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Monday, July 28, 2014

Your 2014 Bears Training Camp/Roster Breakdown: The Offense

FOOTBALL IS BACK. Sure, we're a few weeks away still from a meaningless exhibition game that will serve the purpose of angering all of the wrong people in all of the wrong ways, but people are out there, RIGHT NOW (depending on when I post this) hitting each other in football pads. We have almost made it through the tyranny and oppression of that terrible no man's land where no sports are played except for something called baseball, which I'm told is a pastoral game not unlike cricket. Football has come to save us all, as it always does, until the terrifying, heart-attack inducing reality that is football season actually sets in and my wife spends every Sunday trying to cool me down as I sweat like an Illinois governor at an ethics hearing and my skin turns redder than than Krypton's sun. 

So now it's time to do the breakdown of what is, honest to God, the strongest unit on the Bears this year: the offense. There's going to be some breathless, erotic analysis coming here so I warn you, you may want to loosen the pants. I certainly did.

#6 Jay Cutler, #8 Jimmy Clausen, #2 Jordan Palmer, #12 David Fales
There's a lot of talk this year about Cutler maturing, finally being at peace with himself and his surroundings, taking on the true responsibilities of leadership and well, OK. Here's the thing: all of that may be true. Hell it probably is true. He's got a lot to feel comfortable about as he's finally entering year two of a system he likes (and that he knows actually fucking works), he's got everyone back on offense around him, and in a nice change of pace that's actually a really awesome thing. But there's probably not much of a difference personality-wise in this year's Cutler than in last years. The people writing those stories just know that Jay was doing damn well last year before he got hurt, and there's nothing but injury that's going to stop him from having the best year a Bears quarterback has ever had at the minimum (and probably a hell of a lot more than that). They just don't want to be caught hanging onto their manufactured Jay Cutler bullshit from years past when it happens.

I spend about as much time worrying about elite quarterbacks as I spend worrying about my responsibilities as the heir to the throne of Liechtenstein, but I know Jay can be a top ten quarterback in this system, and he was well on pace for that last year in year one before the injuries set in.  He's ready to do great things this year, and it's going to be fun as hell.

Clausen's honestly my pick for the #2 at this point. He's younger and more talented than Palmer, he's got the better arm for sure, and early reports are he's impressed more than Palmer to this point. There's really no reason not to go with him if he's even just merely Tied with Palmer after camp and the preseason. 

David Fales doesn't appear to have impressed, which is not that surprising given an arm that's somewhere around "Danny Wuerffel" on the Shane Matthews-Brett Favre spectrum of NFL arm strength, so he seems a candidate for the practice squad this year at best.

#22 Matt Forte, #25 Ka'Deem Carey, #32 Michael Ford, #38 Shaun Draughn, #36 Jordan Lynch, #35 Senorise Perry.
I'll be honest here. My biggest concern with this offense after Cutler's health is Matt. He'll turn 29 this season, which in runningback years basically makes him Roger Murtaugh. I'm hoping he's got a few years of his usual production left in him (and the years of occasional under-utilization by Martz and Tice will hopefully help us in this department), and it should be easy to tell once he hits the field whether this is actually a concern or not. Runningbacks can hit that wall without warning and it would suck if this were Matt's time. That said, if he's still Matt Forte (and I am reasonably confident that he is), I think he can come close to last year's numbers and have another wacky adventure with Jay "Martin Riggs" Cutler. 

Forte's not yet "too old for this shit"
Ka'Deem Carey's your backup because I said so, and Ford was a pretty valuable special teamer last year. Lynch might have a chance if he can show some ability as a special teams player right away, but my guess is he's practice squad bound. I have no idea who Senorise Perry is and I won't even bother to find out. All I know about Shaun Draughn is that he was a Chief at one point, and that his name sounds like Sean John, which I'm told is a clothing line run by Sean Combs who was once P. Diddy who was once Puff Daddy, and Iggins! informs me that means he was a "rapper," a form of music I find utterly incomprehensible but I'm told is quite popular with the youth, if you will. 

#15 Brandon Marshall, #17 Alshon Jeffery, #10 Marquess Wilson, #19 Josh Morgan, #14 Eric Weems, #82 Chris Williams, #81 Terrence Tolliver, #11 Josh Bellamy, #80 Armanti Edwards, #18 Michael Spurlock
Do I need to talk about Brandon and Alshon? Can't I just moan a little bit and you'll get the point? We live in a world where just four years ago the Bears ran a track star from Abilene Christian and a kick returner out at starting WR on a f*&king superbowl contender and now they have the best receiving duo in the league. That's....pretty damn cool.

If you've been on this site or listened to the podcast for five seconds in the last year you should know we're very high on Wilson (and Iggins! is currently trying to convince his wife that Marquess would actually be a bold, original name for their forthcoming baby girl), so you should know we expect him to win the #3 job and do very well at it. 

The real interesting question here is whether the Bears keep five or six receivers and who 4-5-6 would be. If they keep six as they did on last year's opening day roster I expect Morgan to be #4 and Weems and Williams to be the two special-teams only players. Morgan probably shouldn't expect to do much barring injury since Marquess only had two catches last year as the #4, since the Bears went with a 3 WR/1 TE set more than any other team in the league. If they only keep five I'm not sure who goes. Williams seems like he's got the inside track for the return job, but Morgan is the most accomplished actual wide receiver of the group, and Weems has always been a solid special teamer and unlike Earl Bennett he chose to prioritize employment over his pride and took every pay cut he was asked to take to stay. 

Bellamy, Tolliver, and Armanti Edwards don't have a chance in hell so I'm not spending much time there. Isn't Spurlock the guy that did the McDonald's documentary? Is he doing, like, "my week as an NFL receiver" or something? 

#83 Martellus Bennett, #88 Dante Rosario, #85 Matthew Mulligan, #86 Zach Miller, #87 Jeron Mastrud
Yeah so basically there's really no person other than Cutler who leaves this team in a bigger whole if injured than Martellus, so let us all pray for his health nightly. Last year he was outstanding and actually could have been even better had Jay not been injured. While McCown managed to feed Alshon and Brandon as often as Jay did (albeit through shorter, different routes), Marty was reduced to a checkdown option with Josh at the helm as Josh wisely chose not to try many of the deep middle routes and seams that Jay and Marty managed so effectively. If both Jay and Marty play more than 11 games together I expect him to top last year's number. Last year he suffered a shoulder surgery early on that robbed him of much of his effectiveness as a blocker, and with better health I expect the run game will get quite a boost from him returning to form in that department, where usually ranked as one of the best in the game. 

Rosario's just a guy, but at least he can catch, which is more than I can say for the rest of the flotsam behind him. One of them will no doubt make it as a blocking specialist, but I could really care less which one it is. I'd also not be surprised to see yet another post-cut pickup like last year's move to acquire Dante to address the depth here.

#74 Jermon Bushrod, #67 Jordan Mills, #78 James Brown, #79 Joe Long, #72 Charles Leno, #70 Michael Ola, #73 Cody Booth
Bushrod has never and will never exceed at anything, but he's a solid, stable left tackle and Jay and the coaching staff trust him implicitly. That's really all we've ever asked for. This coaching staff is never dumb enough to ask him or Mills to do more than they are capable of. 

As for Mills, people have been shitting on him all offseason due to a PFF grade, and, look, I love PFF more than most, but the guy did everything he was asked to do as a rookie and started all sixteen games. Even if PFF says he was a shit right tackle, he was a rookie from Louisiana Tech who never inhibited the offense from being productive while he got his feet wet. Hell, in the opener he completely blanked Michael Johnson, the prize of Lovie's free agent bonanza in Tampa. There's talent there, and now there's experience. He's going to be fine. I don't know that I ever see a star right tackle there, but this system has never required one of those to operate. 

Oddly enough the roster lists James Brown as a tackle only and Eben Britton as a guard only, even though Britton was the swing tackle last year and the first man up when Mills got injured against Green Bay, and Brown has only ever played guard in the NFL. My guess is Brown may struggle to keep his roster spot anyway, as I'm not sure how many offensive linemen the team plans on keeping and I think De La Puente and Britton are the two backups who are locks to make the roster. Those others guys are, umm, not going to matter at all so let's move on.

#75 Kyle Long, #68 Matt Slauson, #62 Eben Britton, #71 Dylan Gandy, #53 Ryan Groy
Kyle Long has a viral infection that's kept him out so far and it's scaring the hell out of me because Carl Nicks just had his career ruined by MRSA so I'm just going to be irrationally paranoid until he takes the field again. Provided he does do so I expect nothing but good things, as he was perfectly serviceable as a guard as a rookie and none of the mistakes that hurt him were things that can't be attributed to something other than inexperience. He's got all of the potential in the world, and I expect him to cash in on it.

Matt Slauson is practicing after shoulder surgery, and that's great. I don't know if he can be as consistently good as he was last year in what was a career year for him, but I expect him to be a stabilizing force on the line for some time.

As I said, I expect Britton to make the roster as the main swing tackle and a guy who has experience at guard. I somehow missed the Dylan Gandy signing and was scared to death that the Mike Gandy had somehow found his way back on the team after all of this time and that would not have been pleasant. I'm guessing Gandy's just a camp body, especially with Long out indefinitely. I haven't the faintest clue what Ryan Groy is, and I'm doubftul I'll ever need to know.

#63 Roberto Garza, #64 Brian De La Puente, #60 Taylor Boggs
Last season even with all of the roster turnover at every other position on the line I was most concerned with the Bears trying to squeeze another year out of Garza's corpse at center. Then it turned out that he can be a pretty effective center in the right system with actual help at guard. Still, the Bears were wise to hedge their bets and sign De La Puente, who has been even more successful in the same blocking schemes and is considerably younger and most likely is the (at least short-term) succession plan at the position. We'll see if this is the year Garza gives way or if it'll be an offseason transition. Either way I feel much better about this position than I did last year. Boggs did well for himself last year to stick for all 16 games but I'd be surprised if he  makes the team again this year, given that the De La Puente signing made it fairly clear they don't see much long-term potential there.

That's all for now. This offense has everything you could want at almost every position. Last year was not a blip or aberration like the few stretches in the past where the offense occasionally flashed talent only to disappear like a fart in the wind. The talent and coaching is right where it needs to be to sustain and build on last year's progress. If the defense can just get even halfway there, this team will finally be ready to do more than pray for a wildcard if things go their way. They showed last year, even despite the Conte Incident, that they can go toe to toe offensively with Green Bay. There's no anymore to look at those teams that move the ball at will and wonder "if only". Now is the time for this offense to be great. 

1 comment:

Lee said...

Jesus, I had forgotten about how useless Armanti Edwards was. You could take the 2008-2010 Panthers' off-seasons, and turn it into a Mel Brooks comedy.