Posts Tagged ‘Johnny Knox’

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September 13, 2009

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Bears vs. Giants Film Session Part II

August 26, 2009

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

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

Most of the Starters Still in on Defense

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

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

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

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

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

Caleb Hanie second drive

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

David Carr’s first drive

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

Caleb Hanie drive

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

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

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

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

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

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

Start of the second half Giants’ ball

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

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

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

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

Hanie Drive

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

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

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

David Carr, Bears on defense

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bears on offense with Hanie

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

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

Andre Woodson at QB Bears on defense

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

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

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

Bears on defense

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

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

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

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

Brandon Rideau Quietly Does His Thing

August 7, 2009

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chicago Bears Training Camp Report Day 6

August 6, 2009

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chicago Bears Training Camp Report Day 3

August 2, 2009

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Two rookies to keep an eye on as camp progresses

August 1, 2009

OTAs came and went rather quickly with little fanfare. We all know the main glut of the coverage and excitement was going to come from the start of training camp. With training camp kicked off and entering day two it’s fair to mention again two rookies who caught the eye of people.

The first player to step up and show a lot of promise much to the delight of everyone is wide receiver Johnny Knox. Knox had arguably some of the best workouts (and rookie mini-camp) of any of the receivers on the roster. Showing off not only his exceptional speed that everyone has heard about up to this point, but also some great hands.

Based on Knox’s production alone it shouldn’t be much of a surprise to anyone. Oh but it is because he played at a lower level of competition coming from Abilene Christian. This automatically is a knock on him even though it wasn’t a knock on Steve McNair or Dominic Rodgers-Cromartie coming out of Tennessee State.

But Knox has been better than predicted out playing Juaquin Iglesias who has struggled in his route running and ability to get open.

Knox is definitely a player that could come in and surprise a lot of people during camp. He will definitely be a player we’ll be keeping an eye on during pre-season games. Even if he doesn’t line up with Cutler and the starters, Caleb Hanie has a strong enough arm to get Knox the ball down the field.

Speed is great at any level, but it’s how you use your speed that is the best way to be productive. A player is a lot more likely to be wide open if he runs a precise route that is combined with speed. Then it’s about making the catch and with Knox early on it hasn’t been a problem.

Another player who caught an eye briefly and by briefly it was because he wasn’t around for a lot of OTAs because school commitments. Safety Al Afalava showed that he has the speed size and aggressiveness to be a successful safety.

Afalava is a gap filler hole plugger who can come up and make a tackle. This is the primary priority the Bears require out of their safeties with the style of defense they run.

Afalava didn’t play a lot of free safety at Oregon State due to his ability to come up and play in the box. However he has the speed and athleticism to get the job done as a free safety. He won’t need to be the ideal center fielder that so many of the Bears fans have been desiring because that is not what the Bears require.

Afalava has the ability to come up and hit and he has the measurables you desire out of a safety. How he performs once the pads are on is going to be something we keep an eye on moving forward

NFL Network Roundtable discussion, best players in the league

July 23, 2009

The NFL network recently had a segment between Jamie Dukes and Solomon Wilcots on the best players in the league heading into the 2009 season. No one player on the Bears made on the list for 2009, but I obviously wouldn’t be writing an article if a Chicago Bears player wasn’t mentioned at some point during the debate.

After discussing the best players in the league for 2009 the question was, outside of their Top-5 or Top-8 whatever number they argued between, who would be in the list in 2010.

Wilcots was emphatic and didn’t even hesitate when he state emphatically that Jay Cutler is a player that could be on the list of top-5 players in the league regardless of position.

This is yet another commentary of respect shown to Jay Cutler since his arrival in Chicago.

Wilcots did mention yes that there were the INT numbers and they were high. But he followed it up with this basic point “yes the interception numbers were high but he had to take chances. That’s how he was coached by Shannahan because he didn’t have a defense.”

The intangibles that Wilcots went on to point have become obvious to Bears fans over the past few months. Quoting Wilcots “He’s got a laser lock of an arm (Cutler), he can make plays in the pocket out of the pocket. He can take that team to another level. If he does that in Chicago and takes that team where other quarterbacks haven’t been able to take them, HE MAKES THAT LIST.”

Top five players in the league, with eye-popping numbers in his third year Cutler could very well end up in that category. Over 4,500 yards passing 25 touchdowns it all speaks volumes to Cutler’s ability.

The key thing I hope Wilcots keeps an eye on though is not so much the mind blowing stats as much as Cutler being a leader on this team. A very goodhttps://monstersofthemidwayillustrated.wordpress.com/wp-admin/post-new.php season would get the job done in Chicago. Over 3,500 yards passing and another 25 touchdowns while cutting his turnovers in half would to me be worthy of Pro Bowl consideration.

The most important thing for Cutler in Chicago is to make plays when they are needed. Help sustain drives, keep the defense off the field early in games so they have stamina left in the fourth quarter. Sure the big plays to Devin Hester and Johnny Knox would be huge for this offense.

What the Bears need the most though is a QB who makes plays when it counts.

To discuss this topic more in depth go to Midway Illustrated

Chicago Bears OTA Report June 10th

June 11, 2009

Unfortunately it’s coming down to the end of this season’s OTAs with only a week left until the Bears wrap it up. Although it might be a good thing since the nagging injury bug has taken it’s toll on some of the players this year.

Among the most notable injuries, Matt Forte with a strained hamstring, Brian Urlacher a strained groin, Charles Tillman with a shoulder problem, Nick Roach, Tommie Harris, Glenn Earl, Josh Bullocks among others out with injuries.

Only Tillman has managed to return to participate in two of the OTA practices thus far.

The story however has been Tommie Harris and his knee. The never-ending story that his knee is. Harris has apparently taken exception to recent talk about his demise, I even covered it in this blog here how Harris rarely participates and never looks to be at full strength. His knee problem is a major one in the fact that he hasn’t been a 100-percent participant in workouts of any kind for over a year.

Sports talk radio lit up the air waves with talk about whether the Bears should pick up his option next year or is the Jarron Gilbert and Marcus Harrison combination the way to go. My take is we’ll know all we need to know after this season.

Elsewhere the Bears signed all of their rookies during these OTAs. All nine of the draft picks were signed with third rounders Jarron Gilbert and Juaquin Iglesias signing four year deals yesterday. The Bears as usual are the first team to have all of their draft picks signed and ready to go.

News from the rookie class seems to be that Johnny Knox is making a small name for himself as the rookie that has stood out the most to this point. Knox’s speed in undeniable and his production in college was undeniable leading reason to believe teams may have underestimated how solid of a receiver prospect he actually is.

He came from a small school with high production, but no one really noticed just how dynamite of a play maker he is. He has shown of his speed in camp making big plays out of short routes and showing an ability to get deep. Knox will be one to keep an eye on in the pre-season games once the Bears face some real opposition. You’d like to think that Knox could develop along the same lines as Bernard Berrian did.

Berrian was primarily a deep threat who developed into a more well-rounded receiver as his career went on. Knox has the same level of speed and work ethic that may pay off for the Bears in the long run.

Elsewhere the Bears have been utilizing the TEs in more wide out type roles. Greg Olsen and Desmond Clark both proved to be favorite targets of Jay Cutler. Olsen got loose on a seam pass yesterday for what was probably the play of the day.

This is a dimension of the Bears’ offense that has been severely under utilized the first two years of Olsen’s career. While Olsen was effective last year, this year should be a case where Olsen puts up Tony Gonzales like production. Olsen is to big, to fast and has to great of hands to not be a multi-year Pro-Bowl player from this point forward.

Elsewhere on defense with Brian Urlacher absent Jamar Williams took all of the reps at first team MIKE. Williams appears to be a lock for a roster spot with his ability to play all three LB positions. While he was primarily talked about as Lance Briggs’ eventual replacement, he has now worked himself into position to be the primary back up at all three spots.

Williams’ only downfall is he could be the starter at the SAM spot, but because he has focused on learning all three LB spots and been a special teams wizard he is a back up for now.

The secondary is still getting shuffled around on a near weekly basis. Corey Graham took some reps at nickel back and is starting to show he has versatility to his game with an ability to play corner, safety and nickel. Danieal Manning sat out this work out with a minor injury.

Pisa Tinoisamoa ran with the first team at SAM with Nick Roach battling the injurgy bug. The recent Bears free agent acquisition is battling to start at the SAM spot. He led the Rams in tackles last year but doesn’t have the ideal size you’d like to see in a SAM backer.

The Bears definitely favor speed over size at the SAM spot. A report had Tinoisamoa playing at only 225-pounds last year. An extremely lean weight for a linebacker prospect in the NFL. Hopefully the report is more myth than fact, but that weight report is something I”ll keep an eye on going forward.

On the offensive line Josh Beekman has been sliding between center and guard but has kept ahold of his job as first team offensive guard to this point. Obviously there won’t be much movement on the offensive line of any real important note until the pads go on. Frank Omiyale and Beekman will have a major battle ahead of them at training camp. Both offer versatility in that Omiyale can slide out and play tackle and Beekman can slide in and play center.

The battle between Beekman and Omiyale figures to be one of the best battles to watch during training camp. Beekman may not be an elite level player but he continues to play well, continues to improve and there’s no reason to think his job is in danger.

We’ll have another full report next week at the conclusion of OTAs. Any news that happens between now and then we’ll keep you updated on.

Other coverage will include how the pre-season magazines rate the Bears’ strengths weaknesses heading into 2009. First up on the list will be coverage from Athlon Sports’ pre-season NFL magazine.

53-man battle royale: Rashied Davis

May 15, 2009

Talk about an enigma or a player who makes approximately two big catches per season that either put the Bears in position to win, or wins a game for the Bears. This is Rashied Davis‘ career in a nut shell, a player who shouldn’t be on the roster, but still finds a way to stick.

Davis is a former Arena League performer who has manned the Bears’ third receiver slot for the last three years. He is not as productive as you’d want out of a slot receiver, nor is he consistent.

His value to the team has been primarily as a special teams man. So the question is with the drafting of three receivers can Davis keep his spot on the roster?

The immediate answer is yes, Davis will likely be on the roster come the start of the season. However if the Bears do add a veteran receiver the chances for Davis making the roster dramatically decrease. The Bears only kept five receivers on the 53-man roster a year ago. With Devin Hester and Earl Bennett assured of spot, and rookies Johnny Knox and Juaquin Iglesias also in position to be on the final roster, only one more will likely be included.

If the bears sign a veteran, that vet will make five receivers making Davis’ spot extinct. Although we know the Bears are currently in a holding pattern regarding signing a veteran receiver, a post training camp cut may be what they are looking for.

Also working against Davis is his small stature, at only 5-foot-9 189-pounds Davis doesn’t have the size that best fits on the roster. He also doesn’t have the same level of speed that Johnny Knox possesses, thus being him further down the roster as a speed option.

So the question would be where does Davis fit in?

The answer is I don’t know if he does fit in on the roster any longer. While he did have the best season of his career his hands aren’t as consistent as you’d like to see. His down the field ability is only slightly above average and he can be replaced in the special teams game by a hungry rookie like Derek Kinder.

Although I am not an advocate of Kinder making the roster as a seventh round pick, I wouldn’t rule it out as a possibility yet either. Many an expert has spoken highly of Kinder and said other than his injury issue as a senior he may have been an earlier round selection.

If Kinder is recovered and lives up to a higher round draft slot then he could supplant the veteran Davis. Will that scenario play out? I doubt it, which likely leaves Davis’ position on the roster safe for now.

A player who has just been consistent enough hangs on by a thread, waving in the wind. Forever at risk of losing his roster spot, but making plays that matter in the clutch.

Bears Rookie Mini Camp and the Aftermath

May 5, 2009

I’d like to be able to sit here and tell you as many glowing things about the rookies and draft picks as we’ve heard for the last two weeks, but I can’t. I’m going to take a very fair and measured approach to what we can take away from our top draft picks from rookie camp this weekend. It’s going to be straight from the hip and it won’t coincide with a lot of the hype that I have generated over the past week over our top draft picks.

Yes you can be certain that what we saw this weekend was comforting in that the players we expected to step up in mini-camp did just that. The players reported on did what they were expected to do in rookie mini-camp and that is a good sign.

However it’s no more of a positive sign beyond what we already knew about this crop of players. Why?

Hear me out on this one because it’s going to be very easy to follow.

These rookies did as well as THEY should have. We can take nothing more away from this camp regarding these prospects than we already know. We knew these kids were good from the start and the three day camp changes nothing.

This was a camp against their peers, it was rookies on rookies. Essentially it was the same thing we have already seen from these players since the scouting combine began. These players excelled against each other and each one of them is essentially at the same level as their peers. Those that are a step above, stood out above the pack because they already had, and that is why they were drafted in the slots that they were.

Saying that Juaquin Iglesias could step in and be a starter or compete as a starter is more than a little premature. Because Iglesias dominated a level of competition this weekend that he dominated throughout his college career. Saying that Henry Melton, Jarron Gilbert and Iglesias looked the part is no more of a different assessment of them as players as we saw during the scouting combine and pro-day workouts.

The only real difference was the new football helmets atop their heads. The rookies went out and competed against other rookies, rookies most likely that are not going to be on an NFL roster come opening night against Green Bay. Beating a free agent signing or a player here strictly on a tryout basis is not something to form a solid opinion on as to who will compete well against the veterans.

These are still the same kids we saw playing and practicing football the last nine months. They are excelling against the same level of competition they did in college. Only in a slightly different setting than what we are used to seeing.

So while yes I am happy to report on the positive things we saw at camp from the top rookies we are all excited to report. I think it’s only fair to keep things in perspective going forward. The perspective is that things will change dramatically between now and the end of training camp.

These players learned this weekend the level of expectations that they face. They learned that the NFL coaches are a lot better at their jobs than college coaches. They soaked in the fact that the play books they face are a lot bigger than what they are used to. The defenses they face are a lot more complicated and intricate.

They learned that football no longer just a hobby and a sport that they play. But it’s also their job, a job that many of us would love to have and earn money doing. However we should all still recognize that and I hope that the rookies recognize is what they are facing is all the more daunting.

I hope that these players can face the reality that IS THE NATIONAL FOOTBALL LEAGUE and that they are prepared to pay the price to succeed in this league, but more importantly as a member of the Chicago Bears.

Training camp will be a whole different ball of wax for these rookies, once they face the talent and experience of the veterans. Put the pads on and face the speed of a level of competition they have never faced before then we will all get a better look at what these players truly are.

The question then will be easier to answer, can these rookies cut it?