Bears report: 10 observations
BY MARK POTASH September 3, 2013 1:46PM
Phil Emery, the new General Manager of the Chicago Bears, makes his opening remarks Monday January 30, 2012 at Halas Hall in Lake Forest. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times
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Updated: September 3, 2013 9:51PM
Bears general manager Phil Emery could have used some charts and graphs, but got his point across in what amounted to a ‘‘State of the Bears’’ speech Monday at Halas Hall — the Bears haven’t caught up to the Packers yet, but they’re getting closer, at least on paper.
Emery, doing his own homework, which he does very well, provided the numbers that at least indicate he’s not sitting around waiting for success to bit him in the rear:
Of the 53 players on the Bears roster, 31 of them have been added since he became general manager in January of 2012.
That turnover includes 18 of 24 players on offense; 13 out of 25 on defense.
‘‘So we’re moving in the direction to improve the offense and slowly moving in the direction to add youth to the defense. I think our roster numbers speak to that. It speaks of the consistency of trying to work toward our goals to improve the weapons on our team, to improve the protection for our quarterback, to be quarterback centered and to slowly add youth and dynamic athleticism to our defense as our needs arise.’’
With nine rookies on the roster who were drafted or signed by the Bears, Emery is moving closer to his goal of a more home-grown team. As Emery noted, the Packers are the gold standard in that regard, with 43 of their 53 players home grown. The Vikings have 39. The Bears 29. The Lions 27.
All that remains to be seen is if he’s got the right guys. Fifteen of the 29 home-grown Bears have contributed little or nothing so far. In fact, 11 of them have never even played a down in the NFL. The season-opener against the Bengals couldn’t come at a better time.
Here’s a capsule look at a busy day at Halas Hall on Monday and where the Bears stand heading into the opening week of Marc Trestman’s first season as Bears head coach:
1. Brandon Marshall is good to go. ‘‘I’m ready to roll,’’ the Bears wide receiver said after returning from a ‘‘check-up’’ on his surgically repaired hip over the weekend. ‘‘Structurally, everything is good. The joint is in amazing shape. It’s going on eight months out [since the latest surgery] and I’m ready to roll.’’
1a. Marc Trestman liked what he saw of Marshall in practice Monday and doesn’t think Marshall’s hip is an issue — not that it might not be in the future. ‘‘He really only knows where his condition is,’’ Trestman said. ‘‘Because when you watch him on the field he’s working hard and doing all the right things. We’ll just work with our medical people, Chris [Hanks, the head trainer] will be communicating with him during the week to see where he really thinks he is. It’s not really showing up in practice. He’s practicing hard. He didn’t practice every rep [Monday]. But if he’s got a question as to where he is, we’ll certainly talk about it as we move through the week.’’
2. In other words, as Jay Cutler intimated, Marshall was just blowing off steam last week when he complained about his role in the offense and fitting in. ‘‘I was a little frustrated and I’m gonna be frustrated. I think that’s just human nature,’’ Marshall said. ‘‘There’s going to be some ups and downs this season, but we’ve got to stay productive and efficient and effective in the way we act. I’m just excited to be here for one more.’’
3. Wide receiver Earl Bennett practiced for the first time in a month since suffering a concussion but expects to play against the Bengals. ‘‘That’s the plan,’’ Bennett said. ‘‘I’m pretty good conditioning-wise. I’ve been up here running — shoulder pads, helmets — the past few days, just making sure I’m in great shape. Trestman said ‘‘it may not be plausible’’ that Bennett can play after missing so much time, but Bennett is the kind of athlete and competitor who doesn’t have to be in mid-season form to make a contribution. Either way, it would not be surprising to see rookie Marquess Wilson active to get some reps at Bennett’s spot.
4. Defensive tackle Henry Melton is back and could start against the Bengals. ‘‘They’ve been working me pretty hard all through the weekend, trying to get me back,’’ Melton said. ‘‘I’m feeling good. I went out there and ran a little bit. I’m feeling great.’’ Trestman, as expected, will wait until Wednesday’s practice to give a reliable update on the status of Bennett, Melton and other injured players.
5. Middle linebacker D.J. Williams is expected to practice Wednesday and still a candidate to start against the Bengals, according to Marc Trestman. It’s seems really unlikely that after missing five weeks with a calf injury Williams could get back up to speed quickly enough to unseat rookie Jon Bostic. ‘‘It’s really day-to-day, quite frankly,’’ Trestman said Monday. ‘‘He [Williams] did work today. He got some reps. He was out there. We’ll see where the rest of the week goes and make a decision based on Wednesday’s and Thursday’s practices to see where he is and the type of condition he’s in and the velocity of his reps.’’
5a. Should the Bears start Bostic because he has a bigger upside? ‘‘The palyer that is making the plays [should start],’’ Emery said when asked about his philosophy regarding veteran-vs-up-and-coming-player situations like Williams vs. Bostic. ‘‘Who is better for those given circumstances than the other player? So whoever is playing better whatever the given opportunity is, they’ll have earned their way to be the starter. If that’s Bostic, great. If that’s Williams, great. We have no preferences in this building. It’s about putting the best playrs on the field.’’
6. This keeps getting buried in Emery press conferences, but it’s worth pointing out that Emery has not closed the door on negotiating contract extensions during the season. That means that if Jay Cutler starts out like Rex Grossman in 2006 (10 touchdowns, three interceptions, four ratings of 98.6 or better in the first first five games), the Bears be open to a long-term deal with Cutler. Whether or not that would be the smart move is up in the air, but that’s not the point. ‘‘I said we were inclined not to [negotiate extensions],’’ Emery said Monday. ‘‘That doesn’t mean we absolutely won’t. But the fairest thing and the right thing for us right now is to concentrate on this season.’’
7. The Bears cut J’Marcus Webb because he wasn’t good enough. It took Emery awhile to say it, but after telling us how Webb graded out positively in 14 of 16 games last year (the bad ones were against the 49ers and at Green Bay), eventually he did. ‘‘Coming into this fall, we were very optimistic that he was going to be our starting right tackle and would continue to improve as a player,’’ Emery said. ‘‘He never gained the consistency, that sufficient level of consistency that we want out of our players, so at the end his performance wasn’t to our expectation level that we felt we needed to move forward with it.’’
8. If you think Marc Trestman will have a positive impact on Jay Cutler you’ll like this Phil Emery story. ‘‘I was sitting in our Bears control booth before the game watching warmups – and I saw something I haven’t seen before. It was our entire first unit … going through full-speed reps on their own without pads, and the offensive linemen sprinting 15 yards downfield after every rep. And I thought in the back of my mind, the question I had: ‘Was that Marc or was that Jay?’ So I asked Marc and he said, ‘No, that’s Jay. Jay came to me and told me that he thought we needed to do that.’ So that tells me a lot about Marc and his staff.’’
9. The Bears have 10 rookies on their team — is that a sign of Emery’s ability to judge talent and/or Trestman’s ability to coach them up? Or a sign that the bottom of the Bears roster was really thin? A Lovie Smith answer seems really appropriate here: both. Even without playing a game, there’s little doubt Emery’s 2013 draft was better than his 2012 draft. But, as my Sun-Times colleague Hub Arkush pointed out, what the Bears did this year was move out players with limited ceilings in favor of unproven players with much higher ceilings. It remains to be seen how right Emery and his staff were, though Trestman’s staff could help make him look like a genius.
10. Even Emery knows it’s just a start. ‘‘We need to have more years like we had this year in terms of having a high number of picks and college free agents on the roster relative to what we brought in,’’ Emery said. ‘‘We need to have that consistently. I need to do a better job of finding ways to gain more picks on draft day and we need to do a better job as a college staff in our recruitment and retention of high quality college free agents. That’s how you produce rosters at these types of numbers: where the Packers are at, where the Vikings are at.’’ Ah, so.