Redskins Cut Blocking Inside Gregg Williams’ Head

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cbssports.com

Joe Lyons at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that the Washington Redskins appear to have gotten into Rams defensive coordinator Gregg Williams‘ head:

“‘Cut me, cut me, cut me, cut me, cut me…’’

“An original song from Gregg Williams.

“It’s a catchy little tune from the Rams’ defensive coordinator and has been featured this week as the team’s defensive linemen prepare to face the Washington Redskins on Sunday at FedEx Field in Landover, Md.

“The Redskins are a team that likes to cut-block. In fact, right guard Brandon Scherff, a highly touted rookie from Iowa, used the cut-block against four-time All-Pro Ndamukong Suh and limited Miami’s standout defensive tackle to just two tackles in the Dolphins’ 17-10 road win last week.

“‘That’s the little song that goes off in my head when I see them on the ground,’’ Williams joked after practice Friday at Rams Park.”

You can understand why.

A couple things ran through my head as I watched the Redskins offensive line block the Miami defensive linemen last week.

  1. How effective the cut blocking was. Miami defensive players were all over the ground. Its very hard to tackle anyone from there.
  2. How much defensive linemen must hate it as an offensive lineman dives at them low like that. It really should be illegal. But its not.

In any case, this is an issue that the Bears are going to have to deal with when the Redskins visit the Bears in December. Here’s hoping they’ll be prepared for it with a spring in their step and a song in their hearts.

Forte Jerseys Burning Hot in Wisconsin. And Other Points of View.

Bears

  • Rich Campbell at the Chicago Tribune states categorically that the Bears defensive linemen will play one-gap. But I’m reasonably certain that it will depend upon who the player is (e.g. Eddie Goldman Vs. Will Sutton) and what defensive alignment they are in. It will be interesting to see how they handle it.
  • Campbell quotes defensive coordinator Vic Fangio on the defense’s lack of talent.

    “We’re going to have to make our own building blocks. We need to make the guys that we have here better.”

    I think that’s the way its done no matter how much talent you have. But it’s going to take some time.

  • Patrick Finley at the Chicago Sun-Times unleashes this zinger:

    “The early leader for Bears Quote of the Year came when outside linebacker Pernell McPhee was asked this week to describe Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers.

    “‘Hall of Fame,’ he said. ‘Two words.'”

  • I suggested on Friday that head coach John Fox was laying in the weeds by characterizing his top three wide receivers as “questionable” despite the fact that they practiced all week. But consider this via Finley. Broncos with a questionable tag appeared in games only 35 percent of the time last year under Fox. It does make you think.
  • Bears running back Matt Forte on the fact that his jersey, not Rogers’ is the best selling jersy in Wisconsin since the end of last season:

    “There must be a lot of Bears fans in Wisconsin. Either that, or they’re buying it to burn it or something. I don’t know.”

Elsewhere

One Final Thought

I don’t usually shill for anything but I’m going to make an exception and recommend that readers support Hub Arkush at chicagofootball.com by becoming a Pro Member at the site. Hub is the former publisher of Pro Football Weekly, a magazine that went down with the dawn of the Internet age. He’s not always right and I often don’t agree with him but he’s usually willing to say things that other people aren’t willing to. We need more like him.

This is an informative site largely focused on the Bears. It also doesn’t hurt that its easy to navigate (though I could wish that as a paying customer I wouldn’t have to sell myself to Google to read some of the articles). It’s a good, reliable source for fans who want to go above and beyond in their understanding of what’s going on with the team.

Nowhere Is Safe Against the Packers. And Other Point of View.

Bears

  • Color me surprised that the Bears put quarterback Zac Dysert on waivers. It probably means that Jimmy Clausen will be OK for the Packers game but, still, I thought Dysert might have a chance to make the practice squad. It makes you wonder if the Bears might not try to sneak David Fales through instead and, more to the point, whether he’ll make it.
  • Dan Wiederer at the Chicago Tribune on outside linebacker Willie Young surviving the cuts Saturday:

    “Young is now one of five outside linebackers left in Lake Forest, joining Pernell McPhee, Jared Allen, Lamarr Houston and Sam Acho.

    “Still, the 53-man roster the Bears established Saturday will face revisions in the coming days as [head coach John] Fox and general manager Ryan Pace scan the league’s waiver wire, searching for castoffs from other teams who might fill a need.”

    But they’re probably not going to find any decent pass rushers. Those just don’t shake loose and if they do, someone ahead of them in the waiver process will scoop them up. Young’s about as safe as anyone on the roster at this point.

  • You have to wonder, given Zack Miller‘s injury history, if the Bears aren’t going to be sorry they didn’t keep another tight end. They need to be able to run from the double tight end formation and rookie Khari Lee is the only other player opposite Martellus Bennett.
  • I’m also mildly surprised that the Bears didn’t try to sneak tackle Tayo Fabuluje on to the practice squad. They’ve only got one back up at guard: Vlad Ducasse.
  • Adam Jahns at the Chicago Sun-Times answers the biggest questions entering the season:

    “Biggest area of concern .?.?.”

    “The secondary. The Bears are looking at four new starters in the secondary, if you include nickel back Sherrick McManis. The depth is razor thin. The Bears need cornerback Kyle Fuller to be the player they think he can be and veteran safety Antrel Rolle to show off his old Pro Bowl skills at times.”

    Couldn’t agree more. I’m starting to suspect that Fuller isn’t the player we thought he was and I’m positive that Rolle has lost a step. Right now there isn’t a single player I have any confidence in and the secondary is weak at every position.

Elsewhere

  • The Giants have cut wide receiver James Jones. You have to wonder if the Bears ar desperate enough to give him a try.
  • The Vikings cut second year offensive lineman David Yankey. Yankey didn’t play much last season and didn’t survive an unsuccessful move to the tackle position. Patrick Omameh was a starting guard for the Bucs but couldn’t make the same transition. Once again, both are the type of player I have to think that the Bears are at least considering claiming. As a guard, signing him would move Kyle Long to right tackle. I’d say that former first round pick Derek Sherrod might be on this list of potential claims, as well.
  • Jo-Lonn Dunbar might look good in a Bears uniform.
  • The “independent” neurologist who evaluated RGIII has resigned from the neurological consultant program leading once again to the question: “What the hell is going on in Washington?”
  • Sounds like the Packers have yet another wide receiver to worry about. It isn’t fair.

    Can you imagine how good Alshon Jeffery would be with Aaron Rogers throwing to him? My guess is that he’d be right behind Calvin Johnson as one of the best in the league.

  • Once again, its not easy to be a Bears fan lately. But its nothing compared to being a Washington Redskins fan. Via Jerry Brewer at the Washington Post:

    “The lewd news is that Jessica McCloughan, the wife of the GM, had to apologize Wednesday night after it was discovered that she took to Twitter to accuse ESPN’s Dianna Russini, a former WRC (Channel 4) Washington sports anchor, of having an affair with her husband and exchanging sexual favors for news tips. When Jessica issued a statement via the team, it turned gossip into mainstream discourse and added more humiliation to the franchise’s farcical preseason.

    “It also should be used as a delicate precaution: Despite how much McCloughan has thrived in Washington the past eight months, his off-field behavior will always warrant concern and monitoring.”

    McCloughan has admitted to having a drinking problem, one that got him fired from the 49ers. Things like this won’t help.

One Final Thought

Having mentioned my feelings above about the defensive backfield, I should add that Hub Arkush at chicagofootball.com has a point about the linebacker position:

“I believe the Bears should have cut Shea McClellin – as Fox has explained to us, there is absolutely nothing personal in this – and kept Mason Foster, because I’m convinced Foster is the better player.”

Vic Fangio went all in early on McClellin and now will continue to roll the dice even though he got progressively worse as the preseason went on, and that is complicated by Christian Jones’ youth and Jon Bostic’s multiple boo boos.”

I have to agree. My initial thought was that the Bears started McClellin and have kept him because he’s the younger player. But Foster is only 26 and he’s clearly the better of the two. I can only assume that the Bears believe that Foster has peaked whereas McClellin still has some upside. In any case, Arkush continues:

“With Jeremiah Ratliff out the next three weeks, and only Eddie Goldman seemingly able on the nose, if you’re Packers coach Mike McCarthy and you’ve got running back Eddie Lacy, where are you going to attack the Bears next Sunday?”

Everywhere, Hub. Everywhere.

When Sacrificing Your Body Isn’t Enough. And Other Points of View.

Bears

  • Hub Arkush at ChicagoFootball.com thinks that nose tackle Terry Williams stood out on Thursday night and I’d agree. But here’s what I thought was the really interesting observation:

    “Now, I’m not so sure Tayo Fabuluje isn’t the second best tackle on the Bears – not including Kyle Long, of course – and shouldn’t be moved into the starting lineup at right tackle.

    “If the Bears are going to have to cover for and live with mistakes from their right tackle, why not suffer with a player with a huge upside.”

    I’ll be honest. I watched Fabuluje during the game and thought the same thing. But the thought was too ridiculous and I forgot about it. But if I wasn’t the only one to notice, maybe its not such a stupid thought after all. Fabuluje moves well for a big man. But there would be a lot of growing pains and most of them would be inflicted upon quarterback Jay Cutler.

    Hub was also happy with David Fales but here I’ll very mildly disagree. I’d have liked to have seen him go down field with the ball more. The same could be said for Jay Cutler. Good for him in that he’s not turning the ball over. But he’s not making any plays, either. John Mullin at csnchicago.com agrees:

    “The other shoe, however, is doing something with the football while you’re not giving it away, and that hasn’t dropped for the 2015 Bears. The No. 1 offense didn’t score a touchdown on any of those 80 Cutler snaps.”

    Cutler’s defenders will point out that he didn’t have Alshon Jeffery, Kevin White or Eddie Royal. Nonsense. All that tells me is that Cutler still can’t throw a receiver open with anticipation. Other people see improvement in Cutler this preseason. I see a guy who will once again be middle of the pack statistically but who will head an offense that won’t be able disciplined enough to run the ball consistently and won’t be able to pass its way out of trouble. Cutler won’t – and will never – produce enough to win.

  • Jeff Dickerson says that he “can’t rule out” the possibility that the Bears would be interested in RGIII. Heaven help us all.
  • Steve Rosenbloom at the Chicago Tribune comments upon Thursday’s game against the Browns:

    “Maybe it’s a result of the lesser quality of opponent throughout the practice games, but it looks like Mason Foster should be starting ahead of [Shea] McClellin or Christian Jones.”

    Just watching the game, I would agree with this. But Foster was cut on Friday. Get used to it.

    To those who genuinely believe that the Bears are going to defy predictions this season and compete for the division, Foster should be a warning sign. The Bears are rebuilding and nothing says that louder than cutting Foster before younger linebackers like John Timu, and Jonathan Anderson. The Bears are evaluating based upon future potential, not present performance.

Elsewhere

  • Related to my comment on Cutler above, Mike Rothstein at ESPN.com answers your Lions questions:

    Q: “I still don’t see nearly enough shots. [Matthew] Stafford has been good but very few passes traveling more than 20 yards.”

    A: “It’s the preseason, so you aren’t going to see a ton of shots. Plus, Calvin Johnson wasn’t on the field at all during the exhibition season so that is going to limit the shots taken anyway. I don’t expect the Lions to turn into an Air Raid offense or anything, but with a healthy Calvin Johnson, a more experienced Eric Ebron and a returning Golden Tate, the chances are there to take more shots downfield. It wouldn’t shock me to see if the Lions take one or two more big play shots per game — but not too much more than that.”

    I was down on the Lions after they lost Ndamukong Suh. And I was dead wrong. They’ve been very impressive in the preseason, both offensively and defensively. Unlike the Bears, they do show signs of being disciplined enough to run the ball with a nice stable of runningbacks, most notably rookie Ameer Abdullah.

    It’s going to be a big year in the NFC North with the Packers, the Lions and the Vikings all showing signs of being playoff level football teams and the Bears have a great opportunity to play spoiler. Failing to take care of business against the Bears could be the difference between a wild card and being on the outside looking in for any of them.

  • Something to keep an eye on within the division is the Vikings kicking situation. Blair Walsh signed what is a lucrative contract extension (for a kicker) with the team in the offseason. Now he’s missing field goals all over the field in the preseason and there’s a great deal of concern in Minnesota. A valid question to ask is whether the team will start going for two point conversions rather than risk Walsh missing extra points. There’s a case to be made that any good offensive team that thinks they can gain two yards more than half the time in such a situation should be doing it anyway.

One Final Thought

Patrick Finley at the Chicago Sun-Times quotes Timu on his experiences as a three-time captain at Washington:

“‘Our thing was, ‘Sacrifice your body and glorify your soul for the team,’’ he said. ‘I took that mindset out of (Washington) and brought it here as a Chicago Bear.'”

Intelligence Is a Talent, Too. And Other Points of View.

Bears

  • I’m not going to bother to post much related to the fourth preseason game Thursday night. But if you want some things to watch, Dan Wiederer at the Chicago Tribune has a list:
    • Zac Dysert Vs. David Fales
    • Charles Leno Vs. Jordan Mills
    • the wide receivers
    • Ka’Deem Carey
  • The Bears are supposed to be accumulating draft picks, not trading them away. Particularly for undrafted free agents.
  • Rick Morrissey at the Chicago Sun-Times thinks right guard Kyle Long should b playing right tackle:

    “Will it cause chaos along the line? Not as much chaos as
    Charles Leno and Jordan Mills have caused while attempting to play right tackle. Find somebody else to play right guard and let Long get comfortable as the Right Tackle of the Future. Unless he’s actually the Left Tackle of the Future. But first things first.”

    First, I’m not happy with the idea of Leno playing right
    tackle, either. I have a nasty suspicion that, like Mills, he’s not
    going to develop. But Mills got three years to show that he could be
    better. To my eye Leno shows some athleticism and it might be a bit
    early to be giving up on him completely. Hub Arkush at
    chicagofootball.com thinks that “it’s very unlikely both Jordan Mills and Charles Leno make the team”. In that case, I’m guessing that Mills is in serious
    jeopardy.

    I might add that I don’t think I agree with the commonly
    given reason for moving Long: that tackle is a more valuable position
    than guard, especially right tackle. Like many football experts, I’m not
    too sure I wouldn’t rather stay strong up the middle and keep the pocket
    clean in front of Cutler so that he can step up.

  • The Bears apparently didn’t like quarterback Shane
    Carden
    much. He didn’t even get a chance to throw a pass in the
    preseason before they released him in favor of signing Zac Dysert on Tuesday.
    Via Wiederer.  I liked Carden before the draft because, as far as I could tell, he’s about the only reason East Carolina won a game last year. But he was reportedly
    long on release and short on accuracy.Dysert is an interesting signing because he was on the practice squad for Denver under Bears head coach John Foxand offensive coordinator Adam Gase. He was released by Denver this year in their first round of cuts. It will be interesting to see if he’s just a short term signing who knows the offense and can get the Bears through the fourth preseason game with Jimmy Clausen out with a concussion or if he might stick around long-term. It could well be the latter. Carden knew the offense and likely could have played with fellow quarterback Fales on Thursday night.
  • Weiderer reports that Kyle Long is willing to move to tackle but
    no one knows yet whether it will be necessary. My guess is that the
    Bears are looking for a starter as other teams make their cuts. Where
    Long ends up may depend upon whether they find a guard or tackle.
  • Mark Potash at the Chicago Sun-Times on the growing list of injured
    players
    and the Bears’ secretive way of dealing with them when it
    comes to the media:

    “[Matt] Forte, who has all of 14 carries in the preseason, has been given back-to-back veteran’s days off ahead of five consecutive days without practice. Anybody buying that one?”

    Noupe.

  • Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune answers your questions:

    “Any guesses for surprise cuts to get to 53? — @sylv0028

    “Not sure there can be any surprise cuts from 75 to 53 for an organization that was 5-11 last season and has undergone complete turnover in the front office and in the coaching staff. If veteran Willie Young, who looks like a defensive end out of place at outside linebacker, is released you will not be able to classify that as a surprise. Young is a better fit in a 4-3 scheme and he is coming off a serious injury. I don’t think anything the club does this weekend will catch you off guard.”

    Biggs wouldn’t be surprised but I would. Young will be a pretty good end in the nickel package, which by all accounts the Bears will play at least half of the time. It would help if he played special teams but still, I dont see it happening.

  • Former Bears linebacker Lance Briggs on his retirement:

    “‘Outside of freak injuries, I’ve been durable,’ Briggs said. ‘I want to play. At this point in my career, I understand a whole lot.’”

    What Briggs doesn’t say but is pretty likely is that he “wants to play” only for the right price. The guess here is that the 49ers made him an offer but, similar to former linebacking partner Brian Urlacher in similar circumstances, he didn’t consider the money to be worth the wear and tear on his body.

Elsewhere

  • Chip Kelly admits that he didn’t
    understand the rule
    by which quarterbacks can be hit if they are
    handing off the ball. But that doesn’t make avoidably diving for a guy’s
    knees in an effort to hurt him in a preseason game any less dirty. Terrell Suggs any less of a jerk. Via profootballtalk.com.
  • Read this open letter to Bills head coach Rex Ryan, substitute “Jay” in “EJ” and tell me that you don’t want to send it to John Fox. Immediately.

One Final Thought

Greg Gabriel at the National Football Post on why Robert Griffin III has failed in the NFL:

“He looked like he would have a great future, but that hasn’t happened. He has regressed every year since. It is entirely possible that in the near future Griffin III may be a former Washington Redskin.

“How can this happen? How can a player with that much talent not continue to improve and grow? Some may say it’s coaching, but that isn’t the answer. The answer is simple: RGIII lacks any kind of football character.”

“Football character is about the desire each player has to become great. It includes his work ethic, leadership, passion for the game and ability to be coached. Most players fail or bust because they lack a degree of football character. RGIII has great talent, but he lacks football character.

“When RGIII was growing up and in college everything came easy to him. He was a very smart kid and the best athlete on campus. When a player gets to the NFL, every player on every team is a great athlete, the best of the best. If a player wants to improve he has to work at it. Once RGIII got to the NFL he had never been in that kind of environment before. Things no longer came easy. He had to work and he didn’t know how.

I don’t doubt that this is true to an extent. But to be fair to RGIII have the talent to play the position. Something tells me that this goes beyond “want to”.

People always thing of “talent” in terms of physical properties. How far can you jump? How fast can you run? I think in this case that we might be talking about natural talent that has nothing to do with physical characteristics. Some of it is instincts and a lot of it is mental.

People have a bad habit of assuming that someone with great physical ability who fails at something like football did so because they didn’t work hard enough. And that’s really not fair. Mental gifts are talents just like the physical ones. I’m not in any way saying that RGIII is stupid. On the contrary, most reports about him coming out of college said the opposite. It’s just that the ways that he’s smart might not be the ways that are needed to play quarterback in the NFL.

“The Drill with the Bell” and Other Points of View

Bears

  • Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune rightfully describes the Bears situation after the third exhibition game as abysmal. The most significant highlights:

    “This team is short on talent, and you didn’t need to watch the most significant of the four exhibition games to know that. The Bears’ drafts from 2009 through 2014 — six drafts totaling 40 selections — produced four of the team’s starters in the 21-10 loss to the Bengals.”

    “Wide receiver Alshon Jeffery should return soon enough from a calf injury and make it five starters from those six drafts. That’s it. Cornerback Kyle Fuller, offensive linemen Kyle Long and Charles Leno and inside linebacker Shea McClellin are homegrown talent from those drafts. The core that general manager Ryan Pace and coach John Fox inherited is abysmal. When Fox said he wanted to underpromise and overdeliver when he was hired, you can bet he knew he couldn’t promise much. Not right away.”

    “The team is going to be flush with salary-cap room after this season when Jeffery comes out of contract, and Pace won’t have a long list of his own players to lock up long term. The Bears could be a major player in free agency, but that’s a trap. Free agency is for plugging a hole, not laying a foundation.

    “The Bears’ only way out of this predicament is to draft better. Pace and Fox need two and probably three draft classes to really build a foundation. That much was reinforced Saturday night.”

    The key phrase: “two and probably three draft classes to really build a foundation.” Up to this point most people have been saying “at least one more”. But I always thought at least two sounded more like it. And lets not forget that by the time that third additional draft is over, a lot of the talent on offense will be significantly older. So that side of the ball needs young talent almost as much as the defense does.

    Bottom line, this team is officially rebuilding from scratch. Bears fans had better be in this for the long haul if they’re going to find any enjoyment in the performance of their team over the next few years.

  • Hub Arkush at chicagofootball.com also was gloomy after the game but did note some positives, including this one:

    “I do think we learned that Rashad Lawrence is either the third or fourth best receiver on the roster right now, depending on how you rank him against Josh Bellamy, and he should make the team. If you view it objectively, Lawrence has shown more in a Bears uniform than Marquess Wilson has in two-plus seasons.”

    Here’s hoping that Arkush is right in this evaluation. Having young players like Lawrence emerge is one of the few good about a dismal injury situation.

  • Arkush also has some interesting thoughts on the inside linebacker situation that I happen to agree with:

    “There has been a perception throughout camp that [Shea] McClellin and [Christian] Jones have earned those spots, but the reality is they were just given to them because they are perceived as the best options.

    “Jones is a great-looking prospect but appeared completely lost against the Bengals.  McClellin keeps getting credit for looking comfortable and learning the position, but the reality is he has shown no signs he is physical enough to play the position or can make plays less than 5 or 10 yards downfield.

    “It’s time to give [Mason] Foster and [Jon] Bostic some fraction of the chances McClellin and Jones have enjoyed.”

    Jones and McClellin were the initial choice over Foster because of their relative youth and upside. Bostic’s been injured. But its time both got the chance to show what they can do in the middle after a poor showing by McClellin and Jones against the Bengals, especially in coverage.

  • Two time Pro Bowler Tim Jennings was undoubtedly the most surprising cut Sunday. But I was also taken aback when young cornerback Al Louis-Jean was cut. Louis-Jean has the length that the current coaching staff was seeking at the position but apparently wasn’t progressing fast enough after a promising start to his career last summer.
  • It looks to me like Zach Miller has won the battle for the third tight end spot. Adam Jahns at the Chicago Sun-Times notes that he’s been playing a lot of fullback with the first team offense and he’s been the Bears choice as the second player in two tight end sets. Martellus Bennett was a given and Dante Rosario is a very valuable special teams contributor. The Bears carried three tight ends last year.
  • Everybody should be holding their breath for another Kevin White-style injury revelation. Not only did Alshon Jeffery not play in the game against the Bengals, he wasn’t even healthy enough to make the trip to Cincinnati. Via Jahns. The other injured wide receivers watched from the sideline. It’s hard to trust this regime after the White affair and their initial description of Jeffery’s injury as minor, despite the fact that he was in a walking boot afterwards, looks more and more like it may have been another smoke screen.
  • If you think you’ll feel better if former Bears head of scouting Greg Gabriel blows smoke up your rear end, read this.

Elsewhere

  • Having said that, Gabriel and I do agree on Bills (in my opinion likely starting) quarterback Tyrod Taylor. Taylor is mobile and has been much more accurate than I expected during the preseason. He’s been head and shoulders above both Matt Cassel and, especially, E.J. Emanuel. If Taylor is as good as he’s looked, the Bills may be just good enough offensively to find their way to the playoffs behind an excellent defense.It’s worth noting that Manuel was promised a start in the third preseason game and got it. But he threw only two passes and got only 10 minutes of work. He’s looked very bad in the previous games and reportedly hasn’t been much better in practice. Taylor and Cassel have likely both surpassed him.
  • Michael David Smith at profootballtalk.com discusses the possibility that Robert Griffen III may not be ready to start the regular season. The Redskins, who initially said he’d be ready to play in the third pre-season game against the Dolphins, suddenly changed course, claiming that the doctors still want him to be held back for “one or two weeks”. He has the support of ownership but RGIII hasn’t looked good this preseason and the football people reportedly want him gone from the team altogether. Head coach Jay Gruden would love to see Kirk Cousins take the job away in week one. The Bears play the Redskins December 13.
  • The Animal Rescue League is pulling an October event out of Heinz Field in protest of the Steelers signing of Michael Vick.

    “‘While we understand that Mr. Vick has made an effort to atone for his past mistakes and has worked to help strengthen animal abuse laws, we do not believe that it is appropriate for him to continue a high-profile and influential public career,’ the release [from the League] states.”

    Like everyone else, I abhor what Vick did. But let’s bear in mind that this isn’t a Ben Roethlisberger situation where Vick bought his way out of a rape conviction. Vick did his time on the dog fighting conviction and now he should be able to continue living his life, “high-profile and influential public career” or not.

  • Conor Orr at nfl.com explains what he learned from the Vikings – Cowboys game Saturday:

    “Completely understand the Vikings’ reticence with Cordarrelle Patterson, but my goodness, he is the most athletic player on the field every time he leaves the bench. It is a type of Tavon Austin situation that has to be taken care of so as not to waste Patterson’s prime years.

    “Vikings offensive coordinator Norv Turner and head coach Mike Zimmer mentioned a certain precision lacking in his routes. But just look at this kick return! Something has to give.”

    Patterson is Percy Harvin. All potential and no production. He’ll flash and entice and if the Vikings are lucky, they’ll sucker another Seattle into a trade once they give up on him.

Next Opponent

The Cleveland Browns play the Bears Thursday at Soldier Field. A few notes:

  • Keep an eye on the Cleveland defense. Though the starters probably won’t see much action, the defensive line has been impressive in its ability to penetrate to stop the run.
  • Also keep an eye on Cleveland returner Shane Wynn. He’s looked to me like he might be special.
  • Don’t expect to see Johnny Manziel. He’s out with an elbow injury. It’s a shame because he’s been looking like a real quarterback in the preseason. There’s still some hope there for Browns fans.
  • Don’t expect to see former Bears quarterback Josh McCown, either. According to Mary Kay Cabot at the Cleveland Plain Dealer head coach Mike Pettine has already said he’s not playing. McCown had a very good tune up game against the Buccaneers on Saturday. His passer rating was 113.9.
  • One of the more interesting things to watch for will be how the Browns handle Terrelle Pryor. He didn’t play Saturday (or in any of the preseason games) with a lingering hamstring injury. The former quarterback is trying to make the roster as a wide receiver.

One Final Thought

This unique Jets drill where offensive linemen keep pass rushers from getting past them to ring a bell caught my attention. From Ben Shpigel at The New York Times:

“That tinny sound signifies superiority or regret, serenading the linebacker who bulled past, or mocking the lineman, like a sad trombone, who failed to stop him. In other pass-rush or pass-protection drills, heavyweight bags or dummies or even sacrificial equipment managers or coaches simulate the quarterback.”

“‘You do not want to hear that bell,’ guard Brian Winters said.”

This is a clever idea. It’s one thing to lose or win an encounter in a drill. Its another thing altogether for everyone within a hundred yards to know. Something tells me linemen on both sides of the line of scrimmage are concentrating extra hard leading up to the start of the season.

Brief Impressions: 2015 NFL Draft

  1. Did someone tell the ESPN crew that there was no smiling allowed on the set? I’ve never seen a more somber first round telecast in my life.
  2. There seems to be a belief around the league that second overall pick Marcus Mariota might have been an owners pick. The Titans aren’t supposed to be for sale but the general belief appears to be that they are. There’s a theory that interim president Steve Underwood put pressure on the Titans front office to draft Mariota in order to make the franchise more valuable.
  3. I’m not surprised that the Redskins decided that they didn’t want to draft the consensus best player in the draft, Leonard Williams. But I am surprised that they couldn’t find a way to trade pack. Brandon Scherff adds to an offensive line that general manager Scot McCloughan evidently wants to make tougher as they look to become the kind of ground and pound running team that the Cowboys were last year. But I’m having a hard time believing there was no market for that pick. Scherff has short arms and isn’t considered to be a great offensive line prospect, especially if he’s going to be put at right tackle. The Redskins should have been able to pick up Scherff or another lineman later in the round.
  4. The Browns pick of Cameron Erving at 19 overall as a guard appeared to be a puzzler. Erving was generally considered to be a potential Pro Bowl center but his performance at tackle when he played the position was not considered to be good and he doesn’t necessarily project as a guard long-term. But a look at current center Alex Mack‘s contract clarifies things. His contract is player voidable in 2016 and apparently, like so many other people associated with the Browns organization, he intends to get out as soon as he can.
  5. On the other hand, I’m still having a hard time figuring out the Andrus Peat pick by the Saints. Terron Armstead seems to be a lock at left tackle. Right tackle Zach Strief is entering his 10th season with the Saints. I suppose he could be the future at that spot but I don’t see an immediate need there. The other positions along the offensive line seem to be similarly set. All I can assume is that Peat was the best available on their board and they took him.
  6. I love the Bears’ apparent free agent signing of Shane Carden. Many will remember that I put up a post on Carden questioning why he was considered only a low round prospect. Now we’ll find out first hand how full of it I am.
  7. I thought it was funny that ESPN‘s Ben Goessling‘s opinion of the Vikings draft so closely mirrored my own of the Bears’ saying, “This draft could be tough to judge for several years thanks to the number of talented, yet unrefined, players the Vikings took.”
  8. Many were surprised by the fall of so many pass rushers so far in the draft. I was not. I thought all of the pass rushers after Dante Fowler were being over-rated by the media in large part because, well, they were pass rushers. The only one I thought was worth a top ten pick other than Fowler was Randy Gregory and he blew his chance with off the field issues. It says here that Shane Ray and Vic Beasley, who went right after the Bears pick at number eight to Atlanta, both have bust written all over them. Bud Dupree might be an average starter by the time he’s developed.
  9. Speaking of pass rushers, its going to be interesting to see how things pan out for Fowler in Jacksonville. Fowler thinks he’s going to be the Leo linebacker (the primary pass rusher) but that doesn’t seem to fit his skills as he would be more suited to the Otto role (strong side linebacker who turns into a pass rusher on obvious passing downs). How he develops there may largely depend upon whether they choose the correct way to use him.
  10. One big loser in the draft appears to be former Bears prospect Matt Blanchard. The Packers drafted developmental prospect Brett Hundley. Scott Tolzien is currently entrenched as the back up. Unless Blanchard shows a great deal of potential or the Packers aren’t as committed to Tolzien as they appear to be, Blanchard would seem to be the odd man out.
  11. There’s a big part of me that likes the Rams’ first round pick of Todd Gurley. He’s the kind of runner that will fit in well in St. Louis and there’s no doubt that the Rams are planning to beat the rest of the NFC West by further overpowering it’s best teams. That means a big time running game and with the selection of Gurley followed by two offensive tackles, they may have added the personnel to do it.

    The problem is that head coach Jeff Fisher is under some pressure in St. Louis to start winning now after a string of seasons in which the team has under-performed. And with Gurley coming off of a very bad ACL injury, he might not be ready to contribute right away. Despite good reports on the condition of the knee, Gurley won’t be ready to practice until halfway through training camp, losing valuable reps to learn things like pass protection. Even worse, players with knee injuries have a bad habit of not getting all the way back to where the were before until the second year after the injury. You have to wonder if the Rams wouldn’t have been better off selecting Melvin Gordon, who is very close to Gurley in terms of how the experts had them ranked and who I actually liked better than Gurley anyway.

Sometimes It Isn’t Rocket Science

Next Fan Up Artwork

Sometimes value and need meet to make for the almost perfect draft pick. That’s what I think happened to me in the “Next Fan Up” mock draft, an exercise performed by the same group I participated with last year.

The Situation

Last year I hated the Bears spot at 14. They needed defensive linemen and safties but none were worth the pick. I ended up taking the best available player, linebacker C.J. Mosley. Not a bad pick in retrospect.

This year with the Bears picking at seven things were totally different. With needs all over the field the odds that a player that could fill one was going to be the best available were high. Here’s what happened with the first six picks:

Screen Shot 2015-04-03 at 9.48.02 AM

The Guy

Before the draft I pegged four impact players in the top ten picks:  Leonard Williams, Jameis Winston,  Dante Fowler, and Danny Shelton.  Some may justifiably criticize me for not including Amari Cooper and Kevin White.  But Cooper may have already hit his peak and White is a one year wonder that relies too much on physical abilities that may not be dominant once he gets to the NFL for my taste.  Don’t get me wrong – I’d gladly take either one.  But I put them a tier below my top four.

To no one’s surprise, the first three of those four top players were gone.  That left Shelton as the best player on my board.  But I knew that few other draftnicks agreed with me.

ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper didn’t put Shelton in his five safest picks in the draft because his ceiling is too low. I think Kiper is under estimating him. Shelton reminds me just a bit of Vince Wilfork and I believe he may turn out to be more than just a clogger in the middle.  He’s never going to be a penetrator but Shelton uses his power and quickness to leverage offensive linemen and collapse the middle of the pocket as a pass rusher.  Even if Kiper is right and Shelton only turns out to be a plug in the middle he’d be valuable as the center piece of any 3-4 defense.  He never gets blocked back off of the line of scrimmage despite almost always being double teamed and he’s uncanny in the way he regularly shed blocks to stop the run.  And you can’t stop anything if you can’t stop the run.

danny-shelton

The Attempt to Trade Down

There was little doubt that Shelton (above) was my guy.  The question was could I trade back and still have a reasonable chance to get him and, if so, how far?

Ordinarily I wouldn’t think twice about this unless I had multiple players that I liked with no definite winner heads and tails above everyone else.  But most mock drafts that had Shelton getting past the Bears had him falling to somewhere  in the middle of the round.  The first team behind me that I had with defensive tackle as a need was the Cleveland Browns at 12.  So I figured anywhere in front of them might be relatively safe and was willing to risk going down farther.  With the third oldest roster in the NFL last year and more holes than a golf course full of gophers, heaven knows the Bears need young players.  So I thought it was more important to get more chances in the annual draft lottery and to take the risk losing Shelton, even as someone who I thought was clearly the best available.

But I didn’t trade back.  Why?  Because it take two to tango and no one wanted the pick.  One of the things that’s evident this year is that everyone wants to trade back but almost no one wants to trade up.  At least not into the top ten, especially with Marcus Mariota gone after the second pick.  Only one trade in the mock draft actually took place in that area and that was between the Jets and the Giants, who wanted White.  The tail end of the first round may include more action depending on how highly the teams involved value the quarterbacks that are left and how much they want to over draft to get one.  Other than that, I can’t see it happening.  Most draft experts actually don’t think there are much more than 15 players with first round grades in the entire class.  And I can’t see too many teams trading up into the first round to get second round talent.

The Pick

In the end my choice was clear and I gladly took Shelton at number seven.  I think his talent matches the pick and fills a need.  Perhaps the Bears biggest need.  Last year I said that playing general manager isn’t easy.  But sometimes all you need to do is keep it simple.

Where Does Being the “Head” Coach Stop and the Interference Begin?

DeAngelo Hall confirms to Comcast Sports Net‘s Chick Hernandez that former Redskins head coach Mike Shanahan was occasionally overruling defensive coordinator Jim Haslett‘s defensive calls last year. Via Dan Steinberg at the Washington Post:

“‘Yeah, I mean, it was probably more difficult for Jim than us,’ Hall said. ‘You know, we were going through all week practicing a certain call, knowing that we were going to call it in certain situations. And there would be certain times where Mike WOULD overrule Jim.'”

“‘And football, especially defense, it’s a game of chess moreso than checkers,’ Hall said. ‘You can’t go out there thinking you’re going to just put a chip here and jump. You’ve got to almost set it up four or five plays ahead of time, knowing you’re going to come back to something that looks pretty similar to the defense you just ran.”

Just how much input a head coach should have in these situations is an interesting question. He is, after all, called the “head coach” for a reason. In the end, its his “head” on the block. You aren’t hired to coach the offense. You’re hired to coach the whole team.

Contrast Shanahan’s handling of the situation to what new Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer plans to do. As documented by Ben Goessling at ESPN.com:

“‘Honestly, I trust [offensive coordinator Norv Turner]’s judgment,’ Zimmer said. ‘I’ll come in and talk to him about, ‘How are we going to get this guy blocked this week? What do you think the best runs are?’ We talked about a couple things last night. But the biggest input for me will be, ‘Alright, it’s this situation, Norv; we need to run the ball here. We’ve been running it down their throats. Let’s not throw it three times. Let’s get another run in there, give the ball to Adrian [Peterson] or whatever it is. Or things that I see on tape; they’re having a hard time [with] no-backfield formations, or things like that.'”

But even that might be going too far. If the Vikings start losing (and the odds are they will) such interference might be resented in the same way that Shanahan’s was.

I’ve pushed repeatedly for Bears head coach Marc Trestman to be more involved with the defense and I hold to that. But its evident that it should have its limits. When I think about these types of situations I’m reminded of the way that former Rams head coach Dick Vermeil handled the penchant of offensive coordinator Mike Martz to pass the ball too much. Verimeil said he would occasionally call up to the booth and gently remind Martz not to forget about the run. But he never told him what to call or when to call it. My guess is that’s about as far as it should go on game day.

One Step Back, Two Steps Forward and Other Points of View

Bears

“The Bears that got [former head coach] Lovie Smith fired won 10 games. Would fans – and the organization – view anything less in 2013 as a disappointment? Would missing the playoffs again be more acceptable if noticeable offensive strides are made under Trestman, but a defense facing turnover at certain spots (while generating fewer turnovers) can’t match what it did this year? That would’ve been difficult even if Smith, Rod Marinelli, and that staff remained intact. “

My own answer is “No, it would not be a disappointment if the Bears took a step back” and not because I expect less out of the defense. The truth is the Bears didn’t beat anyone who I thought was really good when they played them. Certainly they showed themselves to be definitively inferior when they played the top teams in the league, including Green Bay, San Francisco and, to an extent, Seattle. A good part of that was and is lack of talent and I don’t consider a quick turnaround to be likely.

Bottom line, it all depends on the circumstances. A lesser record with definitive progress where the Bears play better against the better teams in the league would be more acceptable than a soft 10-6 where its evident that the team was never going to progress into the top echelon of the league.

  • Here’s a little positivity from an Audible in Pro Football Weekly:

“Marc Trestman is a natural for [general manager] Phil Emery. Phil will appreciate guys who are really intelligent, organized and prepared and very careful with what they say — that is Trestman. He already has a relationship with Jay Cutler. There are a lot of positives about the hire.”

“[Rich] Gannon’s first two Oakland seasons with Trestman were the two most accurate of his career. His two with Trestman in Minnesota were decidedly pedestrian despite having Anthony Carter and Cris Carter as his receivers.

“[Steve] Young’s two seasons with Trestman were very good but neither were as good as the 1994 season before Trestman or 1997 after Trestman. Bernie Kosar had a Pro Bowl 1987 with Cleveland but 1988 was right about Kosar’s career averages for passer rating, completion percentage, etc. as he lost some time to injuries.”

  • Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune thinks Michigan quarterback turned wide receiver/punt returner Denard Robinson is an intriguing prospect:

“With offenses becoming more dynamic, it’s all about finding ways to utilize athletic players in space, and that’s what makes Robinson intriguing. Take a player with his skill set and turn him loose.”

“The Bears are keeping Tucker off limits to the media at the Senior Bowl, but word is he will keep the status quo with virtually all facets of the defense. Even though Tucker has experience in both a three- and four-man fronts, he is not expected to make any radical changes in Chicago.

“In fact, a source said he even is retaining Lovie Smith’s terminology, meaning he will have to adjust more than his players.”

There’s a lot of good information in this article. It recommended reading.

Elsewhere

  • As many Bears fans will testify, Carolina quarterback Cam Newton isn’t the only guy who deserves the criticism leveled at him in this Audible from Pro Football Weekly:

“(San Francisco QB) Colin Kaepernick can run faster than any quarterback in the league. He is faster than RG3 [Robert Griffin III] running the ball down the field, and he is a whole lot stronger and more physical. He can take a hit and pop back up. I really liked him when he was coming out. He is a leader. That was the difference between him and Cam Newton. Cam is a frontrunner who is good when things are good. When it’s (bad), he’s part of the reason and will make it worse.”

  • There are probably a whole lot of Bear fans out there who will agree with this Audible as well:

“You know what I don’t get. There are a lot of smart people around this league. I’m surprised they have not figured it out yet. If you want to have success, why not go get a guy who has done it already and is willing to do what it takes. Why not pay a guy like (Falcons GM) Thomas Dimitroff or (Niners GM) Trent Baalke a little extra money to be your president. It’s happened with a lot of coaches — Mike Holmgren and Bill Parcells. Teams will pay these head coaches $6 (million) or $7 million. Why not go pluck the guys who have done the best job stacking rosters and building the culture in the locker room and finding the right talent? They have proven they can run the ship. You can put a plan in place to delegate authority on the other side of the building. If you can find the right coach and find the right quarterback, you have a chance every year. If I’m an owner looking for someone to run my franchise, I’m looking for the guy who has proven he can fill those roles with the right people. That’s the key to this whole thing.”

“Matt Ryan did not get any further with Tony Gonzalez, Julio Jones and Roddy White than Jay Cutler did with Earl Bennett, Devin Hester and Johnny Knox. When you are guilty of an interception and unforced fumble within 20 minutes of a Super Bowl, it’s not about ‘weapons;’ it’s about the plays you make or don’t make when it matters…”

  • I’ve been as critical as anyone can be of Lions head coach Jim Schwartz. But I totally agree with him here as he argues against changing his defensive scheme. The Lions defense could have done better, no doubt, but the wide 9 alignment they the problem. This fascination with the 3-4 defense by fans and media puzzles me, especially in a situation like this one where more discipline and better play within the existing scheme is so obviously what’s needed. Via Michael David Smith at profootballtalk.com.
  • Let’s just say that the NFL Coaches Association might a problem with NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith. Florio quotes NFLCA executive director David Cornwell as he apparently goes on the rampage in response to some implied criticism from Smith:

“‘DeMaurice Smith is the best thing that has happened to NFL owners since they became NFL owners,’ Cornwell said in a statement provided to PFT.

“‘De controlled both the NFLPA and the NFL Coaches Association from 2009 to 2012. During this period, De threw 3 generations of NFL players under the bus in exchange for a photo op with Roger Goodell and Robert Kraft; threw the Washington Redskins and Dallas Cowboys under the bus to conceal from NFL players the truth about the declining salary cap; and, De threw NFL coaches under the bus when he: (1) sat silently as NFL teams unilaterally changed coaches’ retirement benefits; (2) filed an unauthorized legal brief under the NFLCA’s name during the NFL lockout; (3) kicked the NFLCA out of the NFLPA’s offices for challenging the filing of the brief, and he rolled the bus over NFL coaches when he snatched $308,000 in coaches’ dues money and sued the NFLCA because NFL coaches understandably want competent representation.

“‘I intend to address all of the issues that confront all NFL coaches and clean up the mess that De left behind. While I do, perhaps De will answer these questions: When you controlled the NFLCA, did you fight for uniform retirement and health benefits that will follow NFL coaches from team-to-team? Why does the salary cap continue to decline while League revenues and team values continue to increase? If you stand by the CBA that you negotiated, why do you shift money from other player benefits to the salary cap to create the illusion that the salary cap is flat or slightly rising?'”

  • Patriots head coach Bill Belichick takes finding unknown players and maximizing their talent to a whole new level. From The Onion.

 

One Final Thought

Want to see something sick? According to footballsfuture.com 28 teams needed to find offensive line help in the 2012 off-season. That’s not counting teams that were looking for depth. Know how many offensive linemen are in Scouts Inc.‘s top 32 prospects this year? Four.

Not many scouting services have released lists of team needs yet this year but as they roll out over the next month or two the bet here is that, if anything, there will be more teams on that list of line needy teams not less. With that in mind, Pompei takes a look at the likely first and second round offensive tackles here. Mullin adds this encouraging thought:

“The Bears added a highly regarded Central Michigan lineman in the 2007 draft but it was defensive end Dan Bazuin, not Pro Bowl left tackle Joe Staley, who went to the 49ers three picks before the Bears chose Greg Olsen. The Bears, coming off a Super Bowl appearance with an offensive line four-fifths free agents, picked Bazuin 62nd overall before Marshal Yanda went to Baltimore 86th and tackle Jermon Bushrod went to New Orleans 125th.”

“[S]econd-guessing is easy, and Jerry Angelo conceded that finding offensive linemen was not a strength of his regime. If anything, the bigger point is that the likes of Yanda and Bushrod, both Pro Bowl selections, were taken in mid rounds of drafts.”