Bears' 'Viewers Guide' to the Divisional Round

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Bears' 'Viewers Guide' to the Divisional Round

The playoffs generally make for compelling viewing in Chicago even if the Bears are not in the games. But the state of their roster and head-coaching situations should raise the interest level in the 2012 postseason.

GM Phil Emery declared last week that his quest was for excellence in his coaching candidate. Some of that is organizational, as Emery said, but ultimately the only excellence that matters is on the field. That applies to coaches and players.

To enhance playoff viewing, CSNChicago.com has selected a small number of figures of note to keep an eye on during the weekends games. Some are current coaching candidates (How is this guys system working?); others are among the better free agents (How would this guy look in a Bears uniform?) in areas of need for the Bears offseason. For instance, the value of Bruce Arians may have been subtly evident last weekend when the Indianapolis Colts offensive coordinator was hospitalized for the playoff game against Baltimore, in which the Colts never got into the end zone and lost.

Baltimore at Denver (Sat., 3:30 p.m.)

Ravens to review

Dannell Ellerbe, LB - The Bears went into 12 thin at linebacker and came out even thinner with Brian Urlachers status unclear. Nick Roach should be re-signed but the corps needs stocking and Ellerbe, who had nine tackles in the win over Indianapolis, has played both MLB and SLB at 6-1, 240, picking up 5.5 sacks this season.

Dennis Pitta, TE - The Bears have picked up restricted free agents in the past, but the question here is how highly the Ravens regard this restricted free agent and the tender on him. Best guess: very high, after 61 catches and seven TDs. But there are few pass-catching tight ends available at this level.

Broncos to browse

Mike McCoy, OC - The Baltimore defense is not what it was when Ray Lewis was in his prime. But the Ravens are about pressure, and how McCoy and Peyton Manning conspire to exploit a good unit will be a solid test for a head-coach hopeful.

RELATED: Papa Cutler's (lack of) role in Bears' coaching search

Ryan Clady, LT - Denver may never let Clady hit the market but he is the highest-rated available, according to ProFootballFocus.com. Baltimores Paul Kruger was an edge-rushing force against Cincinnati and will be Cladys assignment.

Green Bay at San Francisco (Sat., 7 p.m.)

Packers to peruse

Tom Clements, OC - Mike McCarthy is the acknowledged coach of the offense so Clements role is always a little fuzzy to isolate. But hes part of the plan.

Aaron Rodgers, QB - Rodgers doesnt win every game he plays; it just seems that way when the game involves the Bears. The Bears need to figure out how other teams do it.

Niners to notice

Delanie Walker, TE - Vernon Davis is a foundation part of the offense but Walker is a consistent producer: averaging 20 rec. per year for the past six. Bears interest may be limited given that hes 6-1, 241, which is Evan Rodriguez-ian.

Seattle at Atlanta (Sun., noon)

Falcons to follow

Keith Armstrong, STC - Former Bears assistant Armstrong is in charge of Atlanta special teams and was among the first interviewees in the Bears search process. The Falcons have been solid but not at the Bears level on teams.

Sam Baker, LT - A thoroughbred from the USC OT tradition, Baker is old school, smaller (6-5, 301) than the preferred current prototype. But Matt Ryans blind side has been well protected and Baker has worked in a zone-blocking scheme.

Seahawks to survey

Darrell Bevell, OC - Somebody has brought rookie QB Russell Wilson along very nicely and Bevell is a name in play with the Bears. His head-coach opportunities have been sparse but Seattles offense has done more than just pound with Marshawn Lynch.

Alan Branch, DT - Branch is a massive (6-6, 325) interior player who does not fit the mold of Lovie Smith linemen. But he is a 4-3 fit who can dominate at the point, and if the Bears cannot retain Henry Melton, they will need interior help.

Houston at New England (Sun., 3:30 p.m.)

Texans to target

Rick Dennison, OC - The Texans offensive coordinator is on GM Phil Emerys candidate list. Houston is a run-based offense going against a Patriots front that controlled the Texans in their week 14 meeting. How Dennison schemes against in a rematch against one of the NFLs top defenses is a working interview.

Ryan Harris, RT - An under-the-radar right tackle, Harris allowed just two sacks playing 438 snaps in 2012. Harris 6-5, 300 pounds and a five-year veteran out of Notre Dame, already is a fit in a zone-blocking system that could come in with a new coach. Has had some health concerns and Derek Newton has had more playing time.

Patriots to ponder

Sebastian Vollmer, RT - Vollmer, 6-8, 315, is one of those draft hits that keep New England stocked. He was a No. 2 in 2009 and has been a quality starter at both tackles but has had some injury downtime that may be too much of a red flag. Hell see a lot of J.J. Watt for evaluation purposes and pass-pro is Vollmers strength.

Bears announce training camp schedule

Bears announce training camp schedule

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:

After historically low turnover total in 2016, what can Bears do to get more takeaways?

After historically low turnover total in 2016, what can Bears do to get more takeaways?

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.”