Posts Tagged ‘NFL’

Analyzing the Chicago Bears Depth Chart

August 13, 2009

As expected the Bears released their official depth chart yesterday. Really there is not a real surprise on the depth chart after what we have seen this far in camp. Most all the players we figured would be where at their slots are where you thought they would be. There’s no real surprises in the depth chart at this point in camp.

The only intriguing thing is rookie safety Al Afalava who is running with the second team at strong safety. Afalava was barely around for OTAs but that hasn’t stopped him from showing up in camp and proving he may just be an NFL ready safety. Afalava will be one player to watch during the pre-season game tomorrow night against Buffalo. The rookie is once again proving that Jerry Angelo and his team of scouts know how to find very talented NFL ready players in the later rounds of the NFL draft. Afalava fits Angelo’s pedigree to a T and he has the versatility to play free or strong safety although the roles in the Bears’ defense between free and strong aren’t very different.

Elsewhere Mark Anderson’s solid training camp has led to him being listed as a starter at both of the DE positions. The major hope that Anderson would take to Rod Marinelli’s tutelage has been realized to this point. Anderson is yet another player who will be watched during the pre-season game to see what kind of pass rush he can generate. Although Anderson is unlikely to play long given his status as a starter.

At left guard Josh Beekman has thoroughly held off the challenge of free agent signee Frank Omiyale. Beekman was good enough last year and looks like he may be even better this year. Bears fans may have a lot of unfair disdain for Beekman but he just seems to be unfazed by any of it. He’s taking it in stride and competing at a high level right now.

On defense at nose tackle it’s still a three man race between Anthony Adams, Dusty Dvoracek and Marcus Harrison, with none of the three giving ground to the other. All three seem to realize that the third team loser of this battle is likely to be cut so they are performing well up to expectations.

The game against Buffalo will tell some about this team but I think the real keys to follow will be with the depth that we are counting on, and the rookies playing like they could be starters some day.

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

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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.

Will the Light Bulb Come Back On For Mark Anderson?

August 9, 2009

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Two Rookies Who Have Disappointed So Far

August 5, 2009

Two relatively high draft picks were spent on two players who were thought to be addressing needs on the team in 2009. Henry Melton provides the speed off the edge that the Bears seem to lack with his 4.6 40-yard dash time and his explosion off the edge. While Juaqin Iglesias is supposed to develop into a solid two option if not a number one option at receiver. To this point of training camp neither has been very impressive at either one of their jobs.

Juaqin Iglesias was talked about as being worthy of the second round selection the Bears traded away. Most everyone viewed him as a player that should have been taken at that slot. Ironically six receivers and nearly two rounds of draft later, the Bears scooped Iglesias up at 99th overall in the back end of the third round with their compensatory pick. Iglesias’ value was seen as high for that slot in the draft, but to this point it appears that his value was on target or maybe even a shade under the third round.

To this point he has yet to establish himself among the top receivers on the roster. Through OTAs and the first week of training camp Iglesias has struggled with his consistency catching the football, and in his route running which is far from polished. There has even been discussion and observation between most of the analysts about who really is the receiver drafted in the third round (Iglesias) and the receiver drafted in the fifth round (Johnny Knox). Johnny Knox has shown a superb level of speed and pretty consistent hands through OTAs and on into training camp. Knox is pushing for playing time against some of the more experience veterans.

Iglesias may only make the roster at this point due to his high draft status and Angelo’s penchant for “red shirting” inexperienced rookies who have time developing over the steep rookie learning curve they see. He seems like a candidate to miss a lot of the season the same way Earl Bennett did last year. Bennett by the way is looking better after a year of development.

On the defensive side of the ball most Bears fans were asking Who is that? When the Bears selected defensive end Henry Melton early in the fourth round of the NFL draft. Melton is a converted RB/FB to defensive end and has only played the position for two seasons in college. To say that Melton is a raw project may be a bit of an understatement. He is however a big athlete with a lot of speed. Whether or not that translates into a spot on the 53-man roster over a spot on the practice squad remains to be seen. As it stands now Melton is easily behind O-Gun, Brown, Anderson and Idonijae who is back full time at DE this season. That’s a solid four DEs that are ahead of him on the depth chart leaving it very unlikely he will make the 53-man cut.

With Mark Anderson having a better camp and looking a bit improved over the past two years Melton’s job of making the cut is even harder to overcome. Melton has all the tools you look for yes but will it ever develop into something more? That remains to be seen.

While not every rookie the Bears draft will make the 53-man roster and the odds were already stacked against Iglesias and Melton for the most part. There is some comfort in seeing Knox and safety Al Afalava exceed expectations thus far in camp.

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

Chicago Bears Training Camp Report Day 5

August 5, 2009

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Greg Olsen Set For Pro Bowl Season

August 4, 2009

The Bears drafted Greg Olsen with the 31st pick in the NFL draft in 2007, they did so because he fell to them. He was a talent that should have gone earlier but he fell all the way to the Bears. It was a no brainer to snatch up this 6-foot-5 260-pound 4.5 40-yard dash athlete. Olsen was the highest rated TE in the draft and his ceiling unlimited.

While Olsen hasn’t become the instant star in his first two years in the league it is safe to say that he will be in 2009. Olsen’s camp to this point has been phenomenal. He was named the “starter” early in camp and deservedly so. Although the term starter doesn’t really mean much because it only means the “starter” plays the first snap of the game, Olsen is clearly the best TE on the team.

He is a special talent on a level that few TEs in the league achieve. He makes all sorts of catches and is a nightmare of a match up for both LBs and safeties. His size is the major match up problem for for safeties and his speed and athleticism is a match up nightmare for the linebackers in the league.

Now in his third year it’s apparent that Olsen is extremely comfortable in his element. Plus with the addition of some guy by the name of Jay Cutler in a trade that received some attention during the off-season he has a QB that can I think get him the ball. Olsen can make any catch out there and he seems to make those catches with ease. He can make the leaping grab over the defender as he has during camp, he can lay out make a grab, he can go up between defenders in double coverage and win that battle as well.

To say that the expectations are high for Olsen may be an understatement. He will likely be Cutler’s number one target and could easily lead the team in receptions. He can be the number one receiver that helps the Bears win a lot of games and he takes the pressure off of the younger players. With Devin Hester’s speed on the outside it opens up things in the middle of the defense for Olsen to work. The Bears’ offense will take huge advantage of Olsen as a weapon and rightfully so.

Olsen is an absolute beast with the only knock on his game being his blocking. But there are not a lot of TEs that offer both superb blocking ability and catching ability. That combination is rare and in Olsen’s case may come with more time. Even if it doesn’t his value in the passing game is immeasurable.

Olsen was a solid performer last year with 54 receptions for 574 yards. Solid numbers for a TE, but you can count on Olsen’s numbers to go up this year. Exactly how much I can’t predict but it will be enough to land him among the most productive TEs in the league.

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

Should Josh Beekman Remain the Starter?

August 3, 2009

Josh Beekman by most accounts did nothing to lose his starting job last year. He was one of the top performers in the league at run blocking especially at the point of attack according to one source. He performed way better than expectations for a second year player. A lot of fans were ready to write him off after his rookie, year (sound familiar Chris Williams?) but he bounced back and was a very good guard. He anchored in and started all 16 games and helped Matt Forte to over 1,200 yards rushing in his rookie season, good for seventh best in the league.

Yet Beekman is saddled with the assumption that his time as a starter on the Chicago Bears’ offensive line is over. The 6-million-dollar man Frank Omiyale showed up and with his price tag in the first year of the contract being that figure, it’s likely Beekman will be riding the bench this year. Yet there is no logical reason why other than Omiyale’s contract number.

Beekman to this point has been solid in camp. He’s still running with the first team next to Kreutz and not showing why the Bears seemed to have so little faith in him in the first place. However there is this fact that may be overlooked by some in the media. Omiyale was signed to come in and play guard, and to replace Beekman. What’s been lost in all of that is Beekman is likely to take over for Olin Kreutz. Beekman running with the first team gives him the most chance to develop next to Kreutz. Learn from Kreutz develop his game to take over at the center position.

Beekman played center in college and easily could slide into that postion in the NFL. Often times potential centers start out as a guard, and then shift inside to be the chief engineer of the line. Beekman learning from a Pro-Bowl center in Kreutz is just as beneficiary as Chris Williams learning from Orlando Pace.

So while Beekman may eventually seem to be unfairly displaced from his starting guard spot. It’s important to remember that his experience as a guard will benefit him later when he lines up as Olin Kreutz’s likely replacement.

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