After the Chicago Bears completed their practice Thursday in Bourbonnais on the campus of Olivet Nazarene University it is an opportune time to ask what have we learned about this year’s Monster’s of the Midway? While most questions are way too earlly to be evaluated there are several noted trends that have already made themselves apparent in camp. As it is with most Bear’s teams everything starts with the defense and this year’s squad looks vastly improved after the first week of practices.
Inside Middle Linebacker – Bears’ General Manager Ryan Pace identified the inside middle linebacker position as the most glaring need heading into the off season. Pace moved quickly to sign highly coveted ILB Danny Trevathan who Coach John Fox knew well from previously coaching him on the Broncos defense. Trevathan has paid immediate dividends along with Jerrell Freeman from the Indianapolis Colts and effectively turned the Bears’ biggest weakness into a positional strength early on in this year’s camp.
Last year the Bears’ coaching staff spent camp desperately trying to get inside linebackers Shea McClellin and Christian Jones up to speed to handle the nuances of the position.
This camp there is a noted difference as the Bears’ offense has to maintain their composure as Trevathan and Jerrell take turns calling out the pending plays prior to the snap.
The other noted difference beyond the increased swagger is the burst both players have shown attacking the ball or oncoming blockers with equal vigor.
Nose Tackle – With a significant investment already in place with the linebackers Pace then bought the equivalent of backer insurance and focused on improving his defensive line performance against the run with the signing of Akiem Hicks who is a true 5 technique to provide depth behind last year’s stand out nose tackle Eddie Goldman. Hicks has been disruptive off of the ball and has provided All Pro guard Kyle Long with a worthy adversary early on in camp.
Wide Receivers – By the end of last years’ death march of a season the Bear’s wide receivers resembled a group that most would expect to find on a replacement team with injuries decimating the Bear’s starters. At the start of camp Jay Cutler has been down right giddy with his embarsment of weapons in the form of returning All Pro Alshon Jeffery and the number 7 overall pick in last year draft Kevin White who missed the entire 2015 season on the IR. While Jeffery is a known commodity to Cutler White is not, but early returns are indicating opposing defensive backs better be prepared to get out out of their backpedal in a hurry and run because White has show explosive downfield speed that will take the top off of the coverage.
The Bears’ coaches are also pleased with their 7th round steal from this year’s draft Daniel Braverman who is out of Western Michigan. Braverman was available to the Bears late in the draft because he does not possess prototypical size or display elite speed.
What Braverman does possess is the uncanny ability to get off of the press at the line and find a pocket to sit down in and catch the ball in open space in the defensive coverage.
The ability to get open has served Braverman well last season as he compiled 23 combined receptions for 231 against Big 10 powerhouses Michigan State and Ohio State all while being the 1 player their defensive coordinators schemed to take away from W. Michigan.
Tight Ends – The TE position was a position of need going into the off season and has remained one entering into camp. The Bears’ depth is already being tested with their designated starte Zach Miller missing significant time with a concussion. There is no doubt about Miller’s talent, but his ability to be healthly has significantly stunted his NFL career. After Miller the drop off is significant with Khari Lee getting first look along with Tony Moeaki. Priority free agent signee Ben Braunecker is also competing for a roster spot, but he currently is better known for having played his collegiate ball at Harvard then his football acumen. That being said, Braunecker has a legitimate shot to make the team with excellent size and athleticism for the position.
If you enjoyed this article be sure to check out another Chicago Sports Homer’s Bears post:
Chicago Bears Biggest Questions Heading Into Training Camp
You can read the post in full here: http://www.chicagonow.com/chicago-sports-homer/2016/07/chicago-bears-biggest-questions-heading-into-training-camp/
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