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September 13, 2009

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Bears Offer Blue Print To Attack the 3-4 Defense

September 2, 2009

The current NFL fad that seems to have taken hold around the league is the 3-4 defense. With the recent success that the Pittsburgh Steelers, New England Patriots have had with the scheme, in a league of imitators, there is a lot of new teams running the scheme.

It also just so happens, that the Bears start the season against two 3-4 defensive scheme teams in the Packers and the Steelers. Both teams are early pre-season contenders for the playoffs, with the Steelers being defending Super Bowl champions and having one of the most dominant defenses in the league.

With this in mind what is the best way for the Bears to deal with the 3-4 defense? Fortunately the Bears likely have the best way to match up with a 3-4 right away and the versatility this offensive scheme offers is invaluable in attacking the 3-4. The two tight end set is ideal for attacking the 3-4 defense, as was shown in early returns against Broncos.

Yes the Broncos don’t have the ideal personnel to run the 3-4, but it does force the Bears to scheme for it. This is what the Bears were able to do with ease and they were effective in both running and passing against the defensive front. The Broncos tended to attack with a five man front against the Bears on rushing situations. The Bears attacked it well with the two-TE set. Olsen and Clark were able to take on the OLBs who they match up well with, and this allowed the Bears to double team the nose tackle.

As everyone knows the engine that makes a 3-4 successful is the NT. He needs to be able to square up on the center, and he’s responsible for two gaps on the defense. If you get a good double team block on him, usually you can negate his effectiveness. Even if it’s only an initial scrape block so that the center or guard can move on to the second level and attack a linebacker it gives the offense the advantage.

One of the main advantages is the versatility the TEs offer. They can attack the OLBs (which is the second key to the 3-4) in the run game, block them straight up in the pass game, or they can sprint out in passing game off of play-action fakes. Evidence the play-action pass to Desmond Clark that went for 25-yards on a third and one play. During that play the linebacker cheated up to stop the run, lined up head up on Clark. Clark threw a little scrape block and then took off on his route. Jay Cutler rolled out of the pocket away from where the lineman took their play-action run block steps to and negated the pass rush. From here it was a simple pass to a wide open Clark that just broke the back of the Broncos.

Since a two TE set also allows the offense to to dictate the game plan to the defense and make them adjust, it puts the offense at a consistent advantage. By utilizing the versatility of a two TE set the Bears can attack with two double teams on the NT and then one of the DEs or elsewhere.

Also the Bears don’t have to keep the two TEs lined up head up on the LBs, one of them can line up in the FB spot thus still giving them a different formation look. Either way the key here is negating the 3-4s versatility and forcing them to react to your set.

The Bears are able to do this better than any team in the NFL with their high versatile TEs. The question is when Desmond Clark gets long in the tooth do the Bears draft another TE that offers as much versatility? Do they keep the two TE set around with Olsen grooming his eventual replacement? I believe so long as the Bears are able to show consistent success against the 3-4 front with the two TE set they should continue to take advantage of it.

Pre-Season Indications: The Pass Rush Is Back

September 2, 2009

While most fans and analysts agree that the pre-season isn’t a great indication of how things will go, I’m going to step up and disagree with that assessment. Having seen all three of the Bears’ pre-season games to this point I can clearly say without much hesitation that the pass rush is back.

The Bears’ defense struggled last year against the pass, and it was the main reason they missed the playoffs. Meanwhile in 2009 the CB situation is far from settled and most fans would prefer to see a ball hawking free safety back there, the bottom line is thee success of this defense starts with the front four.

The top off-season priority was to find a way to fix the pass rush and to do it without overhauling the current crop of defensive lineman who were so successful in 2006 together. Enter Rod Marinelli one of the preeminent defensive line coaches in the league, if not the last couple decades. Marinelli’s resume speaks for itself although most Bears fans see only 0-16 and the coach of the Detroit Lions.

However Lovie Smith knows Marinelli well and knew that he was just the guy to fix the front four. There was a reason Smith called him the biggest free-agency acquisition of the 2009 off-season. Marinelli is a motivator of men, and is all football all the time. Toss in that he may be one of the best teachers of the game and is a disciple of the Tampa-2 defense and the choice was an easy and obvious one.

I predict and can say that it has already paid huge dividends for the Bears’ defense. While most fans remain skeptical the fact of the matter is the Bears’ pass rush has improved and it has improved drastically. The Bears currently rank eighth in the league with a pre-season total of 11 sacks. So? It’s the pre-season come the naysayers, fine but consider the opponents the Bears’ pass rush has looked the best against, the Giants and the Broncos.

Then the naysayers come with “the Broncos only allowed one sack the entire game”. Yes I’m aware of the stat, but the Broncos’ offensive line was also the cause of numerous holding penalties. A sign that the Bears’ defensive line was particular aggressive and dominating to the point that they had no choice but to grab and hold.

The Broncos mind you were the best offensive line in the league in pass protection last year. The Broncos only allowed 12 sacks on the season which good for first overall. Part of this has to do with Jay Cutler’s ample mobility and the other part would be they simply were good. Considering how many pass attempts the Broncos and Cutler attempted last year you can certainly see just how well they were in protecting the passer.

Cutler attempted 616 passes last year and was sacked the aforementioned 12 times. An average of 1 sack every 51 pass attempts. A phenomenal stat in pass protection for the Broncos. Yet the Bears’ offensive line did well to attack that well protecting front.

Not only are the sack totals up during the pre-season the intensity level is up. The D-Line seems to never quit on the pass rush and it shows. If one player gets the penetration forcing the QB to step up or move around in the pocket, typically someone else is there to make the sack. The front’s motor never seems to stop where as last year if they were stopped on their initial moves they seemed to just stop.

There is a clear difference in motivation along the front four. A never ending collective effort to get pressure and they have been successful. What also is a healthy indication is it’s not just the starters that have performed well. The backups have been just as intense and just as focused. Add on that the Bears will use a healthy rotation among the 11 members of the front four they could keep and the future looks bright.

There seems to finally be an intense focus as well as a realization of how important the “rush men” are to the success of the defense. The line has bought into what Marinelli is yelling, but more importantly they are learning from what he is teaching. The improvement to this point, has been visible to the untrained eye and that has the makings of what could be a very exciting season of Chicago Bears football.

Overlooking Dusty Dvoracek?

August 9, 2009

Dusty Dvoracek has not been able to finish a season in his three year career with the Chicago Bears. Every year the Oklahoma Sooner alum has wound up on the disabled list with a season-ending injury. With the production of Anthony Adams and the drafting of Jarron Gilbert and the promise of Marcus Harrison, Dvoracek is at risk for being cut.

However it’s easy to overlook Dvoracek due to his injury problems, but it’s not easy to overlook his production. Dvoracek is a classic run plugger at the DT spot who also has the ability to stretch plays down the line of scrimmage. This enables the linebackers to swoop in and make a play leading to the Bears being a dominant run defensive team.

The Bears’ defense led the league in stuffed runs in 2008 and that was primarily due to the guys up front. Led by Dvoracek the Bears ranked fifth overall in the league in stuffing the run. It’s no coincidence that the Vikings, Titans, Steelers Eagles and Bears all have that run stuffing tackle in the middle of it all. All were amongst the six leaders in rushing defense in 2008.

Dvoracek is a stout plug who uses his leverage well and his hands well to be successful against the run. While Dvoracek may not be THE big mammoth DT that Bears fans wish were still around, he plays like one. Dvoracek is good at the point of attack and it is so often overlooked his value to the team when he is in the game.

The question is can he stay healthy for a full season and be a starter on the defensive line? Does he deserve to be on the roster if he can’t stay healthy? The answer in my opinion is yes he still deserves to be on the D-Line as a starter. Sure Anthony Adams has been productive, but he has always been more fresh when he comes into the game. Adams is also more of a three-technique type of DT rather than a hole filler. Adams isn’t all that big either so can he hold up for an entire season as a starter?

What about Marcus Harrison? How far into the doghouse is he with his weight problems? Is he in shape to be ready to play a full 16 game slate? How long until he is in a position where he won’t be overly winded from pounding the middle of the defense.

Never mind that Harrison is more a pass rush three-technique specialist as well, thus leaving the run defense vulnerable with him in the game.

So hopefully for the run defense’s sake the Bears can find a spot for Dust Dvoracek on the roster, and keep him. He is just the type of double team commanding run stuffer that keeps the Bears defense in a position to be dominant.

Will the Light Bulb Come Back On For Mark Anderson?

August 9, 2009

Mark Anderson had 12 sacks as a rookie during the Super Bowl run of 2006. Since then he has had two sacks over a total of two seasons. He’s been one of the greatest disappointments on the team with his hustle and pass rushing ability and his seemingly one dimensional attack at rushing the passer. Anderson has two moves, speed to the outside and a spin move he incorporates into his repertoire that really hasn’t had much success. He’s essentially been a one trick pony that was figured out after his rookie year and it’s effected his confidence level.

Enter Rod Marinelli one of the best if not the best defensive line coach in the NFL. Marinelli has lit a fire under Anderson’s butt if for no other reason than Anderson realizes his career may not be safe. Anderson has responded to Marinelli’s fire and passion and looks like he might be heading towards a solid season.

The Bears would need precisely this from Anderson as the Bears held the lead in the fourth quarter in 11 of their games in 2008. Had the defense held onto that lead in the fourth quarter it would have been 11 wins for the Bears a division crown and a home game in the playoffs in January.

This is yet another sign to exactly how close the Bears were to being dominant in 2008. The defense stuffed the run and performed well enough to put the Bears in position to win in the fourth quarter. So with Anderson pretty much being a situational rusher who comes in to bring speed off the edge on passing downs a return to form would truly benefit the win column.

Anderson has the tools and the talent he just needs the right motivation and right leadership from the right coach. Marinelli appears to be just the coach that Anderson ordered. Anderson has good size, very good if not great speed off the edge and a good motor that keeps running.

So far in camp he has shown some flashes of returning to form. Little plays here and there that say he may be able to be counted on once again. The nice thing however is that he may not have to be the only one counted on, with the help the Bears brought in via the draft. Jarron Gilbert figures to be a force in the pass rush with his burst up field that has caused problems for the offense at times in camp.

A slimmed down and more speedy Israel Idonije is another stout player who could benefit the pass rush as well. All in all the defensive line is deeper.

Chicago Bears Training Camp Report Day 7

August 7, 2009

A late evening practice at Olivet Nazarene University was a welcome relief with the recent warm temperatures of the day time hours. The Bears have been going in full pads non-stop a break from the lighter training camps of years past. The team has responded in kind with some solid intensity and is showing some subtle signs on defense that they may be able to revert back to a form more acceptable in Chicago.

While the Bears may never again be one of the top five or better units in the league, it would be nice to see them improve to a top-15 rating or better. Leading the charge on defense has been the old crusty veteran Brian Urlacher. Urlacher has made some pretty outstanding INTs in practice and is showing signs of being a player more capable of making plays than he was the last two years. While the “old man” may not be the dominant speed force he once was, rest assured with Urlacher bigger and stronger he should go back to better helping to fill the lanes on run defense.

Other than Urlacher, Alex Brown has been ratcheting up his intensity level. Brown has sort of become a team spokesman with all the camera time and radio time he’s had since the start of camp, but Brown seems to have a chip on his shoulder. Brown seems to have always played with a chip on his shoulder in the NFL ever since he was drafted later than he expected to be. A fourth round selection Brown had first round talent coming out of Florida, but alleged character concerns and issues caused him to fall to the Bears. Ever since then it’s as if Brown has been trying to prove himself. While he hasn’t always been productive, having been demoted to second team after Mark Anderson’s rookie year, Brown has never wavered in his determination to be a starter and a damn good football player. Brown’s best success may have been his play against the run last year, specifically the play against the Philadelphia Eagles that sealed the victory.

Brown is going up against monster Orlando Pace and has been holding his own against the future hall of famer. This would seem to bode well for future blockers Brown will line up across, because there aren’t too many future hall of famers lining up at LT these days. What we’d like to see is more sack production from Brown, but overall the best thing to see is just pressure on the QB. Sacks are the stat that stands out the most, but QB hurries, knockdowns, pressure, etc can be just as effective in taking a QB out of his rhythm.

Rookie Al Afalava stepped up his game recently too with his promotion to the first team yesterday with Kevin Payne out for minor injury soreness. Afalava has been impressive and continues to be impressive on a daily basis proving that Angelo knows his late round DB talent. When the fans are scrambling for Angelo to take a safety early, the Angler seems to always be able to sit back and wait always seeming to find an NFL capable starter on the second day. Payne himself as well as Chris Harris are examples of gems that Angelo has found late in the draft. Afalava is a solid player who is improving in coverage, but is primarily showing his worth as an in the box defender. Given that the Bears’ defense is a one gap scheme that requires all 11 defenders to account for a gap, Afalava is a perfect fit at either strong or free safety.

You know things are going well for you when the coach mentions you by name and other veterans are taking note. Afalava seems to be determined to get playing time as a rookie, significant time at that. All this leads to his consistent level of practice play that is impressive. Hopefully moving forward this is just a sign of great things to come.

Elsewhere on offense Brandon Rideau is quietly making plays on a consistent basis. Rideau is likely going to keep his spot on the roster with his moving up to third on the depth chart behind starters Devin Hester and Earl Bennett. Rideau’s lanky frame offers a great target for QB Jay Cutler and he has deceptive speed down the field. Rideau made a few big catches yesterday notably two in a row during the two minute drill. Also of note was that he led the team in touchdowns during the pre-season last year so he has proved himself a bit.

Most everyone is counting on Rideau and are seeing the general things that he has shown to this point. Rideau has quietly become the story of camp in the last couple days. He is starting to show that ability that the Bears need out of their receivers and there is a near unanimous belief that this could be a break out year for Rideau.

Devin Hester also made a pretty spectacular catch along the side line last night. Hester laid out in front of the out of bounds line and made a stretch grab while staying in bounds. Hester just seems to be practicing better and better and is showing the ability to make the tough catch.

Back on defense rookie Jarron Gilbert got time with the starting defense manning the three-techique DT spot while Tommie Harris rested his knee. Gilbert is getting on the field a lot more now getting his fair share of reps and making plays. When he’s given the opportunity Gilbert has stepped up. He has a knack for getting in the gaps, getting up field and making plays.

Lastly the player most associated with being demoted and being the worst player on the offensive line, Josh Beekman. Left guard Josh Beekman is still running with the first team and is still playing better than Frank Omiyale. Fans can rip on Beekman all the want, but he’s not going away and he’s only getting better. For a third year player Beekman is where you’d want him to be. The Bears sure would prefer to have Steve Hutchinson or a young Ruben Brown in his prime at the LG spot, but Beekman is out there and is performing well. He works hard looks bigger and stronger than last year and is refusing to give in and walk away knowing that Frank Omiyale’s contract number likely means he’ll be starting ahead of Beekman. Josh Beekman is here on the team and he’s here to stay at the starting left guard spot whether the Windy City Nation likes it or not. He’s there as the starter until further notice.

For more in-depth discussion on the Chicago Bears’ training camp go to Midway Illustrated

Brandon Rideau Quietly Does His Thing

August 7, 2009

Hi do you know me? I’m Brandon Ridow, no no Brandon Ridough….no no R.I.D.E.A.U, no letter X like they do down in Louisiana for Geaux Tigers and the like. I’m a Chicago Bears receiver too, you know the position that everyone is worried about heading into the 2009 season. Devin Hester is the number one but hasn’t player receiver much in his career and doesn’t have the ideal size for the position.

Earl Bennett? Everyone talks about him because he’s friends with Jay Cutler, but I can catch passes too. Sure I’m not as talked about as any of the rookies, but I can play receiver. I’m 6-foot-3 and have been working my butt off to move up the depth chart.

I showed up and did well in OTAs and now I’m doing well in camp. Albeit it quietly and not getting much attention.

Rideau is doing just that going about his business relatively quietly and unnoticed for the most part. But day after he day seems to be getting better and better. You see his improvement from one practice to the next the way he makes his cuts his breaks and hauls in passes.

Probably the most underrated aspect of Rideau is that he’s the biggest receiver on the team at 6-foot-3 198-pounds. This automatically makes him a red-zone threat and a first down target when the Bears need to keep a drive alive. Rideau uses his body well to make plays above defenders, but also in shielding his body to protect the reception he makes.

Sure there hasn’t been a lot of hype or publicity given to the third year receiver who spent most of his time on the practice squad last year and has zero career receptions in regular season games. But Rideau has ability has shown flashes and is gaining consistency.

The Bears are likely to only keep five receivers like last year, or are they? Rideau is making that decision all the more harder as training camp runs along. He is becoming one of the more consistent receivers in practice and is definitely someone worth keeping an eye on.

It’s hard to deny a player with his attributes from being out there on the field because they are so invaluable to a group of receivers that are like a group of smurfs running around out there.

I think the pre-season games with Rideau hooking up some with Cutler but most of all Caleb Hanie will be the make or break performance for his Chicago Bears career. Definitely can’t wait to see what he brings to the table in another eight days.

For more in-depth discussion on the Chicago Bears’ training camp go to Midway Illustrated

Chicago Bears Training Camp Report Day 6

August 6, 2009

There were a few things that happened down at camp today really caught everyone’s attention today. One really good thing and one thing that could be something to keep an eye on going forward.

The most important thing that happened today was Jay Cutler’s command of the offense and the accuracy to his receivers. Cutler was on target most of the day with his throws and they were delivered with a level of zip that has become his trademark. What we saw today was what we have come to expect of Cutler and it’s easy to see he is starting to really get a feel for his receivers and for the offense. Cutler was great in the two-minute drill and you can really see the rapport that exists between him and Earl Bennett. Yes I said Earl Bennett, who looks light years ahead of where he was last year and is practicing with a new level of confidence.

Cutler had a couple shaky days in a row, but today was one of his best days, and it was on a day you wouldn’t expect him to be on top of it given it was the fifth practice in a row in full pads. Lovie Smith has sorta become notorious for taking it easy on his veterans (he still is) but he has the Bears practicing five straight days in full pads. This to me shows a renewed level of dedication by Smith not to mention he senses the same urgency that the fans of the Monsters of the Midway do.

Adding more to the reasons the Bears brought Cutler here, and to the reasons why you can consider Cutler a franchise level QB was hearing again about his passer rating in the fourth quarter. Cutler’s rating in the fourth quarter was up over 90. Which is when having a high QB rating matters most, in crunch time with the game on the line. Sure the Broncos struggled in the red zone last year but you still want your QB to be at his best when the game matters the most and that’s yet another example of Cutler being on top of it.

To talk more about Earl Bennett’s development may not do him justice. He has come along way from last year and while we likely won’t see the true results of that until the season starts, at least we can have some confidence going forward. There is reason to be optimistic about Bennett’s work ethic and his consistency in practice. No the Bears likely don’t have a true number one wide receiver that’s going to going to haul in 90 to 100 catches and put up 1,200-yards receiving. However that doesn’t mean that the Bears can’t be successful or win the Super Bowl with the talent that is on the roster. The Bears have won without a major player at receiver before and if the players they have on the team perform up to expectations the offense will be just fine.

There is no reason to blow smoke up your ass and make you think that the receiving core is fixed or is going to be feared, but there is reason for subtle optimism that the Bears will have players capable of making plays when it matters. Earl Bennett is one, Johnny Knox is another, Brandon Rideau is another and quietly but subtly Juaqin Iglesias is becoming more consistent with his receptions in practice.

The other news we like to cover is the development of Zack Bowman’s hamstring injury. Bowman has been the stud on defense since camp started and looks like he’s fully capable of taking over for Nathan Vasher who is likely attending his final training camp as a Chicago Bear. Bowman injury while not rumored to be serious is cause for concern. After all anytime a player tweaks a hamstring it can be one of those lingering nagging injuries that cause a lot of problems, especially if that player is rushed back in or rushes himself back in. Right now Bowman is listed as day to day and hopefully he’ll be back on the field soon.

In the mean time look for Corey Graham, Trumaine McBride and rookie DJ Moore to get more attention with the first team defense. Moore is about where you’d expect for a rookie, making plays and showing potential, while at the same time getting worked over like a rookie usually does.

It’s of note to mention that Brett Basanez has looked better the past couple practices. While he may still struggle to stay on the 53-man roster it is nice to see him starting to find a bit of a groove. Overall though he’s still a country mile behind Caleb Hanie for the back up spot. Hanie is just more crisp and accurate with his throws and has the arm strength necessary to make NFL level throws that Basanez struggles with. Hanie is turning out to be a nice surprise for Bears fans and I’m really excited to see him in pre-season action again this year after he performed so unexpectedly well last year as a undrafted free agent signee.

On defense it’s of note that Adawale Ogunleye still hasn’t found himself yet. All last year you could question his heart and his desire and whether or not one of the lone over 30 players on the team was about done. Now you can really start to question it as O-Gun has yet to really make much of a play all camp long. At some point the light bulb needs to flick back on for O-Gun and he needs to perform up to the level he’s getting paid for. I think if Henry Melton were a little further along in his development there would be the potential to see O-Gun cut after this camp. Since the Bears need a more secure defensive front, O-Gun’s job is safe for now.

On the offensive line the players are playing up to expectations. Not a lot to report when it’s pretty much what you would expect from everyone. The key will be how healthy Orlando Pace remains at the LT spot. He is obviously still a very capable pass blocker which will matter most against Aaron Kampman of the Packers and Jared Allen of the Vikings. John St. Claire was abused by pass rushers most of last year, especially Allen so it will be nice to have a player out there that can protect the most valuable player on the roster. On the flip side Chris Williams continues to show why the Bears drafted him. The redundant he’s big athletic and strong may get old, but it is become more and more obvious that the Bears are overall better along the offensive line than they were and they will be better on offense because of it.

At the running back position Matt Forte is back close to full strength and practicing as such. Sure the team will still bring him along slowly but he is more active in practice than he had been through the first few practices. Seeing Forte starting to get his groove on in full pads is a welcome sign.

For more in-depth discussion on the Chicago Bears’ training camp go to Midway Illustrated

Two Rookies Who Have Disappointed So Far

August 5, 2009

Two relatively high draft picks were spent on two players who were thought to be addressing needs on the team in 2009. Henry Melton provides the speed off the edge that the Bears seem to lack with his 4.6 40-yard dash time and his explosion off the edge. While Juaqin Iglesias is supposed to develop into a solid two option if not a number one option at receiver. To this point of training camp neither has been very impressive at either one of their jobs.

Juaqin Iglesias was talked about as being worthy of the second round selection the Bears traded away. Most everyone viewed him as a player that should have been taken at that slot. Ironically six receivers and nearly two rounds of draft later, the Bears scooped Iglesias up at 99th overall in the back end of the third round with their compensatory pick. Iglesias’ value was seen as high for that slot in the draft, but to this point it appears that his value was on target or maybe even a shade under the third round.

To this point he has yet to establish himself among the top receivers on the roster. Through OTAs and the first week of training camp Iglesias has struggled with his consistency catching the football, and in his route running which is far from polished. There has even been discussion and observation between most of the analysts about who really is the receiver drafted in the third round (Iglesias) and the receiver drafted in the fifth round (Johnny Knox). Johnny Knox has shown a superb level of speed and pretty consistent hands through OTAs and on into training camp. Knox is pushing for playing time against some of the more experience veterans.

Iglesias may only make the roster at this point due to his high draft status and Angelo’s penchant for “red shirting” inexperienced rookies who have time developing over the steep rookie learning curve they see. He seems like a candidate to miss a lot of the season the same way Earl Bennett did last year. Bennett by the way is looking better after a year of development.

On the defensive side of the ball most Bears fans were asking Who is that? When the Bears selected defensive end Henry Melton early in the fourth round of the NFL draft. Melton is a converted RB/FB to defensive end and has only played the position for two seasons in college. To say that Melton is a raw project may be a bit of an understatement. He is however a big athlete with a lot of speed. Whether or not that translates into a spot on the 53-man roster over a spot on the practice squad remains to be seen. As it stands now Melton is easily behind O-Gun, Brown, Anderson and Idonijae who is back full time at DE this season. That’s a solid four DEs that are ahead of him on the depth chart leaving it very unlikely he will make the 53-man cut.

With Mark Anderson having a better camp and looking a bit improved over the past two years Melton’s job of making the cut is even harder to overcome. Melton has all the tools you look for yes but will it ever develop into something more? That remains to be seen.

While not every rookie the Bears draft will make the 53-man roster and the odds were already stacked against Iglesias and Melton for the most part. There is some comfort in seeing Knox and safety Al Afalava exceed expectations thus far in camp.

For more in-depth discussion on the Chicago Bears’ training camp go to Midway Illustrated

Chicago Bears Training Camp Report Day 5

August 5, 2009

Apparently I am painting to rosey of a picture for the liking of some Bears fans so I’m going to do my best to point out the negatives that have gone on thus far in practice to try and even out the coverage.

Since I’m being too optimistic and not negative (although wait until we lose our first game or the Packers’ RB gets a long run or a first down catch on a 3rd and 12) so I’ll follow through with some things that are disconcerting.

Beyond Tommie Harris and his never going to heal arthritic knee we have Devin Hester who is still dropping balls. Hester is also still to small to truly be a number one receiver because to take him away all you have to do is jam him at the line of scrimmage. Jam him, throw off his timing and he’s not going to get open or be able to do much to get into his route. You don’t see a lot of this in the Cover-2 defense nor do you see it when the team is running through practice with about half the speed and intensity you would see in a real game. Hester had made some plays but he’s still showing he drops a lot of balls and his routes are better but not as precise as you’d like to see out of him.

Cutler has seemingly got worse day by day he throws INTs pretty consistently in practice. On day five it was Urlacher and Bowman who were making picks of Cutler. This belies the problems he’s had with his 18 INTs to just 25 TDs on so many attempts. You prefer to have a QB who has about a two to one TD to INT ratio. Cutler doesn’t have that for his career even with the offense he had in Denver he was still unable to attain a two to one ratio. The fact that he’s showing so many picks is not a positive sign moving forward. You can tell at times he’s trying to force his throws because he has air mailed a few balls here and there that should have otherwise been on target.

Tom Waddle mentioned that the best receiver out there has looked like it’s been Rashied Davis. Davis looks to be the sharpest route runner, the best in and out of his breaks and looks like a pro receiver. Waddle remarked that he didn’t see anything from Hester that looked all that good, nor did he see much from Earl Bennett. I bring up Waddle’s observations because he played WR for the Bears and KNOWS what it takes to be a good player. His opinion carries more weight because he’s been there done that.

So if Rashied Davis looks the best out of the players that are out there practicing at wide receiver according to a former WR, the Bears could be in deep trouble. Beyond all the happy go lucky feelings that are coming out of camp, I’ll take Waddle for his word on the receivers. Sure there are subtle signs but until the games get going we’re not going see much evaluation wise because everyone usually looks good in practice.

Nathan Vasher is likely participating in his last Chicago Bears training camp. Vasher has been a shadow what he once was before he demanded and received his hefty pay day. Same goes for a lot of the Bears on defense. They’ve gotten lazy and have not performed up to expectations since they got their palms greased.

Most notably the player who seems to have not done much and is on the hot seat is Adewale Ogunleye. O-Gun just doesn’t seem to have much left in the tank or much motivation. He has for the most part been dominated by Chris Williams who is a solid pass protector and is earning pretty strong reviews for his pass blocking. Typically you’d like to see a talented veteran like O-Gun getting more than his fair share of positive talk from practice, but he hasn’t.

At safety Danieal Manning is still himself, the guy who can get lost in coverage or make a big play to keep himself around. He’s a good nickel player but after that he’s a ghost for the most part. Free safety is really starting to become even more of a question mark. Free agent signee Josh Bullocks has pretty much been passed over on the depth chart by rookie Al Afalava. When you have a veteran second round draft pick getting beat out pretty handily by a sixth round draft choice rookie you know the coaches likely missed on that evaluation.

Speaking of other rookies, Juaquin Iglesias and Henry Melton, (if they make the team) will likely make the roster based simply on their draft status. Neither one has stood out to this point Iglesias especially given his draft status in the third round. More was expected out of him but all the knocks on him that existed that caused him to fall to the third round, still exist now. Iglesias’ route running is damn near horrible and that’s a direct result of being in the spread passing game that Oklahoma ran. The defenses in college aren’t near as complex or intricate or efficient as they are in the NFL. So in college a player like Iglesias can get by on just being in the right place at the right time or being in a place where a player completely missed his assignment.

Since Oklahoma often times spread teams out rather thin this gave them even more holes to work with and Iglesias was the beneficiary of bad defenses. Now that he’s seeing tight coverage that requires precise route running to get open he’s being shut out and talked about in terms of being lucky to make the 53-man roster. Brandon Rideau and Rashied Davis easily have an argument to make the team, but if the Bears keep only five receivers like they did last year then Rideau or Davis is likely going to be phased out in favor of a rookie who’s only saving quality is where he was selected in the draft.

Iglesias’ Big-12 counterpart Henry Melton is full of raw talent, but lacks any other quality you’d like to see in an NFL football player. He’ll likely make the team as a practice squad player who the Bears hope can develop and move through the rookie learning curve at a good pace. Melton is behind Alex Brown, O-Gun, Idonije and Mark Anderson on the depth chart plus with Jarron Gilbert’s ability to play inside or out ala the bigger Idonije that versatilityi for him is more valuable on the 53-man roster than Melton is.

The next big question is why hasn’t Frank Omiyale beat out Josh Beekman for the number one spot at left guard? Beekman has consistently ran with the ones day in and day out. Beekman while a solid performer last year left a lot to be desired among most Bears fans. Yet to this point has managed to hold off Omiyale’s challenge at guard. It should also be noted that Omiyale is an OT learning a new position. There is no guarantee that Omiyale will take to the new position all that well given that his success has always been playing OT. OTs tend to work better out and space and guards typically need to be able to work in tighter quarters and be more of a mauler type of player. Omiyale’s pedigree doesn’t seem to fit the mold of a guard.

For more in-depth discussion on the Chicago Bears’ training camp go to Midway Illustrated