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Notes from 2013 Chicago Bears Family Fest

The Chicago Bears drumline-and almost 30,000 of their fans-came out to watch the team practice at Soldier Field Saturday night.

The Chicago Bears drumline — and almost 30,000 of their fans — came out to watch the team practice at Soldier Field Saturday night.

The Chicago Bears held their annual Family Fest — a training camp practice at Soldier Field — on Saturday night, and I was fortunate enough to be able to attend along with about 30,000 other passionate fans. I thought I would take the opportunity to pass on some of my observations from the practice. Nothing too fancy to see here, just some semi-coherent thoughts in disjointed format.

The practice began with player introductions, and I thought the dichotomy between offense and defense was interesting. They introduced players individually in their position group order, with the entire offense running out one by one. When they got to the defensive backs, the announcer started calling names, but nobody came. Then all the defensive backs ran out in a group, and the linebackers and defensive line followed suit. I don’t know if this is important or not (probably not), but I thought it was interesting. It was hilarious to hear the announcer trying to figure out what to do when the defensive players weren’t coming, and then he had to get all their names out at once.

Cornerback Isaiah Frey has a prime opportunity to earn a roster spot and playing time for the Chicago Bears the next few weeks.

Cornerback Isaiah Frey has a prime opportunity to earn a roster spot and playing time for the Chicago Bears the next few weeks.

Defense

I’ll start with Chicago’s defense, which many have predicted will fall off after losing head coach Lovie Smith, coordinator Rod Marinelli, and defensive captain Brian Urlacher this offseason. I hate to break it to those people, but it doesn’t look like that’s about to happen. This defense is still loaded with talent, and they still play the same style. They are fast and aggressive to the ball and play extremely aggressively, attempting to force turnovers. Sure, the nine defensive touchdowns and 44 turnovers aren’t likely to repeat themselves, but this will still be mostly the same defense.

A few new defensive wrinkles I noticed that were not there much last year included defensive linemen doing stunts (where the defensive end and defensive tackle switch their rushing lanes) and linebackers blitzing. Look for both of those to play more prominent roles in the Chicago Bears defense this year.

Defensive end Corey Wootton (hip) practiced on a limited basis after having an MRI done on Friday, a good indication that his injury is not serious.

Nickelback Kelvin Hayden left practice with a hamstring injury and is reported as being week to week. Second year man Isaiah Frey took his place, and continued his solid camp with good coverage and a few knockdowns.

Offense

I watched the offense more closely because they are a greater unknown going into the 2013 season.

Overall, the offense struggled, especially the offensive line. Quarterback Jay Cutler was able to make some nice throws, but many came right after a sack would have occurred, had the defender been allowed to sack the quarterback. The offensive line especially seemed to struggle with those aforementioned stunts, which, you may recall, were a problem against San Francisco last year.

Center Roberto Garza has not looked good for the Chicago Bears so far in training camp.

Center Roberto Garza has not looked good for the Chicago Bears so far in training camp.

I did see a lot more checkdowns and quick passes than previous years, and those were generally fairly successful. Cutler still needs to do a more consistent job of getting the ball out quickly to avoid the sack though.

All three of the primary guards — James Brown, Kyle Long, and Matt Slauson — looked solid last night. Center Roberto Garza was atrocious, though. He routinely got beat by defensive tackles in one-on-one drills and was pushed back off the ball consistently when working with the whole offensive line. I can’t help but wonder if the Chicago Bears will look to move Matt Slauson inside to center so they can start both Brown and Long.  Garza seems entrenched as the starter for now, but this is something the team might consider if his struggles continue into the regular season.

Since wide receiver Alshon Jeffery was sidelined (hamstring), wide receiver Joe Anderson worked with the first string and continued to make plays. He seems to have established himself as the third outside wide receiver.

Eric Weems, meanwhile, worked as the starting slot receiver after Earl Bennett left practice with a suspected concussion. Many have suspected Weems is a likely candidate to be cut, but his apparent role as the second slot receiver, coupled with Bennett’s propensity to be injured, could help him secure a roster spot.

Tight end Fendi Onobun, an incredibly athletic but raw player, got some looks with the first-string offense as a second tight end. Jay Cutler was not afraid to throw to him, and Onobun made some nice grabs. He looks to be making a strong push for a roster spot, and could wind up having a somewhat meaningful role in the offense.

It was a rough night for wide receiver injuries, as Eric Weems was slow to get up after being drilled by safety Chris Conte on the last play of practice. He lay motionless in the grass after being hit in the head and looked to me like he briefly passed out. For those keeping score at home, that marks three of Chicago’s top five or six wide receivers who were injured in Saturday night’s practice.

The Chicago Bears hope Devin Hester rediscovers his return magic this season.

The Chicago Bears hope Devin Hester rediscovers his return magic this season.

Special teams

The Chicago Bears did some work on both kick and punt returns. Devin Hester and rookie Michael Ford were the only two players to get looks as return man, and both showed a nice burst through the seam. Hester is likely to make the team this year, but Ford could stick on the practice squad and be the return man in 2014.

Overall

The defense was miles ahead of the offense, but that is to be expected at this point while the offense learns a new system. The wide receivers and tight ends were able to do a good job of getting open, but the offensive line struggled to provide the quarterbacks with time. When the blocking was adequate, the offense did very well; I suspect that will be the story of the 2013 season for the Chicago Bears.

It is important to remember that this is only one practice, and was not a game situation. Tackling was not allowed, and the offense never even had a session where they mixed up passes and runs. So don’t draw too many conclusions. We still have plenty more practices and four preseason games before any outcomes really matter.

1330 comments
robertj72
robertj72

So Bears are you gonna bring in Hangardner C/OG...we aren't using him any more and your team loves our sloppy seconds

robertj72
robertj72

My favorite country below is Hungry!

Mods Suck
Mods Suck

So they were saying on the Bill Michaels Show this afternoon that Derek Sherrod's leg has required multiple surgeries.

Mods Suck
Mods Suck

@SDL He is getting a second opinion with the famous Dr. Andrews, and there are rumors he might seek a cadaver ligament surgery.

Mods Suck
Mods Suck

Yes, but he's making it sound like these surgeries are more or less ongoing.

Gabe Horn
Gabe Horn

I hope riley reiff is good, he has to take on jared allen game 1

LKP
LKP

@Buhlitz Big test. Backus would get owned alot by Allen.