By Chris Emma–
CHICAGO (CBS) — The renewed energy around the Chicago Bears was brought home to Soldier Field on Saturday as John Fox’s team held a live-tackling scrimmage.READ MORE: Chicago Weather: Rounding Out The Warmest Weekend Of The Winter
Excitement was high as the Bears went to work on their home turf. Fox was pleased with the effort.
“It was a good trial run for everybody — some new players as well as a lot of the coaches,” Fox said.
What stood out from the action? Let’s look at five key observations:
1.) Royal comfort
Jay Cutler and Eddie Royal played just one season in Denver together, the receiver’s rookie year in 2008. You wouldn’t really know it watching the duo in a Bears uniform, because there’s a real on-field chemistry in place.
What Royal provides for Cutler is a comfortable option in the slot, where he will primarily keep within 10 to 15 yards near the line of scrimmage. Royal has quick feet and sure hands, and is able to create mismatches in the defense. Cutler will often look to his top targets, Alshon Jeffery and Martellus Bennett, but Royal is an ideal checkdown if he’s not the first read.
Throughout all of camp, Cutler and Royal have been connecting, with little error along the way. Cutler appreciates having a reliable veteran presence to count on. Once Kevin White returns to the field, Royal can focus more on his role, bringing an important piece to the passing game.
2.) Allen backing it up
Who was the standout of Saturday’s scrimmage? None other than new linebacker Jared Allen. In a small sample size, Allen was disruptive for the Bears’ first-team defense. He had a sack and pass break-up on the afternoon.
More importantly, Allen has shown greater comfort in his new linebacking role. He’s more precise with his steps, smooth in dropping into coverage and has shown he can get around the edge with a blitz.
Plenty of questions surround the 33-year-old Allen, none more pressing than how his body can hold up and whether he can be effective as a linebacker. The former won’t be known until later, but the latter poses some early promise.
3.) A No. 2 concernREAD MORE: MISSING: Khoshaba Dikyanos, 84, Last Seen In Lincoln Square
Early into Jay Cutler’s first drive with the first-team offense, a shout was heard from the lower level of Soldier Field. “Put in Clausen!” It’s August 8 and this was a scrimmage, but Cutler’s critics rarely take a day off. The problem, however, was that Clausen didn’t look overly impressive, nor did rookie Shane Carden.
This continues a common theme from Bourbonnais, where the backup quarterbacks haven’t appeared too impressive. Offensive coordinator Adam Gase pinned that on the surrounding personnel enduring early struggles. But Clausen has missed on a lot of throws and Carden has often looked like a rookie in his first training camp.
Of course, this is just the backup quarterback role, but one snap could lead to the backup becoming the starter. The Bears may be in trouble if this happens.
4.) Sharing is carrying
At the age of 29 and entering the final year of his deal in Chicago, Matt Forte’s value to Ryan Pace and the Bears likely doesn’t look past this 2015 season. Theoretically, Fox can utilize the running back to the end of his shelf life and then Pace bids him farewell after the season.
But the early indications in camp suggest the Bears will utilize a busy backfield, led by veteran Jacquizz Rodgers and rookie Jeremy Langford, the Michigan State product. Both have seen a hefty workload during the early portion of camp, and with Forte getting a day off from Fox, the two backs got plenty of chances with carries.
In Denver, Fox and Gase preferred to use their options in the backfield. However, the unique situation with Forte makes this a bit different.
5.) Big burden for Fuller
Charles Tillman earned the status as the greatest Bears cornerback of all time after his 12-year run in Chicago. He was a reliable piece to the defense and a force in creating turnovers, the unit’s identity for years.
However, Tillman is a Carolina Panther now, and Kyle Fuller must fill the void opposite Tim Jennings. The second-year player had an up-and-down rookie year with the Bears as he filled the void of Tillman’s season-ending injury. But Fuller must be more consistent this time around, because he has an important role.
The Bears invested a first-round pick on Fuller in 2014, and his potential indicates big things could be in the future. For 2015, Fuller just has to do a decent enough job to help the defense. Of course, Tillman-like productivity would be nice, too.
Extra points: Jay Cutler finished the day 1-for-5 passing with his lone strike coming on an 11-yard completion to Eddie Royal … Kicker Robbie Gould seemed to struggle during the special teams portion of practice, missing several routine kicks … Matt Forte and Pernell McPhee were held out for a day of rest.
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