Chicago Bears head coach Marc Trestman came to the Windy City as an offensive guru that was going to resurrect the team’s moribund scoring attack, but with so many questions surrounding the team’s defense heading into the 2014 season, he’s being forced to look at all sides of the equation as training camp continues in Bourbonnais.
“A lot of you have been here every day, and you’ve seen that practices have ebbs and flows to them,” he said after practice Friday. “Yesterday in the tight red zone, the offense was carrying the day, and today the defense amped it up. We had some contested throws and some knockdowns. We want it to be highly competitive and we’re getting it.”
With Roberto Garza and Kyle Long both off the field on Friday, the defense sensed an opportunity to get pressure on Jay Cutler and company in the pocket, and that’s exactly what they did. Several players had tremendous days in practice, with Lance Briggs breaking up a pass and Danny McCray snaring an interception over the middle of the field in 11-on-11 drills. The defensive players were also dominant at the line of scrimmage, with Will Sutton having a good day at the tackle spot and Kelvin Hayden making a couple of nice run stops on safety blitzes.
Despite the successes that the defense racked up in the team’s final practice before their Soldier Field extravaganza Saturday, Trestman cautioned against giving the unit more credit than it had earned early in camp.
“That’s pretty normal because we’re not cutting people or doing things to bring guys down,” he said. You’re going to have those types of situations, and while part of our training camp conduct policy is to keep guys on the ground, they’re instinctually jumping for the ball.”
Some of the biggest questions surrounding the Bears going into training camp were centered on the battle at the safety positions. With Craig Steltz and Chris Conte on the shelf with injuries, a slew of new players are competing for playing time in the secondary, and veteran Adrian Wilson saw his first work of the preseason with the first team on Friday alongside Danny McCray.
“Adrian has worked himself back into playing football, and we’ve stood back to allow him to acclimate not only to what is going on in the classroom but also to let him get his feet under him on the field,” Trestman said. “He continues to get a little better every day, and Chris and John and Mel thought it was time to get him out there with the first team.”
The decision to bump Wilson up to the first team meant that Ryan Mundy was taking second team reps with rookie Brock Vereen. When asked about the decision to shuffle up the safeties, Trestman repeated the “competition” mantra that he has been going back to throughout the team’s time in Bourbonnais.
“It’s an open competition, and we’re going to move people around,” he said. “You’re going to see that throughout training camp and the exhibition season. We can work him at both positions, so we’ll continue to see how that unfolds over the next few weeks. I’ll leave that to Mel and John to make that determination.”
One other question facing the Bears is who to line up at the linebacker spot next to Briggs. DJ Williams is almost a shoe-in for a starting spot at middle linebacker, but the versatility of Jon Bostic is something that Trestman is keeping a sharp eye on as the coaching staff evaluates the players.
“You can see his burst and acceleration on the field, and we’ve asked a lot of him,” he said. “He’s playing a lot of different positions, and we’re going to continue moving him around. He’s handling the challenge. If he can keep that going, he’ll be in a good place when we get to the beginning of September.”