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Six Final Thoughts on 2021 Training Camp

| August 27th, 2021


Camp is over. Here are some big picture thoughts.

(1) Listen, the quarterbacks were always gonna be the main characters but who could imagine the story would come directly from The Twilight Zone. Justin Fields was never given an opportunity to be the starting quarterback. The game was rigged, Nagy chose Andy Dalton from the start, and the Bears will begin the season irrelevant. When will Fields play? No one knows.

(2) The actual offensive line FINALLY got on the field. There was so much hemming and hawing about poor OL play in the early weeks of camp but the Bears rarely had more than two of their starters available. Amazing that it took until the final days (and the signing of Jason Peters) to get their starting five on the field at the same time. How will they perform as a unit? One of the sport’s best defensive fronts will let us know on the evening of September 12th.

(3) Few roster surprises. This camp was pretty dull when it comes to position battles, roster spots…etc. The Bears seemed to have their minds made up in July (Kindle Vildor was placed with the ones and left there) and little that happened on the practice field or in preseason games changed them.

(4) Alec Ogletree turned up one day and couldn’t stop intercepting the football. That production – and his energy – translated to his preseason debut, where Ogletree cemented his spot on the final 53-man roster. Don’t be surprised if he’s playing a major role in the middle of the defense this season.

(5) Matt Nagy said a lot of dumb things. Signing Peters had nothing to do with Teven Jenkins’ injury? It takes four years for your offense to produce in the NFL? Nagy’s inability to (a) tell the truth and (b) own his early-career failures did not win over a fanbase that already wants him to be sent packing at year’s end.

(6) They are healthy. Teven Jenkins won’t be a factor this season. Tarik Cohen is likely to take until November to find his legs. But, for the most part, the Bears will enter the 2021 season with their roster intact.


Note: I had penned an Is There Any Reason to Watch… column about the final preseason game but with Tennessee now facing a serious Covid outbreak, that game may not even happen. (The Bears would be crazy to take on that risk for a practice game.)  If it happens, enjoy the Riley Ridley drops!

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Training Camp Diary Ends: Season Approaches. I Feel Nothing.

| August 26th, 2021


We should all be pacing our living rooms, ordering our game-watch merch for the season, diagraming fool-proof end arounds in the condensation of our shower walls. This should be one of the more anticipatory three-week periods in the history of the Chicago Bears organization.

But it’s not that.

We should be talking to our friends, tanked in the tavern, caffeinated in the coffee shop, toweled in the Turkish bath, about how much fun it’s going to be to watch Aaron Donald try to track down Justin Fields in the backfield, only to see Fields run from the pressure and complete a ball twenty-five yards down the field.

But we won’t be doing any of that.

Instead, the fan energy and enthusiasm generated by Fields this summer – seeing a quarterback do things we have never seen one do in a Bears uniform – has been thoroughly extinguished in the short-term by his head coach mangling the position all summer long. Instead, on September 12th, we’ll be forced to sit through an entire slate of Sunday football action only to see Andy Dalton take the starter’s reins on Sunday night.

Trevor Lawrence is starting. Zach Wilson is starting. Kyle Shanahan has given Trey Lance starting reps since the first day of camp and has already made it clear Lance will be part of the game plan from day one. Hell, even Mac Jones looks like he has a chance to start, after being given competitive reps with Cam Newton all summer long.

But not Fields.

Of course not Fields.

Why? Because Matt Nagy says so, that’s why.

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Audibles From the Long Snapper: Training Camp Begins Edition

| July 26th, 2019

It’s starting to get real.


Finley: Focus on Running Backs

The Sun-Times scribe wrote an excellent “five questions” preview for Bears camp. It was so good I scrapped the idea of writing of my own. (I shouldn’t have been alone.) Finley takes on the big, obvious questions (Trubisky improvement, health, kicker…etc.) but it was his focus on the backfield that caught my attention. I urge you to go and read the entire piece HERE.

4. How much did they upgrade at RB?

In his three NFL seasons, Jordan Howard posted more rushing yards than all but two players: Ezekiel Elliott and Todd Gurley. Still, he wasn’t a fit in Nagy’s offense.

The Bears got little back when they dealt him to the Eagles in March: a sixth-round 2020 pick that could improve to a fifth-rounder. They believe their two new running backs — third-round pick David Montgomery and signee Mike Davis — can fare better than Howard.

The Bears will search for the right timeshare in the preseason. Tarik Cohen will continue to be the Bears’ dynamic, do-everything weapon. Nagy and Pace praised Davis’ offseason work, but the well-rounded Montgomery is the likely favorite to lead the team in rushes.

“It’s hard to always predict the number of carries in this offense by a running back,” Nagy said. “Who knows? Maybe one guy is hot and he gets 20 carries in this offense. It really hasn’t happened yet, but it can happen.”

My theory: Montgomery is going to be the horse running back in this offense by October.


Bannon: Halas Should Never Have Been

One of the most surprising developments in my Bears news consumption over the years has been how little time I spend with anything coming out of the Tribune. But this excellent piece from Tim Bannon deserves your attention. It’s just…amazing. Here’s the first few paragraphs of the article.

George Halas was late.

The 20-year-old had a summer job with Western Electric, and on Saturday, July 24, 1915, he planned to join his coworkers aboard the SS Eastland to cross Lake Michigan for the telephone company’s picnic in Michigan City, Ind.

But by the time Halas reached the Chicago River dock, the Eastland was overturned.

Roughly 2,500 employees and their families had boarded the ship, and at 7:25 a.m. it began listing and swaying from side to side.

A large crowd of horrified spectators watched as the Eastland — a few feet from the bank of the Chicago River between LaSalle Drive and Clark Street — turned on its side. It was in 20 feet of water, deep enough to drown 844 people trapped or trampled below decks.

It is the deadliest day ever in Chicago and the greatest peacetime inland waterways disaster in American history.


Fishbain Tweets


Eddy Pineiro Highlights (I’m Trying…)


LINKS!

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Your Yearly Reminder: It’s Just Practice

| July 30th, 2018

It happens every year.

Fans obsessively follow every training camp practice and get overly excited when they hear that guys from their team look really good. Or conversely get worried upon hearing somebody is struggling.

This is your friendly, annual reminder to calm down. The first few days of training camp ultimately don’t mean a ton, especially when it comes to rumors about how particular players are performing. Let’s take a look at a few of the reasons why hearing about a single practice, taking place over a month before the season starts, is not really going to tell you much about the season.


Single Examples

How often do you hear somebody say “This player looked great today,” using one big play he made as proof? Unfortunately, this blatantly ignores the consistency required from players to truly perform at a high level.

To go along with this is the problem of contrasting reports. One person will say a player looks great based on one or two flashy plays, while another person claims that same player is doing terrible because he had one bad miscue. Fans will naturally want to gravitate towards the positive reports, but balance is key.

Recent example: New kicker Cody Parkey made some long field goals, but also had a few misses. One reporter explained that all the misses came with the 2nd team holder, while another decided Parkey had a “shaky day.”


Looking Good or Looking Bad?

Another thing to keep in mind is that players are going up against their teammates in training camp, so somebody “looking good” could mean more that their teammate is bad. For example, hearing that the offensive line is consistently dominating their defensive counterparts in practice can be viewed two ways.  On the one hand, the offensive line is looking really good.  On the other hand, the defensive line is being outclassed. Does that say more good things about the offensive line or bad things about the defensive line?

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Ranking the Entire Bears Roster: Key Contributors (11-39)

| July 25th, 2018

Here are players I expect to play quite a bit on offense, defense and/or special teams:

39. Kylie Fitts, Edge

Very athletic player who the Bears think can help them off the edge immediately. Needs to develop pass rush moves, but sky is the limit.

38. Marcus Cooper, CB

Okay early last season, but showed a complete lack of focus when forced to play off bench.

37. Bilal Nichols, DT

Rookie from Delaware who should fill in as a backup immediately. Can play all three positions along the defensive line.

36. Benny Cunningham, RB

Cunningham is great on screens and is a really good special teams player. I’d like to see him get more kick returns this year so Tarik Cohen can be more involved in the offense.

35. Joel Iyiegbuniwe, LB

Should be a starter in a year or two. Special teams standout right away. (I’m pretty sure I spelled his last name right.)

34. Roy Robertson-Harris, DL

A make-or-break year for RRH. Has great length and showed flashes last year. Didn’t hold up well against the run, but could be a decent pass rusher.

33. Deon Bush, S

Showed flashes as a rookie, but was MIA last year. Drew praise in offseason workouts and has reportedly had a good camp so far. (Four days.)

32. Nick Kwiatkoski, LB

Had made some big plays as a blitzer and has good instincts against the run. Seems to get lost in coverage, which is why the Bears spent a top 10 pick on his replacement.

31. Aaron Lynch, Edge

Got lost in San Francisco, but has decent potential as a second edge rusher, opposite Lenny Floyd.

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Welcome to Bourbonnais!

| July 21st, 2018

Here’s the deal. We’re not going to have a “camp notes” post up on the site every day.  Every paid beat writer on the gig – and there are plenty – will be doing that. But I’ll be running a commentary from the Twitter feed, @DaBearsBlog (also available on the right rail). The official beat writers of DBB – and must follows on Twitter – are Adam Jahns (@AdamJahns) and Adam Hoge (@AdamHoge). Let those gents be your guides.

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Ranking The Entire Bears Roster: The Long and Longish Shots (60-90)

| July 18th, 2018

The Bears report to training camp this week with a large number of guys you probably don’t need to know.

This is my third year ranking the entire roster and the bottom of the roster is as much of a guess as it’s ever been. There are very few known names, as the team brings in a great many high-upside UDFAs to replace roster spots formerly used for vets like Rueben Randle and Taylor Boggs. What that tells me is that the Bears are more confident in who their final 53 is going to be so they’re more willing to take risks.

It’s entirely possible that one of the guys listed below becomes a player at some point, even if it isn’t this year. It’s also possible — and far more likely — they’ll be out of the league by this time next year.

Because I know you don’t want to research every player, I went ahead and did it for you. You’re welcome.

90. Colin Thompson, TE

Second-year player from Temple couldn’t break five seconds in the 40 coming out. How many tight ends who are that slow succeed?

89. Josh Woods, LB

Listed as a linebacker, Woods weighed just 211 pounds at his Maryland Pro Day and ran the 40 in 4.66. He earned a trip to camp after trying out after the draft, but this is likely as far as he’ll get.

88. Jeremi Hall, OG

Kind of an interesting signing for an offensive line that values athleticism. The Bears list Hall at 340 pounds, but he weighed in at 307 in March and really isn’t a good athlete.

87. Brandon Greene, OG

Second-year player from Alabama. Lengthy (6’5″, 295 pounds) and not very athletic. How’s that for a breakdown?

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Audibles From the Long Snapper: Camp Opens, McPhee Hurt, Vikings Thoughts & More!

| July 28th, 2017

Camp!

Pernell McPheeling The Pain

From Patrick Finley in the Sun-Times:

By 10:30 p.m. Wednesday, the team had announced that linebacker Pernell McPhee would start the season on the physically unable to perform list. By noon Thursday, coach John Fox was back in familiar waters, trying to explain an injury — and its consequences — on the first day of training camp.

McPhee hadn’t made it through his physical on Wednesday, complaining of knee pain. Fox said team doctors “found a little irregularity” in his right knee, which is not the same knee that caused McPhee to start last year’s training camp on the PUP list.

A few thoughts:

  • The link to the full Finley article is provided above but don’t click it. The Sun-Times Bears coverage is, in my estimation, superior to what’s being produced at the Trib. But their website, especially on mobile devices, is unusable.
  • It’s starting to feel like whatever the Bears get out of the rest of this McPhee contract will be a bonus. It’s only a “little” irregularity when it’s not your knee. Do I think McPhee can still put together a productive 2017 campaign? Sure. But that productivity is more likely to come over an 8-10 game stretch than a full 16.

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Why This Summer is Different From All Other Summers

| July 26th, 2017

For those who have frequented this site over the last decade plus, you understand a few things about how I treat training camp and the preseason. The basics:

  • Nothing reported from camp practice is important because no team is going to show their fans / media anything relevant. The NFL has become the most secretive league in sports. Teams aren’t going display even an ounce of actual strategy while some rival scout sits with the public in the stands (which happens often).
  • Preseason game reps are the most overrated thing in football. Whether fans want to believe it or not, most franchises know about 45 of their final 53-man roster before the first preseason game is kicked off. The guys who can make an impact and grab those final 8 slots are going to make that impact on the practice field, not in preseason games. (The practice field fans and media DON’T see, where the actual playbook is used.)

This training camp is different. This preseason is different. Because all eyes will be on one player: Mitch Trubisky.

An argument could be made that the Bears fan has never, not one time in the team’s history, been through this process. Since 1951 the Bears have selected four quarterbacks in the first round. The Jims (McMahon and Harbaugh) were of a different time; the level of scrutiny they faced before playing actual games was minimal. Cade McNown was handed the starting quarterback job as a rookie. Rex Grossman was never going to play as a rookie, with that message stated by the organization repeatedly post-draft.

Mitch Trubisky is better than Mike Glennon. Right now. Today. He is the better quarterback. The Bears know this. And while you will hear all the normal platitudes about patience and development and bringing the kid up to the speed of the professional game (including Trubisky pledging allegiance to the backup role) there isn’t a person associated with the Chicago Bears who isn’t rooting for Trubisky to blow them away this summer and make it impossible to keep him on the bench come September.

That would go for any rookie quarterback. But it goes double for a guy drafted in such a bold, unpredictable manner. If reports start emanating from Bourbonnais that Trubisky is the superior performer and if he looks the part once the fake games start, a tsunami of fan support will overwhelm Halas Hall. Bears fans are an impatient lot but they see the right pieces forming up and down the roster under Ryan Pace. The calls to Waddle & Silvy and The Score will be relentless and passionate.

Just ask yourself this: are you willing to sit and watch the Bears slog their way to 6 or 7 wins under Glennon while the better player holds a clipboard?

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