Miller: Bears should beware Rivera, Panthers

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Miller: Bears should beware Rivera, Panthers

Saturday, Oct. 1, 2011Posted: 11:15 a.m.

By Jim Miller
CSNChicago.com

Im nervous for the Bears against the Panthers. Sure, everyone wants to point to first year head coach Ron Rivera, a rookie QB, blah, blah, blah, but here are the facts:

Ron Rivera knows the Bears! He specifically knows the Bears defense and how to attack it. If you think for a minute he was wasting his time in Carolinas defensive meetings all week, you are sorely mistaken. It is not the Bears offense that can hurt the Carolina Panthers chances at Soldier field; it is the defense that could turn the tides on Lake Michigan.

Offensively

The Bears have proven through three games they cannot make adjustments at the line of scrimmage as per Jay Cutlers testimony to the media last week. Thus, its all on the Bears' play caller, Mike Martz.

The Bears will see atypical hybrid 3-4 fronts and blitzes (like Cats = corner blitz) you dont normally see. Rivera does it by necessity to compete.

Chico, in his first year as head coach, does not have the personnel defensively to do what he envisions so hes flexible to the talent inherited. Furthermore, the Panthers are weak in their front seven defensively. Carolina has young defensive tackles and a linebacking core decimated by injuries.

In order to make up for the lack of pass rush, Ron sends an extra defender versus run and pass. The Bears struggled again last week vs. press coverage. It disrupts timing in the passing game by not allowing receivers off the line of scrimmage. They will continue to see it until they beat it. It was why Jay was waiting at the top of his drop to throw the ball. Remember when the greatest show on turf lost to New England in the Super Bowl? Belichick used press coverage.

When Rivera sends an extra defender, Martz will not know when or who it will be, so this should be an interesting game to see if Martz again can predict fronts and coverages through his play calling.

Nobody has blown Carolina out this year so far. Opponents like Arizona are challenged and so is Jacksonville -- whom Carolina beat for their first win -- but even the World Champion Green Bay Packers had to come from behind to win.

Those three teams have experienced coaches and schemes in place at their respective organizations. How is Carolina hanging with them with a new offense and defense installed in a lockout season? The answer is coaching.

Run the Ball!

The Panthers are a far cry from what they once were up front defensively. They have young, inexperienced players who are gap sound no matter if it is 3-4 or 4-3 front. The Bears have to wear them out running the football.

The problem is, which blocking rules are the Bears going to use? 3-4 rules or 4-3 rules? Again, it comes down to Martz predicting the front and if Martz can call the perfect play to take advantage.

There are a plethora of Go Plays he can call for all fronts, but the Bears running game has been stuck in the mud assignment-wise vs. any front. Physically, the Bears were overmatched to run the ball against Green Bays 3-4 defensive front. Now, the question is will they be overmatched with Carolina's jack-of-all-trades scheme?
Defense

The Bears locker room is prideful and they are facing a rookie QB in Cam Newton. The Bears defense even confused Aaron Rodgers a week ago into a Brian Urlacher interception. It looked open, and then it was not.

Therefore, the Panthers are going to press the issue running the football. They have a nice offensive line and quality running backs. Ron knows how to beat a Tampa 2 defense. It is by getting physical for four quarters to wear down a speedy undersized defense.

The Bears are always good at stripping the football, which Ron has addressed all week in practice for RBs DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart to beware. The gameplan is on them, not Cam!

I am nervous for the Bears. Last year, the offensive football displayed got worse before it finally got better after a bye week. The same issues exist in now Year Two of Martzs system. This game against Carolina, like the offense, will be a struggle.

Jim Miller, an 11-year former NFL quarterback, is a Comcast SportsNet Bears analyst who can be seen each week on U.S. Cellular Bears Postgame Live. Miller, who spent five seasons with the Bears, analyzes current Chicago QB Jay Cutler in his "15 on 6" blog on CSNChicago.com and can be followed on Twitter @15miller.

John Fox, Bears coaches balancing workload with injury risk as training camp convenes

John Fox, Bears coaches balancing workload with injury risk as training camp convenes

Bears players and coaches have been preparing for 2016 intermittently for the past several months. That said, the 2016 “season” effectively begins on Thursday with the Bears holding their first practice of training camp, one that will be open to the public even though players will work the first two days without pads.

From now until early next year, the Bears will have no more than one day off at a time, save the off-week leading up to no game on Nov. 6, and other than perhaps a bonus day off here and there, such as after the Thursday, Oct. 20 night game at Green Bay, after which coach John Fox may grant his team a couple added days off, depending on the performance in Green Bay.

[SHOP: Gear up Bears fans!]

Pads come on for the first time since last Jan. 3 against the Detroit Lions as of Saturday’s practice. Thus begins the ongoing balancing act for coaches to maximize the amount of productive time within the parameters allowed under the collective bargaining agreement, all in the context of heat and conditions of contact.

“You’ve got to get your team ready for battle and you’ve got to make sure you’ve got guys ready to go to battle with,” Fox said. “So it’s a fine line, getting ready for football.”

The Bears already have had offseason injuries to guard Ted Larsen and wide receiver Marquess Wilson, in addition to a strained hamstring for rookie running back Jordan Howard and veterans like Pernell McPhee (knee) coming off surgery.

“It’s a combative game and injuries are part of it,” Fox said. “You’ve got to have some good fortune, and some good practice habits. That way you’re getting better and more physical, yet not to the point where you’re losing guys. Obviously with the reduction of our offseason and the things we used to do as coaches, I don’t think doing less of that is the right idea.”

[RELATED: Going to Bears Training Camp ’16 in Bourbonnais? Remember these four tips]

Training camp this year includes one of the shortest off-site stretches ever, with 10 sessions at Olivet Nazarene University in Bourbonnais and one at Soldier Field on Sat. Aug. 6.

Day, Date, Practice Time (CT)

Wednesday, July 27: Report day

Thursday, July 28: 9:35 a.m. practice (no pads)

Friday, July 29: 11:15 a.m. practice (no pads)

Saturday, July 30: 9:35 a.m. practice

Sunday, July 31: 11:15 a.m. practice

AUGUST

Day, Date, Practice Time (CT)

Monday, Aug. 1: 9:35 a.m. practice

Tuesday, Aug. 2: Off day

Wednesday, Aug. 3: 11:15 a.m. practice

Thursday, Aug. 4: 9:35 a.m. practice

Friday, Aug. 5: 11:15 a.m. practice

Saturday, Aug. 6: 12:30 p.m. Meijer Chicago Bears Family Fest (Soldier Field)

Sunday, Aug.7: Off day

Monday, Aug. 8: 11:15 a.m. practice

Tuesday, Aug. 9: 9:35 a.m. practice/final open practice

Wednesday, Aug. 10: Off day

Preseason Schedule:

Thursday, Aug. 11: Bears vs. Denver Broncos, 7 p.m.

Thursday,  Aug. 18: Bears at New England Patriots, 7 p.m.

Saturday, Aug. 27: Bears vs. Kansas City Chiefs, 12 p.m.

Thursday, Sept. 1: Bears at Cleveland Browns, 7 p.m.

Going to Bears Training Camp ’16 in Bourbonnais? Remember these four tips

Going to Bears Training Camp ’16 in Bourbonnais? Remember these four tips

After covering some 25 Bears training camps spanning both Bourbonnais and Platteville, this CSNChicago.com reporter has gleaned some tips for getting the most out of the fan experience:

Appreciate the effort:

A lot of the young men you’ll be watching are living playing to realize a dream they’ve had since they were as young as some of the youngest fans. They are competing for jobs every day, every snap, and even going against teammates, the effort expended is worthy of the utmost respect. A guarantee: You WILL see something spectacular, whether from a star or some young hopeful who will leave it all and then some on that practice field. Enjoy the moment.

Be polite:

If you want autographs from players, your chances improve with a little courtesy. “Hey, Cutler…” and waving a pen and program at the Bears quarterback does not play nearly as well as “Jay, Jay…” or, if you’re a young fan and really want to stand out, “Mr. Cutler, Mr. Cutler…” Players don’t always get to hear a lot of “polite.” It doesn’t guarantee a signing, but understand that there’s no way players can sign every request and still have fully functioning limbs. And if a player doesn’t stop to sign, it’s not a snub. Most players sign every other day, so this just might be their off day for signing.

Plus, if it’s post-practice, remember that these players have just gone through at least two hours of beyond-max-effort work, wearing equipment that is anything but air-conditioned and weighs as much as a small child, and getting off their feet is a necessary survival skill.

[SHOP: Buy a Jay Cutler jersey here]

Go early:

The folks at Olivet Nazarene University do a truly amazing job of crowd and traffic control, but depending on the size of the crush, particularly on peak days, you may miss some field time getting into the parking lots if you’re getting there close to the start of practice. For another thing, players are typically on the field well ahead of the scheduled start times for practice, so you’ll be seeing players working and getting loosened up if you’re there early.

Understand the cadence and order:

Practices are not continuous scrimmaging and hitting. For one thing, that’s physically not possible, or smart. The Bears have individual sessions, then depending on the day, may come together for a “live” run scrimmage without receivers, followed by a less intense session, maybe some special teams, before or after very live pass-protection and receiver-DB head-to-heads, a break, then finishing with 11-on-11 “team” sessions.

Should the Bears bring Devin Hester back to Chicago?

Should the Bears bring Devin Hester back to Chicago?

The Atlanta Falcons released kick return specialist Devin Hester on Tuesday after just two seasons with the team. 

The former Bear and four-time Pro Bowl selection, who's best known for being one of the NFL's most dangerous return men, is now in the market for a new NFL job. 

So that begs the question, should the Bears entertain the idea of bringing Hester back to Chicago in 2016?

Hester, 33, has an NFL-record 20 touchdown returns over his 10 year career. However, he only had one return touchdown during his two years in Atlanta, and collected just two receiving touchdowns and one rushing score. 

It's safe to say the Bears aren't interested in Hester as a receiver, and who knows how much gas he has left in the tank, but he has certainly made an impact during his time in the Windy City.