Your loyal CBH contributor and avid Bears backer attended Chicago Bears Training Camp on Monday and Friday of last week and came away with some observations, though it's clear that the games will be a somewhat better barometer of things to come. No, lives aren't at stake here, but jobs certainly are, so it's a seemingly life or death struggle for the bubble players, of which there are many, as Chicago tries to trim down to its eventual 53 man roster.
Monday was a sun-splashed, gorgeous summer day, and the musical selections that Marc Trestman and his staff had rolling made it seem like a day at the beach. The weather cooperated again on Friday, though the threatening clouds matched the uncertain future of many, though seemingly nothing could cloud the spirits of the fans, of which there were many more at Friday's practice.
One local ice cream vendor estimated the crowd at 9,000, and it's become fairly obvious that there is a lot of excitement and anticipation that this could be a contending year for our beloved. With that, here are some of the things I was able to glean from my time in Bourbonnais:
Trestman does love him some ball
Coach was all over the field; often running so much I was afraid he might swallow his whistle. It's clear that Trestman loves this stuff, and while he was positive when the situation warranted, he often criticized wasted plays and sluggishness, and he could be heard telling players to hustle. It's clear that the man does not believe in wasted effort, as every move is seemingly orchestrated to provide the most efficient return on investment.
I was also able to surprisingly walk up to him after Monday's practice and ask him a question, something that I noticed no other scribe was willing to do. We talked about Chris Williams, who Trestman told me never played for him, but the coach was well aware of him and played against him over the years. I asked him if that helps his chance to stick with the team, and Trestman replied, “It doesn't hurt.”
Despite the connection, I don't see Williams making the team
I know I just quoted Trestman above implying that Chris Williams may have the upper hand, but I took the comment to mean more that a player coming out of another country who Trestman didn't have knowledge of would have a much harder time making the team. Unfortunately for the diminutive Williams, he hasn't impressed as a pass catcher. And therein lies the rub.
As we've seen with Devin Hester, a kick returner who can't do other things is a bit of a dinosaur in today's NFL. So, in order to make this team, Williams must show he can be a legit wideout if needed. It's early and Williams can still impress in the games. Yet, another well-known, longtime scribe told me point blank that "he stinks" as a WR.
It's Marquess Wilson's job to lose
On the other hand, Wilson has made the team as of now, as the third WR option. At least that is apparent from what Trestman told the press on Friday. "He's in the lead" was his direct quote. A lot of things can happen between now and when the real season starts, but it's good news for Wilson. To my eye, he's looked good in camp so far, though he has made a few gaffes that remind us of his youth and inexperience.
He has obvious talent exuding from every pore of his body, but can he put it all together? That remains to be seen. In the meantime, as Trestman is always fond of saying, jobs will be won and lost on the football field.
Will Palmer or Clausen win the backup QB derby? Well, maybe neither …
In the couple of practices I observed, I couldn't really see much of a discernable difference between the two men competing for the backup job to starting QB Jay Cutler. But a new name is starting to emerge from the shadows and it's a familiar one to Bears fans.
Yes, Kyle Orton, if signed, could usurp both Palmer and Clausen. According to several sources, Phil Emery may be warming up to the idea of bringing back ol' neckbeard to the fold. Orton was cut by the Cowboys last month but intends to try and continue his football career.
If you held me down and threatened to hit me with a soft cushion or a Comfy Chair, I would tell you that Clausen has looked a bit better than Palmer. However, Palmer is closer to Cutler, and don't underestimate the importance of that, as Jay will likely have a huge say in who backs him up.
Safety is still going to be a sore spot
The safety play thus far has been less than remarkable. In fact, although I'm sure Bears fans will hate me for saying this, I believe once he's healthy, Chris Conte (PUP list) will have a starting position on this football team. Adrian Wilson is a five-time Pro Bowler who has been practicing with the first strong, although he was burned on a couple of passes from Cutler while I was watching.
Meanwhile, fourth-round draft pick Brock Vereen looked good knocking down a pass intended for the tight end on the play. Danny McCray and Ryan Mundy have been rotating in with the first string as well. Neither have done anything memorable.
Fans are clearly enamored with the Bears sixth-round punter, yelling "MegaPunt" when he's been on the field. To be truthful, Tress Way has been a bit more consistent than O'Donnell, although the rookie clearly has the bigger leg.
It's hard to envision O'Donnell not making the team, as the Bears were the only NFL team to draft a punter. But I believe Way has a future in the league.
Offensive line update
The one area that the Bears have solidified is the O-line. And while I'm not ready to say it's time for panic, that viral infection that Kyle Long suffered must have been a doozy. Yet despite the down time, he appears bigger than ever and is said to be about 15 pounds heavier than his playing weight last year. He will obviously take some time to build up his strength, although he has been cleared to practice.
The depth took a hit when Eben Britton was sidelined with a hammy. Plus, the overall improvement of the line play tended to obscure the fact that rookie Jordan Mills graded out as the worst right tackle in the league last season.
Overall, however, the Bears line and offense as a whole should be good to go again this year. And speaking to Dennis Roland, who the Bears signed when Britton went down, made me realize he could make the team. He towers over everyone at 6'9", and even is familiar with Olivet Nazarene University, having watched his dad coach there. A thoughtful, well-spoken kid (he's actually 31, which is a "kid" to me), Roland has started 30 games in the NFL and could help provide critical depth.
With Roberto Garza having an excused off day on Friday, I jokingly asked Brian de la Puente if he did that so that the backup center/guard could get his chance. He said all the right things one would expect, and has experience in this offense, having played for the Saints alongside Jermon Bushrod.
Shea McClellin looks like a linebacker, although I see more of an improvement from Jon Bostic, who clearly seems to be more comfortable in the defense.
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