What We Learned at Veteran Camp

The Chicago Bears looked awfully good on defense throughout the three days of veteran minicamp at Halas Hall, but the offense still has major question marks. What did we learn about the team this past weekend? Bear Report had a seat in the front row for all the action and came to five conclusions ...

Rotating Grossman and Orton at quarterback could hurt the offense
On paper, it sounded like a good idea by head coach Lovie Smith. Instead of simply anointing a starter at quarterback like he's done in the past, now he wants to have an actual competition for No. 1 honors. Both Rex Grossman and Kyle Orton have been getting equal time with the starting unit, flip-flopping days throughout the offseason training program and perhaps pushing each other to get better. However, neither is a Pro Bowl signal-caller, and either one of them would need as many reps as possible with the first team in order to get fully prepared for the 17-week slugfest that is life in the NFL. But this way, whether Grossman or Orton wins the job in the end, either will have had half the work usually associated with being The Guy.

This offense is breaking in a new left side of the line, trying to find the running game that has been absent, and looking to replace both starting receivers from a year ago, so waiting until midway through the preseason to name a starting QB will only make things more unsettled.

Williams is the least of this team's worries along the offensive line


OT Chris Williams
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
The offensive line is in rebuilding mode at almost every spot, as Ruben Brown wasn't asked back, Fred Miller was released back in February, and John Tait is in the middle of a switch from left tackle over to the right side. The Bears drafted Chris Williams in the first round with expectations that he will start immediately at left tackle, and all indications point to him being prepared for the assignment. Even though he's only been working with the second-string O-line thus far, Williams can move incredibly well for a 6-5, 315-pound giant and was one of the smarter prospects in the entire draft. Left guard, however, is a big-time concern, as Terrence Metcalf didn't suddenly improve overnight and Josh Beekman has been getting much more action at center these days. And will Olin Kreutz just return to All-Pro form after a disappointing 2007?

Williams should be inserted into the starting lineup once the team gets comfortable down in Bourbonnais, but he won't be as effective as he could be until the situation at left guard gets resolved.

The receiving corps is still looking for a primary target to step forward
Neither Bernard Berrian nor Muhsin Muhammad was especially great this past year, but the passing offense would be better if at least one of them was still on the roster. While Bears fans can expect Marty Booker to step in for Muhammad and be a pretty dependable possession target on short and intermediate routes, replacing Berrian's big-play ability won't be easy. Mark Bradley was supposed to be that guy, but another knee procedure this offseason proves once again that he can't be counted on to stay healthy. Brandon Lloyd looked very good in minicamp, although he has a reputation for not showing up on Sunday and doesn't offer the kind of all-out speed that makes defensive backs worry. Head coach Lovie Smith firmly believes Devin Hester can be a No. 1 receiver in this league, but he's not there yet.

Great quarterbacks can make average receivers look great (see Tom Brady), just like great receivers can make average quarterbacks look great (see Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald). Average quarterbacks throwing to average receivers, on the other hand, is a recipe for disaster.

Brown's instincts are as good as ever despite all that missed time


S Mike Brown
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
Mike Brown is one of the top safeties in the NFL when he's healthy, although he hasn't been able to survive a full slate of 16 games since Beyonce was first "Crazy in Love" with Jay-Z. The one-time Pro Bowler has missed 43 of his last 64 regular season contests, and it's no secret that this defense just isn't the same without him. After tearing an ACL in Week 1 a year ago, he was back on the field this past weekend and running with the first team at free safety – without a knee brace, by the way. And he looked like the Brown of old, that's for sure. He intercepted Grossman on Saturday and then picked off Orton on Sunday, so his incredible nose for the football seems to be working just fine.

It's hard to believe that the Monsters of the Midway fell all the way to 28th in total defense this past season, but having Brown leading the secondary again is the key to getting a once-feared lineup back to Super Bowl-caliber.

Starting Anderson over Brown last year is now officially a mistake
This is not an organization that admits making a mistake very often, as evidenced by Grossman still being in the mix at quarterback. But it appears Alex Brown is atop the depth chart once again at right defensive end, with Mark Anderson moving back to his previous post as a situational pass rusher depending on the down and distance. While Brown may never rack up 12-14 sacks in a season, he does provide consistent pressure on the enemy passer and holds the point of attack very well against the run. Anderson wasn't nearly as effective starting last year as he was the year before as a change-of-pace, highlighted by his failure to defend the ground game. Why the team was so anxious to reverse their roles in 2007 remains a mystery.

If Dan Bazuin comes back from a lost rookie season on injured reserve and makes any impact whatsoever behind Adewale Ogunleye, the Bears should have a solid quartet of D-ends.

John Crist is the Publisher of Bear Report and a member of the Professional Football Writers of America. To read him every day, visit BearReport.com and become a Chicago Bears insider.


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