BOURBONNAIS, Ill. -- Chicago Bears general manager Phil Emery and head coach Marc Trestman spent nearly an hour Wednesday addressing the media for the start of training camp at Olivet Nazarene University, and touched on a variety of topics.
Here are three things we think after listening to them as well as quarterback Jay Cutler, who met with the media shortly after reporting to camp:
Michael C. Wright
If healthy, Adrian Wilson is a starter. Yes, he’s 34 and coming off an injury which forced him to miss the entire 2013 season. But some within the organization are downright giddy about what Wilson could potentially bring to the table in terms of adding a level of physicality at the safety position. In laying out a case for him, one member of the organization pointed out that many of today’s best defenses feature an intimidating presence on the back end; teams such as Seattle and San Francisco. The truth is the Bears don’t know whether Wilson has anything left in the tank. But if Wilson remains fully healthy throughout camp, I think he leaves Bourbonnais with a starting job.
“He sets a tone,” general manager Phil Emery said. “Talk about a guy that [will] come down in the box and whack you, and whack you in space. That’s what he’s done.”
Sounds good, doesn’t it?
Offense isn’t quite as good as everyone thinks. Not yet. That’s not to take away from the group’s accomplishments last season, because it definitely improved. But there seems to be an assumption the Bears will automatically light up opponents this season based on what they did in 2013. Chicago’s offense hasn’t arrived by any means. There’s still plenty of room for growth. That’s part of why Bears coach Marc Trestman constantly laments yardage and points they “left on the field” in 2013, and why a major part of the coach’s message to the team at camp is to “ignore the noise”; the noise being the optimism surrounding the team from outsiders.
Cutler even cautioned against overconfidence.
“You’ve got to be careful with that. Everyone in the NFL is confident right now,” Cutler said. “Everyone likes what they have on paper. Everyone likes their roster. That includes us. But that doesn’t guarantee us anything. We’ve still got to go out there and perform.”
The Bears certainly won’t be sneaking up on opponents this season given what the offense did in 2013. Opposing defenses will be ready. The Bears need to be, too.
Jimmy Clausen will overtake Jordan Palmer for the No. 2 job. Emery raved about Clausen’s workouts, and it seems Cutler has taken to the former Notre Dame standout too. Emery said that upon Clausen’s arrival, he “got Jay on the phone right away. Jay reached him, and they reached out to each other,” and the quarterbacks “spent the whole weekend together learning the playbook so that [Clausen] had the best opportunity to stick with the team post the veteran minicamp. That determination, the literal picture is he squared his jaw and got to work. That is what I like about him. He’s got a certain mental toughness and intelligence, and he showed accuracy.”
To me, it seems the Bears want Clausen to win the job, and Palmer certainly didn’t help his cause by missing practice time during the offseason due to an injury only to return with a couple of shaky workouts.
The team likes how Clausen handled his lack of success and the drafting of Cam Newton in Carolina, and believes the quarterback has displayed plenty of mental toughness in recent years. It also helps that he’s got plenty of NFL experience, which will be a huge advantage in the competition with Palmer.
Competition not just lip service with Trestman. Genuine training camp competitions under Lovie Smith were few and far between. Most everything was predetermined on the depth chart under Smith, but legitimate battles are expected to take place this preseason at safety, linebacker, No. 3 wide receiver (although Marquess Wilson is the favorite), No. 2 quarterback, No. 2 running back, and for the reserve spots on the offensive and defensive lines. Too often NFL players fall into the trap of feeling comfortable and secure once they’ve established themselves. Emery has removed that security blanket. Read between the lines on Wednesday: notable veteran players are in jeopardy of being cut at the end of the summer if they fail to perform at an acceptable level at camp and in the preseason games. Emery also said on Wednesday the Bears will continue to monitor the waiver wire and free agent market to improve the club, if necessary. Unless a player has a lucrative contract, he is not safe from a roster standpoint.
Clausen will overtake Palmer for the No. 2 job. Jordan Palmer might open practice on Friday as the No. 2 quarterback, but Jimmy Clausen has closed the gap in the QB race considerably. The Bears have done nothing but praise Clausen since he joined the club on June 5, lauding everything from Clausen’s arm, intelligence, commitment and desire to prove people wrong following a disappointing stint in Carolina. Emery called Clausen’s free agent workout “the best quarterback workout” he’s seen since arriving in Chicago in the winter of 2012. Clausen has also apparently clicked with Cutler over the last six weeks. Emery has final say over the roster, but Cutler’s opinion does matter when it comes to selecting his backup. Clausen has the most experience of the bunch (10 starts) and the most natural talent. We all see where this is headed.
Kyle Long's expected absence concerning. Training camp is where offensive linemen hone their technique. While Kyle Long made the Pro Bowl in 2013 as a rookie, he is still considered somewhat raw. The news that Long will be sidelined indefinitely due to a viral infection is concerning. A bad viral infection can keep a player out for an extended period of time. We don’t know the severity of Long’s illness, other than he’s scheduled to be re-evaluated next week. Hopefully, Long returns to the field in short order. He needs the reps. And the last thing the Bears need is to once again be forced to move bodies around on the offensive line. We all know how that usually ends up. Right tackle Jordan Mills (foot) and left guard Matt Slauson (shoulder) receiving full medical clearance to practice on Friday is encouraging news, but forgive me for holding my breath until Long gets over the illness and is back on the field.