It has been reported that Chris Williams, Chicago Bears tackle and struggle spot for fans - and some players - affection, has reported first to training camp. This can be mere habit, or foreshadowing as the left tackle spot, split between Williams and J'Marcus Webb, will undoubtedly be the biggest storyline - as position battles are concerned - of camp. This battle is one of many angles this Bears training camp, lets take a look at things to watch during camp in anticipation of the upcoming season.
The chemistry between Marshall and quarterback Jay Cutler is there. The chemistry between Marshall and the Bears is up for debate. I had the luck of bumping into Brandon in New York outside Yankees Stadium before a game, class act guy and should have no problem adjusting in a Halas Hall locker room that shuns such inner-personnel drama. With that said, if Marshall locks in early as a key piece to this new offense, the Bears can be dangerous early with games against the Green Bay Packers, Detroit Lions, and the Dallas Cowboys in the first six weeks.
Nevertheless, it starts at training camp.
It's a battle of will, a battle of intestinal fortitude. It's a battle of who reduces the risk of getting Jay Cutler killed. It's the battle for the left tackle position. J'Marcus Webb versus Chris Williams. Each showing legitimate flaws, the Bears seem to head in willing to choose the lesser of two evils.
Worst-case scenario: The Bears find out they have no left tackle.
Best-case scenario: One of the two gets their head out their tookus' and plays like an NFL offensive lineman. Or Gabe Carimi slides over, and the pieces fall into place from there.
Forte The Freak
Matt Forte got paid, so he's ready to play. Maybe even more than last season. In any event, Matt has been working hard to rehab from the knee injury he suffered last season and to his benefit he looks spectacular. Let's not forget that Forte for the past two seasons has accomplishing rushing and receiving numbers only accompanied by the likes of Marshall Faulk and Walter Payton.
Over the offseason, Forte took to Twitter to both express frustration over the contract situation and to also update on his progress in rehabilitation. Of those tweets, he posted a picture of him running hills during a workout and he looks more than ready to pick up where he left off.
The rookies that count are all signed and ready to begin training camp. Alshon Jefferey, Shane McClellin, and Brandon Hardin all will be expected in some capacity, to contribute early for the Bears and to step into roles immediately when called upon. What helps is that this class of rookies will get the opportunity to experience a full training and garner the time mandatory to all players to get into the swing of this Bears system and life of a professional athlete.
McClellin and Hardin may be held to higher initial expectations, as the position of defensive end and safety may be performed by committee.
The Offense, and Mike Tice
It is a widely known fact that nobody was satisfied with the results of the offense under coordinator Mike Martz. At times it seemed as if he was in his own world way up there in the skybox wearing his headset, calling 3rd and short passes and maybe too far away to realize how much danger he was truly putting his quarterback in. Nevertheless, things have changed and the Bears promoted offensive line coach Mike Tice to the position of reigning in the offense and making it flush with the dominant defense that predicates it.
The offense will be intoduced to new weapons, some of which the Bears have never seen before, Brandon Marshall is of the caliber of receiver that no Bears fan alive can say they have witnessed don the blue and orange. Michael Bush, perhaps swept under the rug because of the enormity of the Marshall signing, may be one of the best backup pickups of all 32 teams, picking up the slack for the versatile Forte. It will now be up to Mike Tice to find a balance, an identity, and find it quickly.
Michael Bush vs Matt Forte may be an interesting battle to watch, although Forte isn't "fighting" for his position, Bush contains the mixture of speed and strength that could make things interesting in practice.
Brian Urlacher, are you ok?
Although he's expressed satisfaction with $7.2million going into his pockets guaranteed this season, you still have to think with one last year left on his contract, Brian Urlacher must be thinking about his future in the NFL and with the Bears. However, he has refuted that the Forte contract will at all affect his approach to this season and his contract situation, stating that he can wait until the season's end to talk with front office.
As training camp takes places, I look to see how much he goes at it with the threat of injury looming and the uncertainty that he will play his last years in a Bears jersey. In a perfect world Brian would already have his final contract hammered out and could report to camp a happy camper like his fellow teammates Lance Briggs, Forte and even Michael Bush. Nevertheless Urlacher will seemingly be the only key player coming into camp with a contract nearing its end and without a resolution on the horizon.
Given Brian's character, he may be the best player to have that problem as the Bears look to buid on the last year's success prior to injuries cutting them out at the legs (literally and figuratively). The defense will rely heavily on Brian's experience, vision, familiarity with the system and leadership in order for them to return collectively back to dominance. The passing defense ranked 28th last season as the rush defense ranked among the league's top 5.