Scouting From Bears Training Camp

For all four loyal GOI fans, you know it's been a tradition for the authors to go to Bears training camp. In the past its always been a excursion. Something planned out a month ahead of time that's full of adventure, excitement, and wonderment. OK, I may be exaggerating a bit but it really is a good time. This year The 'Bright' One, Cubsfan, and myself planned to keep the tradition alive. The Bears held a family day special training camp at Soldier Field and we payed ten bucks to go see them. Unfortunately the Bears players were being little bitches on that day and the field was a tad too wet for their taste so an hour before training camp started they all hoped on a bus and drove down to Bourbonnais, Illinois- where they normally hold training camp- to practice. Even though we had already wasted train and taxi fare to get down to Soldier Field and were essentially at Solider when we heard the news, the Bears players were inconsiderate jerks and left all us fans high and dry. When team President/CEO Ted Thompson started address the fans he was rewards with a stadium full of boo's. However, the concession stands at Soldier Field gave us free food and all three of us still had fun in Chicago on a Friday night, but still, we had missed our chance to see our beloved Bears at a training camp.

But I would not be deterred.

A friend of mine from college was going up with her family to see the Bears play in Bourbonnais a few weeks later (it ended up being only her and her sister) and I seized this opportunity so I could say I at least went to *one* training camp and my tradition of going for four straight years is still in tact. While this year was not the same as it was in years past- hanging out with my boys, getting there early, discussing football for hours on end- it was still a good time and I still got some valuable tidbits. However, because this trip was really not the same as years past, my scouting report for this year is a bit limited. I didn't see any defensive players practice until the 11 of 11's at the end of training camp and for the first hour of the two hour training camp I was by myself because my friend was stuck in traffic and the second hour was spent catching up with my friend and not paying that much attention to the practice because I hadn't seen her in a few months.

But here is what I can report:

Wide Receivers

I spent the majority of training camp scouting the receiving corps. Even with the addition of Marion Barber, I still knew how essentially the running backs would be used. Our quarterback is set and I didn't want to focus on offensive lineman in drills because, let's face it, how hard is it to look good when all you're up against is a 50 year old man with pads on his arms? So I focused on the receiving group for two reasons. First, I wanted to see how Johnny Knox and Roy Williams will be used and second, I wanted to see if I could find something to give me an advantage like I had done in years past. Two years ago we discovered Devin Aromashodu and last year I had discovered how much the Bears hated Devin Aromashodu and even though everyone was touting him as a fantasy sleeper, I was the only one screaming from the rooftops that Johnny Knox would have a better season than D.A. I was right.

- This year, I noticed that Roy Williams looks awesome. Granted, I know it's only practice and a two hour one at that, but the Bears seem to like Roy Williams and R.W. looked really good at practice.
- I think the target split between Williams and Johnny Knox will be split about evenly with Williams probably getting a little bit more. I'd say a 55/45 split. The only difference is that Knox still doesn't have the greatest hands (which was evident in practice) and which means I think Williams is going to get many more catches than Knox.
- Devin Hester didn't practice as a wide out and I hope he's getting phased out as a receiver because I think he best helps the team as a returner. But Hester didn't practice at all last year and he still was our starting wide receiver so I'm not putting too much stock in the fact he didn't work out. Plus, Johnny Knox and Khalil Bell (4th string running back) took essentially all of the kick returns. (We'll get to kick returns later)
- Earl Bennett looked good for the limited amount of time he was on the field but he's going to be a 4th receiver at best. It's a shame because I still love him as a slot guy.
- The one no name receiver that looked good was also a number 19- like Devin Aromashodu. He's a 6'1" rookie receiver from TCU by the name of Jimmy Young. But he's not going to make the team. Just saying though I thought he looked good.

Red Zone Offense

- The Bears ran about four red zone plays so take what I report with a grain of salt.
- Three of the plays were to tight ends. The first one was a fade to Kellen Davis (whom the Bears seems enamored with), the second was a designed play to Davis, and the third was a pass up the middle to tight end Matt Spaeth.
- Matt Spaeth is 6'7" and looks like a men among boys compared to the other players on the team. This dude is huge but he doesn't look that fit and the Bears seem to like Davis more than him (based upon press releases I've seen) but it wouldn't shock me if he got like 5 touchdowns.
- The fourth red zone play was a designed running play for running back Marion Barber. Any Bears fan can tell you how awesome Matt Forte is but he's terrible at getting 3rd and short and 4th and short. I don't have the exact statistics in front of me but I know Matt Forte the past few years has been really high up there (I wanna say top 5) in red zone carries but he's only average to below average in the total rushing touchdowns he gets. He's terrible at converting what he should and I think the addition on Marion Barber will help the Bears convert what they couldn't before. Marion Barber looks good and I could see him getting 10 rushing touchdowns this year. Kind of like the Brandon Jacobs role for the Giants last year (or his role a few years ago with Julius Jones in Dallas). Look to see Matt Forte come out of the game when the Bears get close.

Extra Notes

- This offense line still looks terrible and might be worse than it was last year. I saw this line struggle versus the Bears second team defense and Jay Cutler hurried a lot.
- Speaking of Jay Cutler, in practice he looks amazing and we all got to see his cannon of an arm in action. The Bears receivers were running drills on either end of the sidelines. The receiver would run out 40-50 yards and the quarterback would throw them a bomb. Jay Cutler threw three of these passes. The first to Roy Williams, the second to Johnny Knox, and the third to Earl Bennett and all three were beauties. All three were in the exact same spot and got there with precision and accuracy. Then you saw Caleb Hanie and third stringer Nathan Enderle try to do the same thing on the other sideline and you realized why these guys aren't starters and Jay Cutler is.
- A group of young high school or junior high kids were standing next to me during some of the practice and were looking through a program they had. This program had a list of every player and their number. These kids got to Ricky Henry whose number is "69" and giggled like little school girls. I didn't laugh once. God, I'm getting senile and hardened in my old age.
- While the receivers and quarterbacks were doing these drills, the running backs were doing some catching drills on their own. Running backs Matt Forte and Chester Taylor went first, caught their balls with ease (hahahaha) and then turned their backs to me and my side of the field to watch the other running backs in action. First, Marion Barber is not nearly as good of a pass catcher as the first two and second, both Taylor and Forte look exactly alike from the back.
- I texted TBO that Forte and Taylor looked exatly alike and he texted back "#racist"
- The Bears ran about twenty minutes of kick off return drills. As mentioned earlier, Khalil Bell, Johnny Knox, and I believe CB D.J. Moore took a majority of the returns while Robbie Gould kicked off. This new rule where kickers get to kick off from the 35 pisses me off as a Bears fan because most, if not all, of Robbie's kicks went past the endzone and this hurts a strength the Bears have had in recent years. However, when that happened a guy on the sideline threw an extra ball to the returner and then the team ran a kickoff drill as if the returner had caught the ball. This blocking team looks awesome as always but the Bears are going to be severely hurt by this stupid kick off rule.

TMZ-style Interviews

I went to a 7:00 pm practice so training camp didn't end until nine which means these guys were tired after a long day. Luckily I was able to get a few interviews and autographs. Players came my way thanks to this kid standing in front of me. He couldn't have been more than 13 or 14 years old and was calling every player under the sun to give him an autograph. Now after going for four years now I realized that you only care about getting the starters autograph and not about the back ups. But this kid was bright-eyed and bushy tailed and didn't care if you were the fifth string safety, he wanted your autograph. Now while the back ups always make for the best interviews (see: Caleb Hanie blasting Jay Cutler) I didn't have a program so I could tell who these back ups actually were and I really didn't want their autograph.

One way this kid tried to get some of these players autographs was to say that they were on his fantasy team. When old timer TE Desmond Clark walked by he used this tactic. At first, I thought he was just saying that to lure the players over, but it turns out he actually did draft all Bears players (except for some reason Jay Cutler) and did actually draft Desmond Clark.

There was this dick behind me (believe me, after two seconds of talking to this guy you’d say to yourself, “Wow, what a dick”) who added his two cents. He said, “Really? Dez Clark is your tight end? You should go for someone solid like Brent Celek.” I turned to the Dick and said, “Really? Brent Celek? You could have done better than someone like Celek. Michael Vick didn’t look to him at all last year.” He tried to convince me that he was in a PPR league so Celek got him like 9 points every week. 1) A tight end who’s good in a PPR format is not necessarily going to help this 13 year old out 2) There were much better TE’s than Celek last year (although I wouldn’t have faulted you for drafting him high) and 3) I wasn’t going to sit there and argue with the Dick. I had better things to do. Like getting backups autographs. Moral of the story: I want to go to training camp just to start a fantasy football league with these guys. I haven’t won in a while. [Eds note: Celek was 18th among tight ends last year- and this was in a year where essentially every TE got injured]

Anyways, on with the interviews!

DE Vernon Gholston

Me: How many sacks are you going to have this season?
VG: I don’t know as many as I can
Me: Are you going to have over 15?
VG: *laughs* I dunno

I probably should have asked him his role in the system because Peppers is obviously starting and right now Israel Idonije is the other starter on the Bears website.

University of Florida alum safety Major Wright

Me: Who is that guy? (he wasn’t wearing his pads)
13 year old kid in front of me: That’s Major Wright
Me: Ooh, he’s a starter, I want his autograph

Me: How many interceptions are you going to get next year?
MW: haha Good question
Me: Are you happy you choose the correct Florida school?
MW: (angrily) Sure * quickly walks as far away from me as possible *

Again, I missed another golden opportunity. I should have asked him about how awesome his name is. His name is Major Wright! Come on, I'm jealous. Also, for those of you who don't know, that last question was a reference to the recent major allegations against the University of Miami.

C Roberto Garza

Me: I have your face from last year
[Eds Note: This is actually true. Every year for training camp they give out these cheap paper masks of a certain player with a long popsicle-esque wooden pick to hold it up. The purpose of them is to hold the stick so the cheap, paper face covers your face but everyone just uses them as fans. Last year when I went they gave out Roberto Garza masks.]
RG: * laughs *
Me: Do you have one?
RG: Yeah, I got one last year
Me: Was that your Halloween costume last year?
RG: haha no, * something inaudible *
Me: Are you sad to see Olin Kruetz go?
RG: Yeah man, absolutely.
Me: But you’re the better block than him, right?
RG: Nah, man

Garza seemed completely sincere and saddened by the departure of Kruetz. While Kruetz couldn’t block ME to save his life a lot of what it takes to be a good offensive line is chemistry and, this pains me to say this, intangibles. Maybe we shouldn’t have let him go? Wait, what am I saying? Players on the field don’t think. ALL STATS BABY!

Punter Spencer Lanning

I actually didn’t know who this guy was but he had a jersey with the number 1 on it with him and he was a small, skinny white guy, so he had to be a kicker.

Me: Who’s the better kicker, you or Robbie Gould?
SL: haha, Robbie Gould for sure
Me: What!? I don’t believe that. It’s definitely you!
SL: * laughs again * I mean this seriously, Robbie Gould is the best kicker I have ever seen. The best.

One Last Note Before I Go

You can stop reading now if you want to, I understand. It's been a long article and your boss is probably pissed at you for not working for the past 20 minutes. But if you would like to stick around, I thank you.

Also, I'm about to step on my pedastal

As I mentioned earlier, the guys who tend to sign autographs are the back ups or guys who who don't immediately recognize. Now me personally, I always cross reference the player's number on their jersey with a list I print out of everyone on the team and their number so I know which player is which so I know which player's autograph I'm getting (versus this year because my printer ran out of ink I asked the kid ahead of me of who's autograph he was getting in which he replied back to me with no sense of subtlety the guys name). But there was this old dude next to this kid who asked a few players what their name was before asking for their autograph. He had some program with every player listed and would ask, "Now, who are you again?" If I was a player I would walk away because that seems rude, but I guess I'm pety like that. But these players would kindly tell this dude their name, sign their autograph next to their picture, and move on. But for future reference, if you go to any training camp, have a way to figue out who you are talking to before you ask for their autograph, not during or after. What this old guy did seemed really rude and disrespectful.

Anyways, I'm done. Off my pedestal.

That is all. And we... aRE... OUT!


Dmitry said...

a good start for vernon gholston would have been 1 sack, it would be his first in the nfl