Nine Not Ten Thoughts on the Game.......................
Biggs: 10 (now only 9) thoughts on Bears' 14-13 loss
By Brad Biggs Tribune reporter 10:03 a.m. CDT, August 28, 2011
NASHVILLE -- Here are ten things that came out of the 14-13 loss to the Titans, or are pressing issues with final cuts coming Saturday: (Actually nine because item #1 was all about Briggs and his contract demands so I moved to that thread for those who wish to read it. It's worth the read)
2. Until a cart was summoned early in the fourth quarter to help Desmond Clark off the field following an injury to his left knee, the Bears had enjoyed a remarkably healthy summer. Yes, defensive end Corey Wootton underwent arthroscopic knee surgery, but he’s a role player and chances are he’s back in another two to three weeks. Briggs is resting a bruised knee and defensive tackle Anthony Adams could be back to practice next week after a calf muscle injury sidelined him midway through training camp. A year ago, the only veteran to land on injured reserve was Hunter Hillenmeyer. The Bears were one of the healthiest teams in the entire league.
Have they taken a new approach at all with the training they do? Not at all, said Angelo.
“Part of it is a tribute to the players,” Angelo said. “They take impeccably good care of themselves when they are on their own and it was a testament to how they reported, in very, very good shape. (Strength and conditioning coach) Rusty (Jones) has done a great job of educating, the do’s and the don’ts. The guys buy in and we’re talking about their livelihoods. It’s good to see. Just knock on wood. Whatever it is, we hope it keeps going.
“Our deal is we don’t like fat guys. We want guys lean and in top shape. Hopefully, that leads to being healthy. You’re in good condition and you’re playing hard. Way back when, coaches used to say when you go hard, your chances of being injured are a lot less. We just thought it was ‘coach talk,’ but when I look at it, there is something to that.”
Here is a look at how the rest of the NFC North is stacking up health-wise right now:
Detroit: The Lions have been hit harder than any team in the division. Illinois running back Mikel Leshoure, the team’s second-round pick, is out for the season after suffering a torn Achilles tendon. First-round draft pick Nick Fairley remains sidelined while he recovers from a fractured foot. The prognosis was four to six weeks when he was hurt, so he might not be ready for the start of the season. The defensive tackle should be in the mix before the Bears play at Ford Field on “Monday Night Football” Oct. 10. It will be the Lions’ first prime time game in a decade. Cornerback Alphonso Smith hasn’t practiced either but expectations are he could be back next week. He’s been on the non-football injury list with a fractured foot. Running back Jahvid Best is back from a concussion.
Green Bay: The Packers placed 16 players on injured reserve en route to a Super Bowl XLV championship a year ago. They’ve had good fortune mostly through three preseason games. Wide receiver Greg Jennings has a bruised knee and didn’t play Friday at Indianapolis, but he should be fine. Defensive end Mike Neal has been out two weeks with a sprained knee but is also expected to be fine. Wide receiver Randall Cobb, who will likely fill return roles, has two bruised knees and probably will not be ready for the start of the season. Unlike last summer, the Packers haven’t lost anyone for the year.
Minnesota: Kevin Williams has been shut down for the remainder of preseason with plantar fasciitis, a painful injury that can be problematic for a defensive tackle that relies on his quickness. He could get more time to heal if he faces a suspension for the StarCaps case. Tight end Visanthe Shiancoe hasn’t played in preseason yet because of a hamstring problem that he aggravated last week. He could be ready for the start of the season.
All things considered, the Bears are doing as well as their competition once again.
3. The Bears didn’t keep a fullback on the roster last season and it’s not something offensive coordinator Mike Martz typically uses. But with the subtle personnel shift made by the team acknowledging they are a running team, a fullback could make it this year. Will Ta’ufo’ou got a long look with the starters against the Titans. He’s a former undrafted product from Cal who has been around for three years now. Ta’ufo’ou suffered a torn MCL in the third preseason game last summer that eliminated him from consideration, and with the presence of tight end Brandon Manumaleuna, who was used a lot as a fullback, he might not have stuck anyway. Ta’ufo’ou spent the 2009 season on the practice squad.
“I’m feeling food right now but we still have one more game,” Ta’ufo’ou said. “I have to keep on improving on my blocking and my catching. You never know. You have to keep on playing every day.”
Does he think the team will keep a fullback this time?
“It’s hard to tell, it really is,” Ta’ufo’ou said. “Right now, I just have to take care of what I have to do. I feel like I have improved a lot.”
Eddie Williams is in the mix and the Bears have shifted undrafted free agent Kyle Adams from tight end to fullback. If Clark is seriously injured – he left LP Field with a large brace on his left leg – it could enhance the chances for a fullback to stick. Clark has been doing a lot of the motion stuff in the backfield.
4. It would be a mistake to say wide receiver Dane Sanzenbacher has “all but made” the final roster but things are looking up for the undrafted rookie from Ohio State. He’ll be the first to admit he didn’t have his best game either, not after a drop in the second half. But it was telling that Jay Cutler turned to Sanzenbacher on third-and-10 for a 13-yard gain in the first quarter.
“There is a good chance,” Angelo said when asked about the rookie. “You’ve seen it in practice, you’ve seen it in the game. You know what he breeds? Trust.”
For his part, Sanzenbacher isn’t considering it a done deal. Not yet.
“It’s a day-by-day thing,” he said. “You can’t ever take anything for granted here. They re-evaluate it every day. There is a lot of area for progress and I didn’t play my best game here by any means.”
But the only way he could approach the opportunity after signing with the Bears was as if he was going to make the team, no matter how long the odds were.
“That’s how you want to go into it, not in an arrogant sense or anything like that, but you have to have that as the goal in mind,” he said.
5. Special teams improved over the week before and the highlight might have been seeing Robbie Gould drill one kickoff into the first row of the stands. But one kickoff that didn’t go out of the end zone was returned 37 yards by the Titans’ Marc Mariani. There is reason to have some concern over the unit with so many young players involved.
“They’re getting a chance right now in the preseason games to play and they’re getting better and better,” special teams ace Corey Graham said. “If that’s the case, we just have to go out there and make plays. They have to figure it out as fast as possible and make it happen. They’re picking it up pretty good. It was dramatically better than last week.”
There is some thinking the Bears will closely monitor the waiver wire for a linebacker and/or a defensive back to add some depth for the unit.
“I can’t say that right now,” Angelo said. “I like to think we have a good core and if we keep working with the core, I’m not going to push the panic button on teams. We’ve got young guys. We’ve got some new guys we’re counting on too like a Sam Hurd. I have a lot of confidence it will come together.”
Still, don’t be surprised if one new faces arrives in early September.
6. The Bears didn’t announce running back Chester Taylor would not play before the game, but running backs coach Tim Spencer filled him in shortly before things started. He sat on the bench without a helmet or an explanation.
The best guess here is the Bears don’t want to play Taylor and have him get injured, something that would put them on the hook for some or all of his $1.25 million contract for this season.
He’s not happy one bit.
“I’m still waiting to find out,” Taylor said. “If they are trying to see a competition, it’s hard to have a competition when I am getting three carries a game and everybody else is getting 13 or 14. That’s not really competitive to me. The only fair thing is to get the same amount of reps and opportunities and carries.”
7. Amobi Okoye picked up his third sack of preseason and the third for the defense as a whole. The candidates to serve as the third defensive end while Wootton remains in recovery didn’t flash a whole lot. This is going to be an issue for Angelo, who admitted last week he can’t be for sure what he’ll get from Wootton when he returns.
Does the situation in flux concern the ringleader of the pass rush, Julius Peppers?
“No,” he said. “I’m not going to get into making any personnel decisions. I don’t know how it’s going to go. I don’t know how the rotation is going to be. We’ll see about that in another week or so.”
We’ve introduced the idea before that a steady third end could allow the Bears to rest Peppers and fellow starter Israel Idonije a little more. Peppers was on the field for 912 of the 1,038 defensive snaps last season, meaning he averaged less than 7.9 plays off a game.
“It doesn’t matter,” Peppers said. “I can’t say I would like to play less. I can’t say I would like to play more. It’s just how the plays went last year.”
Keep an eye on this position. The Bears want it to work out with Wootton, but there could be movement here too.
8. Erik Kramer still claims the best season by a Bears quarterback in the last two decades but you’d have to think if the offense can click the way offensive coordinator Mike Martz envisions, Cutler could put up some big numbers.
Martz raved about the fundamental improvements made by Cutler on his own during the lockout, and Kramer has seen it translate into the games he’s followed as the color analyst for the preseason broadcasts on Fox.
“He is more disciplined in his footwork and more fluid and has a better sense of rhythm in his passing game than I’ve seen,” Kramer said. “He’s trusting the process of his drops and his reads better and therefore it looks like he trusts the line better but it really comes out to be Jay’s doing his job only, which is what he needs to do, and not watch the rush. Fortunately, it’s timing up with the offensive line, which looks to be coming around pass protection-wise.
“Jay can stand here like he did last year and throw like that (sidearm motion) and get away with it at times. But he can’t be as accurate. Sometimes there was no rush and he’s still sort of falling away, just out of habit. It looks to me – I didn’t see a throw the other night at New York – where he didn’t make it balanced and efficient. He didn’t take seven steps and hitch and hitch and dash and slide and then throw. He was seven steps, a hitch and throw. All of the weight was on his front foot when he threw it. He’s playing good quarterback. There is reason to think things are improving.”
9. After releasing defensive back Mike Holmes before the game (the undrafted free agent from Syracuse was waived/injured), the Bears now have 85 players on their roster. They need to make moves to reduce the roster to 80 by Tuesday’s deadline.
10. Twelve NFL teams had scouts at the game, including the Raiders, who had two. Also represented were the Vikings, Saints, Buccaneers, Packers, Chiefs, Bills, Dolphins, Falcons, Browns, Ravens and Jaguars. From the CFL, the Edmonton Eskimos had two scouts and the Winnipeg Blue Bombers sent one.
Eighteen NFL teams had scouts at the Giants game: 49ers, Jets and Saints who had two scouts each in the press box. Also present were the Dolphins, Texans, Ravens, Cowboys, Packers, Chiefs, Vikings, Raiders, Eagles, Chargers, Falcons, Bills, Colts, Steelers and Browns. Four CFL teams were present, including Montreal Alouettes scout Jeremy Snyder, a former front office assistant for the Bears.
Eighteen NFL teams were at the Bills game: two scouts from the Chiefs and one from the Eagles, Packers, Jets, Ravens, Dolphins, Saints, Jaguars, Seahawks, Buccaneers, Raiders, Steelers, Vikings, Cowboys, Falcons, Chargers, Redskins andPatriots.
Copyright © 2011, Chicago Tribune
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