Chicago Sun-Times

Bears Training Camp Digest -- Day 1

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A recap of Day 1 at Bears training camp in Bourbonnais:


1. Phil Emery: All the pieces might be in place.

In Phil Emery's first year as general manager, the Bears open training camp with some significant issues (offensive line, defensive line) but no distractions. Matt Forte is signed and happy. Jay Cutler is in a comfort zone. Until further notice, Emery is still the guy who acquired Brandon Marshall.

''I think we've made progress. But to say a Super Bowl contender, it has to be earned on the field,'' Emery said when asked if he thinks he has put together a roster that will be a Super Bowl contender. ''Do we have good, talented players that can contribute towards a winning team and moving toward our goals of winning a championship? Yes, we do. Are we there yet? No, we're not. We've got to earn that every day on the field.''

2. Setting the bar for Lovie Smith.

Emery didn't give specific parameters, but it seems pretty clear that barring unforeseen circumstances (like a Jay Cutler injury), the Bears will have to make the playoffs for Lovie Smith to keep his job.

''As far as my expectations [for Smith], it's the same as I put on myself,'' Emery said. ''We expect to be experts at our jobs. And our goal is excellence and coming together to win championships and that's my expectations -- to make steady progress toward those goals.

''This is a team that has goals. And we want to make progress towards those goals daily and weekly. I want to know where that direction is daily and weekly toward attaining our goals, and that's that's how I'll determine it.''


3. Johnny Knox likely to be on the Physically Unable to Perform list.

Knox, who led the Bears with 727 receiving yards on 37 receptions (19.7 yards per catch) in less than 14 games last season, is still rehabilitating from a devastating back injury he suffered against the Seahawks in Week 15.

"We're going to let that take its course [Wednesday] and see where it's at,'' Emery said. ''And if he does, it'll be on the active PUP where we can bring him up at any time. We'll play that day by day. Johnny's certainly worked hard and deserves every consideration  that we can give him to get healthy and get back on the field."


4. Jay Cutler is as ready as he's ever been.

The player Emery called ''a cornerstone'' of the franchise will have his third offensive coordinator in four seasons with the Bears, but also better weapons and a better comfort zone than ever with coordinator Mike Tice and quarterbacks coach Jeremy Bates.

''This is the most comfortable I think I've been going into a camp,'' Cutler said, ''with the offense and what we're doing scheme-wise and the talent around me.

''Jeremy's installed some stuff we did in Denver, some stuff I'm really comfortable with. Mike Tice has a really good feel for what I like to do and how to put guys in position to be successful. I'm happy with it. There's still some tweaking we have to do so everyone's on the same page. But the offseason work we've done has put us in the right direction.''


5. Bears mum on possible new contract for Brian Urlacher.

Emery isn't going to divulge any information about contract negotiations, but Urlacher's future with the Bears will be an issue one way or another this season. More than likely, if Urlacher proves he's healthy and productive at 34 after suffering strained knee ligaments in Week 17 last season, the Bears will move quickly to strike a deal on a new contract.

On the other hand, if Urlacher struggles and rookie Shea McClellin shows signs of being able to replace him sometime in the future, this could be Urlacher's final year in Chicago. For what it's worth, Lovie Smith said Urlacher is ''ready to go'' and won't be limited in training camp after being held out of most of the offseason practices.

''I've had good conversations with Brian,'' was all Emery would say about Urlacher's contract situation. ''That's a fine human being. He's obviously, if not our team leader, one of our top team leaders. Brian Urlacher's been a great Bear and a great NFL football player. Yes I've talked to him. And I'm excited about Brian this season.''

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3 Comments

The competition on the offensive line is gonna be worth watching, especially the battle for that left tackle spot, but the defensive line is gonna be very interesting also. We know Julius Peppers is a starter, Shea McClellin will be given every chance to upseat Israel Idonije at left end (this is gonna be a battle worth watching also), Henry Melton will start at the 3-tech. But, who will be the nose? I think Stephen Paea will be given a shot to start. Who will be the #2 3-tech replacing Amobi Okoye who had a very solid season for the Bears last season. Maybe 2nd year player Jordan Miller? Miller, a rookie free agent out of Southern last year, has an explosive first step and is quick off the ball, and his 315lb frame may make him a pretty good run defender. Letting Okoye go and not really bringing anyone in to replace him may mean Chicago might have something in Miller, he's gonna be a player worth watching once the pads come on and the hitting starts GO BEARS!!

2 things:
--Knox on the PUP list is a waste of time, and all for show. He is already going to fall behind Marshall, Jeffery, Bennett, and Hester on the depth chart this year, and Weems is there to compete with Thomas for the special teams spot as the 5th guy. Unless the Bears are keeping 6 WRs, there is no reason to give Knox a chance to get back up to the active roster this year. He is just off the "assisted" treadmill for running, and he is only doing light running at this point. He is not playing this year. I wish the kid the best, but it is a long road back to playing pro football from where he is now, and that will not happen in a few months, when a decision has to be made on IR or active roster. I get keeping a positive outlook to help him work harder to get back, but it is not going to matter in the larger scheme, as he won't be able to contribute this season.

--I understand that McClellin was a linebacker in college, but I just don't see him replacing Urlacher at any point in the future. The Bears are not working him at linebacker, so he is getting zero exposure at the position, and has a very simple job in the Bears defense. Get upfield, maintain your gap responsibility, and get to the QB when he drops back to pass. There is a huge difference between that and playing QB of the defense in this scheme. Unless they give him time learning the LB position this season, that succession is not happening. They will go get another middle LB, either in the draft or free agency, or move Briggs to the middle. Shea is not that kind of athlete, and not that kind of player right now, and unless he stinks up the joint as a pass rusher, he won't be given the opportunity to become that player.

"I understand that McClellin was a linebacker in college, but I just don't see him replacing Urlacher at any point in the future. The Bears are not working him at linebacker, so he is getting zero exposure at the position, and has a very simple job in the Bears defense. Get upfield, maintain your gap responsibility, and get to the QB when he drops back to pass. There is a huge difference between that and playing QB of the defense in this scheme."

I don't think Mark is talking about Shea playing LB this year. You would think your description of Shea's job was simple, but getting to the QB is never that easy, unless your playing the Bears line. It's really not that Hard to play the Mike in this defense, you need to be athletic and able to cover. The Mike does not need to QB the defense, Mike Brown used to call the plays for the defense before Brian did. Brian who before becoming a Bear had never played LB, and never been the Mike, he was a Rover in college. He played in a 3-3-5, by game 3 he was the starting Mike, even though in training camp Brain spent most of his time working at the Sam and at end.

I am sure they would much rather Shea work out as an End but if it does not work out. Well I am pretty sure they have a couple of fall back plans for him. Just like they do for everyone. By the way I would not hold your breath on seeing Briggs at the Mike, even he will tell you he can't play it. He lacks the coverage ability for this defense to play that position. He's a Will, he will always be a Will.

Oh look a certain someone is excited about Jordan Miller. You will have to excuse me Joe, I have to go roll around on the floor laughing.

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This page contains a single entry by Mark Potash published on July 25, 2012 9:06 AM.

Lovie Smith begins 9th Bears season on the warm seat was the previous entry in this blog.

In a comfort zone, Cutler poised for breakout season is the next entry in this blog.

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