Posts Tagged ‘Caleb Hanie’

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Bears vs. Giants Film Session Part II

August 26, 2009

In part two of the wrap up of the Bears versus Giants pre-season game I’ll be covering from the point on where the back up players started flowing into the game. Caleb Hanie, Kevin Jones, Josh Beekman at center and Kevin Shaffer at left tackle moved into the line up.

First Drive Cale Hanie
Well blocked running play to the right with starters Chris Williams and Roberto Garza sealing down and Jones sprinting outside for a nice run. Second play is a complete opposite of the first run, Williams gets locked out and moved aside by the DE Jones reverses field to try to make something out of it and is thrown for a loss. Third and four Hanie out of the shot gun, no one open well covered well protected incomplete.

Most of the Starters Still in on Defense

Anderson in at DE, Harrison and Idonijae in at DT.

Three step drop by Manning with a good pass rush up the middle and off the edge. The play is out of the shot gun and is a combined three step drop. Manning makes his first read and first throw which is why the pass rush didn’t get there. Good tackle right after the catch.

Run play is a penalty for an illegal formation, but the play ran before the flag was thrown. Good run defense by Alex Brown and Briggs and Urlacher clean it up.

Second down gain of one on the play, Bears blitz Manning with a hot read the reception Bears right on the tackle Kevin Payne.

Bears with another blitz on third down, Corey Graham gets in on Manning incomplete great pressure by the defense again.

Caleb Hanie second drive

Kevin Jones running hard behind a pulling Garza, lowers his pads and just bowls forward good gain by Jones here. Kevin Jones fumbles on the next play in a pile.

David Carr’s first drive

Bears cover well, Carr rolls out and is pushed out of bounds by Alex Brown. Israel Idonijae good pressure up the middle Carr throws deep incomplete. Another Bears blitz, picked up for the most part, pass incomplete. Giants kick a field goal the scoring in the game ends here.

Caleb Hanie drive

Hanie out of the shot gun…big up the middle blitz and Hanie is buried, he had no chance. Well disguised blitz by the Giants, Hanie didn’t have a clue it was coming and was buried. Second and 21 Hanie rifles a ball to Kellen Davis the TE down the middle and picks up a first down. What a throw by Hanie these types of throws make it easy to know why the Bears like him as their back up. Good catch by Davis too, who had a good camp last year and a good pre-season but never made a catch in the regular season.

Hanie just over throws Johnny Knox on the next play, good arm strength. Draw play to Garrett Wolfe doesn’t really go anywhere, but it’s a nice effort. Empty backfield Hanie out of the shot gun, pocket breaks down holding by Ballogh on the play. Third and 17 a slant to Rideau gets a gain of 21…what a great confident throw by Caleb Hanie. Rideau gets a nice run after the catch to get the first down. Next throw is a good placed throw just slightly overthrown good try here good protection. A good run by Garrett Wolfe gets a first down good block by Dan Buenning in at right guard now. Good pull and trap block by Lance Louis from the left guard spot, well executed run play here.

Hanie takes off into the end zone on a broken pass play. It comes back on a holding by Shaffer on the play, it’s a bad call by the officials it was very ticky tack to call this holding penalty. There is no clear indication of a hold by Shaffer, just a good fundamental block to the inside. Not sure what the ref saw here and the replay in close shows as much.

A nice screen play to Garrett Wolfe who gets good blocking and uses the blocks well to get down inside the five. Wolfe appears to fumble but it’s a very close call that should have been reviewed. The Bears could have come away with a touchdown or at a minimum a field goal here. It looks more like bad officiating than bad execution on the part of the Bears. Should be more points on the board after this superb drive led by Caleb Hanie.
End of the first half

First half stats Giants held to 99 total yards and five first downs. 48 yards rushing 51 yards passing, great defensive stats for the first half in which most of the starters played for both teams save for one drive by David Carr. Bears 282 yards of total offense 15 first downs 109 yards rushing and 173 yards passing. Two fumbles one by Kevin Jones and a questionable fumble by Garrett Wolfe to close out the half.

Of note the Giants’ average start of drive was their own 35 where as the Bears started at their own 24 so the Bears started out with a worse average field position and still played good defense and drove the field on offense.

Start of the second half Giants’ ball

Dusty Dvoracek, Jarron Gilbert, Mark Anderson, Idonijae in. Gilbert at the DE spot instead of the three technique. LBs are Jamar Williams, Marcus Freeman and Hunter Hillenmeyer. Craig Steltz in at safety. The first play is a run that gets strung out wide by the defensive lineman. Good job of stringing this play out and Steltz stepping up into the box to take on a FB block. The linebackers step up and make a decent tackle.

Mark Anderson on the very next play great pressure, just misses a sack for himself but forces Carr into a sack. Josh Bullocks sacks him but the play was made possible purely by Anderson who used a great speed rush to get the pressure. Idonijae as well with good pressure up the middle on this play. It was a four man rush, and Bullocks was able to step up and make the play. Dvoracek double teamed on the play which freed up the rest of the rushers to get to Carr. Great play by the defense here.

I have to emphasize on this play just how great of a rush Mark Anderson put in on this play. He showed a great burst off the line of scrimmage, great speed off the edge, everything you look for in a great speed rush was here on this play. Well done by Anderson to make this play, Indonijae as well getting pressure up front. You want to see this from players who could potentially be starters but are back ups dominating the back ups in front of them. Anderson catches a lot of heat, but this was a great rush by him.

Third and 11 Carr out of the shot gun they try to slip a screen out by not blocking Anderson. But Anderson is just so fast when he is blocked and when he’s not blocked he throws off the timing of the screen. The Bears smother the screen play, great defense and even more speed shown by Anderson. Anderson gets his arms up and into the throwing lane, just great things all the way around here. Nothing but compliments for Anderson and the defense here. Also a good hustle by Dusty Dvoracek to go after the screen and get in on the tackle. Good awareness and motor by the big man.

Hanie Drive

Hanie play action pass swing to the full back dropped for a loss. Bad play call here on first down not sure what the call was here. Next play is a running play and it’s a well blocked play for Garrett Wolfe. Dan Buenning gets a good initial block and then gets up to the second level very quickly which gets Wolfe just short of a first down on the play. Superb blocking here by Buenning not only at the initial point of attack, but also in getting up the field to the second level after his scrape. Good execution and blocking by the whole offensive line, as a whole. You really like to see this level of execution by the offense on plays like this. It makes the Bears look like a well disciplined and a well coached team. Can’t ask for much more.

Bad call here on the QB sneak. Hanie is not the strong type to be able to drive his legs or use his height to get a first down. Should have been a give to the RB on this play. But Ron Turner makes up for it on fourth down and one with a power running call it gives his lineman a better chance to get up and into the defenders and actually have success at the point of attack. Good blocking by Kellen Davis who is looking to keep a spot on the roster and will make it hard on the coaches to cut him. Kevin Jones picks up the first down on fourth and one here.

Caleb Hanie with a play-action pass, pump fakes pulls it down, rolls out and makes a good read by keeping his eyes down the field and completes a small pass to Rashied Davis. Beekman and Hanie with a communication problem on the snap count here, he snapped before Hanie was ready and Hanie never got the play rolling dropped for a loss. Hanie drops back to pass, find Rideau on a crossing route that’s complete but not enough for the first down. The Bears stop themselves on another drive. They likely should have scored again, but shot themselves in the foot. It’s pre-season these are kinks that can get ironed out.

David Carr, Bears on defense

Mark Anderson jumps off sides here free play pass complete and a good tackle right on top of the catch. Good defense here. Bears take away the dink and dunk crap that killed them the previous week in Buffalo. On the next play with Ahamad Bradshaw getting the carry the Giants get a pretty good run blocked play here. Dvoracek etc were walled off pretty handily and the run went for a few yards here. This is one of the first real running plays that the Bears get beat at the point of attack, for the most part the Bears spent the game dominating in the trenches and dictating the pace of the game to the Giants. The play did only go for a gain of five yards and a first down however before Bradshaw is tackled.

Israel Idonijae again gets great pressure up the middle here after the Giants elect to double team Mark Anderson. The pressure leads to a fumble (Giants recover) but it’s great to see pressure coming from every where. Whether it’s Anderson, or Idonijae the Bears are getting the pressure from their front four. If someone gets double teamed another guy steps up and creates pressure on the Giants’ QB. What a night and day difference from last year, pencil in Rod Marinelli love here.

The very next play is very poor run defense. The whole front seven gets knocked off the ball here. No penetration in any gaps, no push at the point of attack and Bradshaw gets some big yards here. Two plays in a row that really make the run defense look bad. Bradshaw on the other hand could start so he is at a bit of an advantage here. At the end of the day you’d like to see better run defense and on this play you clearly don’t see that. Major disappointment that there wasn’t more of a push here.

Another big hole on the next play here. Dusty Dvoracek gets double teamed, Mark Anderson with a piss poor move inside which guarantees he takes himself out of the play and is sealed off inside. This opens up another big hole, Steltz comes up and makes a good tackle, but poor run defense again by the front seven on this play. But on the flip side Hunter Hillenmeyer was held on the play by the fullback. He could have made an earlier tackle were it not for the holding. Still Mark Anderson’s move is inexcusable on this play. Especially on first down his move was more of a pass rush move rather than a hold your ground at the POA run defense move.

First and 20 on this play Carr from the shot gun, zone-blitz with Mark Anderson dropped back into coverage the pressure gets to Carr who has to get rid of it in a hurry. Jamar Williams with a great blitz to get a hit on Carr, the pressure from Williams makes this play. Anderson was a bit behind on the zone coverage on the TE so if the pass had been complete there could have been some damage here. Nice to see some creativity here with the zone-blitz call.

The next play is a pass play Giants sell out in a max protect mode here. Dvoracek double teamed, Anderson gets a good rush but gets chipped by the RB and into a double team block. The TE makes a good chip on Jarron Gilbert before catching a pass out in the flat, the pursuit is pretty good but the TE gets some decent yards. Good execution by the Giants here, but the Bears still kept the ball in front of them and the pass went for minimal gain for the most part. Hard to get a good pass rush when you have the backs and a TE in to block.

Next play is a pitch to the RB out of the shot gun, illegal shift on the offense, but since a play happened here it’s of note that Jamar Williams got good pursuit to make the tackle on a unique call on third down. Williams showed a lot of speed here to make this play, but it’s for not for the Giants due to the penalty. Good defense and tackling here by the Bears. This showed how deep and fast the Bears are on defense.

Bears on offense with Hanie

Good run defense here by the Giants, not bad run blocking by the Bears but the Giants stepped up at the POA and made the play in this case. Donovan Raiola in a center, Beekman to left guard, Lance Louis to left tackle Shaffer to RT.

On third down the Bears call a little bubble screen for Juaqin Iglesias who breaks into the clear on a very well executed screen play, (GREAT CALL BY RON TURNER HERE) gets a nice first down for the Bears. Play-action pass by Hanie just slightly underthrows Kellen Davis here. I don’t know if he got a full follow through because the pressure got there late. Kevin Jones with a good run here, good run blocking here Buenning, Shaffer get good blocks on this well executed play.

Andre Woodson at QB Bears on defense

Great run defense here by the Bears on the next play play really stepping up and winning the battle at the POA. Good tackle by Jamar Williams here and then again on the second play good defense here by the Bears. Good run defense, Bears swarming to the football. Making up for the last drive where they struggled a bit to control the LOS.

Great stunt up front by the Dusty Dvoracek, he gets good pressure and flushes Woodson and then hustles down the field to make the tackle. He gets a cheap shot block on him and falls on his leg awkwardly.

Bears back on offense
Bears great run blocking a nice eight yard gain on the run by Adrian Peterson, just an awesome run blocking play the Bears really dominating this game. Next play the Bears don’t run block so well so it’s stuffed up. False start on the offense, two false starts in a row. Third down, and 11 Hanie tries to hit Juaqin Iglesias, good defense not a bad throw just slightly tipped away. Good defense.

Bears on defense

Good run defense followed by bad run defense, Melton in Rivera in the bottom of the roster here. Rudy Burgess on the coverage on the slant. Burgess is a former WR in college should have played CB is now and is behind the learning curve on defense. Flushed from the pocket is Woodson off-sides. Good run defense, the line strings it out and the linebackers clean it up. They set the edge will and pursuit comes from the inside. Bad run defense on the next play the Bears get blown by for 15 yards. Illegal contact on Craig Steltz on the next play. Dvoracek back into the game, gets good pressure on Woodson who throws to high. Rivera also good pressure with a blitz up the middle and gets the hit on Woodson, good execution good defense here.

Good defense by Melton gets double teamed sees the back slip out and pursues down the line of scrimmage to make the tackle. Good hustle here good awareness by Melton to make the play. Not a lot of pressure but good coverage pass is complete but the Bears stop him short of the first down. Giants on third down, a run good play call a counter move on third and two. Pick up the first down. Bears with a good blitz, Freeman with good pressure, pass incomplete. Good defense getting down the line of scrimmage on this toss play. The scrub defensive line makes a good play here. Bears good coverage again without much of a pass rush but overall good coverage.

Fourth and 10 Bears blitz and Josh Bullocks just misses an INT. Should have caught that one Bullocks.

Well after over 3,000 words I think it’s time to wrap this one up. The Bears for the most part dominated the entire game on offense, defense whether it was starters in or back ups. The D-Line got pressure or they played good defense. The coverage was good and the Bears limited YAC very well. On offense the Bears ran the ball well, Caleb Hanie did a good job at QB and the only way the Bears were stopped is when they had silly penalties or turnovers. If they play like this the entire season in all three phases they’ll win a lot of football games.

Chicago Bears Training Camp Report Day 7

August 7, 2009

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Brandon Rideau Quietly Does His Thing

August 7, 2009

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chicago Bears Training Camp Report Day 6

August 6, 2009

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Will the Bears Carry Only Two QBs on the Roster in ’09?

August 2, 2009

It’s been done before by teams, in fact some coaches prefer it. Only keeping two QBs on the 53-man regular season roster. The Arizona Cardinals did it last year and the Patriots and Colts have done it in year’s past.

Second year man Caleb Hanie seems to have a strangle hold on the back up QB position at this point. The Bears don’t seem to have any interest in Michael Vick and why should they? He doesn’t really fit into the mold of a QB the Bears would want to plug into their offense.

The Bears could also may use the roster spot for another player that may be of more importance to the team. Keeping a Dusty Dvoracek at DT, another WR like Rashied Davis or a Juaquin Iglesias he needs more time to develop. There is also the high number of linebackers none of which may play a lot, but their value to the Bears’ special teams unit which is among the best in the league.

All these positions make it highly probable that the Bears could only keep two QBs on the roster. Plus Jay Cutler is a tough QB having yet to miss a start in his career due to injury. That type of durability also makes it a safe bet to assume the Bears could be likely to only carry two QBs.

Now why is this even a discussion in the first place? Simple the performance of Brett Basanez up to this point has been awful. Even for a third string QB he brings nothing to the table that makes an argument for keeping him on the roster ahead of anyone. The real line of thought is you want your best 53-men on your regular season roster. Basanez is not among the best 53-men on this team. You need a back up QB for obvious reasons, but a third stringer on your active game roster seems unnecessary.

Basanez does not possess NFL arm strength, he’s been the most intercepted QB on the team to this point. He is not developing well and overall seems to be here to take up space. None of his practice to this point in camp makes you feel good about where is at. Further more his performance in OTAs did nothing to solidify his spot on the roster.

Finally it seems unlikely the Bears will add another player before the start of the season. There is slim pickings out there on the free agent market.

Perhaps one player who fits into the mold of a QB the Bears would want on offense is the recently released Andrew Walter. Walter is tall, and strong possesses a rifle for an arm. An accurate deep ball, as accurate as any QB in the league when he launches the ball deep off of play action. A play-action passer who has some touch on the deep ball and has worked well with TEs (Zach Miller in Oakland and at ASU) would seem like a good idea to plug into the Bears’ offense as a third stringer.

The chance of this happening though seems pretty slim to none. The Bears are better off with Cutler and then Hanie backing him up. Especially if Hanie performs as well or better this year in pre-season games similar to how he performed last year.

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

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.

Mini-Camp Position Breakdown: WRs

March 9, 2009

We’re just about a little over a week out from the start of mini-camp down at Halas Hall. With that in mind I’m starting my mini-camp preview of each position headed into camp. There won’t be a lot that can be learned in the short few days of this mini camp, but there will be enough learned to know further what needs to be tackled heading into the draft.

The first and foremost thing we’re going to focus on is the wide receiver position. Which at this point may not have enough players to really field much of an offense during the first mini-camp. Rashied Davis, Devin Hester, Earl Bennett, are the only legitimate WRs on the roster that will likely be around past training camp.

Devin Hester: Not really much needs to see about one of the most popular players on the team right now. Hester started slow but came on strong at WR last year. He needs continue to improve and develop in all aspects of his game. It’s doubtful that Hester will ever be much more than a #2 receiver but he is always a threat to score when he has the ball in his hands. He is equally deadly going deep and off-sets the idea of drafting a WR who is in his same mold. Thereby likely taking the need of drafting Jeremy Maclin, Percy Harvin or Darius Heyward-Bey.

The Bears need a more complete receiver than what the previous three aforementioned draft prospects offer so it would make more sense to target such prospects in the draft that have more size, ability, and the cliche induced skill set. Hester makes for a nice cheap replacement for Bernard Berrian. While not yet as complete as Berrian he is the deep threat and play maker threat the Berrian became. Hester should develop along the same lines as Berrian did and be successful moving forward.

Rashied Davis Somehow someway on an annual basis Davis manages to make enough plays to keep his spot on an NFL roster. As maddeningly inconsistent as he is, he does just enough to keep a job. He’ll likely contribute the same this year as he did last year. Certainly you don’t want him in his current role as the number two man on this team, or even the number three man, but he always seems to make one play a year that helps put this team into position for a win. It’s remarkable that he literally has made a career out of one play a year helping the Bears win in a big game situation. Whether it’s snagging a crucial third down catch to put the Bears in position to win in overtime against the Seahawks in 2006 during the playoffs or catching a 6-yard touchdown pass to help the Bears comeback against the hapless Lions Davis always does something to help keep his job.

What is there to expect out of Davis this mini-camp? Not much other than reason to keep him on the roster. You’d like to say better consistency, but that doesn’t appear likely to happen as he hasn’t ever been consistent. Hope for the best and we’ll see what happens.

Earl Bennettis an anomaly he was drafted in the third round of 2008 7th overall in that round. He didn’t even play a down or catch a pass and we’re supposed to accept the premise that he’ll be ready to step in and be a contributor as one of the top four or five receivers on day one. For the purpose of this mini-camp Bennett will be the third WR on the roster. It’s a scary thought given that all we know about Bennett is stories from training camp. Bennett is not very tall, not very fast and not overly consistent from what we here. He is likely one of those make or break prospects that could lead to Jerry Angelo’s demise. Along the same lines as Dan Bazuin from 2007.

So really there is a need to draft one or two WRs possibly on day one of the draft. Mini-Camp is where we’ll have some pretty scary horror stories from that prospective of it will hurt both Orton’s progression and Hanie’s as well. There are other receivers on the roster that will be around to fill out the depth chart, but none really seem to likely stick around on the active 53-man roster. Our hope here at MMI is that the receivers do in fact perform so horribly that Angelo actually address the situation in the draft, arguably even before the draft.

This will be one to monitor for updates if the Bears sign someone before the start of mini-camp.

Sunday NFL Combine Update QBs and WRs

February 23, 2009

I moved on from the O-Line drills, I may come back to them at a later date but I’m so behind on the combine evaluations today I decided to move into the QBs and WRs. I’m deliberately leaving out the RBs because the Bears are relatively set at RB with good youth in place. If they go anywhere with available RBs it will likely be a veteran presence to help Forte’s continued growth. This is still a Bears blog though at times you might mistake it for a combine blog. I’ll get more into specific Bears team stuff and free agency scouting once the combine is over.

I’m debating even covering the QBs but since there seems to be such a Chicago media infatuation with Mark Sanchez I’m being forced to come out and defend my position as to why I am AGAINST Mark Sanchez. I’ll cover Sanchez and I’ll take a couple glances at some of the other QB talent out there just because there will always be that crowd of Bears fans and media types who say the Bears should draft one QB a year until they finally get it right. I will try to keep as clean and as non-biased look at Sanchez as I possibly can. But since I am against him pretty much from what I’ve seen on him in games it may be a bit hard to not be impartial. I do hope some of you who read this blog will at least respect the fact that I am being honest about my dislike for him.

Receivers I plan to cover in obvious detail since the Bears need about three good receivers right now. Although they’re not likely to draft three WRs in this draft. I’m going to pay keen attention to both Jeremy Maclin’s and Percy Harvin’s 40-yard dash times and also as to how consistent Maclin is. Maclin to me I wonder if he gets more respect than he deserves simply based on his ability in the return game. The Bears don’t need another return man they need a true #1 option and I may debate with some fellow Bears fans about the true talent of the WRs available. To me personally it already looks like a weak crop with only Crabtree being the only true #1 WR option out there. Harvin etc, no one else really has caught my eye as I browse the list of potential prospects. I’m pretty worried about who the Bears may end up with as a WR.

As I scroll the tape I come to realize they didn’t show the WRs 40-yard dash times live. It’s already happened and they have the results posted across the top of the screen. Unfortunately this means I’m going to cheat a little bit and go to the NFL website and post the top 40-yard dash times from there.

The top 40-yard dash runners were as follows

Heyward-Bey, Darrius 4.30
Wallace, Mike 4.33
Knox, Johnny 4.34
Butler, Deon 4.38
Thomas, Mike 4.40
Underwood, Tiquan 4.41
Harvin, Percy 4.41
Byrd, Demetrius 4.42
Murphy, Louis 4.43
McKinley, Kenny 4.44

While these are exciting numbers the most important aspect of the WR position is route adjustment and how well they run their routes. Everyone in the NFL is fast it’s who can make separation who has good body control and leaping ability. You have to be able to adjust to the ball in the air, all sorts of important fundamentals required to be a WR.

The worry among Bears media outlets right now is that there won’t be a quality WR available at 18, and then suddenly there won’t be a quality OT available at 18, or there won’t be a good safety available at 18. Funny out of all the talk from the sports talk radio jocks and the so-called Bears beat writers none of them realize that only 17 players can be selected ahead of where the Bear pick.

Right now according to reports from various Chicago media outlets Matt Stafford, Mark Sanchez, Jason Smith, Eugene Monroe, Michael Oher, Andre Smith, Aaron Curry, Beanie Wells, Darrius Heyward-Bey, Michael Crabtree, Jeremy Maclin, Rey Mauluga, Malcom Jenkins, BJ Raji, Vontae Davis, will all be off the board by the time the Bears pick. Now that doesn’t include a single DE prospect that has been mentioned as a first round possibility. Leaving the Bears with their pick of a potential elite DE prospect if the first round develops as the panicked media types predict it will.

What does this mean? One way or another the Bears are going to end up with a damn good prospect whether it’s a safety, WR, or OT is yet to be determined. But the good news is the Bears have a big need at those three positions so the likelihood is one from those three will fall to the Bears at 18.

An intriguing WR prospect is Kenny Britt from Rutgers who is getting a ton of respect from the guys on the NFL network. Britt measures 6-3 215-pounds and ran a 4.48. He then followed that up with an impressive 37 inch vertical which measures out as one of the top vertical jumps of the WR prospects at the combine.

Brian Robiskie who does every thing well measures out well, was productive at Ohio State ran a 4.51 40. He is an intriguing prospect as well at 6-3 209. Robiskie’s father is a long time WR coach in the NFL so you know this kid knows the game well. Plus he’s an Ohio State guy and they tend to make pretty good pros coming out of Columbus.

It’s even possible that if the perfect storm happens and the Chicago media predictions come true the Bears could trade out of the first round and pick up another earlier second round pick and pick up a Brian Robiskie. A lot of fans will note that Jerry Angelo drafts better in the later rounds than he has in the first round. Given the value of a first rounder and the value always available rounds two and three there is always that option.

An intriguing prospect that I’ve been a big fan of this college football season is Hakeem Nicks of North Carolina. He’s 6-1 212-pounds good hands good body control good route running and he just got some solid props from Indianapolis GM Bill Polian. Perhaps you’re hesitant to take my world to mean anything when it comes to these evaluations I’m pulling off the TV. Well Bill Polian agrees with me so there. The verbatim quote from Polian on Nicks is as follows:

Hakeem Nicks is a very very good player, he’s got a great feel for routes, he’s got very very good hands, he’s got exceptional run after the catch, and he’s a very strong guy. And I think he’s going to have a very fine career in the National Football League

Yeah I know here I am a guy trying to take credit for something I hadn’t mentioned any previous posts nor is there any evidence I said I like him before Bill Polian did. You don’t have to believe me, but I hope that Jerry Angelo at least sees what Polian sees (someone who knows a thing or two about WRs) and isn’t afraid to pull the trigger like I would do if I had the chance with Nicks. Maybe not at 18 but I wouldn’t be afraid to trade down a little ways in the first round ahead of the Colts and get Nicks before Polian does late in the first as a replacement for Marvin Harrison.

Another prospect that is flying under the radar that just popped up on my radar running his 40-yard dash is Indiana WR Andrew Means who ran a 4.44 on his first 40-yard dash time and then a 4.46 at 6-1 212-pounds. He caught 102 balls for the Hoosiers..HELLO but only two for touchdowns which doesn’t bother me as much as it might some others. Mike Mayock mentioned that it worries him that he only caught two for touchdowns. But previously they mentioned how Wes Welker is such a good pro and didn’t have all the measurables. Welker a couple years ago for the Patriots caught a ton of balls, but struggled to get into the end zone. There are plenty of other prospects who are productive when catching the football but may not get into the end zone. Means seems to be a great WR prospect anytime you catch 102 balls in college. Yet another kid you might want to look at especially given the type of offense the BEars run. The offense doesn’t need to be full of big plays, just full of guys who are productive and with Means’ speed in the 4.4 range and his size and strength he is a guy who excites me.

Moving into the QBs and WRs together as the QBs are beginning to throw now:

The first thing that stood out to me was Pat Hill on his first throw was on target, but more importantly to me was his release. His release was fast, he dropped back and snapped the ball out of there very quickly. There wasn’t a hitch in his release it was drop back and fire.

Pat White again showing some good things that have surprised a lot of people today with the QB drills.

Sanchez two throws are a little sporadic.

Hakeem Nicks pulls up with a hammy on his first route.

Brian Robiskie, solid route, solid catch and gets up the field.

Robiskie and Nicks two potential second round selections the Bears may look at early.

Alabama QB John Parker Wilson not as on target as you’d like to be with his throws. Throwing a little behind the receiver which may be more of a timing problem.

Comments coming from the NFL network analysts, Sanchez with a long throwing motion and a long stride in his drop. This hurts the timing and gives the DE or blitzer more time to make a play. My observations on Sanchez’s release aren’t as harsh. His release looked good enough to me. I’ve seen worse and better for a release.

Where Sanchez struggles is on the deep balls. You can see he clearly doesn’t have a big league arm. A small quick summary, accuracy sproadic, deep ball arm strength not good.

Well well well the player who elicits the most oooos and aaahhs from the NFL analysts and other players in attendance with his arm strength on a deep throw is Pat White. Just before commercial White throws a bomb….hmmmm.

Andrew Means another solid grab in the drills. Lays out and snags the ball thrown slightly in front of him by Mark Sanchez.

Steve Marriucci and John Gruden like what they see from Pat White. Hard to argue with those two QB gurus. Gruden comments how White is not struggling with anything today.

Overall it looks like a decent crop of true receivers from the second round on. Robiskie, Means, Nicks, really help the truth depth of this draft class at WR. Percy Harvin to me is a guy I wouldn’t touch with a 10-foot pole. I remember when Harvin was known as Peter Warrick from the other Florida School….Seminoles.

I want more than just the flash and pizazz of big plays and high lite reel runs or moves or speed. Give me consistency in the fundamentals before you give me someone who looks like Reggie Bush in the open field. As well all know the speed game evens out in the NFL.

Brian Robiskie man oh man what a catch, yeah it came with one foot out of bounds, but he still made a stretching one handed grab of the football. Showing that he has the hands to get the job done once again.