Chicago Bears: Mel Tucker

Five things we learned: Vikings 13, Bears 9

December, 28, 2014
12/28/14
7:11
PM ET
MINNEAPOLIS -- Here are five things we learned in the Chicago Bears' 13-9 loss to the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday.

1. Marc Trestman defiant to the end: Trestman (13-19 overall) went to the podium after Sunday's defeat and announced that he's the best man the fix the Bears' current woes. Not even the most ardent Trestman supporters believe that to be true. Forget about the laundry list of embarrassing moments the Bears endured in 2014, the biggest indictment for Trestman is the pathetic body of work by the offense. His offense, mind you. On a day when defensive coordinator Mel Tucker had tears in his eyes after his group stuffed the Vikings on fourth-and-goal from the 1-yard line to keep the team alive, the offense responded with a whimper. The offense is terrible. The play-calling is terrible. The quarterback is terrible. The execution is terrible. Trestman never fixed it. Nothing more needs to be said on Trestman's behalf.

2. Jay Cutler regressed: Trestman deserves plenty of blame for the state of the offense, but Cutler took major steps backward in 2014. Don't let the inflated completion percentage fool you. Cutler's balls were horribly inaccurate for much of the year. Fundamentals and mechanics continue to be problem areas. Twenty-four turnovers are unacceptable. Cutler's contract makes it difficult for the Bears to move on, but the club ought to explore every option. Hiring Mike Shanahan seems like an easy way to keep Cutler, but isn't it time for the organization to stop catering to the quarterback.

3. Mel Tucker leaves on high note: The defense showed up Sunday. Tucker's group did its part to contribute to a victory -- interception, goal-line stand and three sacks. Laugh if you want, but the Bears' defense played well at certain points of the year. It's hard to win games when the offense can't score more than 28 points. At least Tucker can leave town with the satisfaction that his defense never quit playing hard. Tucker seems limited as a coordinator, but he clearly connected with the players. That's more than can be said for other coaches on the Bears' staff.

4. Contract year for Matt Forte: Forte reached two milestones Sunday: 1,000 rushing yards for the third straight year and a new NFL record for single-season receptions by a running back (102). Don't be surprised if Forte looks for a new contract in the offseason. His current deal expires after the 2015 season. Forte has been a workhorse. Let's see how the Bears handle the situation given Forte's age, and the rate at which NFL running backs fall off the proverbial cliff in terms of production.

5. Offseason figures to be hectic: Team matriarch Virginia McCaskey and chairman George McCaskey were present at TCF Bank Stadium to watch the Bears limp to 5-11 (the worst finish since 2004). Expect changes. Ownership cannot be pleased with how this current group managed to alienate the fan base. The Bears need to act swiftly. The team cannot interview 10-15 head coaching candidates this time. Focus on three or four top guys, and get one of them. The same applies if the Bears decide to make further changes above the head coach. The clock is ticking. Right now, Bears fans have no reason to think 2015 will be any better.
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Defensive coordinator Mel Tucker hears criticism from the fans regarding the Bears' struggling defense, but it's not anything worse than what he hears at home, considering his wife Jo-Ellyn and her family all hail from Chicago.

"You know, they want to win, too," Tucker said. "My wife is from Chicago. She's from the South side and so her mom, her whole family is here. They're all Bears fans. There's a little bit of, ‘You spend all that time over there and that's the best you can do?' type of thing."

With Chicago mired in a four-game losing streak, the club's defense in Sunday's loss to the Detroit Lions, held an opponent to fewer than 31 points for the first time since Nov. 23, when the Bears limited Tampa Bay to 13 points during a 21-13 win. The season-finale at Minnesota could be the coaching staff's last game together, as it's expected Bears coach Marc Trestman and the staff will be let go at the conclusion of the season. Still, nobody is concerned about what might take place next week, as the staff is focused on prepping for the Minnesota Vikings.

[+] EnlargeTrestman
AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast"When you're sitting here with the record that we have, everybody's got something to say about it," Marc Trestman said.
"No one is happy at this time about where we are," Tucker said. "You can't sugarcoat it and think everyone is just on Cloud 9 right now. But we have to be mature about it. You have to handle it. You're going to have some moments, and we'll just work through it. We still have one more game to play, and so that's where our focus is. That's why it's difficult for me to reflect right now because we're not in reflect mode. We're in preparation mode for our last game. There will be plenty of time to reflect and look back. Right now, we've got a really big game ahead of us."

Trestman empathized with Tucker. After all, the team's high-priced offense underachieved in 2014 perhaps more than the embattled defense with Trestman presiding over it all. The team has endured plenty of off-the-field drama, too, with issues regarding trust between players and coaches in the locker room, and the benching of Jay Cutler just to name a couple.

"We're all getting earfuls, believe me, and certainly Mel's getting his share," Trestman said. "We all are, as we said. When you're sitting here with the record that we have, everybody's got something to say about it. That's part of the job we have right now, and we've had, is to deal with it and move forward and get our guys ready to play. That's where our responsibility lies, is the day-to-day process of doing our best as coaches to get our guys ready to play. That's our job."

That doesn't make it any easier for the staff to deal with, especially considering the high expectations entering the 2014 season. The Bears were coming off a promising 8-8 campaign in Trestman's first season at the helm. Like other teams around the league, the Bears have dealt with their fair share of injuries. But Trestman, Tucker and special-teams coordinator Joe DeCamillis all refused Tuesday to make excuses.

On offense, seven players with three years or fewer of experience have started at least one game. In fact, the Bears lined up on offense against the Lions with their eighth combination of starters along the offensive line. Defensively, the Bears have lined up with 11 combinations of starters in addition to losing five players, including four starters, to season-ending injuries.

Asked if he dreaded what's known around the NFL as Black Monday -- the day many coaching staffs are fired -- DeCamillis said, "No," as he's dealt with similar situations during nearly 30 years as a coach in the league.

"You're going to say, ‘He's not telling the truth,' but you deal with this," DeCamillis said. "I've been on staffs that it's an issue. I'm just trying to roll through this thing and try to get ready for Minnesota. You have quiet times where you think about that stuff. But this isn't a quiet time right now. I've got to go back upstairs and figure out a way to cover these guys this week because they're definitely explosive. I'll worry about that stuff whenever it happens I guess. What did you say, Monday?"
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Chicago Bears defensive coordinator Mel Tucker shrugged off a barrage of questions Thursday related to speculation about his job security in the wake of two subpar seasons.

"I was waiting for that question," Tucker joked, before reiterating on multiple occasions his focus is solely on preparing for Monday's matchup against the New Orleans Saints at Soldier Field.

Tucker
NFL Network reported Sunday the Bears plan to part ways with Tucker, unless the defense significantly improves over the final three games of the season. Similar speculation surfaced at the end of Tucker's first season as the club's defensive coordinator.

Asked what he thought about reports regarding his job security, Tucker said, "Not much, not much. I'm just focused on New Orleans and the rest of the season."

Chicago surrendered the most points in franchise history (478) during Tucker's first season in addition to setting club records for the most total yards (6,313) allowed as well as rushing yards (2,583).

The Bears invested heavily in the front four in 2014 and made additions in the secondary. The club also used a first-round pick on cornerback Kyle Fuller, in addition to drafting defensive tackles Ego Ferguson and Will Sutton. Although the front four is the strength of the defense, it hasn't been able to consistently generate pressure in the passing game, which has led to the Bears dialing up blitzes that stress the struggling secondary.

The Bears currently rank 28th in total yards (377.8 yards per game), 30th in passing yards (265.5), 16th in rushing yards (112.3) and last in points allowed (29.1).

Tucker refused to give excuses for the defense's lackluster performances over the past two years.

Asked if he's been given the personnel necessary to succeed, Tucker said, "We have to deal in the moment, the immediate situation, which is New Orleans. We feel good about the guys we have going into this game and the preparation. That's really all that matters."

Tucker called the current speculation "really nothing new."

"I've been doing this 18 years; eight years in college, 10 years in the NFL," Tucker said. "It's about staying focused and on the task at hand. That's really what it's all about. That's being a professional, and focusing on what you can do, and what you can control."

Asked if the current situation is difficult on his family, Tucker said, "I don't think so. It really hasn't been. My wife has been with me since before I got into coaching. My kids, they're kids. They're tough kids."

The latest round of speculation regarding Tucker links him to the college ranks at Wisconsin, where he played safety from 1992-95. Tucker spoke to Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez in 2012 about the head coaching job but elected to remain defensive coordinator of the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Tucker declined to entertain questions about Wisconsin.

"That's a hypothetical," Tucker said. "I try to stay out of those. Ultimately, the sole focus is New Orleans and preparing for those guys. That's the only thing I'm thinking about right now."
Cornerback Charles Tillman wants to finish out his career in Chicago, but the veteran also understands the business side of the NFL could prevent that from happening.

A 12-year veteran, Tillman landed on the injured reserve Sept. 15 after undergoing surgery to repair a torn right triceps muscle suffered during the club's Week 2 victory over the San Francisco 49ers. It marked the second consecutive season Tillman finished on injured reserve after tearing his right triceps.

[+] EnlargeCharles Tillman
AP Photo/Ric TapiaVeteran cornerback Charles Tillman has a desire to return to the football field as a player.
"I would like to continue to play," Tillman said Monday during "The Brandon Marshall Show" on ESPN 1000. "Right now, all I want to do is get healthy before I make a decision to retire or to continue to play. I have every intent of coming back and playing. Really, I just want to focus on getting healthy. That's the main thing I want to do right now."

Would Tillman be willing to sign another deal to return to Chicago, which in 2003 made him a second-round pick?

"I'm willing to play for all 32 organizations, whoever is interested," Tillman said. "That's the business side. Do I love Chicago? Yeah, but at the end of the day, if Chicago didn't want me back and that team wanted me, or this team wanted me, or that team, yeah, I've got to go. They're going to pay my bills. So, sorry."

A two-time Pro Bowler, Tillman signed a one-year deal worth $3.5 million in March to return to the Bears after visiting the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during free agency. Tillman started in just eight games in 2013 before finishing on the injured reserve due to the torn triceps, but he forced six takeaways (three interceptions, three forced fumbles) prior to the injury.

Tillman finished the 2014 season with eight tackles and one pass breakup in two games.

Tillman admitted to experiencing difficulty early on in the transition from Lovie Smith to current head coach Marc Trestman, but said he was all-in with the new coaching staff.

"It was a little struggle in the beginning just because there were a bunch of different rules and things like that I wasn't accustomed to," Tillman said. "A friend of mine gave me a book. It's called, "Who Moved My Cheese?" Basically, it's just really about how to get over change. It's a good book. Change is good. So I just figured, 'What the hell?' I need to move, and just accept change. Change is good. At some point in time, we all have to change and evolve. So why not now? It means a lot to me playing for this organization. Being here all 12 years, that's huge. You don't really see that [anymore]. That's old-school. To me, that's like the old-school 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s guy. That era, they just played 10-12 years and they played for one team. You don't see that anymore."

Another transition could be in the works with speculation surfacing recently that defensive coordinator Mel Tucker could be on the way out due to the club's lackluster performance the past two years on defense. Tillman acknowledged the 2014 season has been his most frustrating in the NFL, but gave Tucker a vote of confidence.

"I think he's a good coach," Tillman said. "His ability to coach on the field and make adjustments is good in my opinion. I like what he has to bring. I like what he has to offer."

So what's missing?

"Takeaways, making plays," Tillman said. "At some point in time, too, I don't think it's all coach. We as players, we have to make plays as well. I think there's blame on both sides: blame on players, and blame on coaches. I think we all collectively have to be accountable for what we do and what we don't do."
The spin around the Chicago Bears beat always seems a much more pleasant ride when the team is coming off a victory.

Here’s today’s installment:

-- Jon Greenberg of ESPNChicago.com runs down Chicago’s win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Bears are almost back to .500, making Thursday night’s Thanksgiving showdown against the Detroit Lions a compelling matchup.
Greenberg writes: In any event, while the Bears continue to fail the eye test -- as in you go blind if you watch a first half of any game -- they did improve to 5-6 after taking two straight from last-place teams.

A win on Thanksgiving in Detroit, and this team is not only officially mediocre, but also on the outer edge of the playoff hunt.

A blowout loss and it's "Fire Trestman! Fire Emery! Bench Cutler!" all over again. But the Bears bought everyone another few days of peace.

One thing about the Bears: They're good enough to beat the bad teams. The good teams, well, that's the problem.

The Bears had only 204 yards, and they won. That's not going to happen against quality teams, as we saw in brutal losses to the New England Patriots and Green Bay Packers.

The next four games, including two against the Lions, are against playoff contenders, with the Dallas Cowboys and New Orleans Saints coming to Soldier Field for prime-time games. (The finale will be in late December outdoors in Minneapolis. Consult your doctor before watching that one.)

-- ESPNChicago.com’s Jeff Dickerson gives you his grades from Sunday’s game.

-- Dickerson explains five things we learned from Sunday’s win. No. 1 is a doozy, and while you may not want to believe it, Dickerson is on the money with this one.
Dickerson writes: Defense is the backbone of the team: Sounds crazy, right? We’re talking about the same defense responsible for surrendering 50-plus points consecutive weeks to New England and Green Bay. Certain people even accused the defense of giving up three weeks ago at Lambeau Field. Guess what? The defense is the team’s strength. Look it up. Week 12’s four-takeaway, five-sack effort versus the Bucs is another example of the defense willing the Bears to a win. With the exception of Green Bay (both games) and New England, the Bears defense has shown up every week. The victory over Minnesota -- that’s on the defense. The road win at New York -- the work of the defense. The Bears haven’t scored more than 28 points in 11 games. Yet, the team still finds itself 5-6. That’s actually a remarkable accomplishment, given the putrid offensive output. Here’s a question you never imagined asking yourself: Where would the Bears be without the defense? Scary stuff.

-- The Bears remain in the playoff hunt, writes Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune.

-- The Chicago Sun-Times' Rick Telander says it’s difficult to get excited about Sunday’s win over the 2-9 Buccaneers.
He writes: The Bears are 5-6 after beating the 2-9 Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and isn’t that the way it should have been from square one?

Bucs coach Lovie Smith now can leave town with his former Bears backup quarterback, and we all can forget about the humiliation that would have resulted from a Bears loss. Had that happened, we would be hollering that the Bears were wrong to fire Smith and replace him with Marc Trestman after the 2012 season, should have paid Josh McCown after last season and should have let Jay Cutler float off to wherever somebody wanted him.

But Trestman and Cutler won, so all that other stuff is nonsense.

Yet, it feels so . . . blah.

-- Defensive coordinator Mel Tucker gets some love for getting his group going against its former coach, writes Adam L. Jahns of the Chicago Sun-Times.
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Coaches and players downplayed the players-only film session held by Chicago's defense last week prior to the team's 21-13 win over the Minnesota Vikings, but nobody's denying the positive impact.

After surrendering 27 points or more in three consecutive games, including 50-plus in losses to Green Bay and New England, the Bears limited Minnesota 13 points and 243 total yards, in addition to stalling the Vikings' offense to a 2-of-11 performance on third downs.

[+] EnlargeAllen
AP Photo/Charles Rex ArbogastThe Bears held the Vikings to just 10 first downs on Sunday. The Vikings converted on just 2 of 11 third-down attempts.
"We talked last week about everyone needing to do more," Bears defensive coordinator Mel Tucker explained Wednesday. "Players and coaches together, just looking to take it up a notch. I think that was an effort on their part to take some extra time together as a unit. I think that was a positive. I think it paid off for us."

Tucker approached Jared Allen about holding the meeting, according to the defensive end, who said the staff "wanted to give us an opportunity to take over as leaders and add some accountability to the defense."

"He approached me about it," Allen said. "I thought it was a good idea. It's a good way for guys to understand what each group is doing. It's just another way to hold each other accountable and to build off things and create communication."

Allen stressed the meeting "really wasn't a big deal." But its effects on the defense can't be denied as the group held the Vikings to just 10 first downs, while taking the ball away once on an interception, in addition to producing two sacks.

"This is not something unusual," Bears coach Marc Trestman said of the meeting. "The more we can do things together, oftentimes we can get better that way. It's another way to get better, another format for the guys. It's a positive thing. It's encouraging the guys want to do those types of things."

Linebacker Lance Briggs jokingly denied the meeting ever took place, before adding "what I can tell you about the players-only meeting was that the information is for the players only."

Fair enough, but it's clear the approach worked for defense against the Vikings.

The group faces another challenge Sunday when the Bears host former head coach Lovie Smith and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Soldier Field. Smith set a high standard for Chicago's defense during his nine-year tenure as the team's head coach.

Buccaneers quarterback Josh McCown, who served as the backup in Chicago last season, doesn't see much difference in the club's defense now compared to his time as a Bear.

"It's very similar to what I saw last year, very similar to what we've practiced against here down here in training camp," McCown said. "This last game, it really looked like they flew around, made some plays, played with great energy and great juice. So we expect nothing less come Sunday."
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Although Chicago Bears coach Marc Trestman said the staff would take a long look at the depth chart headed into Sunday's game against Minnesota, defensive coordinator Mel Tucker said Wednesday the club will face the Vikings with the same set of starters on defense it used during last week's loss to the Green Bay Packers.

"There are always things we can change," Tucker said. "There is nothing set in stone on the lineup. The group we're going to put out there we think will give us the best chance to win this game. I will tell you right now, we plan on going in with the group that started the game [last week]. We are going to go in with the group that started that game, and we need to get them better. They need to play better. We need to coach them better. Everything we do this week is to be able to get that done."

The Bears became the first team since 1923 last week to give up 50-plus points in back-to-back contests with their 55-14 loss to the Packers. Tucker said "being embarrassed at this point is not productive" in the club's preparation efforts for Sunday's matchup with the Vikings, and the truth is the roster features few viable options in terms of potential changes in the starting lineup.

In the loss to the Packers, the Bears experienced several breakdowns and errors in communication, with the most pronounced coming on Aaron Rodgers' 73-yard touchdown pass to Jordy Nelson. Rodgers said after the game the Bears were playing multiple coverages in different areas of the field.

It appeared the Bears were playing three different coverages on the play as Tim Jennings -- apparently playing zone -- passed off Nelson to a safety that wasn't there on one side of the field. On the other side of the field, cornerback Kyle Fuller was playing man coverage, while Brock Vereen stood in the deep middle of the field in what appeared to be a single-high safety look.

"When we start talking about individual guys on individual plays, I don't go there because I'm not a guy that's going to throw a guy under the bus," Tucker said. "I don't believe in doing that. Never have, never will. On that particular play, we, as a defense, didn't get the job done in multiple areas. Rush and coverage. That's where it stands."

Linebacker Lance Briggs took responsibility for the error.

"I shouldn't have made the check," said Briggs, who calls the club's defenses. "I saw something, tried to check out of it, and we don't have a check out of that defense. So I put our defense in jeopardy on that play."

Tucker and other staffers on the defense discussed accountability Wednesday during meetings, stressing the need for everyone involved "to do a better job of being accountable to each other in the room," Tucker said.

"We talked about that and we discussed that's what we need to do. There's nothing we're doing that's at a level to say that, 'We've got that,'" Tucker said. "Every element of what we're doing, we need to do a much better job at. That's the atmosphere we have. It could be leadership, it could be accountability, it could be coaching, it could be playing, it could be technique, it could be fundamentals. All those things need to be ramped up, need to be improved."

The last 33 offensive possessions by Chicago's opponents over the past three games have yielded 14 touchdowns and seven field goals as the unit has forced just six punts. Scoring efficiency for the club's past three opponents has been at least 50 percent in each of those contests.

The Bears currently rank last in the NFL in points allowed (30.8 points per game), and apparently spirited discussions inside the locker room and meeting rooms have taken place regarding the defense's struggles and what they need to do to rebound.

"What's been said will stay between us, all the players," defensive end Jared Allen said. "But nothing's going to be said to make somebody play. You're either self-motivated to be the best, you're either embarrassed when you get your butt kick, and you want to go back out and prove yourself or you're not. That's just the bottom line. This game is humbling. This game exposes people and it humbles you. If you're not in it, you'll get exposed. But I think we've got a good team, and obviously I came here for a reason. I still believe in this team and I still believe in what we have. I still believe in what we can accomplish."
No doubt about it, quarterback Jay Cutler needs to play better, as Chicago Bears coach Marc Trestman said. But at this point, Cutler isn’t this team’s most significant issue. It’s the defense, which has allowed an average of 443.6 yards over its past three outings.

What’s worse is the way they’ve done it, giving up significant chunks of yardage through miscommunications and breakdowns on the back end on what should be routine coverages.

[+] EnlargeBostick
AP Photo/Mike RoemerAaron Rodgers picked apart the Bears, who have yielded points and yards at an alarming rate.
“I think that with any team throughout the league, there’s going to be coverage breakdowns,” Trestman said. “That’s disappointing, but there are a lot [of calls and checks] that are properly called. Most of them are, and we’re in the right coverage in most cases if not all.”

So if that’s truly the case, what’s the real issue here?

Trestman gave defensive coordinator Mel Tucker a vote of confidence on Monday, saying he believes in the coach because “I watch him work every day. I watch him communicate with these players. I watch him work on the field with these players. To me, he’s doing everything he can under the circumstances to coach, to teach and to lead that side of the ball. He’s got a very good staff with him. They’re great teachers. They’re veteran coaches who have been in a lot of situations, as Mel has. He’s been through these types of things. I feel very confident that he’s doing the things that he can do to help us move forward.”

Fair enough. So at this point, it probably comes to execution and, most importantly, accountability for the players entrusted with the job of, uh, properly executing. Opponents have produced 14 touchdowns and kicked nine field goals in their 33 offensive drives against the Bears over the past three games.

Here’s what Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers said about Chicago’s coverage on his 73-yard touchdown pass to Jordy Nelson in the second quarter of Sunday’s 55-14 throttling of the Bears. In that game, Chicago’s defense also surrendered completions of 29, 40 and 56 yards.

"As they do from time to time, they tried to change the coverage up, but not everybody was on the same page," Rodgers said. "So you had Tim [Jennings] playing two-[high coverage] and the safety was playing single-high."

Obviously, the players are coached to properly communicate the calls and checks to everyone on the defense. But something is getting lost, and someone needs to be held accountable.

Bears general manager Phil Emery made the right call in the offseason to make over the front four by adding Jared Allen, Willie Young and Lamarr Houston. But from this vantage point, he miscalculated what the staff could get out of the linebacking corps, which is probably the defense’s most glaring weakness at this point, not to mention the secondary, where the club paid Tim Jennings $11.8 million guaranteed and brought back Charles Tillman, who suffered a season-ending injury in Week 2, while signing a litany of no-name safeties in the offseason with Ryan Mundy and Chris Conte emerging as the starters.

Trestman mentioned on Monday that the club will take a hard look at the depth chart, which means changes could be on the horizon.

“We're going to talk, we're certainly going to talk personnel as I said,” Trestman said. “The guys are getting in late, they're still looking at the tape. I haven't had a chance to even engage them because things have moved so quickly this morning. But we will, we certainly have to. We're going to look at everything as a starting point moving into Wednesday.”

Stock Watch: Downward trends

November, 11, 2014
11/11/14
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MarshallAP Photo/Mike RoemerBrandon Marshall's big receiving day was as close to bright spot as the Bears had in Week 10.
RISING
Marshall
Up arrow
  
1. Brandon Marshall: It’s worthless to praise individual players following a 55-14, season-wrecking defeat, but we are required to list at least one player in the “stock up” category. Marshall is the guy because he played hard Sunday night. I know the Bears trailed 45-0 when Marshall caught a 45-yard touchdown pass in the third quarter, but the effort the wide receiver exerted after the catch to cross the goal line was impressive. Despite being ruled out in the fourth quarter with an ankle injury, Marshall had his best statistical game in weeks: eight catches for 112 yards and the touchdown on 10 targets. Marshall isn’t perfect, but he does care. Can every member of the Bears’ roster and coaching staff say the same thing?

FALLING
Forte
Trestman
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1. Marc Trestman: The Bears under Trestman have lost eight of their past 11 games, including three straight to archrival Green Bay. Trestman’s decision to retain certain members of the coaching staff in the wake of the debacles at New England and Green Bay is understandable to an extent, but the head coach's popularity is at an all-time low. Bears fans are angry. They don’t seem to buy what Trestman is selling. For all the consternation over Trestman’s news conferences (he does thoughtfully answer every tough question thrown his way, for the record), my concern revolves around the offense. This is Trestman’s offense. Why does it stink? Trestman needs to elevate his game and call better plays. I know the prospects of having a successful offense are slim with a turnover-prone quarterback under center, but this is the gig. Trestman knew what he was getting into with Jay Cutler when he accepted the job. It's time to figure it out ... or eventually it will be time for Trestman to move on and become the latest fired coach floating in Cutler’s wake.

Tucker
2. Mel Tucker: It’s 2013 all over again. After a respectable start to the season, the wheels have fallen off on defense. The past two games have been pathetic. Tucker’s unit is lost. Where is the pass rush? Where are the turnovers? All I see is confusion. For example: Jordy Nelson's 73-yard touchdown. Lance Briggs checks to zone coverage seconds before the snap, not every player hears the call, and Nelson is wide open deep down the field. This is a team issue. And it has happened before (the busted coverage last season versus Green Bay that cost the Bears a NFC North title). Communication begins with the coordinator. Tucker is ultimately responsible for the fatal errors. He needs to ensure that mistakes are not repeated. Trestman gave Tucker a vote of confidence Monday. That should last for about seven weeks. Expect the Bears to be in the market for some new coordinators come January.

Cutler
3. Jay Cutler: Fifteen turnovers in nine games. A 1-11 overall record against Green Bay (including one loss with Denver). Twenty-two lifetime interceptions versus the Packers. One Bears playoff berth. Cutler’s epic and lucrative victory last December against the soon-to-be 4-12 Cleveland Browns (two interceptions and a pick-six) notwithstanding, Cutler has underachieved (8-12) under Trestman, Aaron Kromer and Matt Cavanaugh. Why? These are three bright offensive coaches. Maybe it's finally time to pin it on the player. It’s really hard to be a championship-caliber organization without a great quarterback on the roster. That guy does not exist in Chicago.
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- The scapegoating at Halas Hall will likely wait until the end of the season. In the wake of the Chicago Bears' 55-14 loss to the Green Bay Packers, coach Marc Trestman said he doesn't plan to make any changes to the coaching staff.

"There will not be any at this time," Trestman said.

The Bears joined the 1923 Rochester Jeffersons as just the second team in NFL history to surrender at least 50 points in back-to-back outings, according to Elias Sports Bureau research.

Fresh off a bye week after a 51-23 whipping Oct. 26 at the hands of the New England Patriots, the Bears seemed ill-prepared in every facet of the game against the club's NFC North rival. The Bears set a franchise-record for points allowed in a half for the second consecutive contest. Against the Patriots, the Bears broke a 56-year-old record in allowing 38 points in the first half. That record didn't last long, as Aaron Rodgers tied an NFL record with six first-half touchdown passes as the Packers stormed to a 42-0 lead.

Such an outing puts defensive coordinator Mel Tucker into the crosshairs of angry Chicago fans, but Trestman gave the coach a vote of confidence.

The Bears have given up 31 points or more in four games this season.

"I watch him work every day. I watch him communicate with these players. I watch him work on the field with these players," Trestman said. "To me, he's doing everything he can under the circumstances to coach, to teach and to lead that side of the ball. He's got a very good staff with him. They're great teachers. They're veteran coaches who have been in a lot of situations, as Mel has. He's been through these types of things. I feel very confident that he's doing the things that he can do to help us move forward."
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Chicago Bears defensive end Jared Allen participated in fewer snaps on defense than key reserve Willie Young in Sunday's loss to the Miami Dolphins, but the five-time Pro Bowler doesn't believe reduced playing time for him is in the team's plans.

Allen
"It's probably an aberration," Allen said, laughing. "They haven't told me I am on reduced playing time. We'll take it for that."

Allen played in 46 of the club's 70 snaps against the Dolphins, while Young participated in 54 snaps.

In the third quarter, Miami marched 83 yards in 13 plays with Lamar Miller capping the drive with on a 2-yard touchdown run. The Bears didn't utilize Allen during the drive, but defensive coordinator Mel Tucker pointed out the Dolphins weren't faced with many third-and-long situations. On that possession, Miami faced third down just twice with 2 yards to convert. The Dolphins also converted a fourth-and-1.

"Going forward, obviously we want him in the game," Tucker said. "He's been a highly-productive player for us. It was an unusual series. We had a lot of short-yardage situations. We didn't really get into third-and-long. We visited with him about it, and we're ready to move on. We'll be fine. We just tell him that we're going to make sure that we get him on the field as much as possible."

Allen wasn't concerned about a lack of playing time, but immediately after the game referred questions regarding the situation to the coaching staff.

"We haven't really talked about it," Allen said. "The rotation happened that way I guess. We'll move on to New England."

The Bears held out Allen when the team faced Green Bay on Sept. 28, but he's played in six games this season, contributing 24 tackles and 1.5 sacks.
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Chicago Bears defensive coordinator Mel Tucker deflected praise regarding the success his group experienced defending the Atlanta Falcons' high-octane attack last week, saying the unit is "only as good as our next play."

"We feel like we've been on the right track since Day 1," Tucker said. "We believe in what we've been doing with our guys and that we've just needed to focus on getting better day in and day out, week in and week out. We're still not where we want to be and we've got some stuff to clean up. But we feel good about our group as a whole and what we need to get done. We need to take the next step."

With the Miami Dolphins coming into town Sunday, and the defense struggling in each of the team's home losses, Tucker believes the home crowd "deserve[s] to see winning football." In falling to the Buffalo Bills 23-20 in the season opener at Soldier Field, Chicago's defense allowed 193 yards on the ground, and the revamped front four sacked quarterback EJ Manuel only once.

Then in overtime, Bills running back Fred Jackson busted a 38-yard run to the Chicago 1 to set up the game-winning field goal.

Three weeks later, the defense -- aided by turnovers on Chicago's first two offensive possessions of the second half -- allowed 24 unanswered points after the club had built a 17-14 lead with 3:50 remaining in the first half. In that game, the Green Bay Packers scored touchdowns on five of seven offensive possessions.

Chicago currently ranks No. 3 in the NFL in takeaways (12), and Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill, since 2012, has thrown two or more interceptions in nine games.

"We're looking forward to being back at home," Tucker said. "Our fans are tremendous, and obviously our guys feed off our fans, our city, our field. It's a tremendous opportunity for us. Our fans deserve to see winning football and winning performances; tough, physical football and guys playing smart playing fast, and being physical. Our goal each and every day is to work towards giving them that. So that's our focus today, and the rest of the week is to prepare to come out and put forth our best effort for each other and for our fans."
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- NFL vice president of officiating Dean Blandino recently told Peter King of MMQB that the league doesn’t plan to compromise on its recent crackdown on defensive holding and illegal contact penalties, which is part of why the Bears remain vigilant about making sure their players execute proper technique.

Interestingly, officials flagged the Chicago Bears a total of three times so far this preseason for illegal contact or defensive holding.

“We talked to our guys, and we've actually reviewed some of the rules with them just to reiterate this is what's being called, these are the points of emphasis this season, and anticipate that it's going to be like that. It's not going to change,” Bears defensive coordinator Mel Tucker said. “So coming out of the first game we said, ‘Hey, we had way too many penalties. Let's make sure we focus on eliminating the foolish penalties; things that we can control, the pre-snap penalties.’ So we eliminated those, but we still have some aggressive penalties.”

Accepted penalties have increased thus far this preseason, compared to the 2013 regular season, and Blandino told MMQB that “the way the game’s being officiated now is the way it’s going to be officiated when the season begins.”

Believe it or not, that could bode well for Chicago’s physical receiving duo of Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery, but that won’t be the case for the club’s defenders. Bears coach Marc Trestman said last week the league’s crackdown won’t be a huge detriment to the team’s defenders because they rarely grab receivers’ jerseys and hold.

But that won’t stop Tucker from continuing to emphasize sound fundamentals, which will ultimately decrease penalties. Officials have flagged Bears defenders a total of 14 times so far this preseason.

“It really boils down to hand placement. That's really the focus this week: making sure our hands are in the right place, in terms of we want to make sure our hands are inside, they're not where they're supposed not supposed to be,” Tucker said. “From an illegal contact standpoint that's not a new rule. It's what it is, and we've got to coach through it. But we want our guys to be aggressive and play aggressively through their technique, and then we'll clean them up along the way. But obviously we've got to get those penalties cleaned up.”

Bears Camp Report: Day 3

July, 27, 2014
7/27/14
4:45
PM ET
BOURBONNAIS, Ill. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Chicago Bears training camp:
  • Pop-pop-pop-pop, pop-pop-pop-pop. That’s what you hear every day after practice. The players resemble Kung-Fu fighters in football pads as they work hand-fighting drills with martial arts expert Joe Kim, who was brought on by the Bears as a consultant to work on skill development. Cornerback Charles Tillman took part in the drills one-on-one with Kim on Sunday and said afterward he’s expecting the hand-fighting drills to help him improve at jamming receivers and getting off blocks better.
  • While we’re on the subject of hand-fighting drills, Kim joined the team mostly to work with the defensive line, because under defensive coordinator Mel Tucker, the scheme is changing drastically this season. Last year, the Bears employed Lovie Smith’s system, which emphasized penetration along the defensive line. The players were used to simply shooting the gaps to stop the run on the way to the quarterback. That’s all changing in 2014. The coaching staff wants Chicago’s defensive linemen to be technicians with their hands so they can engage opposing offensive linemen, stack them at the line, shed, and run to the ball. In the previous scheme, Chicago’s defensive linemen simply didn’t know how to use their hands effectively. Many times when they penetrated, they overran the ball because more and more now, teams are employing zone schemes that allow backs to pick their holes instead of the old-school leads, counters, and powers. By becoming better at using their hands, the D-line can also keep opposing offensive linemen off the club’s rangy linebackers, which in turn allows them to run around and make plays. In fact, Tucker recently turned on film of Chicago’s defensive line during a meeting, and many of the players on the roster that were a part of last year’s team were shocked at how badly the group played. What Tucker pointed out, according to one player in that meeting, was that last year, the group didn’t know how to use its hands. The joke among defenders now is that if one of the team’s linebackers has scratches or paint from the opponent’s helmets on their own, the defensive line isn’t sufficiently doing its job to keep offensive linemen off the linebackers. The Bears are expecting higher tackle totals this year among the linebackers, and the defensive line will be largely responsible for that.
  • It’s no real secret, but a couple of players to watch on special teams are linebacker Jordan Senn and safety Danny McCray. The staff believes Senn is a better special teams player than former Bear Blake Costanzo. McCray, meanwhile, was the best player on special-teams coordinator Joe DeCamillis’ units with the Dallas Cowboys.
  • The workout Sunday marked the team’s first in full pads. Coming off a torn ACL in 2013, fifth-year veteran Nate Collins produced the best performance among the defensive linemen in one-on-one drills against the offensive linemen. “You watch the practice tape, he's running full speed all over the field and finishing,” Bears coach Marc Trestman said.
  • Rookie first-round pick Kyle Fuller continues to impress, and appeared to get the best of Pro Bowl receiver Alshon Jeffery during one-on-one drills. Jeffery caught an extremely limited number of passes in the drill against Fuller, and one of those completions likely would’ve resulted in offensive pass interference as the receiver slapped the defender in the head and pushed off to get open.
  • Cornerback Tim Jennings (quadriceps) returned to practice, but pulled himself out of action after the first play in one-on-one drills because the leg “didn’t feel right,” according to Trestman. He’s still day to day. Defensive end Willie Young (quadriceps) returned to practice, but receiver Terrence Toliver (toe) was held out of the workout along with safeties Craig Steltz (groin) and Chris Conte (shoulder). It’s believed the bulked-up Conte will return to practice in the next week or two after missing the entire offseason conditioning program and the early part of camp because of shoulder surgery. Even if Conte returns soon, he's not expected to play in the first preseason game.
Training camp is coming, and you've got questions. So we figured it would be absolutely worth it to try to knock out a Bears mailbag before the start of training camp Thursday at Olivet Nazarene University. Thanks everyone for participating. @mikecwright: I have. He's a very engaging fellow whom I think has a chance to contribute significantly as a rookie. Back in May during the rookie minicamp, we had the opportunity to speak with him and ask him about what it was like to finally put on a Bears uniform. Here's what he said: "A dream come true. It's like when you come from the first year in high school, you're a little puppy, you're trying to learn; first year of college, it's the same thing. So I'm just trying to soak everything in and learn from the vets. It's definitely unreal right now. I still wake up every morning thinking this is a dream. But at the end of the day, I'm here man. And I'm happy to be here." What I liked about Ferguson is the fact he wasn't quick to pat himself on the back in terms of his physical skill set. He prefers to prove his worth on the field, which is refreshing. "I can't tell you what I can bring until I get on the field," Ferguson said. @mikecwright: It would be easy for me to tell you right here, but I prefer you take a minute to look at my projected 53-man roster, which ran Friday. You can find the answer you seek here. @mikecwright: It's too early to say whether he'll make the team, but in my mind that player is linebacker Christian Jones, who was a big-time standout at Florida State but wasn't drafted. At FSU, Jones played all over the place and started games at every linebacker spot for the Seminoles, in addition to defensive end. He was expected to be picked as high as the second round, yet his name went uncalled during the draft. At rookie minicamp back in May, Jones admitted that a diluted drug test at the NFL combine in February likely resulted in teams shying away from him. Here's an interesting note about Jones: His father, Willie Jones Sr., played at Florida State with Bears linebackers coach Reggie Herring, which is part of the reason the rookie chose to sign with Chicago. "I knew I'd get some good coaching from [Herring] and I know about the Bears history, winning nine championships," Jones said. "It's a great organization and I just wanted to be a part of it. It's a lot of motivation [to go undrafted]. It's the competitive side. You see guys getting drafted above you. Everybody thinks they're better than somebody. But that's how it is. It's going to help fuel me, and I believe things happen for a reason. I really feel like I belong here, and I'm just making the best of the opportunity." I'd say keep an eye out for Jones because he's a player. @mikecwright: Absolutely he does. Remember, when Jeremiah Ratliff joined the Bears he was coming off an injury, and the Bears more or less just let him take his time going through the healing process. That was a huge positive for Ratliff and the Bears because he's 100 percent ready to go. Your question reminds me of a text I received from a member of the Bears organization shortly after the club re-signed Ratliff. So I dug through my phone to find it. It said: "It helps that we signed Rat. He's a soldier if healthy!" Well, now Ratliff is fully healthy, and the Bears are expecting him to be a steady and disruptive force up front this season. Ratliff will be 33 once the season starts, but I don't see his age being a major concern. @mikecwright: I do, but not necessarily for the reasons you'd think. First off, what the Bears did in terms of reloading up front will be huge in helping the secondary. If the front four can consistently put pressure on the opposing quarterback, obviously the secondary doesn't have to stay in coverage as long, and that's huge. So that's the No. 1 reason the secondary will be improved. Here's No. 2. When the Bears revamped the coaching staff last season, it took away a ton of the continuity the club had established with the former coaching staff under Lovie Smith. Under Smith, Jon Hoke worked with the cornerbacks. Smith's son, Mikal, worked with the nickel corners, and Gill Byrd spent his time with Chicago's safeties. When the new staff came aboard last season the players weren't able to get as much individualized coaching because Byrd and Smith obviously left, leaving Hoke to try to work with both the cornerbacks and the safeties. Ultimately, defensive quality control assistant Chris Harris ended up working with the safeties, and although he's got tons of knowledge as a former player, you have to keep in mind that 2013 was his first season as a coach. I think this season there will be more continuity with the coaching staff, and Hoke will return to working with the cornerbacks, while defensive coordinator Mel Tucker will start spending more time working with the safeties. I didn't even get into the new additions, which obviously should help. But I think the moves with the front four and the coaching staff changing the way it does things will be the two biggest contributors to improved play in the secondary. 

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