NFL Nation: Eben Britton

Brandon Marshall rests injured ankle

November, 12, 2014
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LAKE FOREST, Ill. – The Chicago Bears rested seven players on Wednesday, including wide receiver Brandon Marshall, who injured his ankle in the fourth quarter of Week 10’s defeat in Green Bay.

Marshall told ESPN 1000’s “Waddle and Silvy” Show on Monday that he expects to play this weekend versus the Minnesota Vikings.

The five-time Pro Bowler has battled ankle problems for much of the year.

Tight end Martellus Bennett (ribs), guard Eben Britton (illness), offensive tackle Jordan Mills (ribs), wide receiver Josh Morgan (shoulder), cornerback Tim Jennings (knee), and defensive end Cornelius Washington (illness) also missed Wednesday’s session held inside the Walter Payton Center.

Bears coach Marc Trestman listed Mills and second-year wide receiver Marquess Wilson as “day to day.”

Wilson practiced on Wednesday and is a candidate to be elevated off short-term injured reserve in Week 11, after the club released veteran wideout Santonio Holmes on Tuesday.

Meantime, linebacker Darryl Sharpton practiced on a limited basis due to a hamstring injury. Sharpton was inactive last week against the Packers.
The Chicago Bears discussed potential replacements Monday at left guard for Matt Slauson, who suffered a season-ending torn right pectoral muscle in the team’s loss to New Engalnd, which means the club’s starting offensive line could be reshuffled when it reconvenes next week at Halas Hall for practice.

Mills
"We’ve got a number of guys we can move into that position," Bears coach Marc Trestman said.

Depending on the moves made, the offensive line could look drastically different than the groups the team utilized over the first eight games of the season. The most interesting possibility involves moving starting right tackle Jordan Mills inside at Slauson’s left guard spot.

If that move took place, it would likely mean Michael Ola would stay at Mills’ starting position at right tackle. Ola filled in for Mills during Chicago’s loss at Green Bay as the latter continues to struggle to recover from an offseason foot surgery.

"We can go with Jordan moving into that [left guard] position. We could go with [veteran] Eben [Britton] moving into that position. We’ve got some young guys we’re developing. We’ll see how that goes along the way. But that will be the starting point," Trestman said.

Offensive tackle is Mills' and Britton's natural position. But the club’s decision to consider Mills for Slauson’s spot isn’t an indictment on the second-year veteran’s performance through the first half of the season. Although it’s also no secret Mills struggled in his past two outings prior to missing Sunday’s game at New England.

Trestman said Mills’ potential move is about versatility.

"I think he could fit into any position, I really do," Trestman said. "We’ve had some discussions about it to see what is going to be best for our line with Matt moving out, and we’ll continue to do that. I’m leaving that open-ended. We’ll see where that goes."
Most significant move: After finishing last season on the injured because of a hamstring injury in training camp, veteran cornerback Kelvin Hayden made it through the preseason healthy and appeared to perform well throughout camp and the preseason to make the team. Perhaps Hayden became a victim of the numbers game, as the Chicago Bears decided to go into the regular season without him. The Bears drafted Kyle Fuller in the first round, and he turned heads throughout the preseason which likely gave the club enough confidence to use him opposite Charles Tillman on passing downs, while sliding Tim Jennings inside to the nickel. Hayden has proved to be a capable at both cornerback spots and at nickel. So by cutting Hayden the Bears lose solid veteran depth at corner.

Too little, too late: Eben Britton could be considered somewhat of a surprise cut. Britton played 13 games last season and started in four games, but pulled a hamstring early in camp which limited his availability throughout the preseason. Britton played in only the preseason finale at Cleveland because of the injury, and didn’t perform particularly well when called upon. Receiver Chris Williams entered training camp as one of the favorites to win the job as Chicago’s primary return man. But like Britton, Williams missed too much time because of a hamstring injury suffered Aug. 8 while catching a 73-yard touchdown pass against the Philadelphia Eagles. Britton and Williams should catch on with other teams as both are capable of playing in the NFL. But hamstring injuries limited their opportunities to show what they could do for the Bears, and the team couldn’t give either the benefit of the doubt in making Sunday’s decisions.

Whacked again: Defensive end Austen Lane wrote this great account of what it’s like to get cut last year for The MMQB. At the time, Lane was getting ready to try again with the Kansas City Chiefs, where he’d eventually be cut again. Lane ended up appearing in two games with the Detroit Lions last season, only to be waived 22 days after the club signed him. The Bears signed Lane on Feb. 27, but the veteran failed to nab a roster spot in what seemed to be a logjam at the defensive end position despite performing solidly.

What’s next: With cuts now out of the way, the Bears will establish a 10-man practice squad by the end of the weekend before turning their attention to the season opener against the Buffalo Bills.

Team moves: WR Josh Bellamy, C Taylor Boggs, DT Brandon Dunn, LB Jerry Franklin, OG Ryan Groy, LB DeDe Lattimore, CB Al Louis-Jean, WR Dale Moss, DT Lee Pegues, DT Tracy Robertson, S Marcus Trice, WR Chris Williams, CB C.J. Wilson, OT Eben Britton, CB Kelvin Hayden, DE Austen Lane, S M.D. Jennings.
BOURBONNAIS -- Chicago Bears center/guard Brian de la Puente suffered a Grade 2 left MCL sprain in the preseason opener versus the Philadelphia Eagles and is expected to be sidelined for a couple of weeks, the veteran offensive lineman told reporters on Sunday.

“My knee feels good,” de la Puente said. “It was a scary deal getting [my knee] rolled up on like that [against the Eagles], but the MRI was promising. The big stuff and the ACL were all right, so it’ll just be a couple of weeks getting it back strong.”

A former starting center for the New Orleans Saints, de la Puente has spent much of camp working at first-team right guard in place of Kyle Long, who’s been forced to miss time due to a viral infection and a sore ankle.

Meantime, starting right tackle Jordan Mills was spotted in a walking boot prior to Sunday’s practice. Mills injured his left foot earlier in the week and did not play against Philadelphia. It’s unclear when he is expected to return to the field. Veteran guard/tackle Eben Britton remains classified as day-to-day with a hamstring injury.

Bears Camp Report: Day 10

August, 5, 2014
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BOURBONNAIS, Ill. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Chicago Bears training camp:
  • While the Bears actively monitor the waiver wire and scan the list of available free-agent wide receivers in the aftermath of Marquess Wilson’s fractured clavicle, Tuesday’s practice allowed the team to try out several different receiver combinations. Minus Wilson and veteran Brandon Marshall (coaches' decision), the Bears trotted out a three-wide receiver set to begin 11-on-11 drills that featured Alshon Jeffery, Eric Weems and Chris Williams. Weems, a former Pro Bowl return man in Atlanta, figures to be a lock to make the team based on his familiarity with the offense and immense value on special teams, but the remaining roster spots are wide open. According to quarterback Jay Cutler: “Eric Weems has had a great camp, but so have a number of other guys. Right now it’s too early to peg anybody. We’ll just see how it plays out.” Cutler later added the Bears expect Wilson back on the field in 2014 after he underwent surgery on Tuesday morning. But with no timetable set for Wilson’s return, the Bears do need to find a reliable option in the slot to bridge the gap over the first couple weeks of the regular season, at the bare minimum.
  • Cornerback Isaiah Frey suffered a right hamstring injury at practice and had to be carted back to the locker room. The Bears’ 2013 starting nickelback, Frey is facing an uphill battle to make the team with veterans Charles Tillman, Tim Jennings, Kelvin Hayden and Sherrick McManis, plus rookie first-round draft choice Kyle Fuller ahead of Frey on the depth chart. Frey told reporters he plans to vigorously attack the required rehabilitation program, but stressed the importance of resisting the urge to return too soon from a pulled hamstring injury, since those types of injuries tend to linger.
  • Starting right tackle Jordan Mills hurt his foot at the tail end of Tuesday’s practice. Mills stayed and watched the final drill before walking off the field under his own power. Mills suffered a foot injury during pregame warm-ups in last year’s regular-season finale versus the Green Bay Packers that required offseason surgery. The Bears did not reveal the severity of the injury, but Mills seemed to be in good spirits when he arrived at lunch later in the afternoon.
  • Adrian Wilson and Ryan Mundy again took first-team reps at safety.
  • Jennings (quadriceps) and guard Eben Britton (hamstring) were held out of practice, but linebacker Lance Briggs fully participated after a knee injury kept him off the field for final portion of Monday’s session. Defensive end Jared Allen was excused from another practice due to personal reasons, while running back Shaun Draughn went through an entire practice following a couple of personal days away from the team.
  • The Bears' next scheduled practice is Wednesday at 9 a.m. CT.
BOURBONNAIS, Ill. -- Athletic trainers carted off backup Chicago Bears guard Eben Britton after the veteran suffered a left hamstring injury during a one-on-one drill against defensive tackle Jeremiah Ratliff.

Britton said the injury isn’t serious, that he’s “fine,” and club officials expect the veteran to be on a day-to-day timeframe for recovery.

Britton sustained the injury battling Ratliff during a pass-rushing drill in which the defensive tackle appeared to win. As Ratliff rushed past Britton, the veteran grabbed his left hamstring. After spending a few plays watching the drill, Britton walked over to the athletic trainers’ station to be checked.

Minutes later, the athletic trainers carted off Britton.

A sixth-year veteran, Britton played in 13 games for the Bears last season, starting in four of those as a sixth eligible lineman. Britton’s production last season prompted the Bears to sign him in April to a one-year contract.

Prior to joining the Bears, Britton started 30 games for the Jacksonville Jaguars from 2009-12, making 23 starts at right tackle and seven more at left guard.

Bears Camp Report: Day 4

July, 28, 2014
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BOURBONNAIS, Ill. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Chicago Bears training camp:
  • Expectations are sky high for a Bears offense that ranked No. 2 in the NFL last year in points scored (27.8 per game) and No. 5 in passing yards (267.6 per game), but the opening four days of practice have produced a mixed bag of results from a unit that is expected to return all 11 starters. Monday’s performance was no different. At certain points of the session, quarterback Jay Cutler ran the offensive scheme to perfection, firing completions to wide receivers Brandon Marshall and Marquess Wilson and tight end Martellus Bennett that went for huge gains. On the flip side, Cutler badly underthrew Marshall on a deep route into double coverage that should’ve been intercepted by Bears defenders who were stationed in the area. Veteran cornerback Kelvin Hayden later picked off a deflected Cutler pass in full-team 11-on-11, Hayden’s third interception since the start of camp. There were also batted-down balls at the line of scrimmage and botched snaps from the center to the quarterback that resulted in Cutler describing the offense as “good and bad.” Cutler continued: “That is to be expected taking the time off in July. We’re getting better and better. There’s been some sloppy stuff out there. We’ve got to clean it up. I think the guys are doing a really good job of just recognizing the plays and getting lined up and knowing the concepts and knowing the checks and everything. So if we just clean up some of the little things as we go, we’ll be all right.”
  • The Bears desperately need their top three draft choices to step in and make immediate contributions on defense. First-round pick cornerback Kyle Fuller looks the part and continues to receive extensive reps on the first team in base and nickel with Tim Jennings temporarily sidelined due to a sore groin. Third-round choice Will Sutton got thrown into the fire on Monday at three-technique defensive tackle as the coaching staff decided to give Jeremiah Ratliff a veteran’s day off. Sutton appeared to hold up OK versus the heightened competition. Rookie nose tackle Ego Ferguson flashes the ability to get up-field in one-on-one individual pass-rush drills, but Ferguson has ended up on the ground on at least three separate occasions since the pads came on. Ferguson needs to find the perfect combination of speed and balance to ensure he doesn’t take himself out of the play when games begin for real next month.
  • Fans chanted “Mega-Punt” whenever first-year punter Pat O'Donnell connected with the football on Sunday. Not to be outdone, punter Tress Way won the matchup between the two aspiring kickers on Monday. As a sixth-round draft choice, O'Donnell is considered the favorite to win the job, but Way has proved to those in the organization that he is an NFL-caliber punter. Even if Way is eventually released, he can still make it in the league. Former Bears “camp legs” have found gainful employment in the league: Spencer Lanning (Cleveland Browns) and Ryan Quigley (New York Jets).
  • Most of the wideouts competing for the final roster spots have done little to distinguish themselves. The two exceptions are Eric Weems and Chris Williams. Not only are Weems and Williams natural fits in the return game, they have managed to catch the football in camp. The other reserve receivers have been plagued by drops.
  • Pro Bowl right guard Kyle Long (viral infection) visited doctors on Monday, but the team cannot say if Long will be back on the field when it returns to work on Wednesday. With Long out, the Bears have worked various combinations at guard, with Eben Britton, Michael Ola and Brian de la Puente all seeing time with the starters.
  • Wide receiver Alshon Jeffery (sore foot), receiver Terrence Toliver (toe), safety Chris Conte (PUP) and safety Craig Steltz (PUP) were all spectators on Monday.
  • The Bears are off on Tuesday. The next practice is scheduled for Wednesday at 9 a.m. CT.
BOURBONNAIS, Ill. -- Chicago Bears Pro Bowl right guard Kyle Long met with doctors on Monday to check the progress of his recovery from a viral infection that’s forced the former first-round pick to miss the opening four practices of camp.

Long
Despite Long’s illness, the second-year guard had been present at every training camp practice until Monday’s excused absence. The Bears next workout at Olivet Nazarene University is scheduled for Wednesday at 9 a.m. CT.

“I expect to hear from [Long] and the doctors today, and we’ll get a better idea where he is at,” Bears head coach Marc Trestman said.

The No. 20 overall pick of the 2013 NFL draft, Long started just five games at Oregon before making the jump to the NFL, where he became a permanent fixture in the Bears’ starting lineup last season at right guard, helping the offensive line achieve its lowest sack total (30) since 2008.

But there is legitimate concern whenever an NFL player misses an extended period of training camp.

“Any player, no matter how long they’ve played the game, needs to practice and needs to work,” Trestman said. “It doesn’t matter who they are or at what level they play at. Kyle is missing time and there is nothing we can do about it. When he gets back here, he is going to have to get back into it and make up for some lost time.”

With Long sidelined, the Bears have experimented with different combinations at guard, including Eben Britton, Michael Ola and Brian de la Puente. Ola and de la Puente finished practice on Monday at guard with the starters in a two-minute drill after left guard Matt Slauson sat out the final period for undisclosed reasons.

“It’s been beneficial that we’ve been able to get some of these other guys in there,” Bears offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer said. “We’ve been able to look closer at our rotation, but we hope to get Kyle back as soon as possible.”

In other Bears injury news, cornerback Tim Jennings (quad) was sidelined for a third consecutive day, Pro Bowl wide receiver Alshon Jeffery sat out due to a sore foot and wideout Terrence Toliver is still out because of a bad toe. Veteran defensive tackle Jeremiah Ratliff was given Monday off by the coaching staff.
The Bears have agreed to terms with offensive tackle Eben Britton on a one-year contract, the team announced Thursday.

Britton
Britton
The veteran appeared in 13 games for the Bears in 2013, starting four of them as a sixth eligible lineman. Bears head coach Marc Trestman identified Britton in training camp last summer as a player he expected to be active and contribute on game day. Britton did not disappoint and meshed well with the rest of the Bears’ offensive line on and off the field.

Britton started 30 games for the Jacksonville Jaguars from 2009 to '12, making 23 starts at right tackle and seven starts at left guard. Jacksonville drafted Britton out of Arizona in the second round of the 2009 NFL draft.

The 6-foot-6, 308-pound Britton could be in line to receive extended time with the first team at right tackle in the offseason as Jordan Mills recovers from January foot surgery.
CHICAGO -- The scene in the locker room minutes after the Bears concluded the preseason finale against Cleveland included several handshakes, pats on the back and man hugs saying goodbye.

Apparently the Bears don’t plan to waste time in cutting the 22 players needed to get down to the mandatory 53-man roster limit before Saturday’s 3 p.m. CST deadline.

“We’ll be at it bright and early tomorrow,” Bears coach Marc Trestman said. “(General manager) Phil (Emery) and I will sit down early in the morning, (and make decisions) based on the information we gathered from the tape and from the other coaches. It will be a collective process to make those decisions that work out to be the final 53.”

Several players made strong cases during Thursday night’s 18-16 loss to the Cleveland Browns. Others only reinforced decisions the club had already planned on making. Trestman mentioned that he didn’t think “anyone played themselves out of the roster tonight,” but the truth is quite a few didn’t exactly play themselves onto it, either. Over the next several hours, there’s a good chance the team will start bringing players into Halas Hall to begin cuts.

Here’s a sampling of what some of the on-the-bubble players had to say in pleading their respective cases.

RB Armando Allen: “To me, the reality is you don’t have control over the decision being made. So for me, it’s just I’ve just got to stay positive and keep my mind focused and in the right mindset for whatever comes next. Did I feel like I did enough? I’m probably one of my biggest critics. I feel like there’s a lot of things that I could have done better. If I was pitching myself, for me, it’s just simple. I come to work hard every day; great individual. I know the plays, (and) I’m a great special teams player. So, that’s about all I can say. My work speaks for itself.”

RB Michael Ford: “You can’t get into the coaches' head. You’ve got to let the coaches coach and do what they do. The only thing we can go out there and do is play and play hard. I gave it my all. I went into practice and gave it my all, and went into the games and gave it my all. I really can’t worry about it. When you give it your all and did everything you could, you can’t worry about it, because you know you gave 100 percent at what you did.”

WR Joe Anderson: “I’ve always felt confident. I believe in myself regardless of who else does. When you believe in yourself, you win. I believe in me. If you ask me, I believe I made this team. But you never know what someone else is thinking. So I just come to work every day and do my job. I control what I can control, (and) that’s what I do on the field. So upstairs, that’s their job. I’m gonna let them do their job, and I’ll do my job.”

OL Eben Britton: “I feel good about it. I feel really good about it. Yeah, I feel like (I made this team). I’m not the type of guy to beat my chest too much, but I was really proud of myself just about how I approached the whole camp, and what I got out of it. I feel the best I’ve felt in years. It was a great training camp for me, and I feel really good about the future. Now, I feel like I do things without even thinking about it anymore. It’s just starting to become natural because that’s what (offensive coordinator Aaron) Kromer has taught us every day. Even since back in April, I just kept working on the techniques we were taught in the run game and the pass game, stayed focused, and I just feel really good about how far I’ve come since getting here.”
  • Considering the limited prep time given recently signed quarterbacks Jordan Palmer and Trent Edwards, the duo performed fairly well against Cleveland, especially Palmer. He completed 11 of 17 for 11 yards and a touchdown to finish with a passer rating of 102.8.“I’ve prepared for this game as much as I’ve ever prepared for a game,” Palmer said. “It was a lot of fun to go out there, and I feel like we moved the ball and did some good things.”Trestman has said his preference is to keep three quarterbacks on the 53-man roster. So if that holds true over the next two days, ESPNChicago.com colleague Jeff Dickerson says it would be hard to imagine the Bears cutting ties with Palmer.
  • Rookie cornerback Demontre Hurst didn’t hurt his cause, according to the Chicago Sun-Times. Hurst probably didn’t help it much, either. Last year, former seventh-round pick Greg McCoy ran back an interception for a touchdown in the preseason finale at Cleveland, but still wound up among the final cuts. But to Hurst’s credit, his preseason was better than McCoy’s in 2012. In addition to the interception, Hurst posted five tackles in addition to forcing Brian Hoyer into an intentional grounding penalty.
  • Brad Biggs says the Bears are interested in quarterbacks who have practice squad eligibility remaining, and one of them is former Vanderbilt quarterback Jordan Rodgers, the younger brother of Green Bay signal caller Aaron Rodgers.
  • Inconsistency has been the story of training camp for tight end Fendi Onobun. The Bears have a difficult decision to make here, and it will likely take place Friday.Trestman explained that “when the light switch goes on” for Onobun, “he’s got a chance to be a very good player. We have some tough decisions to make, and certainly Fendi is going to be in the mix when we make these decisions because of what he showed tonight again, and what he’s shown in practice.”What I saw was merely another up-and-down performance.
  • Here's my take on J'Marcus Webb from Thursday night's game. Not good, not bad, just mediocre, which likely won't be good enough for him to make this team. Obviously, everyone wanted to speak with Webb after the game. But once officials opened the locker room, Webb was already gone, his locker cleaned out.
Here are three positional battles to monitor heading into the Chicago Bears’ preseason finale versus the Cleveland Browns:

1. Running back: Undrafted rookie Michael Ford is making a strong push to grab one of the final spots on the 53-man roster after returning a kickoff 100 yards in the second preseason game against San Diego, then following up that performance with 58 rushing yards and a touchdown on nine carries last week in Oakland. If the Bears decide to keep just three tailbacks, it means either Ford or veteran Armando Allen has to go. Allen played well last season for the Bears, appearing in 15 games and recording seven special-teams tackles. But Allen has been working his way back from an injury the past couple weeks, which has opened the door for the less expensive rookie out of LSU to showcase himself in these preseason games. Both figure to receive ample playing time tonight at Soldier Field.

2. Quarterback: The Bears’ offense is entirely in the hands of veteran quarterbacks Jordan Palmer and Trent Edwards after Bears head coach Marc Trestman announced last week that starter Jay Cutler and No. 2 Josh McCown would not see the field in the final preseason contest. If the Bears open the season with three quarterbacks, and that is still an if, the final spot could be determined by which of the two reserves has a better game against the Browns, plus what each accomplished on the practice field the past two weeks. The Bears got a brief look at just Palmer last week in the fourth quarter (1-for-1, five yards), but both quarterbacks will get an extended look tonight. Even if the Bears decide to go with just two quarterbacks to start the year, the team might still find themselves in need of another QB later in the season -- that’s why this is still an important game for Palmer and Edwards, regardless.

3. Offensive line: If the Bears retain eight offensive linemen, as offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer hinted earlier in training camp, then two spots might still be available. That means Jonathan Scott, Eben Britton, J’Marcus Webb and Taylor Boggs are probably the guys still alive to make the team, although sometimes these calls are already made before the final preseason game. Scott has actually pulled off the rare feat of improving his position on the team despite missing the past several weeks with a knee injury that required a procedure to clean it out. That’s because Webb has continued to struggle ever since being demoted to second-team left tackle. Webb is a mystery. He has all the physical gifts, but his inconsistency coupled with his strange behavior and apparent lack of passion toward the game, makes him a strong candidate to get cut. If Scott’s knee is OK for Week 1, then it might make sense to just keep him and Britton, try and sneak Boggs on the practice squad, and send Webb on his merry way. But if Webb wants to make one final stand, he better make the most his opportunities tonight.
OAKLAND, Calif. -- The door is wide open for veteran Jonathan Scott to be the Chicago Bears' swing tackle in the regular season after J'Marcus Webb had problems in the second half of the club’s 34-26 preseason win against the Oakland Raiders on Friday.

Things went bad for Webb quickly after he entered the game. The former starter got called for holding on the Bears’ third offensive play of the third quarter, then later in the fourth quarter Webb committed a false start. Not exactly the kind of performance Webb needed two weeks after being demoted to the second-team and losing his right tackle job to rookie Jordan Mills.

Webb’s issues occurred a couple of hours after Scott worked out with the training staff on the field pregame, fueling speculation that he could return from a knee procedure sometime next week, and perhaps be healthy enough to play in the Bears’ preseason finale Thursday versus the Cleveland Browns.

“I’m encouraged,” Bears head coach Marc Trestman said. “I know he worked out tonight but I haven’t talked to the trainers about that. But we’re encouraged by what’s going on with the guys that have (had) medical attention.”

Scott, a seven-year veteran, started seven games for the Bears last year after joining the club in September. Scott, Webb, Eben Britton, Taylor Boggs and Edwin Williams are all fighting to earn a spot on the 53-man roster while James Brown is secure as the swing guard. It’s unclear how many offensive linemen the Bears plan to keep, but offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer said last week the number could be eight.

If that happens, Webb could be a casualty just one year after starting all 16 games for the Bears at left tackle.
Jay Cutler AP Photo/Nam Y. HuhJay Cutler is expected to play a series or two against the Panthers on Friday.
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Here are five things to keep an eye on Friday night when the Chicago Bears face the Carolina Panthers at Bank of America Stadium.

1. OL blocking: It's likely the Bears go into this game with a starting five up front that you won't see once the club opens the regular season Sept. 8 against Cincinnati, mainly because of the calf strain suffered by starting left tackle Jermon Bushrod, who isn't expected to play. The plan is to play the starters just a few snaps. So in that limited amount of time it's important to see how well the group protects and opens the lanes in the ground game given all the changes made schematically. Count on a starting five of Roberto Garza, James Brown, Eben Britton, J'Marcus Webb and Matt Slauson. Rookie Kyle Long should see plenty of snaps, too, and is also a player to keep close tabs on. The only way skill-position players such as quarterback Jay Cutler, receiver Brandon Marshall and running back Matt Forte excel is for the offensive line to sufficiently do its job. If in limited duty, the starting offensive line performs similarly to the way the group played in 2012, it will be clear the group still needs extensive work.

2. Cutler's command of the offense: Cutler is in the midst of learning his fourth offense in five seasons with the Bears, and it would be unrealistic to expect him to operate flawlessly against the Panthers. But he does need to show some degree of command of the new system. So far during training camp practices, for whatever reason, the timing between Cutler and the receiving corps appears to be off. Some of that is a function of Chicago's defensive line bearing down hard on Cutler every play during training camp, and tipping many of his passes at the line of scrimmage. But in this game, the offensive line will have every tactic at its disposal to combat Carolina's pass rush. That should open up some passing lanes for Cutler to be able to find some type of rhythm. It's also worth it to watch how quickly the Bears get in and out of the huddle. The club unnecessarily burned timeouts too often last season, and Marc Trestman's system contains much more verbiage than some of the schemes Cutler has operated in the past.

(Read full post)

Wrap-up: Bengals 27, Jaguars 10

September, 30, 2012
9/30/12
8:18
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Thoughts on the Jacksonville Jaguars' 27-10 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals at EverBank Field:

What it means: The Jaguars are 1-3 and even against a struggling pass defense they couldn’t generate much passing offense. Even those who wanted to show a bit more patience have to declare there has been insufficient progress from the passing game.

What I didn’t like: Jacksonville couldn’t cover A.J. Green who caught six balls for 117 yards and a touchdown. Rashean Mathis had a hard time matching up with Green when he had to. If Derek Cox is the player the Jaguars think he is, they may have to move to a scheme that puts their top cornerback on an opponent’s top receiver if he’s a singular threat.

Ugly numbers: The Jaguars converted just two of 11 third downs (though they held the Bengals to the same numbers). Even worse, none of Jacksonville’s 10 possessions started beyond their own 23-yard line. That’s a long field to have to drive. I thought with their kicking teams they were supposed to fare well consistently in field position. Instead they are getting shredded by a fake punt.

Issues with sacks: Andy Dalton had a solid game quarterbacking Cincinnati, with 20 completions in 31 attempts for 244 yards, two touchdowns, a pick and a 96.8 passer rating. The Jaguars failed to sack him once, and were credited with just one QB hit by game statisticians. Meanwhile, with left guard Eben Britton and right tackle Cameron Bradfield back from injuries and in the lineup, the Jaguars allowed six sacks of Blaine Gabbert, who was hit seven times.

What’s next: The Jaguars host the Chicago Bears, with at least one small advantage. The Bears will be playing a road game coming off a short week following a Monday night game against Dallas.
For Blaine Gabbert to make big strides in his second year, he needed three ingredients:
    Gabbert
    Gabbert
  • Better coaching.
  • Better protection.
  • Better receiver play.

I think he’s getting the coaching. The protection is OK, because with offensive line injuries the team is game-planning to minimize threats, which takes away from other areas. Headlined by Justin Blackmon, the receivers are dropping way too many passes.

Sunday I wrote about baby steps being acceptable for Jacksonville.

But seeing this from Mike Mularkey out of his Monday news conference, it made me think about how the protection and receiver issues that hounded the team last year have not dissipated nearly enough.
“It will help not to drop balls. That helps. Don’t know what Blaine can do with that. I don’t know how much Blaine can do with that but we have had drops since we’ve been here. We’ve got to do a better job of catching the football. That gets you into a little bit of a rhythm. It doesn’t put you in second-and-10s. If you do throw it you’re throwing the ball down the field a little more. He missed some throws yesterday and he made some great throws. Consistency is definitely a must from everybody, but I think just standing in there and making that last throw for the touchdown says a lot about the guy. We need him consistently for the entire game, and I think he’s still young at this position. Each start is going to make him a better player, but there’s a lot of things he can do in his game and we can help him across the board. That’s protecting him better, including yesterday’s game. That pocket is closing down quicker than it should. We need a pocket to step up into more consistently and we need to get open outside and we need to get healthier. We need to get our guys back and get them healthy. A lot of those things may take place.”

We can find similar stuff from Gene Smith or Jack Del Rio from 2011.

The Jaguars need to take us to a place where the topic changes.

The two missing offensive linemen, Eben Britton and Cam Bradfield, will be worked back into practice some Wednesday. If they can return and play well and Blackmon starts catching the ball, maybe we’ll finally change the topic. At this point, though, it's hard to expect that's what we will be doing.

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