Chicago Bears

Rookie Enderle believes he's ready to play Sunday

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Rookie Enderle believes he's ready to play Sunday

In his coaches opinions, Nathan Enderles future may not be quite at hand. But as to whether he is ready to step on an NFL field as soon as next Sunday in Minnesota, Enderle doesnt hesitate.

Yeah, I am, he said Thursday.

Quarterbacks are supposed to be confident. Enderle is. And there is one big reason why Enderle, who is working like a No. 2 quarterback this week, is considerably more ready and confident now than even as recently as two weeks ago.

Josh McCown.

Hes going to be a good one, that guy, McCown told CSNChicago.com, nodding toward Enderle.

Long after practice again Thursday, after coaches and teammates, including Caleb Hanie, had gone in and practice equipment was being broken down, McCown and Enderle were still doing passing drills inside the Walter Payton Center.

But Enderle, the only player to be on the Bears 53-man roster all season and play in no games, wasnt the quarterback. He was the tight end. And the wide receiver. All the wide receivers, in fact.

Studying and working off a sheet of paper on the turf, McCown went over different routes, adjustments and decisions, then positioned Enderle to run the routes while McCown went through the play fakes, sometimes from a simulated direct snap, sometimes working from the shotgun. If the pass or the connection was a little off, McCown placed Enderle precisely where the throw was supposed to be caught and threw the pass again.

McCown knows the drill and the real benefits for both players: He played some wide receiver under coordinator Mike Martz back when the two were in Detroit.

Even just running the routes gives me a better idea of depths and understanding why they do certain things and run the routes, and that makes me a better quarterback, Enderle said.

Quarterbacks know all the routes but its good for me to know how theyre run, their landmarks and when they adjust and when they dont. Plus, it helps me stay in shape.

Whither Hanie?

Coaches said to put no stock in the fact that Hanie is not putting in the extra drill time. But where McCown is playing for a job opportunity next year and Enderle is assured of coming back for 2012, Hanie will not be. Hanie did not play in Green Bay and is not expected to get on the field in Minnesota.

Enderle, however, is another matter. If he in fact is not as ready as he believes he is, it ultimately reflects on a lack of player development by coordinator Martz and quarterbacks coach Shane Day.

The Bears are starting McCown because he gives them the best chance to win while at the same time giving them more of a body of work to evaluate for next season.

At this point, Enderle is the obvious play for next season. And if his work ethic even late in week 17 of a lost season is any indication, he may be the best chance to win after McCown as well.

He thinks hes ready, in any case.

Jordan Howard's eye injury keeps him grounded as Bears fly to Arizona

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USA TODAY

Jordan Howard's eye injury keeps him grounded as Bears fly to Arizona

The Bears' best offensive player won't be suiting up in Saturday's preseason game. In fact, he won't even be on the sideline. 

Jordan Howard suffered an eye injury Friday, preventing him from flying with the team to Arizona. 

Although ESPN's Adam Schefter believes it's minor, that's not a good sign for an offense that relies heavily on the run game.

Joining Howard on the inactive list are more key offensive guys: 

- Kyle Long, OL

- Jeremy Langford, RB

- Joshua Bellamy, WR

- Markus Wheaton, WR

That means Mike Glennon, who is embroiled in a growing quarterback controversy, will have his work cut out for him. 

On the defensive side of the ball, the Bears will also be missing some notables: 

- Danny Trevathan, LB

- Mitch Unrein, DL

- Bryce Callahan, DB

- Alex Scearse, LB

- Jonathan Anderson, LB

- Kapron Lewis-Moore, DL

Hopefully Howard and the team can get healthy before the real deal begins because last year's injury-plagued season was certainly no fun. 

How Charles Leno Jr. isn't thinking about the big picture heading into a contract year

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USA Today Sports Images

How Charles Leno Jr. isn't thinking about the big picture heading into a contract year

One of John Fox’s favorite sayings is that the best ability is availability. No player exemplified that line more than left tackle Charles Leno Jr. in 2016. 

Leno played all 1,010 of the Bears’ offensive snaps last year. His effectiveness may not have matched his availability — Pro Football Focus, for what it’s worth, described Leno as being a “below average” starter. The Bears like Leno, though. But enough to give him another contract?

“He’s pretty reliable and dependable,” Fox said. “But we all have room for improvement so I think he’d tell you the same thing.”

For Leno, there’s no time like the present to make those strides. He’s due to hit free agency after this season, and, unless the Bears sign him to a contract extension, will enter a market that last spring saw five left tackles (Riley Reiff, Matt Kalil, Russell Okung, Andrew Whitworth and Kelvin Beachum) sign contracts each including eight-figure guaranteed money. But Leno, who will be 26 this spring, isn’t doing a lot of thinking about what his future could look like beyond this year. 

“It’s in the back of your mind, but at the end of the day I’m trying to go out there and just perfect my craft,” Leno said. “That’s really what I’m trying to do. I’ve been doing that the last two and a half years now. It’s the same routine every day. Just trying to go out there and perfect my craft, things will take care of itself. If I do what I need to do out there, everything will follow.”

For Leno, perfecting his craft means perfecting the basics of being a left tackle. What he rattled off: Placement of hands, base in pass set, staying square, not opening up too early. Being consistent in those areas is what Leno sees as that next step in his development. 

“I think Charles Leno does a really great job focusing attention to detail within his set,” left guard Kyle Long said. “Whether it’s a set angle, his hands or his strike, he always has a plan and he’s somebody that’s athletic enough to recover if he ever does get in a bad situation. It’s a really difficult position to play out there but I think Charles Leno is one of the most athletic guys that’s been around here.” 

Practice has provided an ideal opportunity for Leno to work on all those things, given the array of pass rushers he’s facing from his own defense. 

“I got a very fast guy (Leonard Floyd), I got a very tall, long guy (Willie Young), and I got a short, powerful guy (Lamarr Houston). I mean, what more do I need on a practice field? I got the best guys in the world to go against every day.”

But the point remains: Leno does have room for growth. A fully healthy Bears’ offensive line, with a more consistent Leno, can be one of the best units in the NFL on which the team’s level of production can be based. 

And if that’s the case, Leno can expect a significant payday next spring, either from the Bears or another team. 

“I never expected I would be in this situation, absolutely not,” Leno said. “I’m very blessed, I’m thankful for the opportunity that I’ve got into. But also, it’s a testament to the work I’ve been putting in for myself and I just don’t ever want that to stop. I don’t ever want the work ethic that I have to ever go down because I’ve got some money or because I’m in a contract year. I want to keep improving whether I have the money or not.”