Posts Tagged ‘Devin Hester’

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September 13, 2009

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Looking Forward to Denver?

August 27, 2009

To be honest I’m not the type of guy to buy into a ton of hype, especially manufactured media hype about a particular game or situation. It’s nice to hear initial news about something, but after the initial pop of the story wears off, unless something else major happens I could honestly care less.

Which brings me to the Denver vs. Chicago pre-season game and the Kyle Orton Jay Cutler hype. I don’t care if Orton or Cutler get booed and I honestly don’t care if one out performs the other in the game. I don’t think Orton will out perform Cutler, if for no other reason the situation he’s in in Denver.

Let me be frank, I wasn’t a big Mike Shannahan fan, but I didn’t let a bias get in the way of respect and admiration for him. Mike Shannahan was and still would be one of the best head coaches in the NFL. The fact that the Broncos fired him boggles my mind, the fact that they did it in favor of Josh McDaniels makes it even more confounding.

All you need to know about Mike Shannahan is that he could take just about ANY running back, plug that back into his system and get production out of him. Very good to great production on a near annual basis, that says it all right there. Yes the Broncos struggled on defense especially in recent years. But none of this takes away from the fact that Shannahan won two Super Bowls and made Jake Plummer look like a good QB in Denver after being horrible in Arizona.

Now beyond Shannahan you break into the Josh McDaniels saga. Going beyond what happened with the whole Cutler fiasco you now get into the Brandon Marshall fiasco and then questionable idea of drafting Knowshon Moreno. Moreno may end up being a great ‘back in this league but prior to this you had Shannahan getting more production out of lesser talents there by putting himself in a better position to address other needs.

To say that the Broncos have other needs may be a complete understatement. Their defense is deplorable and seems to be getting worse. Adding to the pressure Broncos fans and media will never be happy until they find someone that is as good or better than John Elway, which will likely never happen.

With all this in mind I suspect the Broncos will probably be worse off this year than they were last year. They are in for a big shock in Denver and it wouldn’t surprise me to see them battling the Raiders for cellar dweller supremacy in the AFC West. As my thoughts wander towards the Bears’ pre-season game I tend to think this game won’t matter even more than a regular pre-season game.

With a nod towards the cocky side of me, I think the Bears should fully dominate this game. There should be some pretty obvious game planning going on against Kyle Orton. Now on the flip side the Bears should not lose this game and I’ll be pretty disappointed if they do. You might get a pretty awful taste of nastiness if the Bears do in fact lose this game. Because as with tradition most teams get ready for the regular season in their third game of the pre-season and do so by playing their starters for most of three quarters.

I suppose the most interesting aspect of this game will be watching the Bears’ defensive line go up against the starters on the Broncos offensive line. Their offensive line is one of the youngest and best in the NFL. They get the job done in pass protection and I’m assuming they can still run block adequately even without Shannahan’s scheme.

I’d like to believe that Kyle Orton is capable of playing at a high enough level to present a challenge to the Bears’ defense but after some of his most recent pre-season play even that’s questionable.

So what is there to focus in on? Focus in on the Bears playing well, not getting injured showing a good rhythm in the passing game. I’d like to see more from Devin Hester than what we have seen the first two pre-season games. I’d like to see continued improvement from Kevin Jones showing he’s ready to be an ample back up to Forte. All this plus the battle in the trenches should really make this a fun game to watch.

If you can cut through the drama of it all there are things that we should as fans focus on more intently than just the media hype and drama of it all.

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 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 5

August 5, 2009

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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