Nov 25, 2012; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler (6) throws a pass while being pursued by Minnesota Vikings defensive end Jared Allen (69) during the second half at Soldier Field. The Bears won 28-10. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports
Chicago Bears have just concluded their first round of OTA’s this past week, and there were some very interesting news worthy bits of information coming from them. Some that give us a little more insight as to how this Bears team for the 2014 season will look like, and what they’ll be trying to accomplish. There were also some cuts, and acquisitions, as well as an unfortunate career ending injury to WR Dominick Hixon. But it’s very important to remember that there’s very little we can take from this as gospel as well. No team is going to share their whole plan of attack not to mention have their entire depth chart in order, and their schemes in place at this juncture. With the Bears even more than most considering the high amount of personnel turnover, Rookies in camp, and an entirely new scheme defensively that doesn’t even have their playbook in place yet. However there are some things very noteworthy if they are looked at a little deeper. First thing to take note of is the fact the Bears are likely to move CB Tim Jennings inside to play the slot receiver on clear passing downs which in the NFL is about 75% of the time.
"“We’re gonna try it out,” Jennings said. “We got to get Fuller out there, so I’ll move in on nickel packages and we’ll bring Fuller at the left corner."
A move Jennings isn’t just receptive to, but actually prefers.
"“Hopefully, it’ll be a full-time thing. It’s a little different for me. I’ve got to get back to acclimated to playing nickel and playing two positions on defense. “Once I think I get that going, it’ll be a good transition for all three of us.”"
This puts first round pick Kyle Fuller on the outside. Now I’m not entirely buying this. Not the full time part anyway, and it’s got nothing to do with Jennings as I think he’s perfect for the Nickle spot. It’s got everything to do with Fuller however. I feel they will use this strategy probably about half the time against 11 personnel (3WR’s 1 RB, 1 TE). I think Fullers versatility to do many things on the field from different spots will have him playing a rover position on a lot of the passing downs. He’s also very good cover for the run game in case offenses switch it up and decide to attack the Bears nickle and dime personnel. I believe Fullers ability to play that inverted safety position was likely the biggest reason he was drafted 14th overall.
Bears will also keep Isiah Frey involved as he had a very good debut season coming off the practice squad, and offers the same type of versatility as he is a pretty good blitzer, and a willing accomplished tackler. It’s even more impressive when you consider the devastation the defense had last season losing not only a lot of their top talent, but also their top leaders to mentor kids like Frey along. Bears have a very deep and exciting secondary developing.
Another thing that was revealed was how Chris Conte seems to have more of an edge to him. A chip on his shoulder about how things went last season. Bears beat reporter Zach Zaidman for local stations CBS radio mentioned a few times on the score 670 that he had talked to Conte many times, and he could see that anxiousness to get out there and mix it up. Be more physical, and a bit more edgy. With his shoulder repaired he’ll have no physical limitations preventing him from being more physical which is where I feel Conte fell short the most. A lot of the coverage issues he encountered I feel were due to the fact that teams had a lot of time to execute routes, and send out more receivers creating more one on one’s due to injuries to the defensive line. Also the loss of cohesion in the secondary with the ineffective play of Major Wright, and the loss of Charles Tillman, aa well as Kelvin Hayden as the nickle forcing first time nickle starter Frey into action. I think if Conte is allowed to sit back in CF and be able to read plays, and confidently break downhill on the football he’ll have an adequate if not solid season. So expect Conte to be the Bears starting free safety who the Bears clearly still have confidence in.
By all accounts Shea McClellin looks like a player who will have his breakout season. He’s moving well at linebacker, and appears to have the instincts and skill set to play the position and be a rover, and also be able to cover tight ends and backs as well. McClellin kind of revealed he felt he was miscast as a defensive end and should have been at linebacker all along.
"“My first two years weren’t the greatest, but I think linebacker is a natural fit for me,” McClellin said. “I think it’s what I should be doing and I’m very excited about it.”"
It also makes the Bears bigger in that position group which is a goal the team set out to do in the off-season along with being much more physical. Mel Tucker had this to say.
"“I’m super confident. We want to be big and physical, and he goes from being the smallest guy in the defensive line room to the biggest guy in the linebacker room,” Tucker said, via the team’s website. “He’s very athletic. You watch him move around in our offseason program and in our coaching sessions and he looks like a linebacker. He looks at home. He looks very comfortable.”"
The offense by all accounts looked real sharp and impressive in their drills during OTA’s. This of course is no surprise as you expect that to be the case in year two. The improvement from year one to two is probably the most significant increase an offense will experience in it’s evolution. Considering the offense had a breakout season and was the second highest scoring offense it should be a pretty scary proposition for opposing defenses in 2014. It should be even more scary if Marquese Wilson realizes his potential which is immense. Reading and listening to several reports from this past weeks OTA’s Wilson is significantly more muscular, and that should translate into added strength to battle for 50/50 balls, and get off the line on jams. With three trees to go along with a giant athletic tight end in Martellus Bennett to send out in routes, and if Fendi Onobun emerges as a second option at tight end (who the Bears appear to be high on as they have not acquired or drafted another pass catching TE) this will be an impossible offense to match up against.
The defensive line is a given and I won’t even go there as there was nothing new to reveal.
These are some small samples, but with NFL teams being secretive with good reason as far as showing new looks to the media, and public we’ll have to wait until the Buffalo game in the season opener to truly see all the wrinkles they’ve added. Even after that if what the Bears are saying holds true there will be different looks every game as they game plan against specific offenses, and will maintain a flexible philosophy on defense. The same holds true of the offense. Sure they’ll have their go to stuff, and try to impose their will on defenses, but there will be times when a sharp defensive coordinator with good personnel has them schemed well, and they’ll have to adjust on the fly. Something the Bears offense showed the ability to do last season even in the infancy of it’s genesis. But for now there are things we can read between the lines about, and kind of project how things will develop if not being able to tell exactly what they’ll be doing. Stay tuned. Something tells me this Bears team will have something new to talk about every week from this point on.