At his weekly press conference, Chicago Bears offensive coordinator Mike Martz talked about the development of his group as a whole. He said this season, his second straight in Chicago, has been much easier for everyone in terms of picking up the offense.
"We feel like we should be able to continue to improve from where we left off [last season], and make a quantum leap in some other areas," Martz said. "The number of receivers we have now, and the quality they are, we think we'll be much better there. [Tight end] Kellen [Dadvis] has stepped to the forefront and really established himself as not just a blocker but a pretty dynamic receiver. He's done a great job. There are some things coming out of [practice] that get you a little excited."
One of the surprise stars of camp has been former Ohio State wide receiver Dane Sanzenbacher, who has taken a number of reps with the first team. Martz said he's very happy with Sanzenbacher's progress since the start of camp.
"We've made him play about three or four different positions," Martz said. "He's done a good job in the slot [as] our nickel receiver, and of course he plays X too. He's been very steady. He's got real tired legs right now. So we're going to back off some of his reps a little bit tonight because he's taken so many reps. He's been very good about his mistakes, very few mistakes. We're pleased with him. He's got a chance."
Martz said he hasn't made any final decisions regarding each receiver's role in the offense and that the preseason games should help each define their place on the team.
WR Johnny Knox
One of the biggest camp battles has been for the starting split-end position between Johnny Knox and Roy Williams. Knox led the team last season in receptions (51) and receiving yards (960) yet is now fighting to keep his job as a starter. Last week, he expressed frustration over his decreased number of reps.
"Johnny is very talented," Martz said. "He's very young and he's still learning how to play. Guys like Johnny have just got to learn how to be consistent. He certainly has the ability."
"The system is really different than what [Barber is] used to," said Martz. "The [pass] protections are really different and I think our runs are a little different. But he's getting used to it. I think the first few days he was a little tentative but he's gotten past that now. The last couple practices he's really made progress."
Taylor was signed to a large contract last offseason. He didn't live up to it by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, his 2.4 yards per carry were the fewest of any running back in the NFL with more than 100 carries in a season since the AFL/NFL merger.
For his part, Taylor isn't worried about the players around him.
"Every year is a competition," Taylor said. "This is a part of the game of football. It's a business."
When asked if he felt he should be the first backup, Taylor said, "It's not my decision to make."
Toward the end of lunch, starting defensive tackle Anthony Adams walked out of the dining hall with a walking boot on his left leg. He said it was a calf injury and that it wasn't very serious. Yet it's unlikely he'll play this Saturday.
"It's frustrating but it's part of football. You're not just going to have a clean [bill of health] every time," Adams said. "You can't climb the mountain if it's smooth."
Adams said the crowded defensive tackle position is going to make everyone along the defensive line better.
"It's going to create a lot of competition. Guys are going to give it their all every day out on the practice field and even out when we play the games. So coaches are going to have some tough decisions to make," he said. "We've got a lot of good guys that can play, so it's just going to make us that much better."
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Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of BearReport.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. To read him every day, visit BearReport.com and become a Chicago Bears insider.