By Adam Hoge-
HALAS HALL (CBS) The Bears’ three-day voluntary mini-camp this week was not only an introduction to Marc Trestman’s offense for onlooking reporters, but it was also an introduction for the players.
The team was given scripts 3-4 days in advance of Tuesday’s first practice and were expected to know about 100 plays by then. Wednesday, another 85 or so were thrown at them. And Thursday, only about 40 plays were run, but the players didn’t have a script — they had to know the plays as they were called.
“They didn’t know which plays were coming out until today. So they had to learn everything,” head coach Marc Trestman said. “I thought they did a very good job.”
So what was learned about the new offense imported from Canada?
Well, for one, you can expect a lot of quick passes. It’s no secret that the Bears have to do a better job of keeping quarterback Jay Cutler upright and this will be the fourth system in Cutler’s five years in Chicago that will try to accomplish that.
“I think you create plays that ask him to get rid of the ball quicker,” offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer said Thursday. “When you ask him all the time, time after time, to throw the ball down the field without changing the protection scheme, he’s going to hold onto the ball at times.”
Kromer didn’t mean that as a shot at the previous systems Cutler ran in Chicago, but the schemes the last two seasons under Mike Martz and Mike Tice often put Cutler in precarious situations.
You can also expect the Bears to throw the ball more. While the running game will still be very much a part of the mix, the offense shown off at the Walter Payton Center this week was much more of a pass-first scheme with more shotgun and less power runs.
The tempo remains a question mark, however. While the Bears are practicing at a fast pace, that doesn’t necessarily mean they will be running a no-huddle offense come fall.
“We think that the game is played fast and that you have to put pressure on yourself in practice so you need to practice fast,” Kromer said. “Whether we speed up the game or slow down the game, we’ll see. But we’re not a no-huddle, quarterback-read team like Chip Kelly (ran) at Oregon.”
But no matter the style and tempo, Trestman’s offense ultimately rides on the arm of Jay Cutler.
“Jay has had ups and downs in his career and we are looking for ups,” Kromer said.
Cutler expressed both excitement and frustration Tuesday when he spoke about learning his fourth system in five years, but the new coaching staff is confident the quarterback will pick up the terminology fast. And if this week’s lack of mistakes in the huddle and at the line of scrimmage are any indication, Cutler will be just fine.
“Jay is a very intelligent person,” Kromer said. “He knows football. He just needs to use our terms and come up with a plan to learn it and he is. I believe that with the in-depth meetings that we’ve had, he’s further along than we thought he’d be at this point.”
As for the offensive line Cutler will play behind, that remains to be seen. The lines are always at a disadvantage until the pads go on at training camp because it’s way too hard to evaluate how players are performing in the trenches when they aren’t hitting each other.
For now, it’s all about getting acquainted with the new playbook and working on technique. The players will be back at Halas Hall next week for more meetings and the limited work they are allowed under the current collective bargaining agreement. And with a new system and a new head coach in charge, getting used to the unfamiliar philosophies is the most important thing right now.
“I think we got a lot better acquainted with how we do business, both in meetings and on the field,” Trestman said.
It was just three days, but the players were very engaged this week and learning quickly, a sign that they’ve bought in.
Count that as Trestman’s first victory with the Bears.
Adam is the Sports Editor for CBSChicago.com and specializes in coverage of the Bears, Blackhawks, White Sox and college sports. He was born and raised in Lincoln Park and attended St. Ignatius College Prep before going off to the University of Wisconsin-Madison where he earned a Journalism degree. Follow him on Twitter @AdamHoge and read more of his columns here.