Chicago Sun-Times

1 day to Camp: What Tom Thayer is looking for in Bourbonnais

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I've spent four weeks here analyzing some of the things I'll be looking when when the whistle blows at 3 p.m. Friday and the Bears get rolling with their first practice of the season. Now it's time to turn over some space to the trained eye of Tom Thayer, who lists his occupation on his IRS paperwork every April as a "football describer.''

Thayer, the color analyst for WBBM-780 AM, will be at training camp and will offer daily updates for the Bears' flagship station. Here is what Thayer offered:

"There are three things I will be looking at and one of them is the free agents, the newcomers, [Jay] Cutler, Pisa [Tinoisamoa], [Orlando] Pace, big Frank [Omiyale], [Kevin] Shaffer, [Josh] Bullocks, these guys that came in. I want to start looking at those guys and see if they really are what they are, if they're going to fit in, what they're going to do to the team and how they're changing it. Then, I have a key selection of veterans who have been here already who are on the roster who I really want to pay attention to to see if they re-emerge, if they're playing like they did last year, if they're not involved in the betterment of the football team the way they should be due to their position on the roster and with the team and all that. My guys here are [Nathan] Vasher, [Brian] Urlacher, Tommie [Harris], Kevin Jones, Wale [Ogunleye], Nick Roach.

"And then [Johnny] Knox, [Juaquin] Iglesias and D.J. Moore are some rookies I want to watch. I think Moore may have a place. He is one of the three guys of the rooks I am looking at who may need to come in and just provide interest. Just to see if they can help in any way. There is a specific group and positioning of players that I am interested in looking at first. Then I think if you are looking at a position specifically, I still have concerns about the safety position. I like Kevin Payne but there is a battle for all other interior defensive back positions. Payne is only going to be pushed by himself. He is a guy who has to stay healthy. You can go out there and Kevin Payne can show flashes of brilliance and then he can pop his head in there and come out, get dinged, and you're back to square one. My only issue with Kevin Payne is durability.''

There will be a good deal of focus on the secondary and rightfully so. Cornerback Charles Tillman will be an onlooker in camp while he recovers from back surgery. Danieal Manning was just switched back to free safety. These are legitimate storylines, but the key to the defense (and the secondary) improving is the pass rush. I asked Thayer if, in the absence of a real live pass rush, can he get a feel for how the defensive linemen are doing in camp?

"Yeah. You can,'' he said. "There is a whole different tempo to their hand fighting. Not only the initial burst off the line of scrimmage and the position and how you're going to fight your hands through, but there is an equal counter move that comes right back and I watch these guys. They are just repititiously going through the exact same thing. The one thing about offensive and defensive line play, if you're not positively reinforced on your fundamentals on an every practice basis, you're going to really slip at these. What [Rod] Marinelli is doing is giving these guys the ability to move to counter move. That's where these guys' athleticism will come into play, I think. You're not just going to come to a stalemate, there is going to be a counter move from the defensive linemen to help them advance upfield.''

*** I'll be pointing the car south toward Bourbonnais later on today. Players will be arriving up until the midnight deadline. They'll be given physicals upon arriving. The players who show up too late at night will have to get out of bed first thing in the morning Friday to complete their physicals. Remember, that is when running back Thomas Jones suffered a pulled hamstring when he was a late night arrival in camp in 2006. Jones had to take a physical first thing in the morning and blamed that, in part, on his injury.

The expectation is that linebacker Hunter Hillenmeyer will be cleared to return after missing the entire offseason program while he recovered from surgery to repair a sports hernia. There is a numbers crunch at linebacker and another guy feeling that will be Joey LaRocque. The special teams performer from last season missed the majority of the offseason program with a lower back injury. He's going to be hard pressed to make the roster and needs to get on the field as soon as possible.

I'll be sending out updates via Twitter from training camp and all season. My Twitter feed is BradBiggs. Follow along. It's also in a column on the right side of the blog page.


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11 Comments

Who is this sissy Dan McNeil anyway?

Those are all good points I just have a hard time with this Garza thing and this thing with Urlacher, this can be damaging to the team. Maybe it is time to let Urlacher and his ailing ego part ways it's tim eto get Williams on the field anyway. A leader with a jealuosy issue is a bad thing for team chemistry.

Hooray! We're finally here!!! Looking forward to your coverage, "Best In the Biz Biggs".

I agree with Tom Thayer, durability is the only issue with Kevin Payne. If he can remain healthy, Payne could probably put together a nice season for Chicago from his strong safety position.

I also like the move to put Danieal Manning back at free safety. The guy has the most range of any player Chicago currently has at safety, hopefully now in year 4 the mental part of the game will start to come together for Manning. If so, he might not be half bad at free safety. Instincts seem to be lacking from Manning's game in years past. I think partly because the guy went from tiny Abilene Christian to the Chicago Bears, thats quite a jump in competition, then being moved around didn't help Manning's cause much either. Manning's athleticism probably got him on the field quicker than he should have as a rookie, Manning probably would have been better off sitting his rookie season, but, thats in the past. If Manning can get it together, and Payne can stay healthy, Chicago might have a pretty good combo at safety, we'll see?

Thayer brings up another good point, it doesn't matter who is lined up where at safety, Chicago's front four has got to get some push this season, and not by bringing Urlacher and Briggs up to the line on every play. Players like Tommie Harris, Mark Anderson, and Ogunleye have got to step up. And some help from the young guy's like Marcus Harrison and rookie Jarron Gilbert wouldn't hurt either. Hopefully Rod Marinelli can get these guys going, can't wait to find out GO BEARS!!

Dan McNeil is just another ridiculous sports hack that seems to think he knows what's up. He should shut the hell up and support the team, instead of creating controversy. Urlacher is a real man who surely called or visited Cutler and told him straight up what he said or didn't say. Nobody cares what McNeil believes or doesn't believe. Looking forward to Tom Thayer's insight during training camp. He's a guy who has credibility and skill when he speaks, and provides useful info on what's happening. This is a good thing, continue this. McNeil is a dope. Nobody benefits from anything he says. This is not a good thing, stop this.

Kevin, Payne started 16 games last season so I am not sure it is a huge concern, however he is a little undersized for the position at 210 pounds. I would worry about the corners right now. Not to mention Manning at FS. Kevin are you ok about Steltz not being handed the starting FS job. I know last year he was suppose to be a starter in your book and this year he was suppose to be a starter. Lovie and Angelo loved him so much that they didn't want him to start again. Didn't they say he was a starter.

By NoWhiners
"Urlacher is a real man who surely called or visited Cutler and told him straight up what he said or didn't say."

Is he a real man? He gets payed tens of millions to play a game. What a tough life. Is that how you become a real man? Like when he was dating Paris Hilton. Would a real man be caught dead with that over used skank? Or his ex stripper girlfriends that he knocked up. I got no problem with Brian but you are putting the p**** on a pedistal. Let me know when he joins the service, or becomes a fireman and runs into burning buildings to save peoples lives. Or actually takes some responsability for his actions, like with his own children. Until then he is a really football player who tends to do stupid things and make stupid mistakes.

Not to stick up for McNiel, I really could care less about what he wrote. I just found the real man comment funny. Playing a game does not anyone a real man.

I totally agree, it doesn't make him a real man. And I also agree that his personal life is a complete mess. Also, in the overall scheme of importance, his life of playing the game of football doesn't come close to what most people do. Believe me, there's not many of these guys I'd put on a pedestal. My point was simply that McNeil is assuming that he's this or he's that and whining with jealous feelinga and all that drama. I just think Urlacher is more of a man on a fundamental level, in that he would meet with Cutler head on and clear the air, rather than curl up in the fetal position and suck his thumb like McNeil makes it sound.

I once listed my occupation as "genius" on my I.R.S return. thank God I was'nt audited because because the older I got the more I realized you could'nt be further from the truth. maybe next years I'll list it as dummy.

You don't want your middle linebacker to be right in the head anyways. The crazier and stupider, the better. You remember LT don't you?

And who cares if Cutler goes out and parties. He is 25, and the cream of the crop in his prime in a big time city. Noone should worry at all about his mind set. He has Diabetes Type 1, so he can't drink. It would KILL HIM! He is just out looking for women. It's natural. Who cares.

As for waht to look for in camp.
1. The health of Harris, Dvoracek, Urlacher, K. Jones, Vasher, Hillenmeyer, and Chris Williams.
2. The intensity and seriousness factor of camp. It starts day 1 of camp to set the tone for the year. They had it in 05, and 06, but not as intense in 07 and 08. This is where you develop that "IT".
3.Cutler to Hester deep, Cutler to Olsen in the seam, and Cutler to Forte on the screen.
4. The introduction of the rollout to the Bear's offense for the first time ever.
5. Any freak formations that have Olson split wide opposite Hester, with Gaines and Clark in the single back 2 TE set with Forte at HB. That could be a dangerous formation this year. Lots of size, and lots of options for the offense.
6. Starting NT. Who will it be? My guess is Dvoracek if healthy.
7. Starting Strongside LB. I know they picked up Tinosimoa, but my bet is Jamar Williams will win the spot because is simply better.
8. How the secondary will shape out at the end of camp. My bet is Graham, and Bowman at starting corners. Manning and Payen at safety, and Vasher as the nickel.
9. The first preseason game. Can the D-line get pressure without blitzing? Marinelli, this is on you.
10. There is no 10, just seemed like an incomplete list with only 9.

Go Bears! 14-2

"8. How the secondary will shape out at the end of camp. My bet is Graham, and Bowman at starting corners. Manning and Payen at safety, and Vasher as the nickel."

I was thinking the exact same thing as Ryan. I think both Graham and Bowman could wind up being pretty darn good players... and Graham has already shown something on special teams and starting last year.

Ryan,
If you think Cutler doesn't drink your fooling yourself. He has a history of drinking.
Harrison will strart at NT. Pisa will win the SLB spot

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This page contains a single entry by Brad Biggs published on July 30, 2009 5:07 AM.

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