Chicago Bears Training Camp Insider: The Offensive Guards

By Bryan Dietzler

With one preseason game in the books, the Bears have a little bit better idea of what direction they are going to go with some of the players they have on the roster. Chicago’s offensive line promises to be a strong one in 2017. With the depth, they have, even if someone gets hurt they will be able to recover and do well with their backups. This is something that Chicago has struggled with last season. Now, thanks to some fine maneuvering by General Manager Ryan Pace, it looks like the Bears could be set up to survive over the long haul.

Chicago has had some decent play from their offensive line over the last couple of seasons. Thanks to the addition of such talent as Kyle Long, Chicago has enjoyed some consistency. Now, this unit is ready to shine.

Last time I took a look at the offensive tackles and centers for the Bears. This time, I am going to look at all of the players currently listed at the guard position. We will look at how they got to Chicago, what they did last season and what will happen to them when final cuts are made before the start of the 2017 NFL season.

(NOTE: In my previous post, I had Brandon Greene listed with offensive tackles. He is a guard.  My apologies).

Kyle Long

To some, Long may be the best player that the Bears have on their roster right now. He has been the most consistent when he’s in the game and has been the most decorated of all the Bears’ current players. After some switching from guard to tackle and back again and now to left guard, he is set at guard and ready to go. But, he has been limited in camp due to an ankle injury he suffered last season. He had surgery on the ankle last year and missed the end of the 2016 season.

Outlook: The coaching staff is being very cautious in bringing Long back to full speed.  He has been held out of most training camp drills in an effort not to reinjure his ankle. There is some debate as to whether he will be ready for the start of the season. When he is ready, he will start, and he will play well. Long will take a bigger role as a leader on this Bears this season as well.

He just may be Chicago’s most important player right now.

Jordan Morgan

Morgan came to the Bears as a fifth round selection out of tiny Kutztown in Pennsylvania. Incidentally, he was the only offensive lineman drafted by the Bears in 2017. Morgan will be in the mix for a backup spot at the guard position this season. He comes to the Bears with good physical stature and a skill set that can only get better. He does need some help with run blocking and some of the basics but he has a lot of potential.

Outlook: Morgan is not a lock to make the team despite the fact they used a draft pick on him. Still, he has a good chance of getting on the practice squad at the very least but I think he will make the active roster. Unless he gets hurt, expect him to be with the team as a backup guard for the entire season possibly inactive on game days unless there is an injury. With further development, his time will come in 2018 and beyond.

William Poehls

Poehls is one of this writer’s favorite players. He has a lot of potential and the Bears are starting to realize it. Poehls came into the league as an offensive tackle but Chicago has been using him at guard during the preseason. Poehls has seen time at both spots during camp. He was listed as a backup at right guard in the latest depth chart and played there in Chicago’s first preseason game. Poehls has fantastic size, standing 6-8 weighing 344 pounds but just needs some polish and experience to become an effective backup.

Outlook: The nice thing about Poehls is that he can play either guard tackle. He has had a decent training camp so if he can continue to develop and show his value, he will earn a roster spot. Being able to play two positions will give Chicago some incentive to keep him on the active roster. You can expect to Poehls in a Bears’ uniform this season.

Cyril Richardson

Richardson is a three year player out of Baylor who came to the Bears after spending some time with the Buffalo Bills.  He hasn’t seen an NFL game yet and may not this season. He came into the league with great size for the position, good hands and the ability to play both guard and tackle. Richardson is going to need to develop some more to become an effective NFL player but he has the talent to do so.

Outlook: After a difficult camp, Richardson may not even end up on the practice squad this season. The talent ahead of him is just too good. But if the Bears suffer an injury they may call upon him as a backup. But Richardson’s future in the league may not be with the Bears, however. He needs some good preseason game play to last through final cuts but he’s likely going to end up somewhere else.

Josh Sitton

Sitton was a real find for the Bears after he was let go by the Green Bay Packers in last year’s final cuts. Sitton had a strong year for Chicago despite the fact he was injured a little bit. This year, he will man the right guard position and be a leader on offense along with Long. But after ten seasons in the NFL, time has taken its toll on Sitton. Could he be reaching the end of the line?

Outlook: Sitton will be the starter at the right guard position when the season begins. Flipping him and Long should work well. Hopefully, he can hold up and stay healthy to help keep the right guard position manned all season. Sitton might be out a game or two with injuries or rest but he needs to hold up and make it through the season. He might play one more year after 2017 but his career is coming to an end soon and he will retire.

NFC North Podcast Ep. 3: Preseason Week 1 Review and Preview

Welcome to the NFC West Podcast!

In today’s episode, Kyle recaps preseason week 1 games, talks about the latest headlines for the four teams, and preview preseason week 2 games.

The Packers were hit with the injury bug in their first preseason game against the Eagles, which was won by Green Bay 24-9. The Bears lost their preseason opener versus the Broncos 24-17, with quarterback Mike Glennon struggling in a big way as he got the start and threw a pick six on his first pass. However, things were not all negative for Chicago. Rookie quarterback Mitchell Trubisky shined in relief of Glennon, going 18-25 for 166 yards and a touchdown. The Vikings won their preseason opener 17-10 at Buffalo. The offense and defense looked good for Minnesota. Finally, the Lions made it 3 out of 4 wins for the North in week 1 as they handled the Colts 24-10 on the road.

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Inside the Chicago Bears Training Camp: Offensive Tackles and Centers

By Bryan Dietzler

Training camp has started for the Bears and we are starting to get an idea of what we can expect from some of the players.  We have seen that Mike Glennon can get the ball out to his receivers well but still has some things to learn.  If he gets some protection, he should be able to complete a few passes and keep the ball moving down the field.

Some of what will help Glennon succeed is getting great protection.  The Bears offensive line is responsible for that of course and is set to make significant strides this season.  They have had some injured players coming back and have bolstered the depth.  The thought is that this offensive line, as it is right now, could be the best in several seasons.  Let’s hope it is, for the Bears sake.

The following is a look at the Bear’s offensive tackles and centers currently on the roster, in training camp.  There is a quick look back at where they have been before this season and some thoughts on what this writer thinks about their ability and where they should stand at the when the preseason ends.

As always, please feel free to share your opinions about the players featured in this article

Tom Compton

The Chicago Bears signed Compton as a free agent this offseason after he spent the previous year with the Atlanta Falcons.  During 2016, he didn’t play often proving he was a backup and not much more.  Now, Chicago will rely on him to back up and step in and start as needed.  But he may only be able to start for a short period and is not an effective long-term starter.  So let’s hope the Bears don’t need him to be a full-time starter.

Outlook: The Bears are going to want to make sure they evaluate Compton closely.  Unless he is horrible, I think that Chicago will keep him on the roster to start the season.  Hopefully, neither Bobby Massie nor Charles Leno, Jr., the projected starters, go down for a long period.  The Bears need Compton on the bench.

Charles Leno, Jr.

Last year’s starter at left tackle is back and will slide right back into his starting role.  Leno does not make a lot of mistakes but he isn’t a dynamic, top tier offensive tackle.  This writer is surprised the Bears didn’t try to go out and find a replacement during the offseason.  It just shows that Chicago is content with him at left tackle, for now.

Outlook: I don’t think that there is anyone in the lineup right now who can replace Leno.  He will be the starter at the left tackle position and remain there, with good health, for the entire season.  Hopefully, he can help keep it up and play well for the entire season.  But next offseason, I suspect the Bears will look for his replacement.

Bobby Massie

I criticized Massie a lot last season, especially early on he struggled.  Massie did firm things up as the season went on but was not “spectacular.”  He will be the Bears starting right tackle again this year, barring a disaster, leaving as many questions as there are answers.  The Bears should have shored this position up in free agency but failed to do so.  Now it’s another year with Massie.

Outlook: Unless Chicago works a trade for a right tackle before the season Massie is our guy.  Not spectacular by any means, he is serviceable and will have to get the Bears through the 2017 season.  Let’s hope he can keep it together another year until the Bears (hopefully) find someone better suited to man the position.

Dieugot Joseph

Joseph came to Chicago as an undrafted free agent this offseason and has a shot at making the practice squad but not the active roster.  He has a lot of raw talent that needs to develop and he can get that kind of help if he lands on the practice squad.  He came into the league with skill, especially in pass protection.  But his mechanics need some work and his footwork isn’t the best.

I think that Joseph will end up on the practice squad and develop for the future.  If he doesn’t end up in Chicago, he will wind up on the practice squad of another team.  He needs more practice reps, as well, to show the coaching staff what he has to offer.  He’s an intriguing prospect but not one who is ready to make an impact in the NFL yet.

Bradley Sowell

Sowell arrived in Chicago this offseason as a free agent.  He has played with the Indianapolis Colts, the Arizona Cardinals and more recently the Seattle Seahawks.  Sowell has six years of experience starting just 21 games in that span.  Like Compton, he’s a good backup who can step into the lineup in a pinch but won’t be a good long term option as a starter.

Outlook: I think that the Bears like Sowell’s experience and they will keep him unless one of the younger guys is good and can supplant him.  That is not out of the question.  I think that Sowell sticks and rides the bench for the entire 2017 season unless there is an injury.

Brandon Greene

Greene has been with the Bears as an undrafted free agent having played tight end at Alabama.  He was projected to be a guard when he came into the NFL and has the size to play that position.  Greene is very raw but gives the Bears some backup at the guard position.

Outlook: Greene is almost strictly backup material and will not make the active roster.  If Chicago thinks he’s good enough, they will place him on the practice squad and see how he develops.  Keep an eye on him and let’s see how he does this preseason.  He just might be good enough to develop further.

Taylor Boggs

Boggs is a center who came to the Bears this year after a stint with the Cardinals.  Interestingly, Boggs was with the Bears in 2013 for the entire season.  In 2014, he participated in four games but was hurt and received an injury settlement.  He was let go in October.  Last year in Arizona he ended his season on the injured reserve list.

Outlook: Health has always been an issue for Boggs.  He has only been healthy for one full season.  If he can prove he can stay upright, I think that he will be the backup center for the Bears in 2017.  With the injury to Eric Kush forcing Chicago to move some personnel around, it would appear as if Boggs has a shot.  The Bears are going to have to decide if Hroniss Grasu is going to be a backup center or guard while Whitehair settles in as the starting center.  That will dictate what happens to Boggs.  Right now, it looks as if Boggs will be a backup guard.

Hroniss Grasu

It’s possible Grasu could be moved to a backup guard spot depending on what happens with the depth at that position.  There has been one devastating injury to the guard position which has set things askew early in camp.  With Eric Kush out of the lineup, it’s likely that Grasu will shift over to guard and be a backup there.  But for now he remains a backup center and I will consider him a center for this review.

Outlook: I think that Grasu is a safe bet to make the team and develop even further in year three.  Remember that he missed the entire season last year and has a lot to catch up on.  He could fill in at center in a pinch but he will spend most of his time backing up at guard.  Unless Chicago figures Boggs can’t make it as a backup center then Grasu will backup Whitehair.

Cody Whitehair

Whitehair was one of Chicago’s most consistent performers last season and that was a treat for Bears fans.  He helped make Chicago’s offensive line on of the best in recent memory and is poised to better in year two.  It’s kind of tough to predict what might happen to him this season, however.  If either Kyle Long or Josh Sitton get injured, he could be thrust into action at one of their spots.  That would force him to vacate the center position and leave Hroniss Grasu as the center, possibly.

Outlook: If Whitehair plays center all season, he could be a Pro Bowl player.  He was almost deserving of the honor last year but surely fell just short.  He has the tools to be one of the best centers in the NFL.  If he can stay healthy, he will shine and be a Pro Bowl center in 2017.

 

Watch Bears Rookie QB Mitch Trubisky Throw His First NFL TD Pass

ChicagoTribune

Mitch Trubisky had his moment on Thursday, throwing his first NFL TD to new Bears wide out Victor Cruz in a preseason game on Thursday night.

Here’s hoping it’s very much the first of many for the new Bears QB.

Bears Place Center Eric Kush on IR After Tearing Hamstring

The Bears placed center Eric Kush on the injured reserve list and is out for the season, Patrick Finley of the Chicago Sun-Times reports.

Kush tore his hamstring off the bone and will need surgery to repair it, according to Bears coach John Fox.

“At the end of practice Friday, he, they thought it was spasms, they thought it was possibly scar tissue,” he said. “But he did tear his hamstring in a completely different place, unfortunately.”

The Bears re-signed Kush, who started four games in his first season with the Bears, to a two-year, $2.7 million deal in February. Kush, who can play both guard and center, was the favorite to be the team’s backup interior lineman.

Bears WR Markus Wheaton out Indefinitely Following Appendectomy Sunday Morning

ChicagoBears.com

Bears coach John Fox told reporters after practice that wide receiver Markus Wheaton underwent an appendectomy Sunday morning and remains hospitalized, Jeff Dickerson of ESPN Chicago reports.

“He had some stomach pains last night around 4 a.m., and our training staff did a good job getting him and he had the appendectomy at probably 9 o’clock this morning,” Fox said. “They’ll keep him in the hospital tonight. It’s a scope type of procedure, but they caught it. … It was inflamed, not ruptured, which is a good thing. So he’ll start that recovery process.”

Fox did not offer a timetable on Wheaton’s return to the field.

Chicago Bears Training Camp Preview: The Tight Ends

By Bryan Dietzler

Training camp 2017 is finally here, and there is a lot happening across the NFL and with the Bears right now.  The Bears are working hard at shaping a team that we hope will win more games in 2017.  We want a team that will keep fans on the edge of their seats.  Can the Bears provide us with that this year?  There people out there who are looking forward to a new season in Chicago and more wins.  And if this team can put everything together and their talent can gel, they will win more games in 2017.

Chicago has had some good tight ends in the past.  There was the best of the bunch, Mike Ditka.  A little more recently, there were guys like Emery Moorhead and Desmond Clark.  They helped to stabilize the position.  Greg Olsen, if we can remember who he is (ha ha) is a more recent player who did well at the position for Chicago.

At the time of this writing, the Bears have six players at the tight end position heading into training camp.  Some are old faces while others are new to the team.  There is a lot of talent at this position but very little room to have too many of these guys on the team.  I predict that Chicago will only keep four tight ends this season.  The only locks are Dion Sims and Adam Shaheen.  What about the rest of the guys?  What do they have to offer?

We will take an abbreviated look at the tight ends that the Bears have on the roster at the time of this writing.  Let’s explore who should make the team and who won’t.

Ben Braunecker

Braunecker came to the Bears last season and started participating in games immediately.  He played in 13 games catching four passes for 41 yards and no touchdowns.  His size and speed are good, but he still has a lot to learn to be an NFL tight end.  But with just two years of experience, there is still some room to grow.

Outlook: Consider Braunecker, a bubble player whose arrow is pointing up.  While he may not be starter material, he is a pretty nice backup and can stand in when needed.  I think he has an excellent chance to make the roster and be with the Bears during the season.

Daniel Brown

Daniel Brown is a three-year player who came to the Bears via the Baltimore Ravens last season.  He played in six games and caught 16 passes for 124 yards and a touchdown.  He was a nice add on for the Bears and helped stabilize the position after the loss of Martellus Bennett and the injury to Zach Miller.  In fact, Brown started three games giving the Bears’ quarterbacks an extra outlet to throw the ball too.

Outlook: Here is another guy that should be able to make the roster with a strong training camp.  Chicago’s young tight ends are very talented and may push the older guys out.  I think that Brown has an excellent chance of staying on as a backup and will contribute greatly in 2017.  But that’s with a strong camp.

Zach Miller

I am a huge fan of Zach Miller.  I like the guy, and I think he is talented, but he is in serious jeopardy of not making this team.  He is one injury away from not being a Bear, and because of his injury history, Chicago may not want to risk using a roster spot him.  In fact, they may sacrifice him so that one of the younger guys does not get away.

Outlook: Zach Miller is very good when he is healthy, but he is a serious injury risk.  Knowing this, the Bears are going to be very careful with him in training camp.  If they feel he isn’t going to make it through a full set of games this season, then they will let him walk.  The young talent at tight end is too good, and Miller is just too unpredictable.  I think he gets cut at the end of camp.

MyCole Pruitt

Pruitt is a two-year player out of Southern Illinois.  The Bears brought him from Minnesota where he spent the 2015 and 2016 seasons.  Chicago saw something in him that piqued their interest.  While he was in Minnesota, Pruitt played in 17 games with three starts and caught a few passes but not many.  Coming out of college, it was thought that he had a lot of talent as a tight end and could develop into a starter.  But that hasn’t happened yet.

Outlook: He is a guy that we will have to see how he does in training camp to get a good perspective on his status.  He has talent but does he have more than the other youngsters at the position?  Probably not.  Chicago may decide to keep him on the practice squad and that’s where he probably will end up.

Adam Shaheen

This year’s second round draft pick is poised to make an impact in his first year in the league.  From what I hear, the Bears like him and he just might be the top end tight end they have been looking for.  But he has a steep learning curve because, after coming from a Division II program, the step up in competition will be big.  But if he can adjust, he could be one of the top ten tight ends in the NFL in the future.

Outlook: There is no question that he will make the final roster.  But will he start?  He is going to have to have a pretty strong training camp in order do that.  But anything is possible with this kid.  If he doesn’t start then, he will be the number two tight end.  I do suspect he will have his growing pains this year but will end up starting in 2018.

He’s going to be very good in the future.

Dion Sims

Sims is a high priced free agent acquisition, formerly of the Miami Dolphins, that Chicago acquired this spring.  He did not put up spectacular numbers at Miami.  During his career there, he caught just 74 passes for 699 yards and eight touchdowns.  That is not number one tight end production.  And keep in mind that the Bears paid him money that would make it look like he was a top tier tight end.  So they are expecting big things out of him.

Outlook: I don’t think that there is any doubt that Sims makes the roster because of the money that they are going to have to pay him if they cut him.  With that in mind, consider him a lock to make the team.  But does he start?  That decision may come down to (and I hate to say this) money.  I have observed that Sims is a good blocker so perhaps the Bears might be thinking of using him as a blocker more than a pass catcher.  Either way, expect to see a lot of him this season.

Bears Chatting with DE Akiem Hicks About Possible Extension

USA Today Sports

The Bears and defensive end Akiem Hicks are engaged in discussions about a possible extension on the eve of training camp, sources told Patrick Finley of the Chicago Sun-Times.

Hicks, entering the last season of a two-year contract, is coming off the best season of his career.

Earlier in the day, Hicks said he wanted to get a new contract and retire as a Bear.

“I love the city, man,” he said. “I feel like it’s funny because I was coming to Chicago long before I played for the Bears.

‘‘My mother’s from here. I know when I was a free agent and my mom found out that — I’m a momma’s boy, obviously — Chicago was a team that was interested in me, she was ecstatic. She was excited. She wanted me to be here. She wanted to be able to come here and see her son play in her home city. .?.?.

“I just enjoy my time here, and I’m completely open to ending my career here.”

“I really can’t speak too much about it, but I know this: I know that I’m interested in playing here for a long time,” Hicks said.

Drew Rosenhaus, Hicks’ agent, was spotted on campus at Olivet Nazarene University late Wednesday.

Asked about an extension for Hicks, general manager Ryan Pace said earlier Wednesday that the Bears “keep those things internal.”

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