Just because the Bears and Lovie Smith didnt go deep into the postseason doesnt mean the search for his successor wont.Look for the stream of news, near-news and faux news to go on for a while as far the Bears coaching search. General manager Phil Emerys stress of the word thorough says that this will not be a hurried process.The last time the Bears rushed through a head-coaching search was 20 years ago when Dave Wannstedt was the hot get and Michael McCaskey made landing Wannstedt a mission statement. Dont look for brother George pushing Emery to follow the same methodology.Candidate-watching: One with a Cutler connectionColleague Dave Zangaro at CSNHouston.com is busy with a playoff team this week but shot me a note regarding an intriguing name in the coaching spectrum:Texans offensive coordinator Rick Dennison.Dennison cant be talked to about jobs until either the Texans are eliminated from the playoffs or during the off-week before the Super Bowl. And he rightly brushed off head-coach questions this week.But heres the intriguing deal with Dennison: He may have arguably the best resume of any candidate under consideration.He was Jay Cutlers offensive coordinator in Denver when Cutler was having his one Pro Bowl season. That was under Mike Shanahan and with Jeremy Bates as quarterbacksreceivers coach, so Cutler was raised by committee.More to the overall, Dennison was a linebacker with the Broncos for eight seasons. Then he was the Broncos special-teams coach, offensive line coach and coordinator before joining former teammate Gary Kubiaks staff in Houston.If youre keeping score, that would be experience in all three on-field phases of football. And given the development of Matt Schaub along with the 2011 scramble with Matt Leinart and T.J. Yates after Schaub was injured, Dennison is nothing if not anadapter.Dont put the name into the Bears mix just yet. There are enough of those swirling around. But if working with Cutler is a job requirement, Dennison is the only coordinator whos still coordinating after time with Cutler.
The Bears released their official training camp schedule Thursday morning. After reporting to Olivet Nazarene on Wednesday, July 26, the first of ten practices open to the public will take place the following day. The Bears will be based out of Bourbonnais for the 16th straight season. Training camp will go through Sunday, Aug. 13 before the Bears break camp and finish the preseason in Lake Forest.
All practices are tentatively scheduled to start at various times during the 11 a.m. hour with the exception of Saturday, Aug. 13, which starts at 12:05 p.m. Those times are subject to change based on weather, and a varying set of schedules that John Fox and his coaching staff have set up, as they adjust to player and training staff preferences in hopes of reducing injuries.
Also, new this season, fans wanting to attend practices must order free tickets in advance through the Bears website. Fans will not be allowed in without a ticket, and the first 1,000 fans each day will be given various souvenirs. The practice campus will be open to the public with tickets from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m.
Here is the full training camp schedule:
Quintin Demps set a career high in interceptions last year by not doing anything different. And that’s the message he’s sending a defense that generated only 11 takeaways in 2016, tied for the lowest single-season total in NFL history.
Demps went from picking off four passes in both 2013 with the Kansas City Chiefs and 2014 with the New York Giants to notching just one interception with the Houston Texans in 2015. In 2016, though, Demps intercepted six passes, broke up nine more and totaled 38 tackles.
“Turnovers are like, it’s not something that you go get, it’s something you let come to you by doing your job first and then helping out,” Demps said. “And then you’d be surprised how they come to you by doing your job and being aware of when you can help somebody out. A lot of times when you get help is when you get picks and turnovers.”
The danger for a defense coming off a historically bad takeaway is sort of a whiplash effect, where there’s an over-emphasis on creating turnovers and not enough attention paid to, as Demps said, “doing your job.” There’s a fine line between being opportunistic and undisciplined.
“I tell my safeties all the time, we gotta tackle first,” Demps said. “Tackle first, don’t miss any tackles and then the picks are going to come. I promise you that.”
The Bears felt positively after signs of being more opportunistic as a defense during shorts-and-helmets practices in May and June, though if that was because of any real improvements or because the defense is usually ahead of the offense is hard to tell at this stage of the year.
The offseason program was valuable for the Bears’ secondary in growing trust within a group that had — no pun intended — plenty of turnover after the 2016 season. The hope is that the offseason additions of Demps, Prince Amukamara, Marcus Cooper and Eddie Jackson will solidify the secondary and lead to something better than last year’s historically-low turnover total.
“We’re still trying to build something, but the actual, real building happens in training camp because I think then you start to see the group start to get formed and yo know who’s going to go with the one’s, who’s going to go with the two’s, stuff like that,” Amukamara said. “So I think that starts to get formed. But I think with a lot of guys now, I think what that creates is competition and guys trying their hardest to make the team.”