Posts Tagged ‘Marcus Harrison’

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September 13, 2009

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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.

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.

Chicago Bears Training Camp Report Day 6

August 6, 2009

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chicago Bears Training Camp Report: Day 4

August 4, 2009

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Marcus Harrison out for the start of training camp

July 31, 2009

Promising second year defensive tackle Marcus Harrison was placed on the non-football injury reserve list today. Harrison showed up at camp on the high side of the weight scale.

Harrison was expected to come into camp with the promise of taking over the starting NT spot opposite of Tommie Harris. Harrison looked very explosive as a rookie draft pick last year. Earning a solid spot in the rotation before he admittedly hit a rookie wall.

His play though made him look like this would have been a big break through year for him. He was a solid pass rusher from the NT spot and was a pretty immovable object at the point of attack. His best strength though was his speed and his ability to get up the field fast and stretch out running plays thus giving Briggs and Urlacher a chance to make the tackle.

The news comes as an extreme disappointment to coach Lovie Smith given Harrison’s overall talent and the fact that Dusty Dvoracek has yet to finish a full season of football in his first three years in the league.

Harrison blamed the weight gain problem on personal issues he’s had to deal with in the off-season.

Harrison will have to drop the weight before he gets into the practice rotation and we’ll see exactly how long that takes and where that puts him in the eyes of the coaching staff.

It’s likely that Harrison will struggle for some time to work his way out of the dog house he has found himself in at this early stage of training camp.

For in-depth discussion regarding the start of camp and the excitement moving forward check out the forums at Midway Illustrated.

Chicago Bears OTA workout report

May 20, 2009

From various reports today, but primarily from ESPN 1000 Bears beat writer Jeff Dickerson I was able to gather information from today’s organized team activities.

These OTAs as they are more commonly known are usually informal, voluntary workouts and practices that go on during the off-season. The workouts consist of your typical, basic fundamental and again HEAVY on the informal aspects of drills and practicing.

Today was the first time the media was allowed access to these OTAs and there were some news and notes to pass along.

Most notably was Tommie Harris did not participate in any of the drills or stretch and was not in action. This seems to be a recurring theme with Harris since his hamstring problem from the 2006 season. Harris has not been a 100-percent participant in any aspect of practice, workouts, mini-camps or OTAs. He usually rests for some and in some cases, ALL of the workouts.

Sure everyone can say don’t look into this, don’t read to much into it, or make any assumptions based on such an informal level of workouts.

Problem is this seems to be consistent for a player like Tommie Harris. This all seems to be related to his injury concerns and, or knee problems that seem to continually keep him on the side line.

In order to take the next step in his development and become the player the Bears are paying him to be, you’d like to see more consistent participation. Warren Sapp was quoted as saying that Harris could be one of the most dominant DTs in the league and we’ll see what type of player he can be now that Rod Marinelli is in the fold.

But you just don’t see the consistency in his work habits to say emphatically he will be a force on the D-Line for the next eight or nine years. I think it’s safe to say that bus has passed Tommie Harris by and it’s better to just thing of him as an important cog in the defense, but not the game changer he was in 2005 and for part of the 2006 season.

Also held out of workouts were Charles Tillman who seems to be consistently in the same boat as Tommie Harris. He’s just a constant injury concern and is never playing or practicing at a level he once did.

Marcus Harrison was also held out today from OTAs. With that news Israel Idonije practiced today at the DT position. Of course consistent reports have been that Idonije will primarily be focusing on the DE position this year. That said, the Bears will always utilize the versatility he offers by being able to play either position.

Corey Graham today took reps with the second team today at safety. An intriguing development given that Graham has been one of the most consistent players at CB. With Graham working at safety, Zachary Bowman was lined up with the first team at CB. The secondary was made up of newly acquired Josh Bullocks, Kevin Payne and Craig Steltz.

Steltz has been talked about by the coaching staff as the likely player who will be starting at free safety this year. Steltz at times looked shaky last season, but has the full confidence of the coaching staff.

Pro Football Weekly reported that CB Roderick Hood of the Arizona Cardinals is coming to visit Halas Hall next week. Hood may not be a big name free agent, but he does have a solid resume and veteran experience playing in the NFL.

On offense Jay Cutler did as he promised he would do when he came, that is re-establish his relationship with Earl Bennett. Bennett and Cutler played together at Vanderbilt and the chemistry paid off today with Bennett catching a lot of passes from Cutler.

Cutler as expected looked very sharp on every ball he through. It’s going to take a while for local Bears fans and media alike to get used to having a QB who has a strong, sharp and accurate arm. We know Cutler will look better than any QB who has ever walked the a hallowed grounds of Soldier Field. But reality still hasn’t set in for most of us, that yes the Bears have a franchise quarterback.

Josh Beekman still has a lock on the first team left guard position. Beekman is ahead of Frank Omiyale at this point, but it may not last until opening day. Omiyale will have to win the position, he won’t simply just be given the right to start.

On the injury concern flip side LT Orlando Pace was out there today and looked healthy and sharp. Pace is a grizzled veteran who sets the tone for any of the young rookies or younger players. Pace may miss some OTAs (Love Smith is known to rest veterans) or he may be out there every day to make it a point that he’s healthy and ready to go.

Chris Williams as was reported early after the Orlando Pace signing was indeed working with the offense as the first team right tackle. Backing him up was newly signed Kevin Shaffer. Shaffer is a classy guy with a solid veteran background who should not only push Williams but also be a mentor.

At strong side linebacker both Joey LaRocque and Hunter Hillenmeyer were held out today. Also free agent Pisa Tinoisamoa was out there today to watch practice. There is a strong possibility that Tinoisamoa signs with the Bears. At 6-foot-1 240-pounds he represents a stouter and possibly stronger option at the SAM ‘backer position. Still he’s not the ideal candidate out there to be a starter.

Overall the day went about as well as could have been expected. It is nice to have media coverage to these events. All this action should help ease the lull of the next month and a half leading up to two a days down in Bourbannais.

Bears Draft Jarron Gilbert D-Lineman at 68th overall

April 26, 2009

The Chicago Bears select, Jerron Gilbert defensive lineman from San Jose State. Gilbert of YouTube fame for jumping out of the swimming pool and on to the deck. He is one of those athletic freak type of players 6-foot-5 288-pounds 4.86 40-yard dash, just long and lanky and pretty strong.

Gilbert’s role on defense won’t be all that dissimilar to Israel Idonije’s role a stick your hand in the dirt player for rushing downs, and then flip him inside on pass rushing downs. You have to seriously question what this pick means to the D-Line rotation. The staff has always been high on Idonije, they were very happy with Marcus Harrison last year and then there’s the multi-million-dollar man Tommie Harris he of the arthritic knee.

Gibert’s senior season was impressive against lighter competition than a BCS level school. He had 9.5 sacks and 22 tackles-for-a-loss which is pretty impressive anyway you slice it.

For one of the comprehensive scouting reports on the web click here