It was a perfect day for football on July 28th, a very light breeze, little cloud cover, and around 70 degrees. Fans were excited, and it couldn’t have been any more perfect, and so was my experience covering my first Bears camp as a member of the media. Here are my takeaways from my day at Bears camp.
Much of the hype about Marquess Wilson is justified, however he may have competition from someone, I previously stated would be either the fifth or sixth receiver on the depth chart – Chris Williams. Coming from the CFL, Williams may be creeping up on Wilson. He’s made consistent catches, displayed great burst, and has speed down the field. Although I still believe Wilson will grab the third spot, Williams is making a case of his own. He reminds me so much of Johnny Knox, a guy that was really starting to catch on and suffered a horrific injury ending his career (I really miss Johnny Knox), but they are so similar. Williams has made some great long catches, and if you think about it, he is a younger Eric Weems who has displayed great hands and can replace Devin Hester. It almost stands to reason that Williams can play the role the Bears had envisioned for Hester for so many years. It’s never good to make any drastic predictions based on a week in camp, but when someone is making noticeable progress, you take notice.
Josh McCown is no longer on the roster. If Jay Cutler goes down (likely against the Lions with a sack by Suh), fans should be a little worried. Jordan Palmer had some throws that were off the mark, didn’t display much consistency, and accuracy is a little troubling. His early injury in OTAs should be noted as well. Jimmy Clausen is likely the guy to backup Cutler. Although he hasn’t blown me away, he has improved since arriving in camp. His throws have shown good velocity and have been on point. Trestman was clear during his presser that this is an open competition. Clausen seems the favorite at the moment, but at this point its anyone’s guess. David Fales, who was drafted in the sixth round this year, has not been so hot either. His release needs to be quicker and he just didn’t look comfortable with the minimal snaps I was able to witness. We really won’t get a solid look at these three quarterbacks till the pre-season begins and we see some live game play. How does Cutler look, in just a short sum up, great. The release is quick and that ball always leaves his arm like a rocket propelled by extra rockets. At age 31, Cutler looks quick, moves in the pocket really well, and Trestman’s teachings have clearly made their mark on him. He was really vocal and was distributing the ball well. The Bears need Cutler to stay healthy this season, its time he makes due on his time in Chicago. He has every weapon imaginable, has the right scheme, and coach to get all the way to the Super Bowl. There are many outsiders (non Bears fans) that are thinking in the same fashion as well. People have the Bears as a team likely to make it to the Super Bowl, and a few even naming Cutler as an early MVP candidate.
Emery seems to have pulled off the exact same trick with the defensive line as he did with the offensive line last year. Completely re-tooled and rejuvenated the defensive line looks solid. Second year defensive end
David Bass really impressed me. He was consistently turning the corner to get into the backfield. He looked strong, fast, and should serve as a great back-up with upside. He should stick on the roster knocking Trevor Scott and Austin Lane off the lineup in a talented and crowded defensive line. Jared Allen and Lamarr Houston will form a great tandem. They look powerful, intimidating, and should prove to be disruptive forces off the edge. Will Sutton will be one hell of a player. He is a guy that I was excited about when the Bears chose him in the third round of this years draft. He isn’t huge, but he is tightly packed and looks like he will be tough to contain in the middle. He will primarily be looked at as a pass rushing defensive tackle, and while Ratliff is still here has a great veteran to learn the finer points of his craft from.
Charles Tillman is more upbeat than other reports are leading people to believe. He was smiling, pumping up the crowd, and coaching younger guys (i.e he’s involved). Sure he is probably upset free agency didn’t go as planned, and sure its likely he feels a little slighted after the off-season, but even after those issues, Tillman remains a stand up guy, and proves time and time again he is a leader on this team. After the injuries last year, Tillman looked just as good as he ever has. Fans are excited about the Bears bringing Tillman back, and you know what, they should be, because he looks like he will return to form in 2014. Not to mention there is not a single player in the league I would rather have teaching the younger defensive backs than, the turnover machine that is “Peanut” Tillman.
The linebacker race is wide open outside of Lance Briggs. Jon Bostic was taking the majority of first team reps at middle linebacker. He was settling in well and didn’t look out of place at all. It seems like he’s making strides, while landing starting spot is anything but secure. Shea McClellin and Williams look strong. Both Trestman and Emery have been clear from day one that no one is for sure labeled a starter besides Briggs, and the people are taking the reps to back that up. I didn’t get as much of a look at Shea as I would have liked, but he is leaner and still looks so fast. He has the intangibles to excel at linebacker. He reminds me so much of Brian Urlacher, and I had been very vocal (along with many other fans) about Shea being a fit at the middle linebacker spot, he’s likely going to be on the weak side. If he excels this year, I find it plausible that he could get reps in the middle later this year.