Add Eddie Royal to the list of the walking wounded among Bears receivers. Royal missed Wednesday's practice at Halas Hall with a hip injury, further depleting the offense of playmakers and causing yet another round of shuffling as the Bears ready for Saturday night's exhibition game in Cincinnati.
Coach John Fox stamped his standard "day to day" label on Royal. But that, of course, means very little. When training camp began, the Bears referred to Kevin White as "day to day" with a shin injury. White, however, may now be lost for the season after having surgery this weekend to repair a stress fracture in his left shin.
Said quarterback Jay Cutler: "I've never been a part of anything like that — all four (top receivers) going down like that. It's a great opportunity for these (other) guys and it's given me an opportunity to work with them and do some hands-on stuff with them."
Alshon Jeffery has been "day to day" with a calf strain since Aug. 12 and was still not back at practice on Wednesday. Marquess Wilson also did not practice, dealing with a hamstring issue. So if you're keeping count, the Bears' top four receivers are now unavailable. Next men up: Josh Bellamy, Marc Mariani, Rashad Lawrence and Cam Meredith.
"He can do anything," Cutler said. "You can put him inside. You can put him outside. He can break in, he can break out. Man-to-man, he's good off the press. He has a huge array of routes that he can do."
Now, Wilson has the opportunity to prove it. And the Bears are counting on him.
Monday, August 10, 2015, 8:33pm
Alshon Jeffery was the MVP of Monday's practice, making a handful of excellent catches.
"On a hot, humid day like this was today, I thought he did a heck of a job competing each period," said receivers coach Mike Groh. "When he was in there it was full go. It was as hard as he could go, as much as he could give us offensively. He made plays. He's got to be that guy that Jay can count on in those sticky situations, and I think he's becoming that."
Receiver Marquess Wilson also excelled in Monday's practice, making a one-handed grab deep down the middle of the field.
Wilson has performed well in training camp just like he was doing a year ago in Bourbonnais before sustaining a broken collarbone that sidelined him for the first nine games of the season.
"He made a great catch today, didn't he, making that play in a two-minute situation for us," Groh said. "I think he's had a productive camp, really kind of picked up where he was last summer.
"I'm pleased with his progress. He's a guy that we believe has enough skills to be a productive player for us in this offense and in this system."
Meanwhile, first round pick Kevin White can't get on the field because of a shin injury and his stock continues to fall a bit. He did do some running but the team said they won't rush him and he may not play in the preseason. With Wilson standing out so far, and veteran Eddie Royal around, White will have some catching up to do.
Sunday, August 9, 2015, 1:23pm
New Bears offensive coordinator Adam Gase is well aware of Jay Cutler’s athleticism and ability to get out of the pocket, but Gase said that the frequency of designed rollouts will depend on how opposing defenses are playing the Bears.
Here’s what Gase said about rolling Cutler out of the pocket: “We all know that his athletic ability for a guy his size is pretty unique; there are not a lot of guys like him. We’ll try to do what we need to do within a game. How the defense is playing … you never know how a game is going to play out. So you have to kind of play off the defense—how are they playing the run game—and then you go off of there. But his ability to move outside the pocket, we really like what he’s done so far and we’ll keep growing that package.”
The Bears will try anything to turn around Cutler's performance from last season. Rolling out Cutler will also give his talented WRs more time to get open.
There's a belief throughout the Bears organization that the eighth-year veteran WR Eddie Royal could ignite the offense, a potential blowtorch to the wick of a unit that knows it has more firepower than it showed a year ago, when it finished 21st in the NFL in total yards (327.1 per game) and 23rd in scoring (19.9 ppg).
"Eddie's one of the smartest guys around," Alshon Jeffery adds. "He has a knack for this game and a feel for the right places to be at the right times."
Quarterback Jay Cutler shows similar excitement when he describes Royal's versatility and savvy. Offensive coordinator Adam Gase expresses unabashed optimism when he thinks of all the ways Royal's presence should loosen defenses. General manager Ryan Pace exudes positivity when he considers Royal just might be the offseason acquisition that pays the biggest dividends in 2015.
With a Chicago offense offering up a little more skill than San Deigo's, Royal may have a better chance to put up more consistent fantasy numbers as a forgotten man. Royal was hit and miss last year, having a big week or two which always seemed followed by a clunker. That's been the case for Royal with the Chargers though. Royal is 55th on our list and has deep league potential at least. He's perhaps a late-round option to take a chance on producing more consistent fantasy numbers.
It's a results-based business and Fox would rather see how things play out for the quarterback. He might be new to town but Fox is just as aware as every Bears fan what has happened over the previous five seasons.
Cutler has to do a better job of protecting the football. He has to play with a greater degree of consistency. He needs to be more productive. If he accomplishes all that under his fourth offensive coordinator, Adam Gase, he ought to enjoy success. Otherwise, the Bears will have to take the plunge into a search for a replacement, what some argued they should have done after general manager Ryan Pace took over.
One voice that you wouldn't expect to be bullish on Cutler is one of his ex-coordinators, one of many assistants that have filtered through Halas Hall since 2009.
Mike Martz predicts Cutler is poised for a big season. Yes, the same Martz that Cutler delivered a choice profanity at during an NBC broadcast in 2011, Martz's final season with the organization and his last job in coaching.
"In Jay's defense, whether you like Jay or you don't like Jay, there just weren't any players here," Martz said. "He just didn't have that much of a supporting cast and he is in a position now where he has an offensive coordinator that can help him and he's got better players. I think this could be a great year for him."
Martz reasons that with the skill players surrounding Cutler, including wide receivers Alshon Jeffery, Eddie Royal and Kevin White, tight end Martellus Bennett and running back Matt Forte, the quarterback is destined for a breakout year, the story said. However, that cast is similar to what Cutler had last year with terrible results. Either way, Cutler falls into QB2 range heading into drafts and is 19th on our list. The group around him at least gives him potential to put up solid fantasy numbers at a very cheap price for potential owners.
Monday, August 3, 2015, 3:52pm
Here are some notes from Bears camp on Monday:
The results are precisely in line with goal No. 1 for Cutler, to reduce the turnovers that have been his undoing and unfortunately his hallmark through nine NFL seasons. Audibles have been minimized to reduce decision-making, long considered a weakness in Cutler’s overall game.
- That was the good news of the day, that the Bears No. 1 quarterback has not given the ball away. The bad news is that Bears backups were not quite so pristine in their execution. Jimmy Clausen threw his first pick of camp, overthrowing his receiver in coverage and landing the ball in the hands of cornerback Al Louis-Jean. No. 3 Shane Carden continued to struggle, missing several open receivers but also having a ball go off the hands of wideout Ify Umodu and picked off by safety Anthony Jefferson. That was followed shortly by an interception by veteran safety Sherrod Martin.
- The offense threw another creative surprise at the defense but if failed to connect when Marquess Wilson appeared to run the proper route, at least based on the look and hands on hips by Cutler. The two talked after the play with offensive coordinator Adam Gase in an effort to clarify the missed connection.
- Alshon Jeffery sat out practice after dinging his shoulder on Sunday, leaving the Bears without either of what was projected to be their 1-2 receiver tandem. Kevin White remains on the PUP list, doing some cardio work to maintain fitness, but his camp debut is uncertain.
Coach John Fox has made it clear he wants the Bears’ offense to become a more run-centric attack and will guide new offensive coordinator Adam Gase accordingly. So that means Matt Forte should see a spike in his 16.3-carries per game average from last season. Forte also takes only so much pride in the 102 catches he had last season, a single-season NFL record for a running back, but also a milestone he understands he achieved because of how constipated the Bears offense was.
“Catching 100 balls,” Forte said, “is not my goal as a running back.”
Said Forte: “If you’re running the ball and you can run it effectively you get to control the clock and keep other offenses off the field. Which is what we want to do. If we can control the game, control the pace of the game, and grind out tough yards and score, then that’s what we’re going to do.”
We currently project Forte for 16.2 carries per game, or 260 for the season. We're not so sure that the Bears will have the luxury of running the ball as much as they'd like. We do expect Forte's receptions to drop -- we currently project him for around 56-57 catches, which is much closer to his career average of 53.4 (in offenses run by someone other than Marc Trestman). New OC Adam Gase utilized C.J. Anderson at a 60-catch pace over the final eight games of last season.
Matt Forte averaged only 7.9 yards per reception last season because he was needed far too often as a check-down safety valve for quarterback Jay Cutler. New Bears offensive coordinator Adam Gase likely will expand Forte's receiving responsibilities, using the running back's ability to spread out wide while also featuring his crisp route running and reliable hands.
On the ground, Forte will need more help from his offensive line to better the 3.9 yards-per-carry average he had in 2014. And while his desire for a contract extension has gone ungranted, Forte has handled that personal disappointment with perspective, not letting it diminish his focus or dedication. His professionalism and work ethic should remain terrific examples for the younger backs on the roster.
This won't lead to more receptions than the 102 balls he caught last season under departed OC Marc Trestman, but it should be noted that Gase isn't afraid to use his running backs in the passing game. Bronco running backs accounted for 160 receptions over the past two seasons, so a 60-catch season for Forte is certainly within reach.
Via Blair Sheade of the Chicago Sun-Times, Jay Cutler gathered several teammates at his alma mater of Vanderbilt this week for extra pre-training camp workouts.
Bennett’s presence is significant because he stayed away from all non-mandatory offseason activities in search of a new contract. Most significant is the fact that Cutler managed to get his teammates to join him in Tennessee for non-mandatory workouts that fall beyond the boundaries of the offseason program.
It's a good sign that Cutler is working with his receivers, especially White, who missed some time during OTAs with an undisclosed injury. Cutler’s #15 finish was his highest in the last four seasons. Marc Trestman is gone, and now new OC Adam Gase is running the offense. He had success in Denver in the past two seasons, but Cutler is no Peyton Manning. As long as the season is going relatively well, Cutler should post solid numbers, but if the wheels start to come off, watch out.
Royal got off to a fast start in his first year, catching 91 passes for 980 yards and five touchdowns while Jay Cutler was throwing for a career-high 4,526 yards en route to the only Pro Bowl appearance of his career.
It was the only year that the two men worked together, but both remember it fondly and Royal says they’re putting in the same work now that they did then to build the same chemistry.
Rookie receiver Kevin White was held out of the entire minicamp this week with what John Fox indicated was an undisclosed medical issue. The Bears coach, however, said he fully expects White on the field for the first training camp practice July 30.
"Kevin is doing a good job for us, picking up the offense," Cutler said. "He has a bright future."
An undisclosed injury kept White out of the Bears' minicamp practice Tuesday, coach John Fox indicated.
This raises a few eyebrows at 4for4 headquarters, but we still expect White to start opposite Alshon Jeffery. It's a reminder that rookies carry extra risk since their roles are not defined, especially early in the summer.
“He’s a great player,” Jeffery said, rare praise for a rookie. “He’s an explosive player. We can’t wait for the season. What he’s going to do on the field is going to be great.”
White should start immediately and is a threat to post WR3 (or even WR2) numbers as a rookie. The team is installing a new offense under OC Adam Gase, and QB Jay Cutler hasn't been the model of stability, but there are plenty of targets available for White in Gase's offense.
Saturday, May 9, 2015, 10:13am
“Did a lot of movement today,” Bears WR Kevin White said. “Left side and in the slot on the right side. Slot in the left. So a lot different than college. Just trying to get adjusted. First day. So it wasn’t as good as I wanted it to be. But I’m learning the system and trying to get better each and every day.
“There’s a lot of information to take for day one. Everything gets thrown at you at one time. So you’ve got to kind of relax and try to take it all in and just learn.”
One of White’s biggest supporters is Bears offensive coordinator Adam Gase, who endorsed White after the wide receiver’s April pre-draft visit to Halas Hall.
“He was outstanding,” Gase said. “He could tell you exactly what the checks were, what him and the quarterback, what page they were on. It was pretty impressive when he came in the building. We really like what he brought to the table, and we look for specific routes, and when we see one or two things, we know they can do the entire tree, so his speed, his body control, the way that he bursts off the ball, all those things we really liked.”
White replaces Brandon Marshall, who was traded to the Jets. He has a capable quarterback in Jay Cutler, though he comes in as the clear #2 option to the already established Alshon Jeffery. Marshall averaged 8.2 targets per game last season, but that was with Marc Trestman calling the plays. Gase figures to call a more balanced offense. White is a great talent and should be a fantasy factor as a rookie — just don’t expect WR1-type targets with Jeffery in the mix.
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