Posts Tagged ‘Brian Urlacher’

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September 13, 2009

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Defending Future Hall Of Famer Brian Urlacher

August 31, 2009

For some reason there’s a lot of talk going on in various Chicago Bear circles about trading Brian Urlacher, or complaining that he’s not a great player anymore or even a good player. So the talk gave me the notion to put finger tip to keyboard and defender Brian Urlacher’s play thus far in the pre-season. I admit is is hard to due given that Urlacher has looked progressively worse as the pre-season has wore on, but there’s a reason for everything.

I’ll start with the obvious reasons as to why Brian Urlacher is not the same player he once was. Brian Urlacher is 31-years-old now and has spent nine seasons being at the forefront of major collisions in the NFL. He’s also been the primary target time and again of just about every offensive coordinator in the league. Teams divise game plans to stop or slow this future hall of fame middle linebacker.

His speed which makes up most of his game and production as an NFL linebacker is not at the level it once was. However to be clear his speed is better than it was the last two seasons and that much has been evident in the plays Urlacher has been in on and the plays he has missed on in the case of Brandon Jacobs. He will never be the speedy play maker he once was, his age for a linebacker has taken it’s toll on that burst and speed and closing ability that we were so often shocked to see.

At 6-foot-4 258-pounds there really isn’t nor has there been in the last decade a player as fast or agile or quick as Brian Urlacher. He has made plays that most linebackers in this league simply cannot make. He can still make plays that a lot of linebackers in this league cannot and he will this season. Mark my words Brian Urlacher will play better and produce better than he has the last two seasons.

Will this production and play be at the level it was at his peak in 2005 and 2006? Probably not most assuredly he won’t be that player ever again. Given the injuries and where he is at this point in his career he won’t be the player we all remember and loved as part of the trifecta of great middle linebackers in the city of big shoulders.

With some of this said we need to clear up some of the myths surrounding Brian Urlacher and his style of play, much of it is frustrating and isn’t acceptable for a player of Urlacher’s size. This much is certain though even without these aspects Urlacher is still one of the most dominate players of his era.

Brian Urlacher has never been a down hill, attack the blocker, get off the block play maker type of a linebacker. Even with his size and strength this has never been his game. A lot of people appreciate Ray Lewis’ game for his ability to play down hill and get off blocks and his ability to seemingly deliver big hits on a consistent basis. This style of play is also what made Dick Butkus famous when he was in the league. Urlacher like Butkus is a player that has redefined the middle linebacker position. Both players were/are bigger and faster than most of the linebackers of their era. However the difference between Butkus and Urlacher is Butkus sought out physical contact and was purely a head hunter.

Dick Butkus was the most violent and most feared player in the history of the NFL. There likely will never be another player that plays with the same level of pure destruction that Butkus did. On the flip side of this though it also likely prolonged his NFL career in a way that Butkus’ play shortened his career. Dick Butkus retired with severe knee problems after only nine seasons in the NFL. Right now if Urlacher had the same length of career as the legendary blood and guts demon, this would be year one without Urlacher.

This is where Urlacher’s game receives the most criticism and deservedly so. Urlacher has always used his speed to make plays and he makes plays side line to side line better than any player of this era. He’s never been a gap filling linebacker that attacks down hill and lives for collisions. He most certainly would like to avoid collisions at all costs. Even with his size Urlacher has never full utilized it to his own advantage.

What makes this stand out even more is the smaller stature of his teammate Lance Briggs who attacks and sheds blockers better than Urlacher has. Briggs’ game is more of the attack the gap and get off the blocker well to make a tackle that most fans desire to see from Urlacher. Briggs’ ability and more down hill collision style of play has magnified Urlacher’s short comings in this area. This in turn has led to a lot of the misunderstanding about Urlacher’s style of play and what has made him successful in his NFL career.

Urlacher’s closing burst is what makes him one of the best defenders of his era. Not a lot of players were able to get the corner on him, he usually out ran most oncoming blockers to the gap or hole he was attacking. Those days are mostly gone though and they have been replaced by a slightly slower and smarter player.

While Urlacher is not as fast as he once was nor as violent as Dick Butkus, what he is is still a very good linebacker. There has been as much evidence in this throughout camp and in the pre-season. Yes he looked really bad against the Giants the way Brandon Jacobs ran him over or blasted past him on three or more plays. However there is not a linebacker in the NFL that can square up high on Brandon Jacobs one on one and make that tackle. There are not a lot of defensive tackles that can square up and take on the equally imposing 6-foot-4 260-pound-plus Jacobs in the open field.

I do believe though that Brian Urlacher will still be a part of this defense for a few more years and that if he can still perform at a level that is higher than most of the players in the league, he should be appreciated for that. While there will be chances to criticize him for his game and talk about Jay Cutler now being the face of the franchise, the facts remain the same, Urlacher is still a player. He still can play at a high enough level that will make this team better with him, and worse off without him.

Now fully healthy Urlacher will return to a level of play that more closely resembles the player he once was. Will he ever again be the NFL defensive player of the year? Likely not, but he will be a player that makes a difference and does everything he can to make this team better. He will also do everything he can fo fulfill the one remaining empty spot he has on his hall of fame resume, win a Super Bowl title.

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Bears vs. Giants Film Review

August 25, 2009

In keeping with the weekly tradition I’m wrapping up the pre-season game from the weekend with a film session. We’re going to go over the tape (hopefully in a smaller more readable format this time) and do our best to evaluate the game in a fair and balanced manner.

The starters are the usual, Cutler, Forte, Bennett, Hester, McKie, Olsen, on the line it’s Pace, Omiyale, Kreutz, Garza and Williams. The T.V. got something wrong when they had Beekman starting at the right guard spot. Garza started at RG and Omiyale at left guard. Beekman has yet to make a career start at right guard nor do I ever foresee him making such a start.

The Bears receive the opening kick off and Cutler brings them out starting at the 24-yard line.

First Drive

Frank Omiyale badly misses a block and Forte is stopped for no gain on the play. Second play run blitz, Forte shows quick feet gets to the outside and makes something out of what should have been nothing. Third and eight the Giants blitz and bring more than the Bears can block, Forte makes his block and Cutler RIFLES IT, a play that Bears fans are not used to seeing to Earl Bennett between two defenders. Hester with a nice block Bears gain 27 on the pass play. Nice bit of run after the catch by Bennett as well.

Hester gain of 10, Olsen split wide catch and a run off a down the line pass. Pace struggles with some run blocking Forte makes some moves and gains positive yards. Omiyale misses his second block of the game on a run play. Olsen drops a pass after Forte empties the back field. Pass blocking has been good to this point, third and long, pass wide of Hester. Willliams held his ground pretty well in pass protection, but did get set up late in the rush on an inside move.

Negatives two missed blocks by Omiyale on the opening drive. He seems to be getting beat pretty consistently in run blocking. This would be why Beekman should be the starter since he performed at a higher level throughout camp. This drive could have stalled a lot earlier based on Omiyale’s run blocking. Only the big catch by Bennett, saved this drive from no points. Disappointing opening series for Frank Omiyale who the Bears paid a lot of money to come in and be the starter at LG.

Result is a field goal, drive may not have stalled were it not for Omiyale’s poor run blocking.

Bears first drive on defense with the usual starters. Harris, Adams, Brown, O-Gun. Urlacher, Briggs, Tiniosamoa, Trumaine McBride, Vasher, Payne and Afalava. Bears do their typical blitz look that they ran a lot last year, Quick drop by Manning completed pass to Steve Smith. Tommie Harris double-teamed on the play, with Manning out of the shot gun.

Bears again with their blitz look from the linebackers, double team on Harris to a scrape to the linebackers, Giants run at Tommie Harris. Jacobs breaks a lot of tackles on third and two including bowling through Urlacher and gains a first down. Tommie Harris got good penetration on the play, Jacobs slipped to the other gap where Urlacher should have made the play. If Urlacher makes this tackle the drive stalls right here.

Good jump by Alex Brown another good run by Jacobs up the middle, Tommie Harris again getting good penetration to disrupt things. Jacobs bounces it to a hole where Harris was, and gains some yards. Overall Harris looks explosive and disruptive though the holes he’s choosing aren’t the right ones. Jacobs is making the Bears look bad but he’s the biggest running back in the NFL, he makes everyone look bad.

Defensive line does a good job thommie Harris looks ineffective because the guard gets a way with a hold to slow him down and get a better lock on him. The rest of the pass rush gets some pressure, Manning steps up and fires a dart that’s beautifully broken up by Kevin Payne. Payne rolled his hips perfectly into the receiver’s route and breaks it up.

Result is a punt

Second Drive

Fake toss, Cutler rolls out and fires a completion to Earl Bennett, Bennett does a great job of shielding the ball from the defender while making the catch. Bears go no-huddle hurry up offense, Cutler looks things over audibles to Forte who springs forth for his first big run of the game. Excellent audible call well communicated by Cutler to the entire offense and Forte does the rest. Good run blocking by everyone, well executed scrape block and then getting to the second level by Omiyale. Next run is a bad one, no real blocking up front and Forte is dropped for a loss.

Cutler out of the shot gun, Bears in a two TE set, Olsen split wide, a little pressure but Cutler makes another great throw to Olsen. Cutler being able to see down the field over his lineman and the collapsing pocket in front of him makes this play possible. Had this been Rex Grossman back there, it would have likely been picked or he would have been sacked for not being able to see his receiver and make the throw.

Near perfect blocking up front on Forte’s touchdown run. This play is superbly executed all the way around and it makes Forte’s job ridiculously easy. Lots of emphasis on the extremely good run blocking on this play for the Bears.

Second defensive drive

Two complete passes to start this drive. First pass has a good inside move pass rush that gets a hit on the QB by Alex Brown. Superb pass rush here by Brown, it really looks like he’s coming on. Next pass Tommie Harris is double teamed and it’s a quick out pass to the receiver.

Bears do a good job of string out this run play again, but Jacobs makes something out of nothing the only way he can. He absolutely trucks through another big hit without a wrap up by Urlacher. Urlacher is getting there but as usual he’s having trouble against big power backs. Urlacher does show great pursuit on the play and if it wasn’t Brandon Jacobs making this run the tackle would have been made.

The next run Idonije gets blown up at the point of attack, but does a good job of driving wide to string the play out. Brown gets good back side pressure and Jacobs picks through the linebackers to make a gain out of nothing. Again great run defense by the Bears here overall, just frustrating that they have to attempt to tackle the biggest RB in the NFL so he makes EVERYONE look foolish.

Next run play is good technique and drive up front by the defensive line. They attack their gaps well and why not making plays in the backfield give the linebackers ample room to roam and attack and make plays. Urlacher and Tiniosamoa attack Jacobs high and low and drop him quick. Two linebackers combining to make a tackle as Jacobs enters the hole just shows good gap control by the D-Line.

Next play is a quick pass to Ahmad Bradshaw, good pressure by the D-Line it’s just a quick pass play that doesn’t give them time to get to Manning. Only a gain of three and Briggs swoops in and makes a solid tackle. Third and 11 play Alex Brown just uses a speed rush past the LT and swipes at the ball. Fumble on the play is recovered by the Giants, but just an excellent pass rush by Alex Brown on a third and long. Good twist between O-Gun and Tommie Harris, springs O-Gun free as well. He gets a hit on Eli after Brown knocks the ball loose. Superb pass pressure all the way around here. Results in a punt.

Bears’ third offensive drive

Chris Williams struggles a bit in run blocking, well executed play everywhere else but the play doesn’t really go anywhere. Next play is the play fake roll out where Cutler shows off his sick arm strength by launching the ball to a wide open Devin Hester. Hester misjudges the ball and it’s incomplete. Next play is a good pass play, that could go complete were it not for the absolute mugging of Earl Bennett. They’re used to people in New York so I guess this shouldn’t come as a surprise. I hate to see drives kept alive by penalties, but when it’s this obvious of a call you just laugh at the defender.

More good pass protection for Cutler on a slant, Bennett should run the perfect route or shield the defender who breaks up the pass. Bennett could have been more effective in this route than sort of just nonchalantly doing what he did. Forte with a nice catch out of the backfield, he was wide open on the play so Cutler made the right throw in just getting the ball to him.

Cutler on a roll out play, comes back to Hester who lays a block on his side of the field to which the roll out was going. Hester slips into the open after the block and makes the first down grab. Forte picks his way for a gun of four off of an average run play. Some good blocking but some good pursuit by the Giants.

Cutler feels some pressure on the next play in which the Giants blitz, overall the pass protection is good. Orlando Pace particularly gets a good set, the blitz was just good. Greg Olsen gets jammed up at the line of scrimmage. He let the defender get up deep into him it was almost as if it was a block. Olsen was trying to get into his pass route and never did. Disappointing on this play to see Olsen not get into his route and not beat the jam. A lot of times last year this is what took him out of games.

Cutler from the shot gun out of an empty backfield. He sees the wide open middle of the field steps up and with some speed gets 12-yards on the play. Great pass protection on the next play Cutler easily sets his feet and makes a superb throw to Aromashadu. The 38-yard gain on the pass play is well-executed and is a great catch by Aromashadu.

Well execute play fake Cutler his a wide open Desmond Clark for the touchdown. Just good execution on this drive and there is joy in the City of Big Shoulders.

Bears on defense

Probably the worse play of the game here for the Bears. The play-action fake by Manning stops a run blitz and Manning hits a wide open Steve Smith for a big gain in the middle of the zone.

Again good solid run defense at the point of attack. The D-Line holds their gaps well, keeps their ground, Jacobs makes something out of nothing but not for much of a gain here. Al Afalava coming up into the box to make a tackle on Jacobs on this play for a gain of four. Good to see the rookie step up and make a tackle low on the big man. Good blitz on this play, Manning is pressured and throws an intentional grounding ball away. Good execution on the blitz here sets up this play.

A great rush by Adewale Ogunleye on this play he sets up the tackle with a strong move to the outside but then slides back and sacks Manning. Another double team on Tommie Harris on this play. The result is another forced punt by the defense.

Defense Dominates as the Bears Win 17-3

August 22, 2009

The Chicago bears looked like they were in dominant mid-season form. The offense looked as good as it did in the early stages of 2006 when the Bears made their Super Bowl run. Nearly 300-yards of total offense, a 92-yard touchdown scoring drive, big runs from Matt Forte including a big touchdown run. Complete destruction of a Giants team that is a Super Bowl contender out of the NFC.

Yes we need to reel it in and realize it’s only the pre-season but the flashes of excellence are there by the starters. Both offensively and defensively the Bears stepped up and made plays. Their execution was top notch with only a few shaky plays here and there in what was overall something that made the Bears look like a Super Bowl contender.

If there was a way for the Bears to play like this against for 18-games this team will not lose a lot of games. Sure they had some trouble tackling the big Brandon Jacobs, but they swarmed to the football and stopped the Giants cold.

Some brief criticisms would be Devin Hester misjudging a deep pass, one questionable pass by Cutler on a slant and Frank Omiyale missing a major block on a linebacker that led to a run only gaining one yard.

On the flip side Hester did make plays, Cutler made great throws and was able to use his athleticism to roll out and make throws and Omiyale made a big block later on that sprung Forte for a touchdown. On defense Urlacher had trouble squaring up on Brandon Jacobs, but later dropped him for a loss once he got low on him. Kevin Payne made a huge pass break up on a third and long and pressure come consistenly from the defensive line. Alex Brown caused a fumble, and Adewale Ogunleye got a sack.

If this is a sign of things to come the Windy City will be buzzing with excitement well into January 2010.

The second half was more of the same for the Chicago Bears, at least on defense. The offense didn’t get anymore points on the board but they did play well. Caleb Hanie solidified himself as the backup to Jay Cutler.

The defense all the way around dominated the New York Giants getting consistent pressure on their QBs. Whether it was Mark Anderson or Henry Melton the Bears got after the QB. If you were to point to an example of Rod Marinelli’s influence it would be tonight in this game for four quarters the line played and played hard.

Dusty Dvoracek stood out and made plays in a game he likely needs to stake his spot on the roster and did as much playing through to the whistle on one sack he made. There was just a mentality on the defensive line that had been lacking for the past two seasons that is back in full effect now.

The defense finished with five sacks on the night, but that doesn’t even begin to cover the amount of carnarge the “rushmen” caused in the backfield. Time after time Giants QBs had lineman in their face and were unable to set their feet or make even a good throw to their receivers. Knockdowns, pressure, QBs with happy feet it was just an all around exciting game.

Overall this is the type of game the fans of the Monsters of the Midway have been waiting to see, and must be happy to witness. Optimism will only get stronger after tonight as the Bears march forward to what will hopefully be a great 2009 season.

Bears versus Bills Game Review Film Session 1st Quarter

August 17, 2009

Well it’s time to look at the Bears versus Bills game a little bit differently than a lot of people do. Sorta like the coaches do, but I’m no where near the level of an NFL coach. We’re going to go back and look at the tape and diagnose positive things from this game and negative things from this game. Sizing up how things went and what needs to be improved upon.

I’m going to try and go over each position and point out things that I like and things that I don’t like. I think I’ll have a much better feel for the game after I re-watch it and learn more from watching it the second time around. There’s nothing like modern technology to help make you a smarter football fan.

Anyway as we all know the Bears started their opening drive from the 40-yard line after the kickoff went out of bounds. I’m going to break down the first series and each series there after on defense as well. I’m going to try and dive into the intricacies of how each series went. What went well what didn’t go so well.

By no means am I an expert, I simply have a big mouth and a big opinion and a strong desire to watch and learn and become a better and smarter football fan. I’m going to do my best to be fair and balanced in my approach to the film session, and we’ll see what happens. By no means is this the end all be all, but I hope to generate more discussion and even more insightful debate among Bears fans. Hopefully like me everyone will be a little more football savvy after going through this.

The first series with a starting line up of QB Cutler, RB Jones, TE Clark, TE Davis, WR Bennett, WR Hester, OT Pace, LG Omiyale, Center Kreutz, RG Garza, RT Williams.

The Bears’ first offensive play is a three wide set with Desmond Clark lined up in the slot, but it’s twin TE formation out of the single back so it has the flexibility of run or pass. I love the flexibility of the twin TE set because if both TEs can block and catch really well, it gives you a lot of options and causes a lot of mismatches. Especially since most FBs now a days can’t run the ball very well so they’re just a blocker anyway and usually aren’t as good of a receiver as your TE. There’s a lot more versatility with this set so it’s a good offensive set for the Bears to run. I know I’m blabbering on and perhaps oversimplifying the two TE set, but I am doing this because I don’t think Ron Turner gets enough credit as an OC. This little two TE set is one example where Turner has a distinct advantage in personnel IMO.

First Offensive Series

So we see Cutler take a five step drop and rifle a pass to Devin Hester on a little button hook pattern. Cutler didn’t make any reads on the pattern he just set and fired. The play seemed to take a while to develop so it only went for a gain of two yards. The blitz came from the safety spot and Kevin Jones picked it up nicely and the protection was good.

Second play is a two back formation off-set I with McKie in the backfield, it’s a nice call a screen to Kevin Jones that goes for a gain of seven. If it’s the regular season I’d say it’s a little early in your game plan to be calling a screen, but it was effective in it’s execution. Good call by Turner here.

Third play three wide set pass is behind Hester it really looks like there was a route communication problem on this play.

Fourth down Bears punt and Maynard booms one and pins the Bills deep inside at their own five yard line.

First Defensive Series

The Bears come out with DE Anderson, NT Adams, DT Idonije, DE Brown, WILL Briggs, MIKE Urlacher, SAM Tiniosamoa, CB Vasher, CB McBride SS Afalava, FS Payne.

Traditional 4-3 look with the LBs shifted to the weak side of the formation, CBs up in press coverage. Lynch takes a counter hand off squirts through the right side of the line for a gain of six on the play. The success of this play was the counter-motion of it, the line collapsed down and there was a big hole on the right side. Mark Anderson came down to hard rather than maintaining his gap. Tackle by Afalava on the play he came up good in run support. He was a little hesitant which was why he didn’t make the tackle quicker. Still a good overall tackle and read by Afalava.

Second down and four, Bills try to run left with a simple off-tackle play and Alex Brown gets penetration up the field and into which causes havoc. The linebackers come into clean it up barely a gain of a yard if not a loss on the play.

Third down and three is the disaster play by Vasher that every has been mad about from the get go. The key to this play is the look the Bears give on a third and relatively short. The Bills have a three WR set with Edwards working out of the shot gun. The Bears are in a Cover-1, with a blitz fake on by Afalava who takes the TE in coverage man to man. Payne back deep in center field coverage. The nickel package here with a Cover-1 is a bad defensive call. Payne should maybe get over to defend the ball better, but for that to happen he has to make the perfect read. The Bears are up in press coverage on this third and short, but with the Bills working out of the shot-gun the read should be to move some players out of press coverage. Vasher bites on an out and up and gets burned by Lee Evans. It’s a good route by Evans, poor defense by Vasher but a good call on the out and up. Vasher bites on the route that would get Buffalo the first down, which is a good percentage read for him to make. However his poor fundamentals lead to the big gain on this particular play.

The pass rush is decent, but there isn’t a lot of time for it to get going because it’s out of the shot gun and Edwards makes one read and one throw. This eliminates the time for the pass rush to work.

First down run at Alex Brown out of a hurry up offense, doesn’t give the Bears much time to substitute. Run for a gain of five but the defensive pursuit was pretty good. No huddle play again, single back three WR set by Buffalo. Second down run towards the weak side again, trying to go at Lance Briggs. Briggs slips the blockers comes in and makes one of those tackles that makes you proud he’s a Bear. He has done really well in run support his entire career and this is just another example.

Third and six the Bears go with the SAM lined up on the line and fake a blitz, Corey Graham brings the blitz, the pass rush overall is good, with Graham flushing Edwards from pocket to his right. Edwards makes a dump off to the RB and Afalava comes up and makes a solid tackle short of the first down.

Fourth down is a punt for a fair catch.

Second offensive series

Bears line up in a straight I-formation hand off up the gut through the one hole, Jones cuts back at the line through an opening and makes a solid gain out of the play. Frank Omiyale looked lost on this, he missed his block so that’s why Jones had to make the cut back. On the flip side Omiyale gets down field and does make a block rather than quitting on the play. Sure he missed his initial block but it was good hustle to see him get to the next level after missing that block.

The Bears line up with a single back two TE formation, Bills up in strong press coverage eight men in the box expecting run all the way. Bears go strong protection, with only three options on the pass patterns. Hester runs a great route a deep hook play. Excellent pass and catch between Cutler and Hester, that shows a good level of chemistry between these two.

First and ten Bills come with a blitz that is picked up the pass protection is there. Cutler tries to float one out there to Hester but he’s swallowed up in double coverage. A better read may have been a check down or something with a higher percentage of success written on it. Going to Hester one too many times, is my call here. But if you want to take a positive look at it the Bears want to give Hester as many chances to make plays as he can. The more chances he gets the more complete and better he’ll become. Better to work on this in the pre-season. If this were a real game I’d be frustrated they’re singling in on Hester so much for their throws.

The next play is the other play that has caused nightmares and PTSD not to mention media stories. The INT where Cutler goes to Hester yet again. Cutler really sits on this play to long and the pressure gets to him because of him sitting on the play too long. He makes an awkward throw as he’s stepping up in the pocket trusting his arm strength to get the ball to Hester. Hester isn’t a jump ball kind of guy and he doesn’t even try to make the play because the ball is severely under thrown in the first place. Hester could have done more to try and make some sort of play on the ball whether it was defensive or otherwise. Both players are at fault here, but the story has been Cutler shoveling the blame onto Hester. I don’t think it was shoveling the blame so much as a bit of coaching and encouragement for him to say he needs to make a play on the ball.

First down and ten for the Bills and the Bears drop into a zone and run a stunt with Anthony Adams, Idonije gets solid pressure up the middle but gets pushed down from behind. The effort to get to the QB is there on this play and it forces Edwards to throw to the only option he has, a back out of the formation. Trumaine McBride makes a nice tackle on this play. No gain, on the play. Three seconds to throw the ball is about average for a QB.

Second down Corey Graham on the blitz, nice sack for Corey Graham. The D-Line gets good movement in the pocket which causes this blitz to be successful. The back makes the wrong read trying to help with the four man front and Graham comes free. Excellent call, made successful by a solid effort from the DTs to get into the backfield. Idonije again with good pressure, Bears have everything down the field covered. It’s another check down to Marshawn Lynch who gains eight after breaking a tackle by Trumaine McBride. The Bears went with a nice zone defense got adequate pressure which made the defense work.

Third offensive series

A run to Kevin Jones to the right side. Good gap defense by Buffalo Bears manage just four yards. A break down in the blocking on the left side not sure if it was Omiyale, Pace or Kreutz, but it was ugly. Part of it was the CB up in the box shot the gap hard and made Jones stop and stutter. From there it was just garbage and a broken down run play. Third down is the next ugly play Cutler. Out of the shot gun three wide he sorta hesitates when he sets to make his throw. The hesitation lets the DB really get into position to make the play. From there it’s almost picked off, you wish Cutler would have just trusted his read the first time rather than hitched it just enough to give the DB a chance to make a break on the ball.

The fourth down play is a muffed punt that the Bears recover. Primarily because their punt coverage is so good and always so well executed. A tip of the hat to Dave Toub here once again.

Kevin Schaeffer checks in at LT in place of Orlando Pace.

First and ten and what a pass and catch between Cutler and Desmond Clark. This is why it’s great to have a two TE option because Clark can still get down the field, get open and catch the ball. What a nice catch in classic Clark fashion, just an all-around great call here. Good pass protection on the whole and Clark runs a good route and it’s just a devastating play. First down again, Cutler with a quick out to Earl Bennett, good pass protection. Bears wanna get Cutler in a rhythm so they do so by throwing the ball around. Jones with nowhere to go up the middle stopped up the run play. Olin Kreutz just got man handled on the play and with the DT sliding down into Jones’ path it stuffed what was an otherwise good running play. Kreutz just got man handled at the point of attack and it just threw off the entire run play. They took a second shot of the play from behind the Bills in back from the end zone and you can clearly see Kreutz getting washed right into the play.

Third and three from the six Bears call a time out just as Cutler was going to throw a slant that looked like it might have been caught for the touchdown. Although it was thrown slightly behind Brandon Rideau so there is no guarantee that he would have made the catch. The next play is a throw into double coverage, Cutler’s gunslinger mentality evident on this one. Trying to squeeze it into Hester where the ball couldn’t go, incomplete pass fourth down Robbie Gould chip shot field goal.

Third defensive series

Bears come with an all-out blitz and it’s a quick slant to Lee Evans, no press coverage, Urlacher just missed getting a hand into the throwing lane.

Next play I don’t get to see because the production is slow to get back to it. It’s a run play that gets snowed under after about two yards. Next play is a quick hitch to the WR for a small gain. Bears play off in coverage which is why the quick hitch works well.

First and ten on a pitch to the ‘back the Bears get good pursuit and Al Afalava just misses another tackle. He slows up the back though and the back side pursuit catches up and finishes up the play. Good pursuit to the football here.

Another short pass play with the Bears in Cover-3. A stop route right in front of the CB that goes for another first down. Bears play off, Bills dink and dunk which is the story of the game to this point.

This is the play that Urlacher makes on first down here. An off-tackle play Urlacher reads perfectly storms through the tap and makes the tackle. In classic Urlacher fashion he’s moving so fast the O-Lineman doesn’t have time to block him. Read and react, make the play great stuff from number 54.

Second and nine Anderson gets pressure off the edge, but it’s a little late getting there. Edwards makes another short quick throw that BARELY gets to the TE. The rhythm of this play was clearly thrown off by the pressure Anderson applied. He cleanly beat his man on the left side. Just a speed rush to the outside by Anderson throws off the timing of the play.

The Bills going with a lot of hurry up offense here trying to wear down the Bears, trying to exploit a mismatch. To this point it hasn’t really happened as the Bears still lead 3-0. Brown gets a little bit of a pressure, everything covered down the field, another dump off to the back. He makes a few tacklers miss and storms his way forward for a gain he never should have gotten. Good pursuit by the defense, but horrible tackling. This play should have been stopped right where the ball was caught.

The play where every fan in Chicago was screaming at the T.V. The Mark Anderson play where he collapsed down so hard on the line of scrimmage on fourth and one. Kept absolutely no contain, good naked boot leg play for Edwards. Anderson looks like a dip shit on this play. Another pass no pressure on the QB here although it’s yet another stop route by the WR. The Bears should by now do a better job of jumping this route, but by now it’s a bunch of roster slobs out there in coverage anyway. Yes the starters along the front seven are still mostly out there but the back ups are in more in the secondary at this point.

First and goal, Freddie Jackson with the run towards the four hole and he’s stuck and dropped by Afalava. What a read and a superb tackle by this kid. Completely as advertised nothing critical to say about him to this point. He’s showing why he’s moving up the depth chart in such a hurry and why he should start. Second and goal empty backfield for Buffalo, out of the shot gun. Bears in zone coverage, outstanding pass rush here, Edwards is flushed from the pocket here on second and goal right into the waiting arms of Alex Brown. A clutch pass rush here by Alex Brown who gets a solid pass rush inside, and then Idonije’s pass rush up the middle gets Edwards moving right back into Brown. The pass rush by Brown did this as well as a good rush from Idonije.

Bills run the ball on third and goal from the 14 yard line and the Bears stuff it up. Field goal attempt is good just into the second quarter. We’ll finish the second quarter later in another blog.

Absurd Level of Criticism After Bears Lose to Bills

August 17, 2009

The reasons why I chose to start this blog came into full view after the Bears’ pre-season loss to the Buffalo Bills on Saturday. The media, and some members of the fan base have a major problem when it comes to watching football games and have a short memory when it comes to watching a game. People tend to focus on the negative and completely gloss over the positive.

So I have to come in here with my platform and add my knowledge and analyze the facts and try to make those as clear as possible for Bears fans and Chicago media types alike. You won’t often get a fair and balanced approach and the media usually likes to stir up crap when nothing exists.

Example would be the Urlacher Cutler story on the first day of camp to the now Jay Cutler putting the blame on Devin Hester for not making a play on the INT that happened in front of him. The media especially in Chicago like to make mountains out of mole hills. We have a mountain and molehill situation right now after this loss.

While the Bears didn’t play a perfect game versus the Bills, it’s important to note a few things.

1) The Bills started practice a week before the Bears did

2) This was the Bills’ second pre-season game

3) The Bears were without three of four starters in the secondary

4) Struggles in the secondary were expected even before Trent Edwards complete 10 of 10 passes, most of the dump off variety.

To hammer home some of my points with the non-believers and the negative nancys already out there, I’ll back up my points.

Trent Edwards’ 10 pass completions out of 10 attempts performance that was good for 79 yards in the game. Edwards had a completion to Lee Evans for 36 yards. Take away Nathan Vasher getting burned, and say it’s 9 out of 9 for 43 yards. Nine completions at 43 yards is an average of slightly less than five yards per completion. There is why Edwards was so accurate in his throws and why it looked like the Bears were getting blitzed via the pass the same way as last year. If Edwards had only completed nine out of nine for 43 yards I don’t think everyone would be as upset as they are now.

Another point of focus, the fourth quarter when the Bills won the game by scoring two touchdowns in the fourth quarter against the Bears’ scrub defense. Hamdan and Fitzpatrick were a combined 17 out of 24 the previous week against the Tennessee Titans. Against the Bears the pair combined for 18 out of 28 and in both games the Bills made their run in the fourth quarter.

Now would a Bears fan look at that game and that performance by the Titans and level the same amount of criticism towards the Titans? Most certainly not because the Titans have always had a consistently good defense and they get a golden ticket pass go card the old “it’s just the pre-season” excuse.

What we do know by looking through just the stats is that the Bears’ defense did very well against the Bills. Trent Edwards completed many passes of the dink and dunk variety, through a pretty good pass rush. A pass rush the Bears didn’t mount much of last year was evident in this game. The Alex Brown sack came from a great collapse the pocket rush from Israel Idonije up the middle. The move forced Edwards to step to his left right into the waiting arms of Alex Brown. The intensity level of the defensive line was also on another level. Last year the line looked lackadaisical and almost like it didn’t care. The motivation to get a rush and to be aggressive wasn’t there.

Now you can tell that there is Marinelli’s intensity there. From Anthony Adams to rookie Jarron Gilbert and Dusty Dvoracek in between, the line is ready to rock and get pressure.

Also we saw Brian Urlacher shoot a gap and make a tackle the way Urlacher used to. He was also pretty aggressive in coverage as well.

The player of the game on defense was likely Al Afalava. The rookie stepped up early and often in the game and made four tackles overall. His astute instincts and aggressive tackling style looked reminiscent of Mike Brown. All positive signs the direction the defense is heading in for 2009.

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

Chicago Bears Training Camp Report: Day 4

August 4, 2009

The fourth day of training camp provided a glimpse into what the Bears can expect with Jay Cutler behind center. Yes there was the inconsistency that a lot of people talked about, but that comes with the territory. But where Cutler shown through the most brightly was in the two-minute offensive drill that closed out practice. This is where QBs earn their money and where they need to be at their best to help teams win. All the great QBs of all-time rise up and take the game over and win it on any stage even the grandest stage of them all the Super Bowl.

We’re all familiar with Joe Montana’s drive in the 1988 Super Bowl where he drove the 49ers down in the final minutes and won the game with a touchdown pass to John Taylor. Montana was a two-minute drive king as were other greats like John Elway, Dan Marino, and even one not so great QB Jake Plummer was pretty clutch in crunch time (My ASU bias aside).

This is what the Bears can expect to see from Cutler sharp crisp passes that come like they’re fired out of a cannon. On target in between tight spaces, when there is an opening there will be no hesitation because the gun slinger that Cutler is will pull the trigger. As cliche as it sounds it’s precisely what the Bears need someone who can make plays in the two minute drive. While the Bears have seen this before with some of Kyle Orton’s success last year and Brian Griese’s success the year before against the Eagles, Bears fans want that consistency. They want a QB to step up and win games for them when the defense has a bad day. They want a commanding presence in the huddle that is going to get the job done in the face of adversity. This is what Cutler represents and what he showed in the two-minute offense.

The obvious exception is it comes in the fact that is was only during practice. Full pads practice yes, but when it will matter most is during the final six games of the season where the playoff pairings are most often decided.

While I may sound a bit over dramatic in my assessment given that it was ONLY fall camp it is a good sign that Cutler is starting to figure out the offense enough to run the two minute offense. Again I preach that yes it matters most that Cutler is successful when it matters in a game, I recognize that. However you want to see your QB picking up the complexities of a new offense quickly and to be able to run the offense without a huddle and under pressure. That is what the two-minute offensive drill is all about. Being able to make mistakes and then correct them, finding out that you didn’t know as much as you thought and being able to add to your tool box. The good news is Cutler knows enough to be successful at this point of training camp. This is what you hope for right now, that he can run the two-minute drill confidently and with a sense of charge. Cutler did that and we’ll see what happens going forward.

On the other side of the ball Brian Urlacher is starting to look like his old self. He’s healthy and a year removed from the neck surgery that slowed him throughout most of ’08. Urlacher is starting to make plays in the open field in zone coverage and is still fully in charge of the defense. Urlacher making plays and reverting to the form you come to expect from him is what all Bears fans want to see. He is in year 10 so you may not see the Urlacher that was on the same level as the defensive player of the year he was. But what you will get is someone capable of leading a revamped defense that can attack and make plays in coverage and from side line to side line. There are those signs that Urlacher is in better health now and can play at a high level.

Elsewhere on defense Tommie Harris is participating for the most part. While he’s not a full participant all of the time, he is a full participant MOST of the time. The Bears are obviously going to bring him along slowly much the same way they’re bringing along Matt Forte right now, but the good news is Harris is out there. He is making plays and he is being disruptive in the three-technique slot. He is not perfect and out there all the time, but there are more positive signs coming from Harris’ participation than there has been in the past. He is more healthy and he is in there practicing which is good news. While yes he may not be doing all the things the Windy City Nation is expecting, he is out there and playing. Some credit for Harris’ attendance is due, and he gets it from me in this case. Is it fair to slam on the Bears for bringing Matt Forte along slowly right now after his injury? No so it’s not fair to slam Tommie Harris who is doing more than he has in the past.

Also on defense the play of Jarron Gilbert is continuing to stand out. Gilbert right now is settling in at the three-technique DT spot in the Cover-2. The most important aspect that Gilbert is just the right type of player to get in and play the three-technique. He is naturally big, explosive and fast, he gets off the ball and attacks the gap. He has knifed through plenty of times and made plays behind the line of scrimmage. Showing the he can be the backup behind Tommie Harris this season and possibly be successful given the Bears rotate their DTs so often. Gilbert’s play is a great sign for the defense as the more defensive lineman the Bears have that can make plays behind the line of scrimmage the better it will be for them on defense as a whole.

Elsewhere Zack Bowman still is on top of his game making plays and being aggressive. There was a couple plays where he may have been flagged for interference, but you want to see that out of your CBs. Aggressiveness in coverage and in trying to make plays on the ball. Yes of course there will be times where you may get frustrated with a CB for making a penalty. But you prefer to have a CB who is aggressive first and foremost and make plays.

On the injury front Lance Briggs and Hunter Hillenmeyer were back in action after sitting on Sunday with “general soreness”. Veterans obviously get this chance to sit practices based on how long they’ve been with the Bears or how long they’ve been in the league.

Tyler Reed is a guard that is actually showing some impressive aspects to his game. Surprisingly he is having a good camp to this point. I wouldn’t say he’ll make the roster but he is going to make the decision hard on the coaches on who to keep and who is going to be cut.

Lastly DT Marcus Harrison who has been held out of camp this far due to his weight problem looks like he’ll be back and ready to go possibly by this Saturday. He hopes to be back on the field and in the fold at that time. Missing one week of practice while detrimental to his development isn’t the end of the world for the second year player. Harrison has been there for all of the meetings and film sessions so it’s not quite the same as being a hold out and missing time that way.

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

Chicago Bears Training Camp Report Day 3

August 2, 2009

While the defense has stolen the show for the most part of the first two days, the offense didn’t want to take that lying down on day two.

The passing game continues to find it’s groove with both Jay Cutler and Caleb Hanie getting in on the action. Cutler was overall sharp while Hanie continued to shine and show a high level of improvement over last year. Hanie has the arm strength to get the ball down the field and the accuracy behind that rocket to make big plays in tight spots. It looks as though they are the one and two (Cutler obviously) but Hanie is running away from Basanez. Honestly it’s not even close at this point even when Basanez improves his accuracy he still seems to get picked off once a practice.

On the offensive line Chris Williams is beginning to show signs of being fully healed from his back surgery last year. On top of being healthy Williams has shown the talent that made him the Bears’ first round selection in the draft last year. While most fans are skeptical given the recent lack of overall success with first round picks, Williams seems to be fighting as if his job were on the line. He’s had a few pancake blocks here and there and has been solid in pass protection as well. Williams has also been talking with a chip on his shoulder with the media. He seems to be fuming somewhat that they (the media) helped anoint a bust before he played his first real game.

The Bears need stability along the offensive front, especially at offensive tackle and it’s Williams and Pace that are attempting to do just that. The severely disappointing play from the offensive line last year really hampered the Bears’ success in both the running game and in pass protection. Now Williams seems intent on changing that and earning his pay check.

A bit of a surprise thus far has been the success of Lance Louis as a second team LT. Louis has shown that he may be a capable back up, at least from the early going of camp. Free agent signee Kevin Schaeffer is showing why the Bears signed him in the first place. Also playing with a high motor and a lot of intensity. Schaeffer was noticeably solid in the first pads practice and showed up again today. If for any reason Williams goes down Schaeffer is more than a capable back up in his place. On the flip side Williams would likely flip to the left side in place of Pace and Schaeffer would move up to starting RT.

At wide receiver Earl Bennett and the coaching staff may get the last laugh. Bennett is showing the signs that Jay Cutler and the coaching staff have been talking about from the get go. Bennett put a nasty double move off of a pump fake on Nathan Vasher and hauled in a pass 40-yards down the field from Cutler. Bennett also snatched the ball out of the air on a diving reception that brought a roar from the crowd. Bennett’s consistency is the most promising sign and it really helps that he shows to showing the signs of the same rapport he had with Cutler at Vanderbilt. ’08 may have been a wasted year for the rookie, but ’09 could be a year that makes the fans forget all about that.

With Juaquin Iglesias struggling to adjust to the pro level, the need for Bennett to step up his game and show why he was a third round pick is even more apparent. Iglesias had the first drop of the practice tonight and has made too many drops for our liking. Most people are beginning to ask who exactly was the third round selection and who was the fifth round selection between Iglesias and Knox. Knox is taking to the game like a duck to water, continuing all the great catches and route running he showed in OTAs. Further cementing his status on the team and moving up the depth chart to second team WR.

On defense Pisa Tiniosamoa is another player showing why the Bears were excited to sign him. He has laid the wood to both Garrett Wolfe and Kevin Jones on more than one occasion. Even at the smallish 224-pounds Tiniosamoa has made up with it with his intensity. Still you have to worry about things a bit when your strong side linebacker is tipping the scales in the range of some safeties.

Lance Briggs and Hunter Hillenmeyer took the day off for the most part with the veteran injury excuse of “general soreness”. This gave Jamar Williams the reps with the first team defense at the WILL ‘backer spot. Williams got popped pretty good by Olin Kreutz towards the end of practice. Williams is another player that has been the story of OTAs showing that he’s versatile enough to play all three LB positions while being the first player to come off the bench if an injury occurs.

Perhaps the best excitement of practice was the debut of the Wildcat formation or the Cane formation as the Bears are calling it. Devin Hester lines up behind center with Cutler split wide and fireworks happen. It’s just another reason to get Hester the ball in space or on a misdirection play that let’s him use his speed and moves in the open field.

As I predicted in an earlier article rookie Al Afalava is moving up the ranks in the secondary. He’s moved up to take reps with the second team defense. Even though Afalava was only around for a week of OTAs, he is out there showing off why the Bears are essentially experts at finding solid talent late in the draft. The more Afalava improves the better for the overall health of the secondary.

Unfortunately the secondary is not all stable. Nathan Vasher has been described as looking like a first year player, getting lost in coverage and beat by younger receivers. The sixth year veteran may very well be participating in his last Chicago Bears training camp. Coupled with his injury problems and his lack of consistent play Vasher looks like he’ll like be supplanted by Zack Bowman once Charles Tillman returns to reclaim his starting job.

At this point it’s one person’s opinion, although he has a lot of overall backing from everyone else in attendance in practice that there is absolute new attitude on the D-Line. The Rod Marinelli effect is being felt and the players continue to rave about as much as the media does. Adewale Ogunleye stated this is the first time he’s been able to implement what he’s being taught into real game situations (via game film). Alex Brown has taken to Marinelli’s approach like a duck to water. Not surprising given Brown naturally plays like Marinelli coaches. Rookie Jarron Gilbert is showing why the Bears are excited about his potential. Gilbert is versatile strong and very fast, he’s taking to the intensity. One observer made the comment that some D-Lineman have a tendency to look like Tarzan and play like Jane, while Gilbert is Tarzan on both counts.

Israel Idonije is looking like a slimmed down beast. Down 40-pounds from 306-pounds to 266-pounds. This gives Idonije a fierce burst off the ball and his already impressive power is magnified by the speed he possesses. This could be Idonije’s coming out party this year and it’s none too soon to have happen.

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

Chicago Bears Training Camp Day 2

August 1, 2009

By all accounts coming out of Bourbonnais today’s first practice in pads went well for the Chicago Bears. No injuries to any major players although DT Matt Toeaina came up limping and later had his knee wrapped. All players who were supposed to practice were suited up and ready to go. If Toeaina’s injury is of any significance it likely spells the end of his career as a Chicago Bear.

This is good news after hearing the report that Tommie Harris was limited this morning during the workouts. His knee will likely never be 100-percent but as long as he’s taking up space in the middle of the defense and making some plays here and there I won’t complain to much. The situation with Harris is what it is.

Elsewhere along the defensive line Alex Brown uncorked a nasty bull rush on Orlando Pace in pass rush drills. Brown knocked Pace over on a fierce move that sent the future hall of famer flat on his back. Brown joked about it after practice that it shouldn’t be mentioned because “I don’t want him killing me out here tomorrow.” This type of play by Brown is typical though even against a stud like Pace. There aren’t a lot of guys that have kept Alex Brown from wreaking havoc in the backfield the past few years.

Sure we would like to see higher sack totals from Brown, but his play against the run has been invaluable and has won the Bears more than one game. Last year especially against the Eagles on the fourth and one play from the goal-line really sent a message.

Elsewhere Jay Cutler looked sharp making big throws to Greg Olsen, Devin Hester and the newly adapted Earl Bennett. Bennett is starting to show some consistency in his play on the practice field. Giving hope for the future and reason to pay close attention to him in the first pre-season game of the season.

Olsen made more than one nifty catch today and he is proving to be the go to guy for Cutler we all thought he would be. The third year in most NFL players’ careers is usually they really break out and it seems that Olsen is right in line after the first two practices to do just that. Olsen made a circus catch between Danieal Manning and Brian Urlacher in coverage.

If they were going to give out a game ball for practice today it would undoubtedly go to second year CB Zach Bowman. Bowman was making a lot of plays today, poking a way a nice reception that Devin Hester hauled in. Picking off Cutler on another pass. All around Bowman was just making solid plays today showing that he is ready to take full advantage of the opportunity he’s getting with Charles Tillman out.

Bowman made his second INT of the young camp season, and earning rave reviews from Lovie Smith two days in a row. If it keeps up Bowman could really push Nathan Vasher who struggled a bit yesterday and wasn’t mentioned at all today according to various sources. Bowman has been running with the first team defense and has been taking full advantage of it. This is very good news to hear out of the young player and shows once again that Jerry Angelo can find good defensive backs in the later rounds of the NFL draft.

Back on offense the Bears are giving Kevin Jones a lot of reps with the first team offense. Jones has slimmed down a lot and his burst of speed is back. Having a full off-season to work out and focus on getting in football playing shape versus rehabbing an injury has benefited Jones. The Bears know that they need Jones to be healthy and productive to help keep Matt Forte fresh for the stretch run. Jones getting used to running with the first team offense is a positive sign for the Bears.

Jones is also a threat to catch the ball out of the backfield, same as Forte making sure that the Bears don’t lose that dimension on offense when Forte takes a seat. If Jones can even revert slightly to his old form, it will be a great coup for this offense. Cutler will help to take the load off of Forte yes, but hte best rushing teams in the NFL lately have all had two productive running backs. Just like the Bears had with Cedric Benson and Thomas Jones during the Super Bowl run. If Forte and Jones can both be productive the Bears will be in a solid position to win a lot of games.

In another positive sign for the defense Brian Urlacher picked off a Cutler pass and returned it for a touchdown. What Urlacher does in camp may not matter much to most of us considering his veteran status. However when they line up against the Packers it will be interesting to see exactly where he is at health wise and if he can be a top linebacker in the NFL going forward. There is little doubt that Urlacher is still the leader of this defense and his play will only benefit everyone around him.

Pisa Tiniosamoa and Hunter Hillenmeyer both made some nice plays today. Tiniosamoa popped Kevin Jones in a nice run between the tackles. Hillenmeyer picked off a Cutler pass showing that he is back and healthy and likely won’t give up his roster spot without a fight.

More on offense Josh Beekman continues to be the starter penciled in at LG. Beekman according to the much maligned K.C. Joyner was a solid guard for the Bears last year. Performing quite well even though it looks as though Omiyale will eventually take his place. Beekman though will not go down without a fight likely pushing ahead and making Omiyale’s job even tougher. This is the level of competition you want to see on an annual basis during training camp.

Lastly seeing the high lights of Jay Cutler throwing passes in practice is absolutely phenomenal. Sure those passes don’t count for much right now, but it’s still a thing of beauty to behold. His rocket arm and the tightness of his spiral really changes the entire mood and spectrum of this franchise. He has made solid completions to Devin Hester on more than one occasion and you can see the ease at with which Hester is able to haul in Cutler’s throws. It doesn’t matter what type of route it is whether it’s a deep pass or a pass over the middle between the zone coverage. Cutler makes all the throws makes them crisp sharp an on target.

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