Chicago Bears: Kevin Shaffer
Just as quickly, Shaffer crouched into a stance to point out some of the technical kinks in McCants' game.
Released by the Bears last February after a nine-year career in the NFL, Shaffer says he’s retired with no plans to return and sees coaching as his potential niche. Shortly after leaving the NFL, Shaffer volunteered to coach at local high schools but quickly realized the techniques he was teaching “were too advanced for high school kids,” he said.
But later, Shaffer received a call from his agent Alan Herman, who runs Sportstars, to come and work with the agent’s draft-eligible clients in New York as they prepare for the NFL combine, and other pre-draft workouts.
“I’ve been doing this ever since, and having a lot of fun doing it,” he said.
In working with McCants and other Sportstars clients, Shaffer said he’s called upon teachings from his former coaches such as Alex Gibbs (Atlanta Falcons), and current Bears offensive coordinator Mike Tice, whom he described as a “technician”.
Here are a few more interesting morsels from the Senior Bowl:
Bears attendance: Chicago’s coaching staff isn’t well-represented at the Senior Bowl with just running backs coach Tim Spencer and offensive line assistant Dan Price in attendance. And with the entire coaching staff on vacation, it seemed a tad odd the coaches would be at the Senior Bowl.
Many times out-of-work coaches, scouts and other workers frequent the Senior Bowl to network and search for employment. But that’s not what Spencer and Price are doing. Even with all the changes being made, there’s no need to question whether those coaches will remain on Lovie Smith’s staff.
Spencer has been eyeing potential backup running backs. With his wife, Gilda, out of town, Spencer said he was “tired of sitting at home looking at the dog” and wanted to get a jump on preparations for 2012. Price, meanwhile, has been spotted all week following offensive linemen at drills.
Uncertainty not stopping work: Despite the future of the Bears’ scouting department appearing to be on shaky ground with the team searching for a new general manager, that’s not preventing the group from putting in plenty of hard work at the Senior Bowl.
None of the members of the department were willing to go on the record with ESPNChicago.com, but most of them expressed the sentiment that they can’t and refuse to worry about circumstances beyond their control.
One member of the department said that he knows quite a bit about the team’s finalists for the GM position -- Phil Emery and Jason Licht -- and would be excited to work with either candidate.
Emery has been spotted walking around at Ladd-Peebles Stadium during workouts, and surely it must feel awkward for Chicago’s scouts to be trying to get their work done knowing that their potential next boss is likely watching closely.
Speaking of awkward: New York Giants college scouting director Marc Ross interviewed with the Bears last week, according to a source who described the process as “a little weird.”
Ross met with Bears president Ted Phillips, senior director of football administration Cliff Stein and senior director of corporate communications Scott Hagel in one sitting, according the source, and later spoke with Smith.
Perhaps what the source found “a little weird” was that Ross interviewed with only one “football guy” (Smith) throughout the process.
Etc: Sportstars has an astounding eight clients playing in the Senior Bowl. ... Shaffer pupil McCants (6-5 1/2, 309 pounds) played the tuba in his high school’s marching band and wasn’t even allowed to play football until his senior year. McCants made a deal with his mother, Birtha, to let him play if he made good grades. McCants delivered on the academics, and Birtha allowed him to play. McCants has already finished a degree in criminal justice.
"Getting guys experience always helps later in the year if you get injuries," Bears center Olin Kreutz said. "We want to get the same five guys on the field every week, and the closer we get to that, the better for us. It's always hard because offensive line play is about playing together. That's the NFL, that's what happens. Guys go down and guys have to step up."
Through five games, the Bears have started two different left tackles (Chris Williams, Frank Omiyale), two right guards (Lance Louis, Edwin Williams) and three right tackles (Omiyale, Kevin Shaffer, J'Marcus Webb).
Expect the line to change again now that Chris Williams looks to be back in the mix.
"In a way, it is somewhat tough to mesh because everybody has their own different blocking abilities and blocking techniques," Edwin Williams said. "At the same time, I think chemistry can work off the field as well. The offensive line is very tight, everybody is very close.
"When you know it's somebody that you depend on, and they depend on you, it feels a lot different than if it was a co-worker. I don't feel like these guys are my co-workers, I feel like they are my friends, because I hang out with them everyday and every week. It's kind of cool."
LAKE FOREST, Ill. – Of course Jay Cutler wanted to keep taking the beating dished by a relentless New York Giants' pass rush that repeatedly knocked him silly.
Realistically, though, neither he nor the team can successfully continue without a permanent fix to a constantly crumbling line that gave up 10 sacks in a massacre Sunday that ended with two quarterbacks taken off the field by the medical staff.
“There were a lot of things that were unacceptable from that game and of course we’re going to put the offensive line in there,” Bears coach Lovie Smith said.
How could he not?
That’s right: six- and seven-man protection schemes proved insufficient against a defense deploying just four rushers most of the time. Three Giants defensive ends (Justin Tuck, Chris Canty, and Osi Umenyiora) and a defensive tackle (Barry Coefield) combined for 8.5 sacks, while a defensive back (Aaron Ross) and a linebacker (Jonathan Goff) came together for the remainder.
The club now ranks last in the NFL in sack-differential at minus-14, which is six sacks worse than 31st-ranked Carolina.
“We didn’t block people. Football’s not hard to figure out,” Bears center Olin Kreutz said. “They beat us time after time, and we’ve got to get in front of guys and get them blocked. It was man on man. There was a little bit of everything [in terms of being physically beaten and making mental mistakes]. But most of them were those guys just beating us. That’s not acceptable really. We’ve got to go back to work and hopefully we can rectify this week in Carolina.”
The question now becomes how?
Kreutz, Smith, and left guard Roberto Garza, understandably, are reluctant to make excuses for what transpired against the Giants. But it’s worth mentioning that Garza missed practice time leading into the game due to a knee injury, which actually crept up again during the contest and forced him to miss snaps. Right guard Lance Louis couldn’t finish Sunday night’s contest after suffering a bruised knee, and starting left tackle Chris Williams has missed two games in a row because of a strained hamstring.
So in addition to competing with linemen playing at half strength due to minor injuries, the team also continues to deal with a lack of familiarity among the reserves playing significant roles. Starting right tackle Frank Omiyale has played on the left side the last three games and Kevin Shaffer, normally a backup, is shuffling in and out with rookie J’Marcus Webb at right tackle. Edwin Williams, meanwhile, filled in for Louis at right guard after being activated from the practice squad just seven days earlier.
“Nowhere [to go but] up from here,” Omiyale said. “Nine sacks in the first half [were] pretty rough. I think that was a record, but we’re going to get better. That’s our plan.”
Reluctantly, Smith admitted the current situation creates somewhat of a trickle-down effect that wreaks havoc on everything offensively. The discombobulated unit can’t effectively open the holes for the club to consistently utilize the ground game, leading to offensive coordinator Mike Martz -- whether right or wrong -- leaning on a passing attack comprised of long drops that expose Cutler to excessive punishment.
“It complicates it,” Smith said. “But injuries are a part of it. And it’s kind of [a situation where it’s] next guy up with all positions. We’ve had to shuffle the players a little bit more than what we like, especially on the offensive line. But that’s just a part of it. It’s not ideal to have to move to different positions. You want to get guys locked in at one. But sometimes the situations don’t allow you to do that. I’m just glad we have some guys to be able to move around a little bit. Hopefully, eventually, we’ll get guys back. Each day Chris Williams is getting a little bit more healthy to play. So hopefully, before too long, we’ll have a bigger group to choose from.”
Even with that, the Bears still need to choose correctly.
The club entered the season expecting to field a starting line comprised of Kreutz, Louis, Garza, Williams and Omiyale. If the group is healthy enough to play this week, that’s the combination the team needs to adhere to without all the shuffling that eventually disrupts cohesion, leads to anemic rushing numbers, and lands Cutler on the injury list.
If the entire group can’t go, the pickings are slim concerning potential replacements for Louis (his status is uncertain for this week), Chris Williams and possibly Garza. Edwin Williams and Webb are the only reserves on the active roster while practice squad members Johan Asiata, Levi Horn and James Marten are possible candidates for promotion, depending on the significance of the injury current injury situation.
“We see our options, and we’ll continue to evaluate, and Wednesday we’ll have a better idea which way we’re going to go,” Smith said. “You don’t want your quarterback to go through that. We just have to do a better job of protecting him. Everybody is looking at themselves, thinking and talking about what they’re going to do -- what we’re going to do -- to the necessary improvements and get back on track. We’re a week away from feeling a lot better. We’ll get it done this week.”
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- The continued inactivity of starting left tackle Chris Williams (hamstring) could lead to added snaps for rookie swing tackle J’Marcus Webb, who saw his first NFL action Monday night against the Packers, when he rotated at right tackle with veteran Kevin Shaffer.
Starting right tackle Frank Omiyale is currently filling in for Williams on the left side, while Shaffer is running with the starters at right tackle, with Webb playing the swing role.
“They wanted to get him a little bit of playing time,” Shaffer said. “So they rotated us a little bit. There were kind of set drives [on] who was gonna go [when]. I think we handled it pretty well.”
Bears general manager Jerry Angelo obviously felt the same way.
Although Webb played sparingly against the Packers, the Angelo saw enough of the rookie in live action to give him high praise. Described prior to the NFL draft as a potential diamond in the rough because of his prototypical size (6-7, 328 pounds), athleticism and nasty demeanor, Webb fell down the board because some scouts said the tackle lacked maturity and possessed questionable work ethic.
So far though, Webb seems to be proving those skeptical scouts wrong. Prior to training camp though, Tice did mention that Webb needs to become accustomed to consistently doing “what it takes to compete at the NFL level.”
“The sky’s the limit with him,” Angelo told the club’s official Web site. “J’Marcus has got tremendous potential. I think coach [Mike] Tice getting him in the game Monday night, and getthing his feet wet was a great thing for him. It will be for us as well. Even when he makes a mistake, his size and athleticism enable him to recover and still get the job done. Hopefully, he’s got a passion for this game and a hunger to be great. If he does, he’s going to be a very good player for us.”
But what about Kevin Shaffer?
"He battled his butt off," Bears offensive line coach Mike Tice said. "He's a big man. He tries to get down the middle of guys, and he's smart and makes very few mistakes. Athletically, he's going to work hard to get himself in the right position to do his job. He's not as gifted as some of those younger guys, but he's smart and knows how to work his angles. He did solid [against Dallas]."
With Chris Williams unable to practice due to a hamstring injury, Tice is preparing Omiyale (LT) and Shaffer (RT) to start Monday night against the Green Bay Packers. Although potentially being forced to start a backup lineman, or have another switch sides, certainly isn't ideal, the Bears have comfort in knowing the combination worked relatively well the previous week.
"I felt all along we have a great line that's a work in progress, that they were going to get better every day, which they are," Tice said. "We'll see how fast Chris can come along and see how that works out. We'll evaluate as the week progresses and make sure we have the right guys, the best we can, in the right spots that give us the best chance to compete and keep the quarterback clean and maybe run the ball a little better."
The Bears are tied for No. 28 in rushing offense with only 69.5 yards per game.
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Moving inside to offensive guard is brand new territory for veteran Kevin Shaffer.
"It's going okay," Shaffer said Friday at minicamp, "It's the first time I've been [at guard] but I like it in there. Everything is a little different, a little quicker, guys are right on you. But I'm enjoying it so far, I just have to get it down. At tackle, you've got a little room to work, but also you got quick guys out there that can jump all around and run past you. At guard, there's a guy right in from of you, it's split second decision making. He's going to be right there, so you have to set on him and get him."
With 91 career starts at offensive tackle, Shaffer is currently competing for the vacant starting spot at left guard, where Frank Omiyale and Josh Beekman split time last year. After spending eight full seasons in the NFL, Shaffer is a seasoned pro when it comes to line play, but even he benefits from the arrival of new offensive line coach Mike Tice.
"He's really good with technique, and making a switch like that, I need to really focus on technique," Shaffer said.
Shaffer worked with the first team Friday morning, while Beekman replaced Olin Kreutz at center. Kreutz is still working his way back from offseason surgery to remove a bone spur near his Achilles tendon.
A: Mark, I respectfully disagree. It became obvious at the Super Bowl that Sharper never wanted to leave the New Orleans Saints. Why would he? His 2009 renaissance was due in large part to the defensive system employed by coordinator Gregg Williams, a scheme that let Shaper take chances and play center field. It's no secret Sharper struggled playing in a Cover-2 defense during his final years with the Minnesota Vikings, plus he has openly admitted his disdain for the system on numerous occasions. Why would he want to sign with the Bears? On top of that, Sharper underwent offseason microfracture surgery, according to ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter, meaning the Bears would have had to take a medical risk on an older player. No thanks.
Q: You guys talk about the Bears needing a veteran wide receiver, but didn't Torry Holt join New England last month? He seemed like an obvious choice, and put up decent numbers for Jacksonville last year. -- Curtis, Nashville, Tenn.
A: The numbers (51-722-0) were decent for Holt in Jacksonville, but sometimes statistics can be deceiving. My ESPNChicago.com colleague Michael C. Wright used to cover the Jaguars, and chimed in with this scouting report from last season.
"The biggest number from last year was zero touchdowns. He's just not even close to being the guy he used to be. I mean, I respect the guy, because you'd watch him during the week in practice, and he could hardly run. But he always showed up on Sunday ready to play. But he also dropped a few easy balls right in his hands during games, which is weird for Torry Holt. Again, he's just not the same guy."
There you have it.
Q: I take offense to your players rankings posted on Monday. Zack Bowman in the top 10? Are you crazy? -- Don B., Harvard, Ill.
A:Hold on. Bowman was tied for fifth in the NFL with six interceptions, and to be perfectly honest, he also dropped at least two or three easy picks during the season. If Bowman makes those additional plays, are we having the same conversation? In his first full-year in the starting lineup, Bowman made 75 tackles and broke up six passes to go a long with the six INTs, which by the way, were one fewer than everybody else on the team combined (the Bears had 13 total interceptions in 2009). I'd say in terms of talent and importance to the team, Bowman should rank in the top 10. If he can stay healthy, the cornerback may be on the verge of having an even better season in 2010.
Q: Is Kevin Shaffer the front-runner to win the left guard spot? I thought he only okay for the Bears at tackle. -- Sherman, Sycamore, Ill.
A: I'm not sure if he's the front-runner, but I love the idea of Shaffer receiving an opportunity to earn playing time. Why not? If it doesn't work out, the eight-year veteran can backup Frank Omiyale at right tackle, or maybe win that job outright if Omiyale can't handle the assignment. It's not like Shaffer is hurting himself by skipping practice reps at tackle. He has played in the league for eight years, and started a total of 91 games (five for the Bears in 2009). He knows what he's doing. Plus, Shaffer's got some nice size (6 foot 5, 318 pounds), and the Bears made it a point to get bigger inside last season. I view this as a no-lose proposition for Shaffer and the Bears, and I'm eager to see how the competition at left guard unfolds during training camp.
Q: JD, I love the early reports on Major Wright. I watched this kid at Florida, and he's going to be a stud. Could he go down as the best third-round pick ever under Jerry Angelo? -- Rich, Tampa, Fla.
A: That would quite the accomplishment for Wright, because two of the better players taken by Angelo since 2002 were in the third round: Lance Briggs (2003) and Bernard Berrian (2004). However, in recent years, that round hasn't produced much of an immediate impact: Dusty Dvoracek (2006), Garrett Wolfe(2007), Michael Okwo (2007), Earl Bennett (2008), Marcus Harrison (2008), Jarron Gilbert (2009) and Juaquin Iglesias(2009). After doing little as a rookie, Bennett had a quality year last season, while Harrison just hasn't quite put it all together yet. I think there's a good chance Wright makes a bigger impact than any third-round selection since 2004, but whether or not he can reach the level of Briggs and Berrian remains to be seen.
Greg Hardy, Mississippi
George Selvie, South Florida
Jermaine Cunningham, Florida
Alex Carrington, Arkansas State
Lindsey Witten, Connecticut
Brandon Lang, Troy
Rahim Alem, LSU
Offensive tackle: Chris Williams appears to have a bright future ahead of him at left tackle, but right tackle is a bit cloudy with Kevin Shaffer and probably Frank Omiyale competing for the job. The Bears are very high on last year's seventh-round pick Lance Louis (who is athletic enough to slide over to guard if necessary), but you can never have enough depth at tackle, especially in the pass-heavy offense run by Mike Martz.
Ciron Black, LSU
Rodger Saffold, Indiana
Ed Wang, Virginia Tech
Kyle Calloway, Iowa
Selvish Capers, West Virginia
Drew Davis, Alabama
Offensive guard: If the Bears were sold on Josh Beekman, they wouldn't have signed Omiyale last offseason. The goal in 2009 was to get bigger up front. Maybe the goal in 2010 should be to find a guard who can play, regardless of size and wingspan. The Bears would be wise to find their new left guard in free agency, but might want to pick one in the draft as insurance.
Jon Asamoah, Illinois
Mike Johnson, Alabama
John Jerry, Mississippi
Mitch Petrus, Arkansas
Brandon Carter, Texas Tech
Marshall Newhouse, TCU.
Receiver: The Bears could really use a veteran presence in this meeting room, but adding a bigger rookie to the mix might be prudent. Devin Aromashodu is the only wideout with any kind of size, and Jay Cutler is more successful throwing to a larger target.
Carlton Mitchell, South Florida
Mike Williams, Syracuse
David Gettis, Baylor
Riley Cooper, Florida
Danario Alexander, Missouri
Eric Decker, Minnesota
Marcus Easley, Connecticut
Running back: The Bears are expected to add another running back either through free agency or the draft. It's tough to say whether Kevin Jones will be around this year, although he did play for Mike Martz in Detroit. Even if Jones is brought to training camp, the Bears still need to bring in another runner with pass-catching ability.
Joe McKnight, USC
Joique Bell, Wayne State (MI)
Andre Dixon, Connecticut
James Starks, Buffalo
Chris Brown, Oklahoma
What will he do for an encore against new left tackle Chris Williams?
"[I've seen] very little [film of Williams], just more run cut ups that anything," Allen said Wednesday. "I haven't really got down to my pass rush breakdowns this week."
"Bottom line, you got to take it to them [young linemen]. You got to make a young guy get out of his comfort zone, and force him into situations he hasn't experienced yet."
Even though Allen is one of the most prolific pass rushers in the NFL, the Bears gave Pace little help during the 36-10 loss in the Metrodome. Will that philosophy change the second time around?
"I obviously appreciated it," Allen said of the Bears' lack of help for Pace. "We'll see how this one plays out. Hopefully, I get the same kind of treatment, get some more one-on-ones."
For the Bears' sake, let's hope he doesn't.
Other Bears inactives include: Jarron Gilbert, D.J. Moore, Juaquin Iglesias, Craig Steltz, Matt Toeaina and Cato June.
Defensive end Gaines Adams is active after being sent to the bench last Sunday against the Rams.
For the Green Bay Packers, nose tackle Ryan Pickett is inactive.
According to a league source, Chris Williams will remain at left tackle while Kevin Shaffer will make his second straight start at right tackle.
Orlando Pace is listed as questionable with groin injury. Pace is improving and may dress in a backup role Sunday.
Tight end Desmond Clark will be active, according to a league source. He has missed the past three games because of a neck injury.
It doesn't look good for Devin Hester, who has missed the week of practice with a calf strain and is listed as questionable.
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- It's probably a wise idea for the Bears to keep the offensive line status quo this week versus Green Bay -- Chris Williams at left tackle and Kevin Shaffer on the right side.
Moving Williams again makes no sense considering the former first-round pick is expected to be the Bears' starting left tackle in 2010. That should be a no-brainer. On the other side, Shaffer seems like a better choice to remain at right tackle because Orlando Pace is still working his way back from a groin injury.
"I think there's always room to improve, but I'm happy with the way I came out in the first game," Shaffer said before Wednesday's practice. "Just got to keep working on that technique, and keep working on that right side every day."
Although Shaffer did not play in that first meeting at Lambeau Field, he feels comfortable facing Green Bay's 3-4 defensive scheme -- which ranks No. 1 in total defense.
"That's kind of my background. I've been against a 3-4 a lot," Shaffer said. "I like going against a 3-4."
"If that's the case (starting at right tackle against the Rams), you know it's something I've been working for all year, starting with training camp and everything," Shaffer said. "Right tackle is my position that I've been at for the last couple of years, so that would be great."
A groin injury to Orlando Pace forced Shaffer into action at left tackle last Sunday in Minnesota.
"He did a nice job," Bears offensive coordinator Ron Turner said. "He stepped in and did a nice job. He has some playing experience, so it's not totally new for him. I thought he stepped in and did a good job."