5 things we learned during Bears offseason

Discussion in 'Chicago Bears' started by short faced bear, Jun 20, 2014.

  1. short faced bear

    short faced bear Assistant Head Coach
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    By Rich Campbell, Tribune reporter

    8:04 p.m. CDT, June 19, 2014

    The Bears concluded their two-month offseason program Thursday, the first step on a journey they hope leads to the playoffs.

    Players were prohibited from wearing shoulder pads or tackling during nine voluntary and three mandatory practices, so true evaluations must wait until training camp practices begin July 25. However, they were meaningful sessions that fueled the promise coach Marc Trestman sees in this group.

    Here are five things we learned about the Bears during their offseason program:

    1. Position flexibility is a must. That applies especially on defense. This is one of the most important lessons Bears coaches learned from an injury-riddled 2013 that exposed insufficient depth. In hindsight, Trestman has said they could have structured their program differently to foster development of young players.

    One consequential change was clear during the offseason program. Some players practiced in various positions with different personnel groupings. On Thursday, defensive end-turned linebacker Shea McClellin and second-year pro Jon Bostic were the nickel linebackers with the first-string defense. In regular-season games, Lance Briggs figures to work in that role, as well. Veteran D.J. Williams, the first-string middle linebacker, played in the nickel package with the second string.

    "When guys go down, you can just plug a guy in," defensive coordinator Mel Tucker said. "Especially if you're going to be (the fourth, fifth or sixth) linebacker, and you're going to play special teams, you have to know multiple spots. You can't be a backup and know only one spot."

    2. Forget backup QB fantasy. To expect another backup quarterback fairy tale is wishful thinking. The candidates aren't consistent enough yet to say otherwise.

    Jordan Palmer, who entered the offseason program as the front-runner, was inaccurate during minicamp after missing two weeks of practice with a strained right pectoral muscle. Safety M.D. Jennings easily intercepted Palmer's overthrow near the end of practice Thursday. On the plus side, Palmer connected with a tight end in stride over the middle Wednesday for a big gain.

    Jimmy Clausen won a roster spot for training camp in just six practices, and he hasn't played a regular-season game since 2010. Clausen wouldn't be going to training camp if the Bears didn't think he could beat out Palmer for the No. 2 job.

    Could we eventually see Josh McCown-esque success from one of the Bears' backups? Sure. It helps to have Trestman as a coach and play with a Pro Bowl running back, two Pro Bowl receivers, an athletic 6-foot-6 tight end and an offensive line that has played a season together.

    But these quarterbacks must improve, and, fortunately for the Bears, they have time to do so. Meanwhile, Jay Cutler better find that elusive durability.

    3. Think tough. Toughness is a significant point of emphasis in 2014. We have heard from general manager Phil Emery, Trestman and assistant coaches enough since January to recognize this message they are preaching consistently to players. It's a product of how the defensive front wilted during the second half of 2013.

    "We weren't the tough team we wanted to be for a lot of different reasons," Trestman said Wednesday.

    This isn't groundbreaking. Each NFL team preaches toughness, and its value is clear in how controlling the line of scrimmage correlates to victories. Trestman understands that toughness won't unlock the door to the postseason; quality talent and scheme are greater requirements.

    But with upgraded personnel and a refined defensive scheme in place, toughness — particularly up front — could go a long way toward helping the Bears improve their run defense and returning to the playoffs.

    4. Line durability is crucial. The offensive line's collective health warrants monitoring. Don't undervalue the importance of the line's good health last season to the offense's success as a whole. For the overhauled group to start the same five linemen in all 16 games and not have its depth tested for extended periods was critical to the running game and pass protection.

    This offseason was a different story. Right tackle Jordan Mills (left foot), right guard Kyle Long (back) and left guard Matt Slauson (right shoulder) sat out minicamp practices. None is expected to be a long-term concern, but we'll see if that holds true.

    At least backups such as Brian de la Puente, Eben Britton and Taylor Boggs should benefit from recent replacement work with the first-string offense.

    5. Kyle Fuller is on target. Kyle Fuller's athleticism and intelligence bode well for his ability to contribute as a rookie. Fuller's physicality at cornerback helped entice the Bears to draft him 14th overall, but we won't see that clearly until players can hit at training camp. Still, he showed other positive traits.

    "He has excellent movement skills for his position," defensive backs coach Jon Hoke said.

    Fuller was in man-to-man coverage Tuesday when he broke up a pass over the middle intended for Alshon Jeffery. He later positioned his body to the inside of Jeffery's to defend a deep pass down the right sideline. Twice during the last month, he ripped inside a receiver's block to head off a ballcarrier in the flat.

    "(The game) is definitely slowing down," Fuller said. "I'm looking forward to continuing to grow."

    rcampbell@tribune.com

    http://www.chicagotribune.com/sport...icamp-bears-spt-0620-20140620,0,5812692.story
     
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  2. soulman

    soulman Pro-Bowler
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    Good post shorty and a very fair analysis by Campbell.

    I like the adjustments Tucker is making and his approach to getting more of his guys prepared to play multiple positions. That was always a factor on offense as far as the WR spots go and one thing that helped keep Earl Bennett around despite his history of injuries was his ability to play all three WR positions. Now Marshall can do it all and my guess is Jeffery isn't too far behind him.

    So having McClellin work both MLB and SLB and play in the nickel is worth the effort as well as using Bostic at all three spots and in the nickel. It's time to prepare for the fact that guys like DWill and Briggs may lose some time and getting a guy ready to replace him during game week isn't the way to go about it. We learned that lesson pretty well last year.

    They're pretty much doing the same with the DT spots since all of them are learning to be interchangeable with another. Ratliff and Collins already are and Paea has played some snaps at DT as well so it's just the rookies who need some work to get them up to speed. Releasing Izzy seems to mean that they feel comfortable with being able to move Houston to DT if and when needed and Young will be able to backup at either DE spot as will Bass as well I imagine.

    Fuller was a good pick and I think we're gonna find that Vereen was as well. Both these guys have college experience playing different positions in the defensive backfield so they understand the concepts of all of the different positions. I think both will see a lot of time on the field this year.

    Maybe the most important thing from the top on down is that the organization is learning from some of the mistakes that were made last year and finding ways not to repeat them. I think that's the thing that's filling me with more confidence this year than I had last year. We screwed some things up but no one is dwelling on them. They just put them on the shelf as a learning experience and moved on.
     
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  3. JustAnotherBearsFan99

    JustAnotherBearsFan99 Assistant Head Coach
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    The more we hear, the more it sounds like Palmer just isn't very good. Clausen probably has a cakewalk to making that #2 QB slot. It sounds like he's a significant upgrade over Palmer.

    The OL depth concerns me. We have 3 of the 5 OL injured now and not participating in practices. I hope the backups are decent enough to step in with quality play if we have injury problems on the OL this season.
     
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  4. soulman

    soulman Pro-Bowler
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    I think they're just being cautious and resting the linemen. These practices should be more helpful to the new guys as far as getting the offense down. This is the best time for them to learn so when camp starts they're able to do.

    I'm not sure what to think about Palmer so far. There wasn't any indication of any problems before Clausen came along other than this shoulder or chest muscle strain. Maybe it's worse than Palmer is letting on or maybe he is having some problems. ???? Anyway I like having two vets competing and not one very inexperienced vet and a 6th round draft pick.
     
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  5. riczaj01

    riczaj01 DaBears Ditka
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    Palmer was fine before the injury, the only neg things I've heard were the last mini camp when he clearly was still struggling w/the peck inj. But ya that might well allow Clausen to cake walk into the backup role

    The OL is as deep as it's ever been w/DLP, Britton Boggs and some unknown factors like Brown and JLong in the mix also.
     
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  6. Papa_Bear_7

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    Not to mention the 7th round guy Leno Jr. who sounds like he has a decent chance of bumping Brown off the team.
     
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  7. riczaj01

    riczaj01 DaBears Ditka
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    Leno and Ola really both sound like they have a shot of rounding out the depth chart.
     
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  8. MPbears68

    MPbears68 Pro-Bowler

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    Palmer is recovering from a pec strain. If you've ever strained a muscle, you know what it feels like. It takes a while to not hurt when you use it. I pulled my gastroc pretty bad once in a skiing fall and it took months before I could run again normally. In Palmer's case I'd imagine its tough to throw well with a pec strain and that may linger for weeks.

    Fortunately it's June not August and there's no hurry. So I wouldn't be writing him off for Clausen who just got here. Palmer has a year in the system and is a big strong guy. The team knows it's not fair to judge his throws at this point. It should be an interesting August battle for the #2 spot but I still figure Palmer has the inside track. I'm really curious to see how they handle the loser of that battle and Fales, whom I expect to be nowhere near "ready" for anything beyond holding a clipboard this year.
     
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  9. soulman

    soulman Pro-Bowler
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    Oh yeah, pulled a groin muscle playing softball one year and it took forever to heal well enough to run on it again so I can imagine what a strained pec does to his ability to throw. I'm sure it can linger.

    I'm not writing him off or giving the nod to Clausen just yet. So far I'm just glad to hear that Cutler has respect for him because without that Clausen is dead meat as far as making the roster. In my mind there's really no reason not to keep both Palmer and Clausen on the final roster and send Fales to the PS.

    Between the two of them Palmer and Clausen are consuming less than $1.5 mil in cap space total and it's tough to even get one vet backup for that. There just isn't enough cap dollars saved to justify keeping Fales over either of the other two unless he proves he's better and it doesn't sound like that's the case.
     
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  10. soulman

    soulman Pro-Bowler
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    I think they're gonna give a serious shot at it. Brown was a LT in college but it seems to me they've never had any confidence in him being able to that in the pros or they wouldn't have wasted a roster spot on Scott last year.

    If Leno can backup at LT and play some OG he should be able to bump Brown and get his shot at it for a bit. From what I read about Leno he has the physical traits and athleticism you'd like to see at LT but he doesn't have much to offer as a run blocker.
     
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