Scouting From Bears Training Camp

As promised, a report from my experiences down in Bumblefuck, er, Bourbonnais Illinois- home of the Chicago Bears training camp. Two years ago, I went with friend-of-the-site-Keith (he's been on a few podcasts with us). I ended up severely spraining my ankle before walking through the entrance. And to add insult to injury (almost literally) we ended up leaving early because of severe thunderstorm warnings. After the two hour drive home, I turned on the news to realize that right after I had left, training camp had resumed again.

Last year, I went with a few more friends, including fellow Game Of Inches blog authors Cubsfan4evr and The 'Bright' One. A much better experience. We got out first look and discovered diamond-in-the-rough Devin Aromashodu and got video of back up quarterback Caleb Hanie stating that Jay Cutler sucks and that he should start. A much better experience to say the least.

So now it's becoming a GOI tradition- go down to Bourbannais to scout the team. This year, we had to take two cars and Cubsfan, myself, and six of our friends (TBO is currently in the Dominican Republic scouting for Cubs middle relievers) went down to see the team. Here are a few notes, anecdotes, interviews, pictures, and experiences from the trip:

- We saw a lot of the offense practicing (as they were right in front us). One of the big things that jumped out to us was how many plays were directed towards Johnny Knox. The first team wide outs consisted of Knox, Devin Aromashodu (D.A.), and Rashied Davis. No Hester on either first or second string teams (more on Hester later). It seemed obvious that the vast majority of the plays were designed and many of the targets went towards Knox, not D.A.
- Both D.A. and Knox looked really bad all day and missed a lot of easy passes. Very disappointing considering we at Game Of Inches are huge Aromashodu fans.
- Cubsfan and myself have a Board Bet for fantasy football: Johnny Knox v. Devin Aromashodu. I took Knox just because I think the Bears like him more and I believe he'll get the most opportunities and targets for the team. Friend of the blog Fantasy Football Spin and others have talked extensively about the wide receiver options for fantasy in Chicago. Current ADP had D.A. leading all Bears receivers with 96.74, followed by Knox with 133.63, and Hester with 134.39- and all within four WR slots of each other (with crappy Braylon Edwards being the fourth).
- Training camp has just reinforced my belief that Knox will get more targets than D.A. and thus holds more fantasy value in 2010. Listen, I love D.A. I think he's a legitimate #1 receiver much like Steve Smith was for the Giants last year. He's the biggest wide receiver Chicago has at 6-2, he's fast, and has the best hands on the team. But unfortunately the Bears are a bad organization and have fallen in love with the "#1" fifth round draft pick of 2009. I believe D.A. is the better talent but Knox is the better fantasy play and neither will be on any one of my fantasy teams.

Let's take a break and look at some actual players:

55: Lance Briggs; 54: Brian Urlacher; 95: Anthony Adams; 52: Kevin Malast

91: Tommie Harris; 94: Matt Mayberry; 27: Major Wright; 54: Brian Urlacher

6: Jay Culer

20: Craig Steltz; 26: Tim Jennings; 96: Barry Turner; 80: Earl Bennett

Now on to some Devin Hester talk:
- His absence from both special teams (where the only name of note returning kicks was Knox) and both the first and second string teams was very odd. When Hester was singing autographs for fans, one fan asked him if he was injured- which is the most logical reason for why Hester was not on the field. However, Hester said he was perfectly healthy. So I'm curious why 23 was not on the field practicing (but was suited up).
- My next guess is that Hester is really really really stupid and new offensive coordinator Mike Martz's system is really complicated and Hester still doesn't understand it. I remember Hester lining up next to Muhsin Muhammad and Moose having to yell at Devin to move over because he was standing at the wrong place on the line of scrimmage. But this is just a guess.
- I asked Hester: Over/Under 1200 yards for him in 2010? He didn't answer but the fans all said "over" and he agreed with them. I then asked him how many TD's he would get in the upcoming season and Hester said 10-11.
- I have an autograph football that many Bears have signed over the past couple of years that I literally held to Hester's face, twice, when he was signing autographs for fans. Not once did Hester sign it. He did however sign an autograph for my friend Keith. That dumb mo fo (Hester, not Keith). But hey, I'm not bitter.
- Some rookie wide out was carrying Hester's pads into the locker room. He probably won't make the team. Take a lesson Dez Bryant!

Anecdote and fun story time!
- One great thing I love about Bears training camp is that everyone is extremely nice and friendly (I'm sure this is the same at all training camps, but I only have experience with the Chicago team). We're all essentially in the same fraternity- the love of the Chicago Bears- so it makes sense. When I fell and hurt my ankle, the fans in line could not have been more nicer to me to help me up. When a firefighter at the camp looked at my ankle but said they couldn't give me an Advil because of "legal" reasons, one fan sitting next to me give me some of his spare Tylenol.
- When sitting in the stands this year, my friends and I were surrounded by many fans who we had the pleasure of talking to. Directly to the right of us (and directly behind Cubsfan) was an elderly gentleman by himself happily eating the Wendy's he had brought into the stadium. He mentioned at least four times how a back up tight end, who probably won't make the team, was wearing Mike Ditka's former number: 89. He also mentioned at least ten times that that used to be Willie Gault's former number. Willie Gault played for the great Bears team in the mid to late eighties and played for the Greatest Team Ever: the '85 Bears. I know this, not because I actually saw Willie Gault play (my parents weren't even married yet by January of 1986) but because this guy had to mentioned it 10 times and acted like my friends and I watched him play. I just turned 23 years old. Now admittedly I look older for my age (especially with the three day old 5 o'clock shadow I was rocking) and some of my friends do too. So say this guy thought we were 26-28 years old. That means we were about 5 when Willie Gault played. NO WE DON'T KNOW WHO WILLIE GAULT IS OR EVEN REMEMBER WHAT NUMBER HE WORE.
- There was a young couple sitting directly in front of us with young girls (their daughters). The husband was a probably a bigger Bears fan than all of us. He recalled the day after his second daughter was born watching a game in the hospital and told his wife that he would take care of his child and be there for her, but would not miss a Bears game. He was smart and brought his daughters along so he could get many of the "elite" players like Urlacher, Cutler, and Pepper's autograph (because players will gladly sign autographs for little kid. But screw the 16-49 year old males who actually buy tickets, follow the sport and team, and purchase merchandise. Again, I'm not bitter.)
- We all agreed that it was extremely stupid of the Bears to drop DE Alex Brown and to not pay him. He would have looked great opposite Julius Peppers, not that expensive, and this is an uncapped year anyway.

Some more TMZ-style interviews I conducted:
- I asked K Robbie Gould if he would ever become the all time NFL leader in field goal percentage. (He's currently 4th all time). Robbie laughed and said he'd have to wait about eight, nine more years to see how everything shakes out and hopes to last that long. He was cool and signed an autograph for me.
- On a fantasy football related note, even though Gould is an extremely accurate and good kicker, he was only the 13th best fantasy kicker in 2009 and the 16th best in 2008. Further proof that there is no amount of research you can do (nor should do) to draft kickers.
- I asked CB Charles "Peanut" Tillman which would he prefer: getting an INT in the game or making sure the receiver he covered didn't get a touch? (The reason I asked him this is because I am personally under the belief that INT are overrated and a cornerback like Oakland's Nnamdi Asomugha or New York's Darrell Revis are awesome because they cover their receiver like white on rice, despite the lack of interceptions) However, Peanut was taken aback by my question and just responded "whatever the defense calls for". I then asked him: Over/Under 7 interceptions for the year? He said "over". He was also cool and signed an autograph for me.
- I asked rookie and soon-to-be-cut safety Quentin Scott which was the better 'Quentin' him or Carlos [White Sox OF Carlos Quentin]. The fans and him laughed and he responded "Oh, Carlos for sure. I played baseball, I know how good he is" I could have gotten an autograph but I already have LB Nick Roach and like nine other guys' autographs that I don't care about so I didn't want to make in 10.

Some final notes about the players I "scouted":
- Although it was an extremely limited amount of times and small sample size, former first round pick offensive lineman Chris Williams looked really good blocking Julius Peppers.
- However, the rest of the offensive line looked awful during drills of offensive vs. defensive lines.
- Northern Illinois alum and 3rd rounder Garrett Wolfe took all the second string snaps in practice. In case anyone was thinking about handcuffing Forte or Taylor with Khalil Bell, don't.
- Rashied Davis, who took Hester's place in practice, looked like the best receiver of the day. Didn't look at good as D.A. did last year, but still really good.
- No one this year stood out like Devin Aromashodu did to us last year
- In case anyone was wondering, Jay Cutler's back up is Caleb Hanie and not rookie Dan LeFevour. Hanie looked good with no defense on him but took a slight step backwards during the 7 on 7's. The Bears are screwed if Cutler goes down anyway but it's good to see Hanie look decently good in practice.
- The first string red zone offensive led by Cutler (and mainly targeting Knox) looked just as bad as the product on the actual field the past couple of years.

Finally, some more photos on the day:

90: Julius Peppers; Head Coach Lovie Smith

Robbie Gould signing an autograph for Keith

Charles "Peanut" Tillman

Sexy Rexy on the left and Cubsfan on the right


Anonymous said...

if you ever played tecmobowl, you'd know who willie gault was.

Cubsfan4evr said...

This was a great post Sexy Rexy! You were very detailed and COVERED everything from our observations at training camp. Now it is a GOI tradition to go down to Bourbonnais and our goal was to find this year’s Devin Aromashodu. As you said we did not find any players that really stood out to us on either side of the football. It was only one day so doesn’t necessary mean that much; It was disappointing for us though.

All of the fans were fun to talk to about the Bears. The guy who sat behind me was at first, but then he kept talking, talking, and YES MORE TALKING. While I was trying to enjoy the practice and scout out players he kept talking and not just about the Bears. I can tell you about where the guy is from; about his family (His daughter is engaged and moving in with her fiancé) and why Bourbonnais Illinois is the best city ever. So he was memorable!

BTW I did not look good in the photo of us Sexy Rexy. To training camp next year……………………

The 'Bright' One said...

Wait, so it dan lefevour better looking than hanie or not? I know that he's slower, weaker, dumber...

Sexy Rexy said...

Lefevour didn't even play, it was all Hanie- although pre-draft I thought Lefevour was more well-liked among teams and didn't think he'd drop all the way to the 5th round.