Blame game begins with Martz stepping forward

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Blame game begins with Martz stepping forward

Wednesday, Sept. 21, 2011
Posted: 10:00 p.m.

By John Mullin
CSNChicago.com Bears Insider Follow @CSNMoonMullin
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My bad.

That was offensive coordinator Mike Martzs mea culpa Wednesday for the playcalling fiasco in New Orleans 52 pass plays, 12 runs that left the franchise quarterback battered and the Bears with a defeat.

Martz insisted he was not disappointed with protection issues but instead declared that we need to mix it up a lot more than we did in that game, he said. We had a lot of pressure, more pressure than I think we probably suspected. It puts a lot of pressure on some of these protections.

Martz acknowledged lots of reasons for the breakdown but none of them are justification. We went into that game thinking we were going to run the ball more. We didnt do that.

Smith was questioned last year about not reining in Martzs passing propensities and didnt appear to demand a course correction until the off week, seven games in to the season. Smith could have intervened during Sundays game but its just not how we do things, Martz said. Lovie has great trust in what were doing and understands that. I think he understood, too, a lot of the issues that we were dealing with. If youre looking for blame, blame me.

The real issue

The point in all of this is not to replay and rehash the Saints game, but rather whether Martz can be relied upon to adhere to a change in philosophy that was successful last year but was ignored under pressure Sunday.

Last season, at Green Bay in a game against a desperate Packers team needing a win for a wild-card slot, and after winning seven of the previous eight games with Jay Cutler throwing more than 30 passes just once, Martz inexplicably called 47 pass plays to 18 runs.

Cutler was sacked six times, forced to run twice and the Bears lost 10-3 at a point in the season when a successful formula appeared to have settled in place.

Blame gaming

Failed execution, i.e., player error, received blame in last Sundays debacle. But both Martz and line coach Mike Tice used phrasing that suggested that all was not player-induced and that at least in mid-week the two coaches were on, at least, close-by pages:

Ultimately, what it comes down to is we didnt coach as good as we should have, and we didnt play as good as we should have, Martz said.

Tice wasn't standing far away on the practice field but sounding a lot like his coordinator.

Everybody across the board has to do a better job, Tice said. To me, being around as long as Ive been around, the blame should go on us coaches because we have a bunch of players willing to do exactly what we want them to do. Its our job to put them in positions to be able to look good.

When we dont do that, its embarrassing to us.

Good news, and bad

The good news, if it can be called that, is that the line in particular was on its assignments. The bad news was that they failed to execute them.

Guys we were supposed to block, sometimes we didnt block them so good, Tice said. But we were on the right guy. If we can do that again this week and get better, then well take a step toward making the offense a whole lot better.

Right tackle Gabe Carimi is expected to miss up to four games with a knee injury and right guard Lance Louis is still practicing on a limited basis with his injured right ankle.

Tice has one solution: I actually lost 12 pounds and Im trying my pads on tomorrow, he joked. I dont know if Ive got anything in me but the National Anthem, but Im certainly going to give it a whirl.

John "Moon" Mullin is CSNChicago.com's Bears Insider and appears regularly on Bears Postgame Live and Chicago Tribune Live. Follow Moon on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Bears information.

The 5 Bears players with the most to prove in training camp

The 5 Bears players with the most to prove in training camp

1. Mike Glennon

Glennon is, for now, the Bears’ unquestioned starting quarterback — a role the Bears made clear he wasn’t going to lose after drafting Mitch Trubisky with the second overall pick in April. It would take a monumental effort from Trubisky — and a disappointing one from Glennon — for that to change. But Glennon has only attempted 11 more passes in the NFL than Trubisky since the beginning of the 2015 season, leaving plenty of uncertainty heading to Bourbonnais. Glennon’s three-year, $45 million contract is structured so the Bears could cut him for $2.5 million next spring, and with a highly-touted player developing behind him, he may not have as much leeway as his contract would appear to give him. As Glennon put it in May: “This is my year. There are no guarantees in the NFL.” The 27-year-old is well aware this year is his best opportunity to prove, either to the Bears or the rest of the league, that he’s capable of being a successful starting quarterback. That process begins in earnest this week. 

2. Mitch Trubisky

While it remains unlikely that Trubisky will be the Bears’ Week 1 starter, if he proves to be better than Glennon at the end of August…why would he not be the starter? It’s not a simple yes or no question, given Trubisky has to learn a largely different offense than the one he ran in college (unlike Philadelphia’s No. 2 pick, Carson Wentz, a year ago) and only started 13 games since leaving high school in Mentor, Ohio. But it’s the job of John Fox and his coaching staff to win games, and if they come to a consensus that Trubisky gives them a better chance of winning, then it would make sense for him to start. What’s more likely in reach for Trubisky during training camp is showing enough to the coaching staff to lay the foundation for him to play in 2017, either as a substitute or as a starter later in the season. 

3. Kevin White

Aside from the quarterbacks, it’s hard to think of a player with more to prove than White. It’s too early to label White a bust, given those two leg injuries limited him four games in his first two years, but the Bears at least need him to be healthy this year to start to figure out what they have in the former seventh overall pick. White was targeted 36 times before suffering his season-ending injury last year and averaged 5.19 yards per target, which was the third-lowest average among receivers with at least 35 targets in 2016. That's surprising for a guy who was drafted with such good speed, so not only will White have to prove he can stay healthy, but he'll have to prove he can be more productive within the Bears' offense. 

4. Leonard Floyd

While White may have the most to prove, Floyd probably has the highest expectations placed upon him in 2017. Floyd’s 7 1/2 sacks last year were promising, and he appears to be past the scary post-concussion malaise he suffered in January and February. If Floyd grows into a double-digit sack guy for the Bears this year, he could be the catalyst for some significant improvements for the entire defense (a better pass rush begets more opportunities for interceptions, etc.). But he’ll also have to prove the issues that led to those two concussions last year — chiefly, poor tackling form — are a thing of the past, and that he’s able to make that Year 1 to Year 2 leap the Bears think he can. 

5. Kyle Fuller

Fuller faces an uphill climb to make the Bears’ 53-man roster, so what he’s trying to prove may be of more value to finding a post-Chicago landing spot. Vic Fangio’s pointed comments about Fuller’s willingness (or lack thereof) to play last year cast doubt on his future, but he’s still still here after being neither cut nor traded in the offseason. The Bears declined Fuller's fifth-year option earlier this year, though, so training camp may be Fuller's last chance at sticking in the NFL, either with the Bears or elsewhere. 

Bullard a prime example of how, why and where Bears can improve

Bullard a prime example of how, why and where Bears can improve

This Bears rebuild has taken longer than expected. Ideally, in year three of a GM/head coach tandem, they should be contending for the playoffs. 

That’s not to say the 2017 Bears can’t. It’s just unlikely. They don’t have enough players opponents have to gameplan for. They don’t have the depth to overcome key injuries. When franchises get on a winning roll, it’s when they have enough of those studs on both sides of the ball, and have the depth to avoid as many emergencies as possible. And that happens when second- and third-year players make a jump in their play.

Offensively, we saw an impressive jump by Cam Meredith, but another left leg injury still have us wondering exactly what Kevin White is, and how good he can be. Jeremy Langford’s growth was stunted by his ankle injury. Second-year center Hroniss Grasu missed the entire year. On the defensive side, we never got to see if Kyle Fuller could’ve proven his first-round status in his third year. Safety Adrian Amos started another full season, but is now in a battle to do the same a third straight year. We can see star qualities in Eddie Goldman, but how much of a difference-maker can he be by remaining on the field? We’ll learn the same about Leonard Floyd if he can do that this fall. And there are a handful of other second-year players we’ll be watching, from Deon Bush to Deiondre Hall to Cre’Von LeBlanc. There’s also 2016 third-round pick Jonathan Bullard, who learned what it took to become a 3-4 defensive end in the NFL.

“It was okay. I got about 17 snaps a game,” Bullard said of his rookie season during last month’s minicamp. “That’s not what I wanted coming in. But it is what is. I want to move on to the next year and hopefully be able to help this team in a big way.”

Rookie seasons for every player lay the groundwork. How high their ceiling goes starts to get established in year two, between the player’s effort, and getting coached-up correctly.

“They asked me to gain a few pounds. I was like 282 last year, and right now I’m at 296, so hopefully that helps me, said Bullard. “I’m just trying to make all this solid and not lose my burst that got me here. So I’m looking forward to it. I got a year under my belt now, I know what they expect. I’m gonna be ready.”

Part of Bullard taking things upon himself was hooking up with a former defensive end, from the same alma mater, who happens to be fourth in franchise history in sacks (albeit in a 4-3 scheme): CSN’s very own Bears analyst, Alex Brown.

“We saw each other at the Florida spring game and we kind of linked up and put in some work at his facility down the road,” Bullard explained. “We’ve met up quite a few times, just working on little things. He’s just trying to give me a better understanding of the game, and some of the veteran things he knows that I want to incorporate into my game.”

So what kind of a teacher is Alex?

“He’s alright. I make him him jump in there. I tell him he’s not that old.”

And while Pace didn’t make the big splash in free agency as he tries to match up salary with his grades for players, Bullard has to prove he’s now better than last year’s starter, Mitch Unrein, as well as a hungry fellow former Gator, Jaye Howard, who was brought in on a “prove it” one-year deal after being cut just before the draft by Kansas City.

“As far as him being a Gator, it’s exciting. But it’s a competition. He’s gonna come in and try to win the starting job, and I’m gonna do the same. It’s just gonna have to be a friendly competition when training camp comes, and may the best man win.”

Let this, and many other Bourbonnais battles, begin.