Bears Week 4 OTA Primer

The final Chicago Bears OTA practice of 2013 open to the media will be conducted at Halas Hall tomorrow afternoon. Here are five questions we'll be looking to answer during the session.

Is Evan Rodriguez present and active?

As most already know, Chicago Bears fullback Evan Rodriguez was arrest for driving under the influence this past Friday. It was his second run-in with the law in as many months, after he was charged with disorderly intoxication and resisting arrest in March. His future is somewhat nebulous with the club and Bears brass could be considering whether to keep him, waive him or trade him.

Despite his stupidity this offseason, it's unlikely he'll be cut, as he's just too valuable on offense at this point. Chicago's coaching staff has no one they can use to adequately fill his do-everything role.

So how will they handle Rodriguez just a few days after his DUI? Will he be on the field or will he be completely absent from practice? If he is on the field, is he still working with the first team or has he been dropped down on the depth chart? Have his duties on offense changed in any way?

The manner in which the Bears deal with Rodriguez these next few months, a player who has been nothing but bad press since being drafted in the fourth round last year, will show us a lot about how Emery and Trestman will deal with off-the-field nonsense going forward.

How is Cutler's footwork?

To this point, I haven't focused too much on Jay Cutler's footwork and whether or not he's progressing under new QB coach Matt Cavanaugh. With any reclamation project –and yes, that's what this is – patience is necessary. Cutler has ignored his footwork for years now, so he's not going to improve overnight.

Yet Cavanaugh has now had more than three weeks with Cutler at OTAs, as well as three days of voluntary minicamp. That should have been plenty of time to get Cutler back on the right track. This is a player-improvement project that will require baby steps but now is the time for those first steps to become apparent.

Is he using better balance, with wider strides, in his drop back? Is he keeping the ball nearer to his neck and not around his waist? And, most importantly, is he consistently throwing off his front foot? Signs of improvement now could portend continued development going forward.

How is Onobun's hamstring?

Tight end Fendi Onobun has been the second-most impressive player at his position this offseason, behind only Martellus Bennett. Onobun has earned occasional first-team reps and has shown solid hands and an ability to make catches in traffic. Up until two weeks ago, he was on the fast track to a spot on the final 53-man roster.

Yet during the second team practice open to the media 13 days ago, Onobun came up limp grabbing his left leg around the hamstring area. The trainers wrapped his leg in ice and he sat out the rest of practice.

Onobun has a legitimate shot at being the club's second tight end this year, spelling Bennett on occasion as both a blocker and pass catcher. He's only in his third season playing football and didn't pick up the game until his senior season in college, after playing four years of basketball. As such, he may finally be turning the corner and could develop into a competent backup.

But only if he can stay healthy.

He may be talented but he needs to stay on the field to make an impact. If he's still not practicing tomorrow, that means he's been sitting for two weeks, which won't bode well for him heading into training camp.

Additionally, sixth-round defensive end Cornelius Washington also missed practice two weeks ago. He cannot afford to miss significant time, as he's currently buried on the depth chart.

It would also be nice to finally see Brandon Marshall on the field.

How have the offense and defense progressed?

This offseason began with fundamental installations of system and play design for Marc Trestman and his new coaching staff. Through voluntary minicamps and OTAs, the coaching staff has increased its frequency of more complicated schemes. In particular, the defense worked on its blitz packages two weeks ago, with nearly every snap during 11-on-11s incorporating some type of extra rusher. The offense has been very basic up to this point, working mainly on short passes and simple zone runs.

So where do we stand two weeks later? On offense, are we going to see more downfield passes or run plays that don't employ basic zone blocking principles? Will we see any goal-line installations, something we've yet to witness so far?

On defense, will we witness any three-man fronts, possibly with Shea McClellin acting as rover? Is there a safety blitz concealed in defensive coordinator Mel Tucker's playbook? Is Corey Wootton still being rotated to defensive tackle on passing downs?

We'll be paying close attention to formation and scheme to see just how far the offense and defense have progressed over the past month.

Has Greene slimmed down?

During rookie minicamp, fourth-round linebacker Khaseem Greene was noticeably bigger than his collegiate playing weight of 241. The added weight appears to have sapped him of his quickness and change-of-direction ability, as the former collegiate safety has struggled in man coverage.

The Bears aren't necessarily counting on Greene to be an impact player this season but the weight gain is a concern and could indicate a lack of commitment. Shedding those extra pounds quickly would help him prove he's dedicated to his craft.


Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of BearReport.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. Follow Bear Report on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Bear Report Web site or magazine, click here.
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