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Audibles From the Long Snapper: Lots of Trubisky, Little Bit of Toub

| June 26th, 2017

This is truly the NFL’s off-season and I’m digging it. As you’ve seen, I’m not forcing any content on you. Whatever I find interesting, I’ll share. Once camp starts, the grind starts.

Breer on Trubisky

Albert Breer, writing for The MMQB, breaks down the progress of young quarterbacks across the league in his recent column. Here’s the piece on Trubisky:

The Bears rookie’s strides through May and June came in learning a lot of the basics. Through no fault of his own, Trubisky arrived with relatively little knowledge of defense in general or coverage in particular, and so he’s gotten a crash course in those areas and has made strides there. The other area of improvement came in the basics. At North Carolina, Trubisky got play calls from the sideline, didn’t take a single snap from center and never huddled. Early in OTAs, that was apparent. By the end, he was getting the hang of calling plays in the huddle and taking snaps. And he’s impressed with his accuracy and his movement skills—he doesn’t just run 4.6, he plays at 4.6, which should ease his growth once he gets on the field.

I’m still not convinced Trubisky won’t be the starting quarterback in September.

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Five Thoughts Before the First Preseason Game

| August 10th, 2016

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I’m sick of training camp updates and bold predictions that everyone will forget about a year from now. Here are a few quick thoughts before the Bears first preseason game.

Eyes In The Backfield

Forget running back by committee, Langford is the Bears starter and is going to get 70 percent of the carries as long as he’s healthy. The rest of the backfield, however, is worth watching.

Ka’Deem Carey is listed as the backup, but Jacquizz Rodgers is the only guy outside of Langford who is getting action with the starters. Carey has split second team reps with Rodgers. Jordan Howard started getting some reps there last week.

Most are assuming the Bears will keep four running backs, as they did last year, but they didn’t have a fullback last year. This year, it appears they’ll be employing and using a fullback, which could mean they keep only three running backs. The other option is keeping three tight ends, instead of four, but given the injury situation there, that might not fly. They might also keep seven wide receivers (more on that later) and will probably keep nine offensive linemen.

While keeping four running backs is still the most likely option, a lot could change between now and the final cut down day. The position is certainly worth watching throughout the rest of preseason.

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Ranking the Bears: The Top 10

| July 28th, 2016

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Here are the 10 best players on the team as they enter training camp.

10. Kevin White, WR. There’s definitely projection in this ranking but almost everyone has the same report on White: stud. While far from a finished product, most expect him to be a playmaker right away. He has the potential to be one of the best wide receivers in the league.

9. Jerrell Freeman, LB. When I watched Freeman, the one thing that really stood out to me was his ability to make blockers miss. Even in a phone booth, he’d make a little move to slip the block and make a play. Last season was by far his best, but the arrow seems to be pointing up even though he’s 30 years old.

8. Adrian Amos, S. A lot has been made of Amos not having ball skills, but I’m not too worried about that. He’s a torpedo who delivered more big hits than anyone else on the team last year. He has the potential to be one of the best safeties in the league.

7. Willie Young, LB. It was evident when Young got back to 100 percent last season. He had 18 hurries and  5 1/2 sacks in his final eight games as he recovered for a torn achilles suffered a year earlier. In two years with the Bears, he has 70 tackles and 16.5 sacks

6. Eddie Goldman, DL. A bit of projection in this one too but it seems safe. He was a good player at just 21 years old last year, showing more pass-rush than the Bears could have imagined. He struggled against the run early last year, but got better. He says he’s leaner this year, if that’s true, he could be able to dominate the middle of the line.

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Ranking the Bears: The Bottom Of The Roster

| July 26th, 2016

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Training camp is here and the Bears have a number of interesting young players coming to camp who are worth getting to know. They also have a lot of players who you probably don’t need to know anything about.

To save everyone time, I did a little research on each player and ranked all those entering camp. You’re welcome.

Here are the guys on the bottom of the roster:

59. Jonathan Anderson, LB. His performance against the Packers on Thanksgiving might have been the best the Bears got out of any of their inside linebackers last year. He’s fast, but can’t beat blocks and may not have the necessary instincts. Still someone to watch in camp as a possible special teams contributor.

58. Tony Moeaki, TE. Just seems like he’s been done for five years. Worth a camp invite, but I don’t see him being much more than that.

57. Ben Braunecker, TE. Nicknamed Bronk because everyone wants to be nicknamed after Rob Gronkowski. Went undrafted in a fairly week TE class, but he’s a good athlete and he’s from Harvard.

56. Cornelius Washington, DL. A super freak athlete who hasn’t been able to have an impact on the Bears defense. He has been a good special teams player, but is coming off a serious injury.

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Jeff & Jahns: Sun-Times Beat Discusses the First Week of Bears Training Camp [AUDIO]

| August 6th, 2015

On this episode of Jeff & Jahns, the Sun-Times beat writer tells me that…

    • Shea McClellin has been handed the reins of Vic Fangio’s defense (and I laugh)
    • He believes Jay Cutler’s lack of interceptions thus far is newsworthy
    • Marquess Wilson is still out there making too many mental errors to expect major impact
    • Pernell McPhee and Marc Mariani are the players jumping off the field (Mariani at wideout)
    • Jordan Mills still looks to be the weak link on the offensive side of the ball
    • Much, much more!

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Don’t get too excited, it’s just training camp

| August 5th, 2015

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, they could get worried upon hearing that 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 he made, 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 it is important to remember that balance is key.

Recent example: Marquess Wilson got praise for a big touchdown on Monday and also drew criticism for botching a route.

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?

This happened in 2014, when the defense drew praise throughout training camp for holding their own against the offense, which had finished as the 2nd highest scoring unit in the NFL the year before.  Everybody thought this meant good things for the defense, when in fact the opposite was true.  The defense was still among the worst in the NFL, while the offense plummeted from 2nd to 23rd in points scored.

Recent example: Dan Pompei says Eddie Royal and Marquess Wilson are having great training camps, while the secondary looks bad.  I guess it depends on your perspective.

Context is key

It is also essential to remember who players are going up against when evaluating their play. A wide receiver making training camp plays against the third string defense — where many of the prospects probably won’t make the team — doesn’t mean he’ll be able to make plays against starting defenses in September. Having a young reserve look good against other reserves is promising in that it might mean the player is ready to test himself against better competition, but don’t go overboard in thinking it means much more than that.

Recent example: Mason Foster recently received praise for beating Vlad Ducasse, getting into the backfield, and tackling Jacquizz Rodgers for a loss in a goal-line drill.  Ducasse is on his 3rd NFL team in as many seasons and is generally viewed as a poor reserve guard at best, while Rodgers is a 5’6″, 196 pound scatback who should never get a goal-line carry between the tackles in an NFL game. Foster has generally been running with the 2nd team, and a player with over 50 starts under his belt should be looking good in that situation.

Not real football

Finally, the most important thing to keep in mind is that training camp is not real football. Most of the practices do not allow tackling, and some even take place without pads on. It’s easy for a quarterback to step up in the pocket and confidently make a throw when he knows he’s not going to get drilled, but that doesn’t mean he’ll be able to make the same play in a real situation when a pass rusher is bearing down on him. Likewise, running backs look good when they keep running and people can’t tackle them, and receivers have an easier time making tough catches in traffic when a safety isn’t coming to separate them from the ball with a big hit.

And don’t even get me started on the defense. It’s extremely difficult to judge a linebacker — whose primary job is to make tackles — when he can’t tackle anyone. Sure, you can say that he is consistently in the right position to make a play, but you don’t know whether he actually will make that play. Likewise, linemen on both sides of the ball are very tough to judge in practices that limit contact, as virtually everything they do relies on contact.

Recent example: everybody is talking about Jay Cutler not turning the ball over through five practices.  The quarterback can’t be hit in practice, which makes it pretty much impossible to fumble, and it’s easier to make correct reads of a defense when you don’t have to worry about getting drilled at any second.  It’s still a good sign that Cutler isn’t turning it over, but let’s keep in mind the same thing can be said of Geno Smith (who is bad) and Marcus Mariota (who is a rookie).

Conclusion

What it comes down to is this: don’t overreact to what you hear from training camp practices. I know it’s tempting to want to over-analyze everything, especially after football has been gone for so long, but that will not do you any favors in the long run. At least wait until preseason games to convince yourself that your favorite lesser player has used the offseason to turn himself into a star.

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Random Camp Thoughts: Volume I

| August 4th, 2015

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– I could care less how many interceptions Jay Cutler throws in training camp. You know why? I know the talent level of the Bears secondary. (This is not a Jay slight. Just pointing out the nonsense of some camp reporting.)

– Jimmy Clausen probably looks poor in camp practice because Jimmy Clausen isn’t any good.

– I have a feeling Cutler is going to throw the ball more to Eddie Royal than any other receiver.

– Can we give Willie Young more than a half week before writing him off on the Bears defense? If Willie Young weren’t on the 2014 Bears defense they might have allowed 60 points half a dozen times.

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A Bunch of Random Thoughts on the “Happenings” in Bourbonnais

| July 29th, 2014

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You walk into a bar. A fella says, “What do you think of the Bears this season?” You sit there in that moment, raise the cold glass of Bud to your lips and realize the fella just ordered a sandwich that don’t fit his mouth. He expected a “they’ll be pretty good”. He’s getting a lot more.

Thoughts…

  • Optimism in camp is usually a synonym for bullshit but there seems to be some legitimate optimism surrounding the linebacker position. Shea McClellin seems finally able to utilize his athleticism. Khaseem Greene and DJ Williams have been making plays. Lance Briggs has stopped bitching and moaning about the ghosts of defense past. Hell, even Christian Jones has received praise from Phil Emery.
  • If you don’t know much about Greene, he’s a sound man. CLICK HERE to read an article detailing his decision to wear number 52 as a tribute to his friend Eric LeGrand.
  • The only way Phil Emery is cutting Pat O’Donnell is the rookie having a couple nightmare performances in the preseason and Tress Way is sound. Emery can say what he wants about the best players making the squad but there would be a significant egg stain on his cheeks should he be guilty of wasting a sixth-round pick on a dud punter.
  • Side note: Tress Way is a great name.

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Ground Rules for Digesting Training Camp

| July 25th, 2014

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Kyle Fuller interception! He’s going to be great!

But Jordan Palmer THREW the interception! Get Jimmy Clausen out there!

These are meant to be written in jest but I can 100% assure you in some miserable cubicle somewhere a Bears fan is following camp updates on Twitter, sweating profusely through his free Joseph A. Bank suit shirt and having these very same thoughts.

Here would be my rules for enjoying the information as it exits Bourbonnais without committing the family savings to its relevance.

#3 Practice Field Results Don’t Matter

There is a simple fact individuals forget when it comes to camp results. For a Bears player to make a positive play, another Bears player needs to make a negative one. Someone must throw the pass on a brilliant interception. Someone must miss the block when a new defensive end gets to the quarterback unabated. When a receiver makes a great catch down the sideline, someone was tasked with covering him.

For instance, Larry Mayer of the Bears Tweeted this:

LM: QB Jordan Palmer hits WR Chris Williams deep down right sideline, beating CB Kyle Fuller.

This is presented by Mayer, who has never Tweeted or written a negative word about the Chicago Bears since a McCaskey started signing his checks. But nly one of those three individuals is going to be depended upon for success in 2014 and it ain’t the first two.

#2 Reps Matter in Total/Location

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