Wilson crashed to the ground Monday, so did the Bears’ best chance of finding a reliable wide receiver alongside two Pro Bowl performers.”

    “The Bears are left with a smattering of in-house candidates to play alongside the league’s best pass-catching duo. None is as tantalizing as Wilson, whose promise outshone his two catches as a rookie.”

    I would have to agree. Along with everyone else, I found this injury to be disappointing. Though reports like this one from Hub Arkush at chicagofootball.com seem to indicate he had a habit of occasionally disappearing, almost everyone acknowledged that Wilson was making plays in camp. That was enough to make him the prohibitive favorite for the number three role. Most reports seem to indicate that Eric Weems now has the inside track but I have to say that I have little faith in any of the candidates. The preseason will be interesting to watch but the guess here is that Wilson was the Bears only hope for getting more out of the position this year.

  • I found this excerpt from Arkush to be interesting:

    “Wilson, his right arm in a sling, explained after practice, ‘I was just trying to make a play. It’s an opportunity. Me being a receiver, I saw the ball and in my mind I said, ‘Go get it.’

    “The problem, according to head coach Marc Trestman, is that diving for balls in practice is something he teaches his guys not to do. ‘That’s probably the hardest part about coaching. You hear us say it all the time: ‘Stay off the ground, stay off the ground.’

    “‘Diving for balls is probably one of the most difficult things not to do when you’re a competitive player,’ Trestman conceded. ‘We promote it, talk about it a lot, but in my experience it’s very difficult to stop when a guy goes to make a play on a ball.'”

    I’d say “difficult” doesn’t cover the half of it. Wilson was competing for a job. Pretty tough not to try to show what you can do when given a chance.

  • Hub did also offer some words of comfort:

    “It is important to note that the Trestman offense gets the bulk of its production and explosiveness primarily from two wide receiver and two tight end (one catcher, one blocker) sets with the running back heavily involved in the passing game.

    “As long as Marshall and Jeffery stay upright, there is no reason to quell your optimism yet.

    “But, as I wrote just the other day, should something now happen to cause one of those starters to miss meaningful time, combined with the Bears brutal first half schedule, it would leave 2014 playoff hopes twisting precariously in the wind.”

    That was going to be true with or without Wilson.

  • Cornerback Isaiah Frey gets one of the first mentions of his name I’ve read all camp from Rich Campbell at the Chicago Tribune. That’s not a good thing. Frey was behind Kelvin Hayden at nickel back last season and Hayden is now behind Tim Jennings.
  • Adam L. Jahns at the Chicago Sun-Times quotes Ryan Mundy on playing free safety, as he did in Monday’s practice:

    “‘There’s some characteristics that you could say that this is what you want your free safety to have [and] this is what you want your strong safety to have,’ Mundy said. ‘But through my experience, you have to be able to play both because throughout a game you have different formations, shifts, motions, situations. A lot can take you from a free safety to strong safety.'”

  • Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune on rookie quarterback David Fales:

    “As far as Fales, my best guess is he would be a practice squad candidate. If he performs well in preseason, that could change quickly. But the shift in the NFL has been to carry only two quarterbacks on the 53-man roster, especially if you have a starter you really like. It creates some roster flexibility. Maybe the Bears are more excited about Fales than I imagine. This question can be better answered in a few weeks.”

    Sounds about right.

Elsewhere

One Final Thought

For those of you who are wondering what caused the hullaballoo over tight end Martellus Bennett and his camp fight with cornerback Kyle Fuller, here’s the video.

It doesn’t look like much to me. In fairness to the reporters on the scene, you can hear some yelling towards the end that might be the beginnings of Bennett losing control.

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.

The Underrated Matt Forte and Other Points of View

  • The writers at the Chicago Tribune are interviewing the former college coaches of the various Bears draft picks. I particularly liked this one from Dan Wiederer with Minnesota defensive backs coach Jay Sawvel on safety Brock Vereen. It went beyond the usual “He’s really, really tough and really really competitive” level.

“Q: What are the areas for improvement that need targeting?

“JS: I think he can become a better blitzer. I think that’s one thing that he’s got to be able to do with some of the things that the Bears are going to ask him to do. He’s had some issues there, false-stepping and things like that, getting off the line on his blitzes and stuff. As a safety, for him, he became really effective. He had a good year at safety (in 2013) until we had to move him. He tackled. He’s surprisingly good in the box. You roll him down in the box and he’s better than average at that. … But I’d say the biggest things with Brock is that he can continue to develop his ball skills. I think there are times out there when he fights a higher, deeper ball. That’s something he’ll need to continue to improve on. He does track balls pretty well. He does break on balls pretty well. And he’s a really disciplined player. So the one thing about him is if he gets beat on a play, he’s going to be there. You’re just going to have to beat him on that play. That’s the biggest thing. That was a very big relief as a coach. And he helped our other players with that.”

  • Ditto on Rich Campbell‘s interview on quarterback David Fales with San Jose State offensive coordinator Jimmie Dougherty:

“Q: And the completion percentage?

JD: ‘I think being football smart and reading coverages and knowing where to go with the ball is the first part of it. Then, from a physical standpoint, he’s got it. He’s always on balance. His feet are always in the proper place, and his eyes are always in the right place. When you’ve got those two things, you’ve got a really good chance of being accurate with the ball, along with knowing where to go with the ball on each snap.

“‘So he’s a guy that sees down the field. He can feel the rush, slide around the pocket. A lot of guys can throw balls and be accurate if it’s an odd-man situation or a pro day or whatever it is, but he translates exactly what he is in those situations onto real-life game situations—guys rushing after him, having to slide around and keep his balance and move around in the pocket. He’s a good enough athlete to get that done, too, and continue to keep his eyes down the field and make accurate throws.’”

One thing Dougherty repeatedly came back to was Fales mobility in the pocket. That’s one of the things that sets great quarterbacks like Tom Brady apart. Not that I would expect him to be Brady. But I consider this to be a good sign.

“Who on the roster should be worried about their job based on the draft? — @gcflatt from Twitter

“The NFL is a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately business. With the exception of a few elite players with major contracts, every player is being pushed on the roster for a job. The Bears certainly added needed depth on the interior of the defensive line and that should push a veteran like Israel Idonije. The selection of offensive lineman Charles Leno Jr. in the seventh round probably pushes James Brown and Eben Britton. No question cornerbacks Kelvin Hayden and Isaiah Frey will be challenged more with the addition of first-round pick Kyle Fuller. Running back Michael Ford has a challenge from fourth-round pick Ka’Deem Carey. The challenges are across the board.

I’ve heard some rumbling amongst the fans who think that Idonije’s job might be in jeopardy. His age (33) works agains thin but the Bears brought Idonije back because of his versatility. He can play both tackle and end and he fits what the Bears are trying to accomplish on defense. I wouldn’t count him out.

“Soon after the Jets made their final draft selection Saturday, Coach Rex Ryan spoke for every coach or general manager or scouting director in the league.

“‘Did we get everybody we wanted?’ he said. ‘As far as you guys know, we did.'”

One Final Thought

Running back Matt Forte might be the most under-appreciated player in Bears history.