Eye on the Enemy: Broncos Miller thinks Carimi is a beast

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Eye on the Enemy: Broncos Miller thinks Carimi is a beast

There are more questions than answers to take away from the Bears 31-3 loss to the Broncos in Thursdays preseason opener, but Denver linebacker Von Miller is certain of one thing.

Gabe Carimi looks like he did in college and he was a beast in college, Miller said.

Miller, a member of the same 2011 draft class as Carimi, was impressed with the Bears front five, even though the offense was only able to accumulate 41 total yards and went 0-for-5 on third downs in the first half.

I think they can be successful, Miller said. Its the NFL, there arent any geeks on any team. I know Gabe Carimi personally and he looked pretty well. He had a lot of injuries last year, but this season Im expecting him to do big things and to give other defensive lines problems.

The Wolfman Howls

Another Denver defender, rookie defensive end Derek Wolfe, was also beast-like during the first half, registering a pair of sacks working against the Bears offensive line.

I dont want to let my secrets out, Wolfe said. I think we did a good job of staying after them and not just relying on the first move. Our second effort stuff was getting us there.

The six-feet-five-inch, 300 pounder out of Cincinnati got to Jason Campbell on Chicagos second series of the game and then put Josh McCown on the ground in the closing minutes of the first half.

Miller, who was handing out nicknamesleft and right, envisions great things in the near future for his new teammate.

Hopefully we can hear the Wolfman howl at Mile High Stadium coming up this season, Miller said.

Manning Learns from Hanie?

All eyes were on Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning in his first action in almost a year. After the game he was very reflective on his journey back to the playing field.

I sure have come a long way in a year, Manning said. I know how much hard work Ive put in and how much help Ive gotten along the way. Its been a long haul for me.

Manning orchestrated an impressive opening drive, going 4-for-6 and throwing for 44 yards before an interception at the Bears two-yard line.

I heard Caleb Hanie talking about the key is how you evaluate yourself and how you improve throughout the preseason, Manning said.

Hanie, who fell out of favor in the Windy City after being thrown into the fire last season, went 7-for-14, passing for 79 yards in his return to Soldier Field.

It doesnt matter what year you are in the NFL, the key is trying to get better through the preseason, Manning said. Thats what we hope to do. Thats what I hope to do.

Funny how a former Bears backup quarterback, who was booed on his first snap of the game, can teach a future Hall-of-Famer a thing or two.

King of Comedy

Although things were pretty cut and dry from the four-time MVP, Manning did offer a brief moment of humor for the media.

Maybe in some ways Ive even gotten better. Manning said. Now I have the ability to throw the ball in a linebackers hands and tip it to my own player. Thats a positive.

Miller Respects Mr. Manning

It was great to see Mr. Manning go out there complete some passes and move the ball, Miller said following the victory.

The second-year linebacker registered 11.5 sacks, 51 tackles and forced three fumbles on his way to being named second-team All-Pro in 2011 insisted that Manning was someone he looked up to.

I dont have to call him that, but I feel like its a respect factor involved. The type of guy he is, he commands respect the way he comes to work every day. The way he competes, the way he displays leadership, I feel like I have to call him Mr. Manning.

Bears establishing smash-mouth core with Jordan Howard

Bears establishing smash-mouth core with Jordan Howard

Eric Kush was in some pain after the Bears win over the San Francisco 49ers. But it was a “good” pain, particularly since part of it was inflicted by a teammate.

The teammate was running back Jordan Howard, and the Bears left guard was learning along with his linemates that when Howard is coming, “he’s a-comin’,” Kush said.

“Oh man, sometimes you’re, ‘[groan-groan-groan], and he’ll hit you right in the back, you fall and try to take your guy down with you and stick him in the snow so you’re not the only one getting soaking wet and cold. But Jordan’s a lot fun and we try to kick some butt for him.”

The rookie running back has become more than simply a draft nugget from the fifth round of this year’s draft. Howard has established himself as an integral part of a winning formula of complimentary football, the concept long favored by John Fox, Lovie Smith and coaches who operate from the foundation of a premier running game, impact defense and solid special teams.

[SHOP: Gear up Bears fans!]

The Bears’ three wins have come this season in the only games in which Howard has been given 20-plus carries: 23 vs. Detroit, 26 vs. Minnesota, 32 vs. San Francisco. Add to those the 3 pass receptions against the Lions and the 4 against the Vikings and the true centerpiece of the 2016 Bears offense is more than a little apparent.

For obvious reasons beyond simply the rushing numbers.

“Especially pass protection,” said offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains. “I think he's taken a big jump that way. When you're young in this league, those are the things that can get grey for you. You run the football, he's obviously a talented player there, but in pass pro, he's made his biggest growth.”

As a corollary to Howard, San Francisco was only the second game this season in which the Bears called fewer than 30 pass plays (the only other time was at Green Bay, when the Bears only ran a total of 45 plays, 27 of them pass plays). In that respect, the snow was viewed as an ally by some in the locker room who have been unhappy at the run:pass balance, which was just 36-percent-run coming into the 49ers game.

“It was one of these games where, with the weather, we couldn’t pass the ball like we normally do —  30 times — so we had to keep it on the ground,” said one member of the offense.

Howard’s breakout game as an NFL ball carrier came against the Lions (23 carries, 111 rushing yards, 3 receptions). The Bears, looking for a breakout of their own in the form of a first two-game win streak in more than a year, are expected to keep it simple — and in Howard’s hands.

“I always expected a lot out of myself,” Howard said. “I didn’t really think that things would happen maybe this soon or this fast. I’m definitely grateful for it.”

Bears looking into Teryl Austin’s past for clues on how Lions will scheme vs. Matt Barkley

Bears looking into Teryl Austin’s past for clues on how Lions will scheme vs. Matt Barkley

The adage “play the man, not the board” seems somehow appropriate for what the Bears are doing to prepare for the Detroit Lions behind quarterback Matt Barkley.

“The man” is Detroit defensive coordinator Teryl Austin, and the Bears have been scouting him as well as his defenses, beyond just Bears games, beyond this season and last, taking in his 2014 Detroit season when Austin prepared defenses for Jay Cutler and Jimmy Clausen.

How did Austin scheme for rookie Carson Wentz when the Lions played (and beat) the Philadelphia Eagles? How did he structure is defense to stop a rookie Teddy Bridgewater when Detroit played Minnesota? (Not very well, apparently, since the Vikings won both games and scored 54 points combined in the two games).

While the John Fox Bears staff went against Austin’s Lions defense twice last year, Cutler was the Bears quarterback. When the Bears beat Austin and the Lions two months ago, it was with Brian Hoyer.

Now the Bears quarterback is Matt Barkley, who has fewer NFL games played (seven) than Cutler has NFL seasons (11), Hoyer (eight), too, for that matter.

“Different defensive coordinators attack young quarterbacks differently,” said offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains. “Some guys blitz, some guys play a bunch of zone. This group on defense there, they have a really good defensive coordinator, they're really smart, they do a bunch of stuff. On the back end, they run all the coverages.

“As a game, we'll have to make adjustments as the game goes and see what their plan to come out is early.”

Coaches and players may talk about how they prepare for a scheme irrespective of which opposing quarterback, running back, linebacker or whatever they will be facing. But in fact, preparations start with who is orchestrating the opponent’s offense or defense – play the man, not the board.

[SHOP: Gear up Bears fans!]

A risk can be out-thinking yourself trying to anticipate what a coordinator will do. The first point, Loggains said, is to start with your own strengths.

“We definitely look at that,” Loggains said. “As you go in the league long and longer, you face these guys, you see them in crossover games. We always know how a guy attacks a rookie quarterback or attacks a young quarterback, a veteran, or, in Matt's case, a guy who hasn't played as much.”

Evaluations of Barkley’s performance will broaden, particularly now that he is on tape for defensive coordinators to scheme for and scout. And while they are watching Barkley, the Bears are watching them.