Game plan: Penetrate Atlanta's O-Line

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Game plan: Penetrate Atlanta's O-Line

Tuesday, Sept. 6, 2011
Posted: 11:00 p.m.

By JohnMullin
CSNChicago.com BearsInsider Follow@CSNMoonMullin
Chris Harris wasnt in the mood for a scary movie when he put in the video of the Atlanta Falcons offense. But thats what he got.

It wasnt Matt Ryan passing to Tony Gonzalez or Roddy White, all three of them Pro Bowl selections and the kinds of individuals that cost secondaries, even a veteran safety, good nights sleep. It wasnt just Michael Turner running his way into the Pro Bowl.

It was the big guys bearing down on and picking on little people. Like veteran safeties.

We put on the tape and the first thing we notice is their offensive linemen 10, 12 15 yards downfield, Harris said, shaking his head. Last season and even in preseason, their line plays hard, very aggressive, and they finish blocks.

Curiously perhaps, the Falcons have not run the ball all that well against the Bears, who have never beaten them since Ryan arrived. But the Falcons may in fact be a case study supporting the kind of offensive game planning that worked for the Bears over the final nine regular-season games of 2010.

And that smash-mouth approach to running the football that was the first thing Harris thought of when talking about the Atlanta offense that ranked No. 5 in scoring.

The Bears have never sacked Ryan in the two games against the former No. 3 pick of the 2008 draft. Part of the reason: The Falcons have turned those offensive linemen loose, 30 times (vs. 30 pass plays) in the 22-20 win in 2008, 23 times (vs. 33 passes) in 2009. If you want to protect the passer, make pass rushers think about the run, and the Bears have.

They run the ball and obviously Matt Ryan is becoming an elite quarterback in this league, Harris said. Hes got the arm, hes a smart guy, and hes smart enough to get it out of his hands and to his playmakers. Theyve been a good running team and now have good skill position players just about everywhere.

The Bears virtually owned the Falcons when Michael Vick ran, literally, the Atlanta offense. In the three Bears-Falcons games of the Vick years, the Falcons scored 3 points twice and 13 once. They have scored 22 and 21 in the two Ryan games.

If it starts up front for the Falcons, it does as well for the Bears on defense, where unprovens Mario Addison and Nick Reed, at 248 and 252 pounds, were kept on the defensive-end depth chart because of their pass rushing. Whether either, if active, can stand up to offensive linemen who consistently get downfield to second and third levels, remains to be seen.

I see a lot of guys that can play, that fill our system, said defensive end Julius Peppers. We have explosive and quick guys, that's what we try and have up front. We're not necessarily big guys, heavy guys, so I see all the guys that we have fit into the system.

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.

Can Deiondre' Hall overcome on- and off-field hurdles to make an impact with Bears?

Can Deiondre' Hall overcome on- and off-field hurdles to make an impact with Bears?

Rookie Deiondre' Hall flashed in the preseason a year ago, leading the Bears coaching staff and fans to believe they found something amidst their trio of 2016 fourth round draft picks. 

He’s hoping to do the same this August after overcoming one physical hurdle, while waiting to see if he can get past a legal hurdle he created for himself.

Let’s start on the field, where, just days after his first NFL interception in the fourth game last season, he sustained an ankle injury in practice, sidelining him for two months. Once his walking boot and scooter were finally put away, he was active for the final four games. But what progress he’d been making on the field was difficult to recapture.

“Just coming off the injury, there was a little rust here and there, but the training staff here’s great and I had to push through it,” Hall said at last week’s minicamp in Lake Forest after he was one of numerous Bears hit by the injury bug, but not one of the 19 who wound up on Injured Reserve. “(I was) getting comfortable with the defense and in myself playing with those guys out there, getting the opportunity in the red zone and making plays. But the injury kinda sucked because I haven’t really had an opportunity to play since Week 5, so I’m not necessarily starting fresh.”

As the offseason unfolded, Hall was informed the coaching staff was going to try him at safety, if not permanently, then as an option for the 6-foot-2, 201-pound Northern Iowa product. 

But Hall’s not totally foreign to the position. He was a free safety his first year in college, then transitioned to outside linebacker/nickel as a sophomore, moved to cornerback as a junior before breaking his hand his senior year, playing through it back where he started at safety. So the decision wasn’t a big deal, especially if it enhances his chances to get on the field. But his preference?

“Defense. Opportunity,” Hall responded. “You get in where you fit in and the more you can do, the better it is for the team. If opportunity presents itself at corner, then I’m at corner. But right now at safety, I’m making strides (there) and keep pushing for that.”

“We’re gonna float him back and forth,” defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said last month, after the Bears signed free agent cornerbacks Prince Amukamara and Marcus Cooper in the off-season, while Bryce Callahan and Cre’Von LeBlanc are expected to battle for slot duty and former first-rounder Kyle Fuller and veterans Johnthan Banks and B.W. Webb hope to impress. “He (Hall) had some experience there in college. When it comes down to picking your team and you’re taking nine or 10 DBs, if someone’s got versatility to play both of those spots, that helps, so we’re gonna see if he’s one of those guys.”

But before Hall gets back to work in Bourbonnais, he’ll find out if he has some other dues to pay. Hall was back at his alma mater’s Cedar Falls campus March 26th when he and a former UNI teammate were arrested outside a bar called Sharky’s. Police had responded to a call, and by the time all was said and done, Hall needed to be tased before being arrested on charges of public intoxication, interference (with an arrest), and disorderly conduct. 

The case was continued late last month and Hall’s jury trial is scheduled for July 11th. Pending the outcome, he could face disciplinary action from the team and the NFL. He’s told his side of the story to Bears management and while expressing remorse for putting himself in the situation, Hall says it wasn’t in character and feels confident in what the outcome will be.

“People make mistakes and the truth always comes out,” the 23-year-old said, adding the situation isn’t weighing on his mind or affected his preparation in off-season workouts. “You gotta let people make their own mistakes. I won’t shed light but the truth always comes out, and (I’ve learned) just don’t take anything for granted.”

“My main focus is football and keep pushing to make strides to become good, and great.”

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: