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September 13, 2009

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Broncos WR Brandon Marshall a no show at mandatory mini-camp

June 12, 2009

The first sign of trouble is when you have unhappy players not showing up to mandatory mini-camps. Marshall was already tied to possible trade and free agency rumors with the Chicago Bears, now he is skipping a mandatory practice.

The question is will this grow into something more, and something possibly positive for the Bears.

The need for receivers is well documented and while the Bears won’t be able to Marshall this season. The thought is he could be a possibility at the end of his rookie contract.

This little story may be nothing, but it is something to follow if you’re a fan of the Chicago Bears.

Marshall was extremely productive in Denver playing with Jay Cutler and their positive relationship as teammates is well documented.

I wonder if the young Josh McDaniels is starting to prove that he is in fact over his head and is benefitting from the Patriots already strong offense.

Brandon Marshall skips mandatory mini-camp day one

You can’t escape the hype

April 25, 2009

Well sports fans it’s finally here, the day of the 2009 NFL Draft. The official end to the second season of the National Football League. Make no mistake this IS the second season. It may sound like silly cliche to explain the hype surrounding the NFL Draft, but make no mistake the league survives because of the second season.

Take for instance just the coverage that the draft gets on a monthly basis leading up to weekend of on ESPN. Mel Kiper Jr has a solid career and perhaps the most famous hair cut on TV because of the draft. With the invent of the internet the draft has taken off into a completely different world of hype and coverage.

Now comprehend the magnitude of the Mock Draft phenomenon a database by a Washington Redskins site lists 221 mock drafts. This doesn’t include all the updates that constantly occur from the end of the college football season until the day of the draft. Fans just can’t get enough of the draft coverage.

So the question is why? Well the popularity of the NFL for one. It’s the most popular sport in the U.S. and with all the marketing opportunities that stem from it appealing to the most marketable class of people in the country (18-35 year old males) it’s easy to see why an entire second season can spring up just from the draft hype.

The amount of draft hype is insane given the rare success of first round draft picks and the even further failure of draft picks there after. Less than 50% of first round picks wind up with a successful NFL career. But if you were to listen to all of the scouting experts just about every player drafted from one to seventy-five in the league will have a long tenured career of 10 or more years in the draft.

Then the level of hype is magnified ten fold over a period of roughly four months. Non stop coverage, talk of the combine, Pro-Days, personal workouts, private workouts, official visits, and analysis so thorough it would make the folks at NASA envious.

However even with the more recent recognition I have had in the fact that most players don’t live up to the hype I still can’t escape it. The Chicago Bears traded away their first round pick for the next two years in the Jay Cutler trade yet myself as well as many other Bears fans have not dropped in our collective level of excitement. I still want to see who the Bears draft at 49 and I’ll be faithfully watching the draft unfold pick by pick up until the Bears make their selection.

So while I recognize the gigantic level of ridiculous hype and the enormous lack of clarity shown by most fans and analysts and experts during this period of time. I still recognize it is the NFL and any football is GOOD football.

NFL Network Analysis: Jay Cutler Trade

April 4, 2009

Further reveiwing what league experts are saying about the Jay Cutler deal we come to coverage from the NFL Network. Total Access kicked off two days of essentially round the clock Cutler trade coverage.
Former NFL GM Charlie Casserly steps up to the plate to diagnose the Cutler trade first and give his take on how it benefits the Chicago Bears.

Casserly is most famous for his years with the Washington Redskins where he uncovered two of the original members of the Redskins’ famed offensive line known as “the Hogs”. From there Casserly took over as a GM and sustained Washington’s excellent up to the mid 90s. From there Casserly took over the Houston Texans were he scouted and drafted five future Pro Bowl players. Among them WR Andre Johnson, DE Mario Williams, LB DeMarco Ryans.

Casserly starts out his analysis with how the Bears offered up the best deal with two number one draft picks and the best QB option for the Broncos. His take is that Kyle Orton was a good QB for the first year and he has had some success in the NFL. Casserly says “If I’m the Chicago Bears I’m ecstatic I made this deal if I was Chicago I would have made the deal because it’s hard to get a quarterback at this level in Jay Cutler. A guy who came into the league that’s proven he can play. He’s young, he’s had success in the league, it’s hard to find this guy.”

Mike Mayock then steps up to give his take of the ramifications and impact that Cutler will have on the Bears’ offense and the strategy that takes shape with a QB like Cutler in the fold.

Mayock states “I feel like Jerry Angelo and Lovie Smith were on a short leash, this tells us that the need to win now.” “What I look at is their remaining draft picks and they have 49 and 99th overall selections. The hope is that one of the big time wide receivers slides to them at 49 a Hakeem Nick, Britt or Robiskie. That way they can maybe address the WR position via the draft instead of in free agency. They play some pretty good defense still in Chicago (run defense was one of the best in the league). It’s up to Ron Turner to expand his offense and to take advantage of what this kid does which is get the football down the field vertically.”

Bob Papa interjects with his analysis about the trade saying “When you take a look at this division and you take a look at the problems that Green Bay has from last year, and they’re switching to the 3-4, you still have the quarterback question when it comes the Minnesota Vikings and the Lions they have a lot of work ahead of them. Chicago was right into that playoff race late into the season last year. I think this is something that can put them over the top. The have a good running game they’ve added Orlando Pace they’ve got a talented young tight end that’s gonna help the quarterback pick up the offense, they can do some things with (Greg) Olson. So I think the Chicago Bears if they can tidy up the defense get some help at the safety position can be that gets into the post season by winning their division.”

Mike Mayock states while talking to Deion Sanders (does anyone wants Deion’s take really?) that ” I’m big on franchise quarterbacks and I think Denver was CRAZY to let him go.”

Moving into the second day of the coverage of the biggest trade in the history of the franchise of the Monsters of the Midway.

The NFL Network lines up Bears cam and brings in Jay Cutler for one of his first official interviews after his introduction as the newest member of the Chicago Bears.

Rich Eisen asks for Cutler’s emotions after this big trade:

Cutler says, “It’s been some ups and down for the last three of four weeks. You know (I’m) a little relieved, I’m a little sad to be leaving my teammates in Denver. But it’s a new chapter, I couldn’t be more excited to be in Chicago, and to be a Chicago Bear.”

Eisen adds if you could tell the kid growing up (meaning Cutler) that he was going to be future quarterback of the Chicago Bears.

“I think it would have been a dream come true Cutler adds, I was a little bit shocked that I got the call, because I didn’t really think it was going to be a possibility. You hope it is but you try to be realistic to not put yourself up for that that kind of disappointment (meaning if the trade did not happen) it worked out well for me.”

Cutler goes on to quietly wax poetic about the situation over the last month. He doesn’t really want to go and bad mouth the Broncos by dispelling rumors that surfaced during this whole ordeal. Some people may look at it as dodging a question, but to me if Cutler publicly dispels the rumor he starts a he said they said back and forth which further ignites the controversy. Cutler instead decides to move forward on to his career with the Chicago Bears, rather than explain himself and leave it open to interpretation by the media and fans as to what exactly went down.

Eisen goes on to ask about the “bad publicity” and whether or not Cutler wil have to address it moving forward with the Bears.

“Absolutely I think this city is happy but they’re a little bit wary of what kind of quarterback they got. I’ve gotta earn the respect and trust of my teammates first and foremost and that’s the first thing that’s gotta happen. They have to trust me and what I can do for them as their quarterback they have to believe in me and trust me that I can get the job done as their quarterback.”

Cutler talks about the new teammates that called him, Urlacher called, Earl Bennett called, Greg Olson called and that a lot of his teammates were there at the press conference. They are excited about the possibility of what we can do going forward.”

Brandon Marshall is brought on to talk about Jay Cutler and the trade and one of the key quotes he makes is” Jay Cutler is a great quarterback and a great friend. He was a great locker room guy and I’m sad to see him go.”

The NFL Network then goes to it’s panel that includes Charles Davis, Bob Papa, and Mike Mayock. They always seem to lead off their conversations with Mayock.

“I really believe it’s the perfect storm for both him (Cutler) and the Bears. What they’d like to do in a city where there’s an awful lot of wind and weather is have a big armed quarterback who can get the ball vertically down the field to talented wide receivers like Devin Hester a great tight end like Greg Olson who could emerge as another deep threat.” Then in true Mike Mayock fashion he goes to the coaches tape (the behind the line of scrimmage angle) to show what he liked about Cutler when he was in college and then coaches tape from this season where he’ll compare and contrast the differences in what he like about Cutler.

The play Mayock goes to show is a fourth and 12 play against Arkansas game on the line less than two minutes left, where he stands in the pocket and flat footed (not stepping into the throw) he drives the ball down the field over the head of a linebacker and in between two defenders, while simultaneously getting smacked in the face by an oncoming linebacker. “Fourth and 12 while getting smacked in the face and he knows it, he delivers the football flat footed, I fell in love with that play” Mayock says the octave level in his voice changing with excitement.

“Later on same drive, flat-footed, this guy’s got more hip torque than anybody else since John Elway. They beat a team they should have never beat in Arkansas.”

“This last season on the run look at the accuracy he drops it in over Schefler’s shoulder, big play on the run without a problem. Again he has an awful lot of confidence in his ability, watch him feel pressure up the field eyes down the field, never look down delivers the football touchdown. That’s a huge play very few quarterbacks in the league can make. Again Cutler the vision bracket coverage (four man end-zone defenders) it’s not there right now, eyes down field, feel pressure, step up and again that’s a tight window right there that he threw the football into. This is a third and 12 with two minutes left I don’t think (this route) is open I wouldn’t want him to throw the football there, but somehow he puts it on him (the pass) and the one thing I have to say to be honest in my overview is that he threw the ball up for grabs to often in college and he has a little bit of that gun-slinger attitude in the pros.”

Charles Davis interjects “that that part of holding the ball and not throwing it up for grabs comes with maturity and given that he’s been in the league for only three years, two as a starter he will get better. Weather late in the season with Forte and the running game and this guy with the arm, this is Bears football with the opportunity to make big plays. I think they’ll go out and get another wide receiver somewhere along the lines to take the pressure off of Devin Hester being the number one wide receiver its nothing but an upside for Chicago in the immediate future. I said I don’t think this makes them a Super Bowl team this year, but later on down the line if they keep adding the pieces and with Orlando Pace he doesn’t hurt one bit.”

Bob Papas wraps up the panelist analysis with “Well you know it’s interesting watching Mike’s break down of what he can do physically and you look what the Bears have they don’t have a Brandon Marshall and an Eddie Royal but with what they do have he can make it better get better production out of them. The thing that’s really impressive is that he got all that done all that production last year done with no running game. He’s now going to be with a team that pounds the ball they’re going to be able to control the football. I think the sky is the limit for Jay Cutler.”

That last quote would seem to the quote that makes this the deal of a lifetime for Chicago Bears fans. Cutler has all the tools and by all reports from media people talking to Mike Shannahan to talk to Cutler’s teammates, he is a consummate professional who can be a leader and a franchise quarterback. The important aspect being franchise, because it takes more than a strong arm, great vision, physical talents and pocket awareness, it take the ability to be the face of the franchise. The leader of the team and the organization, cementing his legacy as what could be the greatest quarterback in the history of the Chicago Bears franchise.

NFL Total Access: Chicago Bears state of the franchise

March 28, 2009

Just about anytime you have media types talking about the Chicago Bears they’re going to open with questions or comments about the quarterback. This was no different when then NFL Network did it’s team update segment they call the state of the franchise. The focus Friday night was the Chicago Bears and where they are at as a team.

The opening segment was high lights from an interview with Lovie Smith focused on Kyle Orton. Smith went into specificst as to why he has so much current and future confidence in Kyle Orton as the starter for his team, this team, OUR team, the Chicago Bears.

Smith states “Kyle last year of course it was not like there was musical chairs or anything at the quarterback position, he was our guy. Until he had the injury I’d seen a lot of signs from Kyle being able to take that next step. Great leader, great leadership qualities, can throw the football. But I see Kyle leading us to a lot of wins this year.”

Rod Woodson then steps up to give his analysis on Kyle Orton and the Bears franchise stating that while Kyle Orton might be the guy, the Bears should possibly look into bringing in a veteran to push Kyle. Not open up the QB competition to Orton and a veteran, but bring in a player like Byron Leftwhich who has a stronger arm and some big upside. The thought would be to bring in a veteran to put pressure on Kyle Orton with Rex Grossman gone, so that Orton continues to develop.

The next take is on how the wide receivers aren’t really there, how they have a fantastic running back and that the defense is still solid. This from Woodson’s analysis.

My take the defense was solid against the run in 2008, but the lack of a pass rush was evident throughout the year. Apparently this aspect of the Bears’ struggles isn’t as magnified as the QB position’s productivity. It seems the overwhelming theme STILL remains the Bears have one of the best defenses in the league and still struggle mightily to get production from their QB. The fact of the matter is in 2008 it was almost opposite. The production from the QB position was there, but the defense survived purely on reputation alone rather than actual production. Once teams realized the Bears were getting zero pressure in the front four or from a blitz they picked the Bears apart. This happened in four of the first seven games in which the pass defense was deplorable. The Bears were ahead and in a position to beat the Carolina Panthers in the second game of the season, but the pass defense collapsed and Carolina rallied for a win.

Against Tampa Bay in overtime Brian Griese was able to lead the Bucs to a game tying and then comeback victory with zero pressure getting to the QB. Rookie Matt Ryan looked like Dan Marino in the prime of his career, in leading the Falcons to a literal last second victory. The Vikings rang up 41 points and Brad Johnson looked like a savior for them, and the Bears eeked out a win.

Yet somehow on a national media level the defensive reputation seems to remain intact. The fact is before Kyle Orton’s high ankle sprain which is one of the most notoriously non surgical repair related injuries a player can suffer, Orton was on target to be one of the top passers in the league. Without his health Orton’s injury hampered his drive on the ball, hampered his ability to throw the ball and even his accuracy. His mechanics for the rest of the season were completely flawed from an ankle injury.

National media attention though still continues to focus on the lack of Pro Bowl production from the QB position. This will be Orton’s year to get it done, it’s the last year of his contract and even if he doesn’t stay healthy he likely won’t get a break from the front office. One year to be THE GUY and prove that he has what it takes, if not the Bears will likely be in a position to get a Sam Bradford or a Tim Tebow, or Colt McCoy or any one of another top QBs likely to emerge from the draft class of 2010.

The state of the franchise segment then shifted to Devin Hester being the primary big play making option the Bears have had. How his transition from returner to primarily a receiver severely limited his production. They show the stats graphic where Hester went from a punt return average of 14.1 yards per return for two years in the league down to 6.2 yards per return in 2008. From there they focus in on his kick off return average being down from 23.2 yard per return to 21.9 and how he went from 11 punt and kick off returns to ZERO in 2008.

Rod Woodson jumps straight into the topic of Devin Hester’s ability being hurt by saying “Mushing Muhammad said Chicago is a place where receivers go to die.” He then goes on to wax poetic about Hester’s demise in the return and how it’s a direct parallel to him playing WR on offense. Woodson feels as though Hester should not be as much of the focus on offense if it’s going to severely limit his productivity as a return. He does play devils advocate on himself a bit by stating he understands get Hester more touches and making him a bigger threat on offense, but not at the expense of his return abilities.

Diving into the defensive discussion Woodson is questioned about the defense and how far it fell off in 2007 and how it improved somewhat in 2008. Woodson chooses to focus on the CB play and their lack of man to man coverage capabilities. He thinks the defense’s struggles came more from the lack of talent or ability from the CBs. It’s the fault of the secondary more than the lack of a pass rush.

Which goes against what most die-hard Bears fans are aware of. The pass rush was anemic, one of the worst in the league last year and the lack of pressure led directly to losses the kept the Bears from the playoffs. My take likely to stir some debate if the Bears have even a marginal to above average pass rush they likely win the Carolina game, the Tampa Bay game and the Atlanta game. A three game difference in wins and losses which puts the Bears at 12-4, division champs a first round bye and a playoff game at Soldier Field where ANYTHING could have happened. It is hard for most Bears fans to comprehend being THAT close to such a lofty playoff seeding and possible return to the NFC title game scenario.

Where coaches are supposed to put forth a non stop positive face on the franchise and given Lovie Smith’s habit of undying positive outlook this is the thought process Smith undoubtedly uses when he made the statement that stirred up a hornet’s nest of media and fan criticism. Lovie Smith’s famous “we’re close” comment.

Given that football is such a game of inches it is undeniable of just how close the Chicago Bears were to returning to the playoffs, and being in a position to make a serious playoff run. But in the same formula of inches the Bears were equally close in not being a factor at all. Six victories the Bears had in 2008 that were decided by seven points or less. Take away those six victories and the Bears are staring at 3-13 just as easily as they are staring at a deep playoff run.

The 2009 Chicago Bears as they currently are situated with the idea of the season starting tomorrow would be close to disaster just as easily as they are close to that near identical 2006 playoff scenario. The ultimate question is, what is going to happen between now and the start of the season that puts the team in a position where they are closer to success, than they are to near ultimate failure.

Report: Bears did inquire about Cutler

March 25, 2009

The above headline is perhaps unfathomable for most Chicago Bears fans. Not after the way this off-season has gone thus far with the signings of Frank Omiyale, Josh Bullocks and Brett Basanaez everyone assumed that the off-season free agency action for the Bears was over. Because Jerry Angelo didn’t come forth at the Chicago Bears’ mini-camp and profess his undying love for the idea of trading half his defensive roster of has beens and his draft picks of never will be’s (even though those players have yet to be drafted) Bears fans were, are ready to lynch Jerry Angelo.

Thing is a reportemerged today on Yahoo Sports about some of the teams interested in trading for Jay Cutler. Low and behold there in one sentence worth of interest was the team, the Chicago Bears. So while the Chicago media, sports talk airwaves and fan base were in full riot and melt down mode, one thing happened behind the scenes. The Bears made a play for Cutler, an inquiry to find out his availability and if in fact he was available via trade.

Problem is as has been stated a lot lately over the past few days by Broncos staff and their head coach Cutler is not currently available (at least publicly) and they have no future plans to trade him. The question is why would the Broncos WANT to trade him? A player can demand a trade, teams can then inquire about that player via trade, but in the end the Broncos have to be actual willing trade partners.

No one knows precisely how willing the Broncos are, but what we do know is that Josh McDaniels still wants at least one more one on one meeting with Cutler. He wants one last chance to clear the air, face to face one man to another with no agent and no GM involved. Will this meeting actually happen? No one can say, but if it doesn’t happen or it does and the rumors do in fact begin to swirl Bears’ fans can relax a little and let things play out.

There is no way to know until it happens precisely how much interest the Bears have, what they offered or how far the talks went if even beyond a small inquiry. But if the management DOES choose to trade for Cutler, that is their choice and I’ll support the move. However the Bears choose to go forward and state emphatically that “Kyle Orton is our quarterback” and even come out publicly within the next 24 to 48 hours state this report as erroneous and false (likely to avoid causing any waves with their current starter) I’ll support that too.

One thing is for sure, Angelo has my support for the moment, with a big franchise changing even on the horizon with the 2009 NFL draft.

NFL Network Playbook segment on Matt Forte

March 18, 2009

Say what you will about the NFL Network but every so often they have some pretty solid reporting segments on players in the league. Yesterday they focused in on Chicago Bears running back Matt Forte. Forte as we all know was drafted to come in and provide competition for Cedric Benson the 2004 bust the Bears landed in the first round. What no one foresaw was Benson’s legal problems and subsequent dismissal from the team.

Forte was then promptly made the starter for the 2008 season and instantaneously stabilized the RB position for perhaps the next decade. It’s hard to say whether or not the organization thought Forte would be as successful as soon as he was in the league. But what we do know is that Forte was the intense focus of this organization the instant they started evaluating prospects for the 2008 draft. That focus never let up and when Forte was there, the Bears didn’t hesitate in grabbing this 1,000-yard rookie rusher.

So what is it exactly that makes Forte so special? He already performs like a 5-year veteran in the league and achieved more in one year than Cedric Benson did in his entire career. No not meaning production, but all around capabilities from running, catching and perhaps most importantly blocking/blitz pick up. Forte’s unique abilities were part of what was high-lighted by the experts on the NFL network.

The first video high-lite came from the Carolina Panthers game, the play was a running play to Forte a simple sliding zone block isolation play. There was no pulling, no traps, just simple one on one blocking with one double team block by Olin Kreutz and Josh Beekman on the nose tackle. The play was designed to go the left with Forte making a read and plowing ahead into the the line where a possible open hole may be. But Forte didn’t do just a simple plow ahead into the line and this is what separates him from Benson. Where Benson may have taken what was directly in front of him, Forte took what the defense gave him. He took his time, patiently read how the defense flowed, found the soft spot in the line which turned into a solid hole to day light, stuck his foot in the ground and instantly accelerated to the second level.

This play high-lites the most important aspect of Forte’s running ability, it’s not his size, it’s not his speed, it’s his VISION to the hole. Waiting and then exploding through the best hole he sees in front of him. While the defense flowed to the blocking scheme, they in turn were caught up in the wash and put in a over pursuing angle.

What made the play happen from a blocking standpoint was the brush or chip block made by Roberto Garza on the left DT. Garza simply drives up the field with his outside right shoulder with the drive block from John Tait, Garza then slides to the second level and eats up the outside LB opening up the gaping hole. Forte who takes the hand off to the left slides back right following the block by Garza and is immediately into the secondary. The play is both well blocked and well read by Forte for a solid gain. Where as Forte could have gone the direction of strength where the O-Line was lined up strong side blocking, he cut it back based on the alignments of the LBs were were shift towards the strong side of the defense.

From there once Forte is in the second level and into the third level he rarely is tackles by the first open field defender. He doesn’t do a Barry Sanders wiggle, but he sets up enough of a juke that the safety can’t tackle his square and typically falls off to the side.

The second play high-lighted by the NFL network experts is how Forte has an excellent sense of timing in setting up a screen play. He makes the lineman think it’s a sure fire passing play and he’s attacking the defensive end for a chip block. Instead he slides behind the defender, sets up the screen blockers and then utilizes those blockers to maximum effectiveness. The play action screen is set up by a nice long drive side by John St Clair that has the DE completely out of position thus opening up the lane for Forte. The play-action motion isn’t what is the most effective aspect of this play because the LBs read it well and drop back into a soft middle zone. But that’s not the intent of this play, the purpose is to make them think deep play action pass get a drive up the field by the DEs, get the LBs into their zone coverage thus letting the O-Lineman be at the second level instantly to take on the ‘backers. While some screen plays may use the play action to get the LBs to cheat up, this play is set up by the deliberately long motion of the QB on a fake hand off.

This play against the Tampa Buccaneers exposes us again to Forte’s greatest strength, not his size, not his speed but his vision to the hole and making that one cut acceleration. Whereas fans all to often focus in on a RBs height and weight, his 40-yard dash time, and college stats. They overlook the important aspect of vision to the hole, making the one cut and accelerating to day light. NFL defenses are superb at filling gaps, maintaining gap discipline to slow down a running game to a mere 3 yards per carry. The special backs see the flow, make their own pre-snap reads on the alignment of the defense and attack the defense accordingly.

The third play high-lighted is Forte split wide like a wide receiver in one on one coverage in the red-zone. Forte wins the one on one battle in front of the defender for the touchdown reception.

Forte’s production will likely grow as the Bears get a better and stronger group of run blockers in front of him. Players like Frank Omiyale who come from a run heavy attack like the Carolina Panthers understand the importance of solid fundamental run blocking and they love to get out and attack a defense with the run.

Same goes for a big massive young RT like Phil Loadholt that the Bears seem to be intensely focused on in much the same way they scouted Matt Forte. A big drive blocker who can swallow up multiple defenders just by his size alone. Driving into a defender allowing the guard to scrape and get to the second level gives Forte 4 more yards of day light.

The intent to do what it takes to make the Bears a more successful offense will start with the offensive line and Matt Forte. Continuing to develop the rushing attack will be even more important in Kyle Orton’s development. The good news is the Bears finally have a RB capable of keeping this offense dangerous and effective.

First Day Impressions of Mini-Camp

March 17, 2009

Reports in from Halas Hall has the Bears pretty excited to be back in camp. Though they only did team drills and seven on seven work today in no pads it’s to have the team focusing in on 2009 at this juncture.

Some of the talk via ESPN 1000 sports radio had bits from Rod Marinelli who is excited to be back out there as a positional coach. This is the area of expertise that Marinelli has and working with the D-Linemen and their technique is stuff you like to hear. Warren Sapp has given a lot of credit to Marinelli for making him the sure fire hall of famer that he is at the DT position. Given Tommie Harris’ level of talent hopefully he can develop him along the same line.

Marinelli talked about how excited he was to be out there and how much he loves football. To him football in general is just a wonderful thing and he looks forward to continuing to work with this group of guys. Having followed Marinelli’s career since his young days at Arizona State there is little doubt in my mind of his enthusiasm and intensity as a coach.

Talk from Marinelli also surrounded how much he loves coaching the D-Lineman. He has a great appreciation for those guys that do battle in the trenches and fight hard week in and week out. To put it simply perhaps no one better understands that the success of the defensive unit as a whole starts with the men up front.

Marinelli has a lot of talent to work with, guys that have had successful careers and guys just cutting their teeth in develop a successful career. Don’t underestimate the type of player DT Marcus Harrison is going to be for this defense. Although he better fits the 3-technique type of player in this scheme, Harrison could see more time with Dusty Dvoracek recovering from his triceps surgery.

Elsewhere on the field today the first reports came in regarding WR Earl Bennett. Bennett caught some balls and worked on some things with Kyle Orton. Not much happened though since it was a little breezy out today. Hester is out there as the self-proclaimed #1 receiver and seems determined to be THE player the Bears need out there. He’ll get every opportunity in mini-camp to prove just that.

Jay Cutler rumors also don’t appear to have effected Kyle Orton’s mentality about being the long term solution at QB. From the NFL Network Orton said “I think I’m going to do everything I can and work as hard as I can and be the guy that stabilizes it (the QB position). I don’ think that say I’m not going to be that guy, I think I am going to be that guy. I think this is my offense and I’m working as hard as I can to show everybody that it’s my job.”

Lovie Smith himself feels confident in Orton as the long term solution given how well he performed the first half of the season. The numbers back up Lovie’s assessment of Orton and given that the Bears will likely bring in a receiver on day one of the draft Orton will have every opportunity to play himself into a long term extension in the final year of his contract. The more weapons surrounding Orton the better off the offense and Orton will be. Orton should only build upon the early success he had in 2008 and will likely have a break out year which causes fans to forget about this Cutler crap.

Elsewhere with the news that John St. Clair is moving on to play with the Cleveland Browns second year man Cody Balough was getting the reps at first team RT. There could be movement on the free agent market to keep an eye on in the coming days with Orlando Pace, Levi Jones, Marvel Smith of three former Pro-Bowlers available in free agency. If the Bears don’t choose the free agent route they could move Frank Omiyale out to RT (he was running 2nd team LG today) or they could draft a solid prospect on day one. For the sake of mini-camp it will be Balough as the “starter”.

When asked if the Bears were still in the market for more offensive lineman Lovie’s answer was more direct in saying “It’s the off-season we keep all our options open.”

Those options could be in free agency or the draft, either way now that St. Clair is in fact gone, the Bears will be upgrading the OT position from last year.

WVU’s Pat White continues to prove he is a QB

March 13, 2009

West Virginia put on it’s pro-day yesterday with some 27 NFL teams in attendance to check out WR/QB prospect Pat White. Problem is White continues to shine as a QB and likely won’t be drafted as a WR. Thus proving his worth as a passer who just happens to be the most mobile of QBs available in the draft.

At the combine NFL scouts requested that White workout as a WR with the WR, White refused by said that by request he would be willing to run through WR drills at his pro-day. Well yesterday was that pro-day and after about 45 passes in his QB workout most of the NFL scouts left and none requested White run through receiver drills. White improved upon or met all of the accomplishments he showed at the combine. White’s stellar combine performance makes it even more likely an NFL team will take a shot at him as a QB.

Said one NFL assistant coach in attendance according to the NFL Network, “that at this point White throws the ball better than Michael Vick did coming out of college.” Vick as you recall was drafted number on overall by the Atlanta Falcons. While yet another scout simply said “Pat White is a quarterback.”

White measure just a hair over 6-foot-1 but ran the fastest time in the 40-yard dash among QBs at the combine. He also threw better than the much more heralded Mark Sanchez. Sanchez also has about half of the game experience that White has leading to a somewhat intriguing question as things move forward towards draft day. Sanchez is pegged as a sure fire first round QB, but could his lack of experience hurt him? Could Sanchez be hurt by a higher draft status and more pressure to come in and succeed right away thus hindering some of his development as a QB?

White could easily be in a better position to succeed because he won’t be looked upon to be a franchise QB on day one. He’ll be handed a clip board and some popcorn and told to watch from the sidelines and get comfy in the film room. Plus has another dimension that Sanchez lacks which also could help him succeed. White’s only pressure continues to be the pressure he puts on himself to prove he is worthy as a quarterback. The great part about self imposed pressure is you work harder to meet those expectations placed upon yourself.

So would the Bears consider a player like White? It remains to be seen what the Bears plan to do as the QB position. Caleb Hannie looked fine in the pre-season for an un-drafted free agent. Kyle Orton shined as the starter for the first seven games before his high ankle sprain hampered his consistency the rest of the way. Brett Basanez is simply a mini-camp/pre-season invitee who won’t have a roster spot. There is spotty veteran QB talent at best available, so what is the harm in looking at someone like Pat White in the later rounds? A Wildcat formation with Hester and White would scare the crap out of any NFL defensive coordinator.

I for one after hearing and seeing what White has done am not opposed to the idea. White was quite efficient and productive in college in a spread option offense. His career numbers are quite good coming out of college. As a starter his completion percentage is well over 65% and he has a career TD to INT number of 56 TDs to 23 INTs. White is impressive as an athlete and is worth a second look by Chicago Bear coaches and scouts.

Western Illinois LB blows up his Northwestern pro-day

March 13, 2009

Perhaps not much is known about a small school LB prospect from Western Illinois. The prospect will be known before to long and should get consideration for being drafted in the NFL after blowing up his pro-day workout. Jason Williams measured just over 6-foot-1 and 238-pounds and get this ran his 40-yard dash time in 4.48 and 4.51. He then proceeded to go and hit 39 inches on his vertical jump and nail a 10-feet 8-inch broad jump. To show that he’s a strength guy Williams pumped out 25 reps at 225-pounds not bad for a LB.

So the question then becomes can you take a flier on a kid who played his football at a small school? Williams’ college stats are impressive, 107 tackles as a senior, 16.5 tackles for a loss, eight sacks, four pass break ups and five forced fumbles proving that he brings the wood when he hits.

The main complaint scouts had at Williams’ pro-day was he ran his 40-yard dash in a hard rubberized surface inside on a basketball court. So they added a tenth of a second for the surface putting him in the 4.58 to 4.6 range…..okay that was at WIU. So what does Williams do for an encore? He attends Northwestern’s pro-day and follows it up with a 4.42 4.45 on a much slower field turf artificial surface.

Have your attention now? Good because if you love decent size, fantastic speed (speed better than just about all the safeties at the combine) and production you likely do take a gamble on a kid who already has his college degree. What do you have to lose? He’s smart, tough, productive and brings the wood. So what if he wasn’t invited to the NFL combine, had he been invited he would have embarrassed all of the kids from the defensive heavy SEC.

Every year kids like this fall through the cracks but given his local Chicago ties, (Bears scouts were in attendance) and the Bears need for a strong-side LB candidate I’m for drafting this kid late. Groom him on special teams where you can get the most out of his speed early and often and see where his ability takes him. He’ll be tutored by two of the best LBs in the game in Urlacher and Briggs so he’s worth the risk. If he does slip through the cracks and into free agency, hope that he loves Chicago and wants to stay home.