Posts Tagged ‘Jarron Gilbert’

Midway Illustrated

September 13, 2009

MidwayIllustratedSite

Click Here to Experience the New Monsters of the Midway Illustrated, Blog

Pre-Season Indications: The Pass Rush Is Back

September 2, 2009

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Bears versus Bills What To Watch For

August 15, 2009

Well I’d like to say there is more that Bears fans should watch for in this game as far as the Bears being able to compete against the Bills’ strengths or weaknesses. However it’s the pre-season and there wasn’t a lot to observe last week in the Bills’ pre-season game.

The Bills looked pretty bad in the game that’s for sure. They didn’t execute well and the Titans’ starters had their way with them. Then when the Titans put their back ups into the game they started working their way down the depth chart the execution of non-NFL level talent had a lot of trouble executing. Things began to fall apart for both teams with the Titans victimizing themselves with a lot of momentum killing penalties in the fourth quarter. They also victimized themselves with a fourth quarter interception return for a touchdown.

The touchdown return off of the INT was the ONLY touchdown the Bills scored during the game. While I don’t expect the Bears’ defense to shut out and shut down the Bills’ offense, you hope that they will. Buffalo may have a slight advantage in this game since it will be their second pre-season game so they’ll have a better feeling for game rhythm and flow. Plus the Bills have been in their pre-season camp longer and practiced more than the Bears.

So what we’ll be watching for is the Bears’ execution. They should be able to execute like a well-coached football team just like the Titans were able to do with their starters in. The Bears should be able to run the ball pretty effectively. I’d like to see Kevin Jones show some of the burst and see the success he has had in camp translate over. Especially if the Bears see it fit to take it easy on Matt Forte and his hamstring.

Obviously you want to see if the front four can generate a pass rush. Most of what we want to see is fairly obvious so there should be no real surprises in this game.

Going outside the box I’d like to see how Al Afalava performs in the game at safety. If he has good instincts in the zone coverage and he understands his responsibilities in the Cover-2 better than what Danieal Manning did as a rookie and better than he seems to understand at this point. Afalava is a rookie so you don’t expect him to be perfect, but you’d like to see instincts in the game that Manning has never seemed to have.

Trumaine McBride, Corey Graham and how they’ll look in pass coverage. They will likely be the TWO back up CBs to Vasher, Tillman, Bowman etc. Hopefully they have a good game against some lackluster Bill receiver talent.

There is an argument that can be made however even though it is a pre-season game. The subtle signs that the defense was going to be bad reared it’s ugly head in week one of the pre-season against the Kansas City Chiefs. The Chiefs marched 91 yards on the Bears’ starters for a touchdown. Even after they shot themselves in the foot with 10 penalty yards the Bears’ defense was still unable to stop the Chiefs. It was the starters and the starters seemed to struggle on defense throughout the entire pre-season. Additionally it seems that a lot of the players that were backups in that game are important starters or players who’ll need to step up for the Bears in 2009.

Against the 49ers where the starters played for most of the game, the Bears made J.T. O’Sullivan look like Joe Montana guiding the 49ers offense down the field almost at will. O’Sullivan was seven out of eight for 126 yards and a touchdown in a pre-season game against the Bears’ starting defense.

So yes there is the importance of seeing the Bears’ defense perform well. Usually at this time of the season defenses are ahead of offenses so the Bears defense should be able to stop the Bills in this game fairly regularly. Especially with Terrell Owens out of the game.

So while everyone will have their eyes on Jay Cutler and his receivers the main point of focus should be the Bears’ defense and can they slow down a team. This is a team that is built on defense so the Bears should show signs of being a good team based on how their defense performs.

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

Bears versus Bills Key Matchup

August 14, 2009

Doing some of the advanced scouting work that I did of the Buffalo Bills I came across some interesting aspects of the game that will be fun to watch for Bears fans.

The match up that should most intrigue Bears fans is the match up of Buffalo Bills rookie offensive guard Andy Levitre versus Bears rookie defensive tackle Jarron Gilbert. Levitre a second round draft pick struggled mightily in the game against the Titans. He was thoroughly worked over by veteran DTs that seems to over power and dominate him for most of the time he was on the field.

A rookie versus rookie match up seems to be key just for Bears fans to figure out the depth going which is the primary point of focus during the pre-season. Yes we will get a read on the first team defense but it won’t come for much more than a quarter or even a series or two for the first team players.

Gilbert matching up with Levitre will be interesting. Levitre was drafted in the second round by the Bills, who were so high on him they traded their third and fourth round selections to move up back up into the second round to land him. He’s a converted offensive tackle who was shifted inside to left guard from left tackle where he played in college. Thus far the experiment did not appear to go well for him.

Noted in some scouting reports on Levitre is he didn’t have a lot of power or strength in his upper body and had really short arms. Gilbert should be able to stand out against Levitre, given that he has performed well in camp up to this point. Gilbert hopefully will get a push against the run and be fairly explosive in his pass rush. While it won’t be key for Gilbert to dominate him, there should be the subtle signs that Gilbert can handle a rookie versus rookie match up.

This should be a match up that should last throughout most of the game since both players will benefit from lots of playing time as rookies. Getting used to the speed and the complexity of the pro game when you’re a rookie that is fighting for a starting job is completely necessary.

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

Breaking News Tommie Harris Admits to Knee Surgery in March

August 10, 2009

Finally Chicago Bears defensive tackle admitted to why he hasn’t been practicing much at practice during OTAs and during pre-season training camp.

Harris stated to the media today that he had exploratory surgery on his knee in March. The surgery was to go in and explore what is causing him the constant pain in his knee.

The surgery by all accounts went well, but it was there to clean up some scar tissue from a previous surgery he had.

We finally find out now that Tommie Harris is no where near 100-percent and he let it slip about his knee surgery.

The question now is will Harris be ready to go for the season opener against the Green Bay Packers? Will his knee be ready, will this be a lingering concern and precisely how much playing time will Harris see this year.

This is bombshell news that completely shows the lack of credibility the Bears’ organization has. The fact that no one disclosed Tommie Harris’ knee surgery until now and the Bears stated he was 100-percent was a bald faced lie.

Completely disheartening news to hear that Harris likely is not, and will not be one hundred percent this season and that his knee continues to be a major problem for the Bears.

Overlooking Dusty Dvoracek?

August 9, 2009

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Will the Light Bulb Come Back On For Mark Anderson?

August 9, 2009

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chicago Bears Training Camp Report Day 7

August 7, 2009

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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