Archive for July, 2009

Chicago Bears Training Camp Report Day 1

July 31, 2009

The Chicago Bears kicked off training camp 2009 today in front a large crowd of around 6,000 fans. Talk is the large attendance to practice was a record for a Chicago Bears practice. Undoubtedly the large crowd came to see one player, Jay Cutler.

Cutler didn’t disappoint either hitting Devin Hester and a long deep pass and Greg Olsen on another play down the seam. All completions that the fans want to see from the new franchise quarterback.

While in the eyes of the fans today may have been all about Jay Cutler, the real fact is today’s practice provided the first real look at new assistant head coach and newly minted defensive line coach Rod Marinelli.

During Mini-Camp and OTAs the media wasn’t allowed to be in the vicinity of the practice field where Marinelli had the players working. Today however was a completely different story as they were allowed to be up front and in the action.

Action there was in typical Marinelli fashion he was on the D-Lineman and on them hard. Marinelli is the prototypical great D-Line coach, he is what you want in a tough as nails and every other superlative you can throw out regarding a good coach.

Why do I know this? I’ve seen Marinelli in action first hand. Way back when he was just starting his career out at Arizona State. Marinelli was a bad ass, take no prisoners you will do as your told coach. The likelihood that he could physically kick the ass of every D-Lineman on the roster is highly probable. That’s how tough Marinelli is. At ASU they were famous for a similar tough as nails coach, Frank Kush. Marinelli was described as a lot like Kush, the same type of mouth, the same type of motor and the same type of toughness. Marinelli even strutted like Kush while at ASU and it made ASU fans highly gleeful to see such a hard ass return to Tempe.

Like most great coaches they don’t change the style that made them successful and today we learned that Marinelli has not changed one iota in the years he’s been a coach in college or in the NFL. He still runs with a high motor and mouth demanding violence with every rep the D-Lineman take. He works them hard, insisting on never stopping for breaks and never loafing.

The good news here is that Marinelli will demand toughness as well as stamina in his lineman. Making sure that he wears them out in training camp so they won’t be totally gassed in the fourth quarter when the Bears need a big stop to win a game.

Marinelli is a former Marine, and it’s been said he’s a better sergeant than he is a general, pun intended. The enlisted Marine always gets the most respect, they’re typically old crust and leathery quite the tough men. Having seen it all and done it all and demanding from their Marines or in this their players stuff that they would do themselves. Marinelli is all of that and he will likely weed out the weaklings and keep the real football players around.

Marinelli is likely the best thing that could have happened to this group under performing and under motivated lineman. We all know the Bears’ defense has been at their best when the front four performs at a high level. The likelihood we see improvement out of that front four this year with addition of Marinelli seems highly likely.

While we won’t see the true impact of Marinelli until the pads go on, you can see that there is a change in the mood in the front four and things will be different from here on out.

Elsewhere in camp Danieal Manning had cramping issues and was held out most of the activities today. The report it is nothing serious and he should be back on the field tomorrow for the first full pads practice of camp. In the mean time Craig Steltz was back holding down the starting free safety spot while Manning was absent.

For in-depth discussion regarding the start of camp and the excitement moving forward check out the forums at Midway Illustrated.

Advertisements

Marcus Harrison out for the start of training camp

July 31, 2009

Promising second year defensive tackle Marcus Harrison was placed on the non-football injury reserve list today. Harrison showed up at camp on the high side of the weight scale.

Harrison was expected to come into camp with the promise of taking over the starting NT spot opposite of Tommie Harris. Harrison looked very explosive as a rookie draft pick last year. Earning a solid spot in the rotation before he admittedly hit a rookie wall.

His play though made him look like this would have been a big break through year for him. He was a solid pass rusher from the NT spot and was a pretty immovable object at the point of attack. His best strength though was his speed and his ability to get up the field fast and stretch out running plays thus giving Briggs and Urlacher a chance to make the tackle.

The news comes as an extreme disappointment to coach Lovie Smith given Harrison’s overall talent and the fact that Dusty Dvoracek has yet to finish a full season of football in his first three years in the league.

Harrison blamed the weight gain problem on personal issues he’s had to deal with in the off-season.

Harrison will have to drop the weight before he gets into the practice rotation and we’ll see exactly how long that takes and where that puts him in the eyes of the coaching staff.

It’s likely that Harrison will struggle for some time to work his way out of the dog house he has found himself in at this early stage of training camp.

For in-depth discussion regarding the start of camp and the excitement moving forward check out the forums at Midway Illustrated.

Bears waive two players before camp

July 31, 2009

Linebacker Joey LaRoque and guard Dennis Conley were both waived today prior to the start of practice. LaRoque was a bit of a contributor on special teams last year and the though early on was he might compete again this year.

However with the addition of Marcus Freeman via the draft and Pisa Tiniosamoa via free agency LaRoque became expendable.

With the roster moves the Bears are currently three under the limit of a total of 80 allowed for training camp. We do know this much one of those roster spots will most assuredly go to a punter for camp. Just some competition no worries on the Brad Maynard front.

The punter the Bears added was former Texas Longhorn Richmond Mcgee. Mcgee went undrafted and signs a one-year contract. McGee is a 6-foot-4 203-pound punter who averaged around 38-yards per punt during his career for the Longhorns according to ESPN.com.

McGee was part of the 2005 Longhorn National Championship team that won the Rose Bowl with Vince Young as quarterback.

For in-depth discussion regarding the start of camp and the excitement moving forward check out the forums at Midway Illustrated.

Bad news for the Bears and Charles Tillman

July 27, 2009

The news nearly couldn’t be worse for the Bears to start off the 2009 season. Corner back Charles Tillman is out for at least four to 10 weeks after undergoing arthroscopic surgery on his back.

Tillman is the best player in the secondary and leaves the Bears with a bunch of youth and underperforming players at the CB position. Veteran Nathan Vasher hasn’t played up to par since he signed his contract extension. Beyond that there isn’t much of a veteran presence with second year man Zach Bowman, third year man Trumaine McBride and rookie D.J. Moore looking to seize the chance to take Tillman’s spot.

The move of Corey Graham to free safety will likely end until Tillman can come back healthy the Bears hope as soon as the last pre-season game or the opener against Green Bay.

On a positive note Tillman has missed training camp time before and had a good season before. But a back problem coupled with two surgeries on his shoulder really makes you start to question his durability.

Tillman has thus far avoided the injury wrath that seems to follow former Bear Mike Brown and current Dusty Dvoracek. However his injury problems seem to be nearly as frequent as those two.

Arthroscopic surgery is one of the least invasive surgeries going. A scope is inserted through a small hole for the doctor to perform the surgery through another couple small holes utilizing a camera to perform the operation. Thus the rehab and healing time favors the Bears and Tillman coming back in time to have an impact.

Danieal Manning has spent time at both safety and corner and with his superb athleticism he could prove invaluable in balancing out the depth chart until Tillman returns.

Nathan Vasher may perhaps be safe this year, but the heat on the hot seat upon which he sits just got turned up to HIGH. There is no underestimating the need for Vasher to return to form and earn the pay check for which he is being paid and has already been paid up to this point. Especially after demanding an early extension prior to the organization’s policy of not negotiating until the season before a player’s final year in a deal.

The key for the secondary will still be the performance of the safeties. Beyond the Tillman problem look for Graham to slide over to the starting spot and Craig Steltz to solidly lock down the starting spot at the free safety position. Though the Bears will lack a true center fielder type at free safety, the defense does not require a ball hawk back there.

The one gap defensive scheme the Bears utilize requires the safety to be solid in run support filling gaps and attacking the line of scrimmage. His responsbilities in a Cover-2 alignment are less than what they would be in other more risky open field schemes.

KC Joyner’s Anti-Jay Cutler Column

July 25, 2009

So I recently heard the news, read the news about KC Joyner’s column about Jay Cutler. How Cutler is going to remind Bears fans a lot more of Rex Grossman, than of anything we think we have in the actual Jay Cutler.

I thought to myself instantly, okay this guy obviously attacked this column with some sort of solid analysis and evidence to back it up. He obviously used some aspects of the column to stand on solid footing with his claim. Let me take a look at the column and then read what all the fuss is about.

So thank you to google.com I found the column and read through it. I figured sure there were things that Cutler has as far as shortcomings. 18 INTs is a shortcoming and causes me a lot of worry. The fact that his 4,500 yards passing came with an obscene number of pass attempts really shook me up too.

These were all points that I made in a column that occurred prior to the Jay Cutler trade even happened.

But there are other facts that have since come to light that I have touched on but I have gleaned from other sources. Most notably this one simple fact brought to you by none other than the most hated man in Chicago media history, one Jay Mariotti. Mariotti’s stat that he put in his column while praising the Bears for making this deal? Cutler’s record as a starter is 13-1 when the Denver Broncos defense gave up 21 points or less.

No mention of this in K.C. Joyner’s column. He glosses over how bad the Broncos defense was by simply stating

I know there are those who will defend this by saying that Cutler worked with a horrible defense last year, but when he took over the Broncos in 2006, they were less than a full season removed from hosting the AFC championship game.

Some how that little remark is supposed to make his point even harder to overcome? Huh? What? That point is useless and preposterous on a completely different level. But Joyner decided to throw it out there and try to shoot it down all in one fell swoop.

Joyner ignores simple facts though that coincide precisely with what myself and everyone else has said about the Broncos’ defense in 2008. They were horrible, therefore they put Cutler in a position where he had to play from behind. When you have to make plays coming from behind in a football game, you take more chances, bigger risks and by virtue of this you’re a lot more prone to mistakes.

When you have a defense that surrenders so many points and allows the team to score so consistently it always puts your offense in a bad position. More often than not Cutler and the Broncos’ offense started out down, and even if they did score first more often than not the other team racked up three to four straight scores to really put Cutler in a bad position in the fourth quarter.

Additionally you have to take into account just how many pass attempts had during the season. Those obscene number of attempts also led to the likelihood of Cutler throwing more picks than the average QB in the league. But the truth is Cutler didn’t throw more INTs per attempt than the league average. He was actually below average in this equation and this was only his second full year in the league as a starter.

When you combine all the variables in Cutler’s performance you can see that he will be a solid if not spectacular QB for the Bears in 2009. While from a fantasy football stand point he may not put up the 4,500 yards passing he did last year. 25 touchdowns and less INTs would easily put him in the Pro Bowl next year.

The nice thing about the team heading into 2009 is that Cutler’s play may off set some of the other shortcomings that held the Bears back last year.

Overall an improved defense should give the Bears one to two more wins, improved QB play will give the Bears another one to two wins there as well. In the end the Bears are easily looking at the likelihood of a 11 to 12 win season.

For in-depth discussion check out the forums at Midway Illustrated

NFL Total Access: Warren Sapp’s Top-5 QBs in the league

July 24, 2009

Warren Sapp ran through his Top-5 Best in the Biz segment on NFL Total Access. As part of their lead in pre-season football coverage the folks at NFLTA are taking the time to voice their opinions on the best players at each position in the league.

Chicago Bears fans should be happy to know that Warren Sapp has Jay Cutler rated as the fifth best QB in the league behind Donovan McNabb at four, Drew Brees at three, Peyton Manning at two and Tom Brady at number one best quarterback in the league.

The props to Cutler were for the way he carried the Denver Broncos’ offense last year with over 4,500 yards passing and 25 touchdowns. Cutler is what obviously everyone has been talking about since the Bears made the trade back in April.

From here on out all the talk will mostly be about Cutler or related to Cutler since he is the first franchise level QB the Bears have had in the modern era of the NFL.

For More In Depth Discussion Link to the Midway Illustrated Forums

Brian Billick talks Chicago Bears football

July 23, 2009

On ESPN 1000 with Waddle and Silvy Super Bowl winning coach and current Fox Sports NFL analys Brian Billick chimed in with his take on the Bears for 2009.

Billick speaking of the Bears touches on the defensive problems the Bears have had the past two years. He was overall pretty satisfied with the play of the QB last year. However he noted that the Bears are a team that is designed to succeed based on how well the defense plays.

Billick stepped in and stated “I think you can make a fair case that the difficulties for the Bears was not the quarterback position. Kyle Orton did a nice job. I did the Atlanta, Chicago game where he did a nice job bringing back the Bears the length of the field. It just turned out that Matt Ryan had one better drive after that to win the game.”

Billick’s point in the Atlanta game points directly to the Bears’ short comings on defense. Zero pass rush was generated by the front four in that game and it was essentially that way throughout the season. The Bears did not pressure the QB and their defense suffered majorly as a result.

Billick followed up with “From my perspective having seen the Bears play two times (in 2008). That is the number one issue for them, iscan they get back to playing the level of to go with the philosophy that they want to have.”

“They’re certainly capable of it and Lovie Smith stepping back in and calling the defense adds a better element to it. But it also puts Lovie at a greater risk (in terms of him being solely responsible for the success of the defense in 2009).

The crew led by fill in host Jeff Dickerson who does duty as the ESPN 1000 radio beat broadcaster for the Bears then shifted gears to the next obvious weak point in the offense, the wide receivers.

This obviously is an issue that will be beat to death through camp and until the Bears prove themselves able to compete at a high level and win games with this group of receivers.

It’s not so much the tired argument can Devin Hester be successful as a number one, and after that only Rashied Davis has an NFL reception in his career. The main focus will be can the Bears win in spite of their receivers. The production will be there, to what level we don’t know.

What we do know is there will be production and success and failures. However will the ultimate take on the season won’t be the production from the receivers if the Bears go to the playoffs, win the division and play deep into January. The Bears were one game away from the playoffs last year with a lousy group of receivers anyway. So can they muster two more wins with this crop and Jay Cutler going forward?

Billick’s take “I think that he has some choices, that’s probably as good and as deep of a tight end trio as there is in the league. And the end of the day you’re looking to get that 90-plus catches from your go to guy. You’d like to be in that 70 range with your number two, and whatever it is whether it’s your tight end whether it’s your third receiver your running back be in that 40 to 50 (receptions) range.

Well the Bears have the potential with that trio of tight ends that they have, that can be your go to guy to a certain degree. Particularly when you’re talking about the speed that a Devin Hester presents stretching the field on the outside. Could they use bona fide legitimate number one receiver? Sure. But I think they have the parts in place to use that tight end in a way that not a lot of other teams in the league can’t. You’ve got the speed with Hester. Plus you have the young running back coming off the season that he had. Forte had a great season coming out of the backfield he gives you the potential to put up a lot of numbers coming out of the back field. Could they use the number one receiver? Yes but I think they have enough weapons surrounding Jay Cutler and that there will be enough there to support him. A lot of other teams in the league at the end of the day are looking for that number one receiver that the Bears don’t have.”

Billick went on to further discuss what Hester means to the Bears. Stating analysis along the lines of should Hester held out of punt return duties if he’s a true number one receiver.

There is that debate and it’s a fair debate but at the end of the day he’s a valuable part of the return game. Sure we’ll hold our breath each and every time Hester is back there fielding a punt, but it’s an element of the return game that has made the Bears highly successful.

Billick talked very long and on strong point about what the Bears have on offense in the way of pass catching potential. Most people overlook the fact that Greg Olsen could be the number one receiver in this offense. Tight ends have done that before, plus with speed Hester has it opens up things underneath for the tight ends even more. Billick’s analysis is coming from a former head coach and a former offensive coordinator that had success. You could almost hear him salivating at the thought of what it would be like to be in the position to set up the Bears’ offense with the weapons they have. Hester’s speed, Olsen’s unlimited potential at tight end plus the franchise quarterback with the rifle of an arm that Jay Cutler brings to the table. There’s enough out there in the passing game for the Bears to win a lot of football games.

For further in depth discussion check out the forums at Midway Illlustrated

NFL Network Roundtable discussion, best players in the league

July 23, 2009

The NFL network recently had a segment between Jamie Dukes and Solomon Wilcots on the best players in the league heading into the 2009 season. No one player on the Bears made on the list for 2009, but I obviously wouldn’t be writing an article if a Chicago Bears player wasn’t mentioned at some point during the debate.

After discussing the best players in the league for 2009 the question was, outside of their Top-5 or Top-8 whatever number they argued between, who would be in the list in 2010.

Wilcots was emphatic and didn’t even hesitate when he state emphatically that Jay Cutler is a player that could be on the list of top-5 players in the league regardless of position.

This is yet another commentary of respect shown to Jay Cutler since his arrival in Chicago.

Wilcots did mention yes that there were the INT numbers and they were high. But he followed it up with this basic point “yes the interception numbers were high but he had to take chances. That’s how he was coached by Shannahan because he didn’t have a defense.”

The intangibles that Wilcots went on to point have become obvious to Bears fans over the past few months. Quoting Wilcots “He’s got a laser lock of an arm (Cutler), he can make plays in the pocket out of the pocket. He can take that team to another level. If he does that in Chicago and takes that team where other quarterbacks haven’t been able to take them, HE MAKES THAT LIST.”

Top five players in the league, with eye-popping numbers in his third year Cutler could very well end up in that category. Over 4,500 yards passing 25 touchdowns it all speaks volumes to Cutler’s ability.

The key thing I hope Wilcots keeps an eye on though is not so much the mind blowing stats as much as Cutler being a leader on this team. A very goodhttps://monstersofthemidwayillustrated.wordpress.com/wp-admin/post-new.php season would get the job done in Chicago. Over 3,500 yards passing and another 25 touchdowns while cutting his turnovers in half would to me be worthy of Pro Bowl consideration.

The most important thing for Cutler in Chicago is to make plays when they are needed. Help sustain drives, keep the defense off the field early in games so they have stamina left in the fourth quarter. Sure the big plays to Devin Hester and Johnny Knox would be huge for this offense.

What the Bears need the most though is a QB who makes plays when it counts.

To discuss this topic more in depth go to Midway Illustrated

NFL Network Top Off-Season Acquistions: Jay Cutler

July 23, 2009

From the no duh department Marshall Faulk spoke about the Chicago Bears and their off-season acquisition of quarterback Jay Cutler. Cutler came from the Broncos via trade from the Denver Broncos giving the Bears their first ever true franchise QB of the modern NFL era.

What Faulk touched on in his analysis however surely sits well with Bears fans.

Faulk basically stated the Bears are a legitimate Super Bowl contender in the NFC with the addition of Cutler. So long as Cutler as there the Bears will be a contender likely for the next five years or more according to Faulk.

Cutler makes the players around him instantly better according to the analysis from the future hall of fame RB. Faulk stated that Devin Hester instantly becomes a better receiver and Greg Olsen surely will have a major break out year at tight end.

The importance of this off-season acquisition cannot be over stated. Cutler in my opinion does make the Bears an instant contender in a wide open NFC division. The fact of the matter is there is not one real elite team in the NFC. Sure the Panthers, Cardinals, Eagles, Giants and Vikings all look like they could end up in the Super Bowl.

The Bears however fit into that category as well. The Giants were the pick last year in the NFC and were well on their way to fulfilling that optimism until the Plaxico Burress problem. After that they promptly fell apart and were eliminated from the playoffs.

The Giants look extremely one-dimensional with their running game. Sure Eli Manning can make plays, but just like the Bears their receivers struggle to make plays for the younger Manning leaving a lot of doubt surrounding the G-Men.

In Philadelphia Donovan McNabb enjoyed a renaissance season last year after being benched. There is not guarantees that he’ll be able to will them to the playoffs with their putrid running game.

These NFC East powerhouses are again the likely favorites but are not two teams that the Bears have to worry about.

Marshall Faulk was on target with his analysis and I think we all look forward to him being proven right. The Bears are a contender and if they get playoff games at Soldier Field, then anything is possible in 2009.

Athlon Sports Previews the Bears

July 23, 2009

Picked up the pre-season preview magazine published by Athlon Sports today thinking they would go with everyone else and put the Vikings ahead of the Bears.

It seems to be the glamor pick to make even with their quarterback problems. However I was pleasantly surprised to find out my assumption was wrong.

They did in fact choose the Bears to win the division over the Packers. The Vikings were picked third due to their lack of a solid signal caller.

Further delving into the Bears’ season Athlon has the Bears as the fourth seed in the playoffs albeit as a wild card loser to the New York Giants. Intriguing match up and loss to say the least. I sorta lose respect for Athlon based on their projections in the NFC.

I am completely against the idea of the Arizona Cardinals have two consecutive playoff runs. Much less enough wins to qualify as the second best team in the conference.

The Eagles seem to be the team to beat regardless of their running game problems based simply on the selection of Jeremy Maclin. The assumption their running game will improve is based on the drafting of LeSean McCoy. Whether or not he’s going to live up to his billing remains to be seen.

The Bears don’t get much love for the receivers they drafted so I’m not sure if that’s the instant boost to their passing game anymore than I think McCoy will impact the Eagles running game.

The Bears also have defeated the Eagles the last two seasons, both in Philly and Chicago. Proving the Bears can step up and beat a team like the Eagles really should give the Bears a better standing of respect in the league.

Perhaps the team to beat in the NFC is the Atlanta Falcons. The combination of their running game and passing game puts them on a level of an elite offense. While their defense last season was not in the upper echelon of the league, the Falcons did address some of their shortcomings in the off-season.

The fact of the conference is pretty simple, there is no real elite team.

The Giants minus Plaxico Burress and their three headed rushing attack have taken a step down.

The Vikings and Brett Favre or not are still going to need to an upgrade at the QB position.

The Cardinals have never been a consistent contender and still have problems on defense. Add in their inner team turmoil with their contract problems.

The Bears like every team have their shortcomings at receiver and on defense. However the weaknesses the Bears show up with are not any more glaring than any other NFC team.

Add in the Bears having perhaps the easiest schedule in all of football and the chances the Bears win 11 or more games increases greatly. A first round playoff bye or a home game at Soldier Field makes it all the more likely the Bears can be a player and a force in the playoffs.