Posts Tagged ‘wide receivers’

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September 13, 2009

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Looking Forward to Denver?

August 27, 2009

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bears vs. Giants Film Review

August 25, 2009

In keeping with the weekly tradition I’m wrapping up the pre-season game from the weekend with a film session. We’re going to go over the tape (hopefully in a smaller more readable format this time) and do our best to evaluate the game in a fair and balanced manner.

The starters are the usual, Cutler, Forte, Bennett, Hester, McKie, Olsen, on the line it’s Pace, Omiyale, Kreutz, Garza and Williams. The T.V. got something wrong when they had Beekman starting at the right guard spot. Garza started at RG and Omiyale at left guard. Beekman has yet to make a career start at right guard nor do I ever foresee him making such a start.

The Bears receive the opening kick off and Cutler brings them out starting at the 24-yard line.

First Drive

Frank Omiyale badly misses a block and Forte is stopped for no gain on the play. Second play run blitz, Forte shows quick feet gets to the outside and makes something out of what should have been nothing. Third and eight the Giants blitz and bring more than the Bears can block, Forte makes his block and Cutler RIFLES IT, a play that Bears fans are not used to seeing to Earl Bennett between two defenders. Hester with a nice block Bears gain 27 on the pass play. Nice bit of run after the catch by Bennett as well.

Hester gain of 10, Olsen split wide catch and a run off a down the line pass. Pace struggles with some run blocking Forte makes some moves and gains positive yards. Omiyale misses his second block of the game on a run play. Olsen drops a pass after Forte empties the back field. Pass blocking has been good to this point, third and long, pass wide of Hester. Willliams held his ground pretty well in pass protection, but did get set up late in the rush on an inside move.

Negatives two missed blocks by Omiyale on the opening drive. He seems to be getting beat pretty consistently in run blocking. This would be why Beekman should be the starter since he performed at a higher level throughout camp. This drive could have stalled a lot earlier based on Omiyale’s run blocking. Only the big catch by Bennett, saved this drive from no points. Disappointing opening series for Frank Omiyale who the Bears paid a lot of money to come in and be the starter at LG.

Result is a field goal, drive may not have stalled were it not for Omiyale’s poor run blocking.

Bears first drive on defense with the usual starters. Harris, Adams, Brown, O-Gun. Urlacher, Briggs, Tiniosamoa, Trumaine McBride, Vasher, Payne and Afalava. Bears do their typical blitz look that they ran a lot last year, Quick drop by Manning completed pass to Steve Smith. Tommie Harris double-teamed on the play, with Manning out of the shot gun.

Bears again with their blitz look from the linebackers, double team on Harris to a scrape to the linebackers, Giants run at Tommie Harris. Jacobs breaks a lot of tackles on third and two including bowling through Urlacher and gains a first down. Tommie Harris got good penetration on the play, Jacobs slipped to the other gap where Urlacher should have made the play. If Urlacher makes this tackle the drive stalls right here.

Good jump by Alex Brown another good run by Jacobs up the middle, Tommie Harris again getting good penetration to disrupt things. Jacobs bounces it to a hole where Harris was, and gains some yards. Overall Harris looks explosive and disruptive though the holes he’s choosing aren’t the right ones. Jacobs is making the Bears look bad but he’s the biggest running back in the NFL, he makes everyone look bad.

Defensive line does a good job thommie Harris looks ineffective because the guard gets a way with a hold to slow him down and get a better lock on him. The rest of the pass rush gets some pressure, Manning steps up and fires a dart that’s beautifully broken up by Kevin Payne. Payne rolled his hips perfectly into the receiver’s route and breaks it up.

Result is a punt

Second Drive

Fake toss, Cutler rolls out and fires a completion to Earl Bennett, Bennett does a great job of shielding the ball from the defender while making the catch. Bears go no-huddle hurry up offense, Cutler looks things over audibles to Forte who springs forth for his first big run of the game. Excellent audible call well communicated by Cutler to the entire offense and Forte does the rest. Good run blocking by everyone, well executed scrape block and then getting to the second level by Omiyale. Next run is a bad one, no real blocking up front and Forte is dropped for a loss.

Cutler out of the shot gun, Bears in a two TE set, Olsen split wide, a little pressure but Cutler makes another great throw to Olsen. Cutler being able to see down the field over his lineman and the collapsing pocket in front of him makes this play possible. Had this been Rex Grossman back there, it would have likely been picked or he would have been sacked for not being able to see his receiver and make the throw.

Near perfect blocking up front on Forte’s touchdown run. This play is superbly executed all the way around and it makes Forte’s job ridiculously easy. Lots of emphasis on the extremely good run blocking on this play for the Bears.

Second defensive drive

Two complete passes to start this drive. First pass has a good inside move pass rush that gets a hit on the QB by Alex Brown. Superb pass rush here by Brown, it really looks like he’s coming on. Next pass Tommie Harris is double teamed and it’s a quick out pass to the receiver.

Bears do a good job of string out this run play again, but Jacobs makes something out of nothing the only way he can. He absolutely trucks through another big hit without a wrap up by Urlacher. Urlacher is getting there but as usual he’s having trouble against big power backs. Urlacher does show great pursuit on the play and if it wasn’t Brandon Jacobs making this run the tackle would have been made.

The next run Idonije gets blown up at the point of attack, but does a good job of driving wide to string the play out. Brown gets good back side pressure and Jacobs picks through the linebackers to make a gain out of nothing. Again great run defense by the Bears here overall, just frustrating that they have to attempt to tackle the biggest RB in the NFL so he makes EVERYONE look foolish.

Next run play is good technique and drive up front by the defensive line. They attack their gaps well and why not making plays in the backfield give the linebackers ample room to roam and attack and make plays. Urlacher and Tiniosamoa attack Jacobs high and low and drop him quick. Two linebackers combining to make a tackle as Jacobs enters the hole just shows good gap control by the D-Line.

Next play is a quick pass to Ahmad Bradshaw, good pressure by the D-Line it’s just a quick pass play that doesn’t give them time to get to Manning. Only a gain of three and Briggs swoops in and makes a solid tackle. Third and 11 play Alex Brown just uses a speed rush past the LT and swipes at the ball. Fumble on the play is recovered by the Giants, but just an excellent pass rush by Alex Brown on a third and long. Good twist between O-Gun and Tommie Harris, springs O-Gun free as well. He gets a hit on Eli after Brown knocks the ball loose. Superb pass pressure all the way around here. Results in a punt.

Bears’ third offensive drive

Chris Williams struggles a bit in run blocking, well executed play everywhere else but the play doesn’t really go anywhere. Next play is the play fake roll out where Cutler shows off his sick arm strength by launching the ball to a wide open Devin Hester. Hester misjudges the ball and it’s incomplete. Next play is a good pass play, that could go complete were it not for the absolute mugging of Earl Bennett. They’re used to people in New York so I guess this shouldn’t come as a surprise. I hate to see drives kept alive by penalties, but when it’s this obvious of a call you just laugh at the defender.

More good pass protection for Cutler on a slant, Bennett should run the perfect route or shield the defender who breaks up the pass. Bennett could have been more effective in this route than sort of just nonchalantly doing what he did. Forte with a nice catch out of the backfield, he was wide open on the play so Cutler made the right throw in just getting the ball to him.

Cutler on a roll out play, comes back to Hester who lays a block on his side of the field to which the roll out was going. Hester slips into the open after the block and makes the first down grab. Forte picks his way for a gun of four off of an average run play. Some good blocking but some good pursuit by the Giants.

Cutler feels some pressure on the next play in which the Giants blitz, overall the pass protection is good. Orlando Pace particularly gets a good set, the blitz was just good. Greg Olsen gets jammed up at the line of scrimmage. He let the defender get up deep into him it was almost as if it was a block. Olsen was trying to get into his pass route and never did. Disappointing on this play to see Olsen not get into his route and not beat the jam. A lot of times last year this is what took him out of games.

Cutler from the shot gun out of an empty backfield. He sees the wide open middle of the field steps up and with some speed gets 12-yards on the play. Great pass protection on the next play Cutler easily sets his feet and makes a superb throw to Aromashadu. The 38-yard gain on the pass play is well-executed and is a great catch by Aromashadu.

Well execute play fake Cutler his a wide open Desmond Clark for the touchdown. Just good execution on this drive and there is joy in the City of Big Shoulders.

Bears on defense

Probably the worse play of the game here for the Bears. The play-action fake by Manning stops a run blitz and Manning hits a wide open Steve Smith for a big gain in the middle of the zone.

Again good solid run defense at the point of attack. The D-Line holds their gaps well, keeps their ground, Jacobs makes something out of nothing but not for much of a gain here. Al Afalava coming up into the box to make a tackle on Jacobs on this play for a gain of four. Good to see the rookie step up and make a tackle low on the big man. Good blitz on this play, Manning is pressured and throws an intentional grounding ball away. Good execution on the blitz here sets up this play.

A great rush by Adewale Ogunleye on this play he sets up the tackle with a strong move to the outside but then slides back and sacks Manning. Another double team on Tommie Harris on this play. The result is another forced punt by the defense.

Bears versus Bills What To Watch For

August 15, 2009

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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 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

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

Chicago Bears Training Camp Day 2

August 1, 2009

By all accounts coming out of Bourbonnais today’s first practice in pads went well for the Chicago Bears. No injuries to any major players although DT Matt Toeaina came up limping and later had his knee wrapped. All players who were supposed to practice were suited up and ready to go. If Toeaina’s injury is of any significance it likely spells the end of his career as a Chicago Bear.

This is good news after hearing the report that Tommie Harris was limited this morning during the workouts. His knee will likely never be 100-percent but as long as he’s taking up space in the middle of the defense and making some plays here and there I won’t complain to much. The situation with Harris is what it is.

Elsewhere along the defensive line Alex Brown uncorked a nasty bull rush on Orlando Pace in pass rush drills. Brown knocked Pace over on a fierce move that sent the future hall of famer flat on his back. Brown joked about it after practice that it shouldn’t be mentioned because “I don’t want him killing me out here tomorrow.” This type of play by Brown is typical though even against a stud like Pace. There aren’t a lot of guys that have kept Alex Brown from wreaking havoc in the backfield the past few years.

Sure we would like to see higher sack totals from Brown, but his play against the run has been invaluable and has won the Bears more than one game. Last year especially against the Eagles on the fourth and one play from the goal-line really sent a message.

Elsewhere Jay Cutler looked sharp making big throws to Greg Olsen, Devin Hester and the newly adapted Earl Bennett. Bennett is starting to show some consistency in his play on the practice field. Giving hope for the future and reason to pay close attention to him in the first pre-season game of the season.

Olsen made more than one nifty catch today and he is proving to be the go to guy for Cutler we all thought he would be. The third year in most NFL players’ careers is usually they really break out and it seems that Olsen is right in line after the first two practices to do just that. Olsen made a circus catch between Danieal Manning and Brian Urlacher in coverage.

If they were going to give out a game ball for practice today it would undoubtedly go to second year CB Zach Bowman. Bowman was making a lot of plays today, poking a way a nice reception that Devin Hester hauled in. Picking off Cutler on another pass. All around Bowman was just making solid plays today showing that he is ready to take full advantage of the opportunity he’s getting with Charles Tillman out.

Bowman made his second INT of the young camp season, and earning rave reviews from Lovie Smith two days in a row. If it keeps up Bowman could really push Nathan Vasher who struggled a bit yesterday and wasn’t mentioned at all today according to various sources. Bowman has been running with the first team defense and has been taking full advantage of it. This is very good news to hear out of the young player and shows once again that Jerry Angelo can find good defensive backs in the later rounds of the NFL draft.

Back on offense the Bears are giving Kevin Jones a lot of reps with the first team offense. Jones has slimmed down a lot and his burst of speed is back. Having a full off-season to work out and focus on getting in football playing shape versus rehabbing an injury has benefited Jones. The Bears know that they need Jones to be healthy and productive to help keep Matt Forte fresh for the stretch run. Jones getting used to running with the first team offense is a positive sign for the Bears.

Jones is also a threat to catch the ball out of the backfield, same as Forte making sure that the Bears don’t lose that dimension on offense when Forte takes a seat. If Jones can even revert slightly to his old form, it will be a great coup for this offense. Cutler will help to take the load off of Forte yes, but hte best rushing teams in the NFL lately have all had two productive running backs. Just like the Bears had with Cedric Benson and Thomas Jones during the Super Bowl run. If Forte and Jones can both be productive the Bears will be in a solid position to win a lot of games.

In another positive sign for the defense Brian Urlacher picked off a Cutler pass and returned it for a touchdown. What Urlacher does in camp may not matter much to most of us considering his veteran status. However when they line up against the Packers it will be interesting to see exactly where he is at health wise and if he can be a top linebacker in the NFL going forward. There is little doubt that Urlacher is still the leader of this defense and his play will only benefit everyone around him.

Pisa Tiniosamoa and Hunter Hillenmeyer both made some nice plays today. Tiniosamoa popped Kevin Jones in a nice run between the tackles. Hillenmeyer picked off a Cutler pass showing that he is back and healthy and likely won’t give up his roster spot without a fight.

More on offense Josh Beekman continues to be the starter penciled in at LG. Beekman according to the much maligned K.C. Joyner was a solid guard for the Bears last year. Performing quite well even though it looks as though Omiyale will eventually take his place. Beekman though will not go down without a fight likely pushing ahead and making Omiyale’s job even tougher. This is the level of competition you want to see on an annual basis during training camp.

Lastly seeing the high lights of Jay Cutler throwing passes in practice is absolutely phenomenal. Sure those passes don’t count for much right now, but it’s still a thing of beauty to behold. His rocket arm and the tightness of his spiral really changes the entire mood and spectrum of this franchise. He has made solid completions to Devin Hester on more than one occasion and you can see the ease at with which Hester is able to haul in Cutler’s throws. It doesn’t matter what type of route it is whether it’s a deep pass or a pass over the middle between the zone coverage. Cutler makes all the throws makes them crisp sharp an on target.

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

KC Joyner’s Anti-Jay Cutler Column

July 25, 2009

So I recently heard the news, read the news about KC Joyner’s column about Jay Cutler. How Cutler is going to remind Bears fans a lot more of Rex Grossman, than of anything we think we have in the actual Jay Cutler.

I thought to myself instantly, okay this guy obviously attacked this column with some sort of solid analysis and evidence to back it up. He obviously used some aspects of the column to stand on solid footing with his claim. Let me take a look at the column and then read what all the fuss is about.

So thank you to google.com I found the column and read through it. I figured sure there were things that Cutler has as far as shortcomings. 18 INTs is a shortcoming and causes me a lot of worry. The fact that his 4,500 yards passing came with an obscene number of pass attempts really shook me up too.

These were all points that I made in a column that occurred prior to the Jay Cutler trade even happened.

But there are other facts that have since come to light that I have touched on but I have gleaned from other sources. Most notably this one simple fact brought to you by none other than the most hated man in Chicago media history, one Jay Mariotti. Mariotti’s stat that he put in his column while praising the Bears for making this deal? Cutler’s record as a starter is 13-1 when the Denver Broncos defense gave up 21 points or less.

No mention of this in K.C. Joyner’s column. He glosses over how bad the Broncos defense was by simply stating

I know there are those who will defend this by saying that Cutler worked with a horrible defense last year, but when he took over the Broncos in 2006, they were less than a full season removed from hosting the AFC championship game.

Some how that little remark is supposed to make his point even harder to overcome? Huh? What? That point is useless and preposterous on a completely different level. But Joyner decided to throw it out there and try to shoot it down all in one fell swoop.

Joyner ignores simple facts though that coincide precisely with what myself and everyone else has said about the Broncos’ defense in 2008. They were horrible, therefore they put Cutler in a position where he had to play from behind. When you have to make plays coming from behind in a football game, you take more chances, bigger risks and by virtue of this you’re a lot more prone to mistakes.

When you have a defense that surrenders so many points and allows the team to score so consistently it always puts your offense in a bad position. More often than not Cutler and the Broncos’ offense started out down, and even if they did score first more often than not the other team racked up three to four straight scores to really put Cutler in a bad position in the fourth quarter.

Additionally you have to take into account just how many pass attempts had during the season. Those obscene number of attempts also led to the likelihood of Cutler throwing more picks than the average QB in the league. But the truth is Cutler didn’t throw more INTs per attempt than the league average. He was actually below average in this equation and this was only his second full year in the league as a starter.

When you combine all the variables in Cutler’s performance you can see that he will be a solid if not spectacular QB for the Bears in 2009. While from a fantasy football stand point he may not put up the 4,500 yards passing he did last year. 25 touchdowns and less INTs would easily put him in the Pro Bowl next year.

The nice thing about the team heading into 2009 is that Cutler’s play may off set some of the other shortcomings that held the Bears back last year.

Overall an improved defense should give the Bears one to two more wins, improved QB play will give the Bears another one to two wins there as well. In the end the Bears are easily looking at the likelihood of a 11 to 12 win season.

For in-depth discussion check out the forums at Midway Illustrated

Brian Billick talks Chicago Bears football

July 23, 2009

On ESPN 1000 with Waddle and Silvy Super Bowl winning coach and current Fox Sports NFL analys Brian Billick chimed in with his take on the Bears for 2009.

Billick speaking of the Bears touches on the defensive problems the Bears have had the past two years. He was overall pretty satisfied with the play of the QB last year. However he noted that the Bears are a team that is designed to succeed based on how well the defense plays.

Billick stepped in and stated “I think you can make a fair case that the difficulties for the Bears was not the quarterback position. Kyle Orton did a nice job. I did the Atlanta, Chicago game where he did a nice job bringing back the Bears the length of the field. It just turned out that Matt Ryan had one better drive after that to win the game.”

Billick’s point in the Atlanta game points directly to the Bears’ short comings on defense. Zero pass rush was generated by the front four in that game and it was essentially that way throughout the season. The Bears did not pressure the QB and their defense suffered majorly as a result.

Billick followed up with “From my perspective having seen the Bears play two times (in 2008). That is the number one issue for them, iscan they get back to playing the level of to go with the philosophy that they want to have.”

“They’re certainly capable of it and Lovie Smith stepping back in and calling the defense adds a better element to it. But it also puts Lovie at a greater risk (in terms of him being solely responsible for the success of the defense in 2009).

The crew led by fill in host Jeff Dickerson who does duty as the ESPN 1000 radio beat broadcaster for the Bears then shifted gears to the next obvious weak point in the offense, the wide receivers.

This obviously is an issue that will be beat to death through camp and until the Bears prove themselves able to compete at a high level and win games with this group of receivers.

It’s not so much the tired argument can Devin Hester be successful as a number one, and after that only Rashied Davis has an NFL reception in his career. The main focus will be can the Bears win in spite of their receivers. The production will be there, to what level we don’t know.

What we do know is there will be production and success and failures. However will the ultimate take on the season won’t be the production from the receivers if the Bears go to the playoffs, win the division and play deep into January. The Bears were one game away from the playoffs last year with a lousy group of receivers anyway. So can they muster two more wins with this crop and Jay Cutler going forward?

Billick’s take “I think that he has some choices, that’s probably as good and as deep of a tight end trio as there is in the league. And the end of the day you’re looking to get that 90-plus catches from your go to guy. You’d like to be in that 70 range with your number two, and whatever it is whether it’s your tight end whether it’s your third receiver your running back be in that 40 to 50 (receptions) range.

Well the Bears have the potential with that trio of tight ends that they have, that can be your go to guy to a certain degree. Particularly when you’re talking about the speed that a Devin Hester presents stretching the field on the outside. Could they use bona fide legitimate number one receiver? Sure. But I think they have the parts in place to use that tight end in a way that not a lot of other teams in the league can’t. You’ve got the speed with Hester. Plus you have the young running back coming off the season that he had. Forte had a great season coming out of the backfield he gives you the potential to put up a lot of numbers coming out of the back field. Could they use the number one receiver? Yes but I think they have enough weapons surrounding Jay Cutler and that there will be enough there to support him. A lot of other teams in the league at the end of the day are looking for that number one receiver that the Bears don’t have.”

Billick went on to further discuss what Hester means to the Bears. Stating analysis along the lines of should Hester held out of punt return duties if he’s a true number one receiver.

There is that debate and it’s a fair debate but at the end of the day he’s a valuable part of the return game. Sure we’ll hold our breath each and every time Hester is back there fielding a punt, but it’s an element of the return game that has made the Bears highly successful.

Billick talked very long and on strong point about what the Bears have on offense in the way of pass catching potential. Most people overlook the fact that Greg Olsen could be the number one receiver in this offense. Tight ends have done that before, plus with speed Hester has it opens up things underneath for the tight ends even more. Billick’s analysis is coming from a former head coach and a former offensive coordinator that had success. You could almost hear him salivating at the thought of what it would be like to be in the position to set up the Bears’ offense with the weapons they have. Hester’s speed, Olsen’s unlimited potential at tight end plus the franchise quarterback with the rifle of an arm that Jay Cutler brings to the table. There’s enough out there in the passing game for the Bears to win a lot of football games.

For further in depth discussion check out the forums at Midway Illlustrated