Does rookie safety Brock Vereen have a legit chance to start for the Bears in 2014? -- @iamheerdegen from Twitter
I think Vereen has as good a shot as any of the other young safeties that have come in and started for the Bears in the last five-plus seasons. Why not? His primary competition at free safety is going to come from Chris Conte and M.D. Jennings but I think this is a two-horse race between Vereen and Conte. A fourth-round pick from Minnesota, Vereen is a sharp young guy so he’s picking up concepts and learning the defense. Defensive backs coach Jon Hoke wanted to see if he could handle running with the first team in OTAs and minicamp and he passed that test. Now, it will be a greater challenge when pads go on. It would be a misjudgment to think the Bears have solved issues at the position with Vereen. We don’t know how he will hold up and whether he can play consistently over a long period of time. But he’s absolutely in the running for a starting job.
How does Cornelius Washington look so far? Was releasing Israel Idonije a vote of confidence in him and/or David Bass? -- @StartKyleOrton from Twitter
The ratio of mailbag questions to snaps played last season for Washington is off the charts. He was on the field for 10 defensive snaps and I seriously doubt the release of Idonije had anything to do with the sixth-round pick from a year ago. It’s going to be a battle for Washington to make the roster as he’s consistently running with the second and third team. Bass showed some upside last year and his presence probably played into the thinking when it came to Idonije. It was going to be a challenge for Idonije to make the roster and with two draft picks at defensive tackle, the odds were stacked against him. Sometimes, teams want to release veterans earlier rather than later in the process out of respect and in order to improve their chances of catching on elsewhere. Bass has a good chance to make the team and contribute in the rotation. I’d call Washington a long shot unless he puts together a performance in training camp we haven’t yet seen.
What do the Bears plan to do with Shea McClellin? Is he going to mainly blitz or will he be asked to drop into coverage? -- @Ianv147 from Twitter
It looks like McClellin is ticketed for some type of role at strong side linebacker. Linebackers coach Reggie Herring called that his most natural position. So, you’re going to see everything that comes with that position. Some blitzing. A role in the run defense and occasionally dropping into coverage. The Bears thought McClellin was one of their more productive pass rushers and if he can improve from different angles as a strong-side linebacker, he can help the defense. One thing the Bears looked at a little in the offseason program was playing McClellin in the base package and pulling him out in the nickel unit when Jon Bostic got on the field.
How did Marquees Wilson look in OTAs? Able to catch the ball in traffic? Beat press off the line? Gain separation? -- @DanoCoach26 from Twitter
Wilson looked bigger, stronger and not surprisingly more confident during the offseason program. I don’t know where the ceiling is for him this season, especially with such talented players as Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery ahead of him, but I think he’s gaining confidence from quarterback Jay Cutler and that bodes well.
How is rookie quarterback David Fales looking? -- @RobbSilverstein from Twitter
Fales got limited reps during the offseason program. If he really shines in training camp and preseason, he could potentially claim one of the final spots on the 53-man roster. It wouldn’t surprise me if the Bears looked at him as a possible practice squad player. More and more teams like the roster flexibility created by carrying only two quarterbacks on the 53, and I doubt Fales will be in the running for the No. 2 job as a rookie.
Who is poised for a surprise break-out year? -- @MattOB2 from Twitter
My crystal ball is in the repair shop but I can list a couple players that could really give the Bears a boost with a big season. Let’s start with defensive tackle Stephen Paea. I don’t know that a big season from Paea would necessarily be a surprise, but it would be a big development for the defense and mean a lot to him in a contract season. Pressure is on him with draft picks Ego Ferguson and Will Sutton in place. If Ferguson or Sutton step up, that would also fortify the front. Wide receiver Chris Williams can be a real asset if he’s half as productive in the return game as he was playing in the CFL. Williams has a wide-open shot to win a role and a big season would be huge. If one of the backup running backs Michael Ford or Ka’Deem Carey can carve out a productive role in the offense, that would also fill a need.
Since there are three kickers and one punter in the Hall of Fame, don't long snappers deserve HOF recognition? Hugely important to kicker and punter success. -- @rushing012 from Twitter
Ray Guy’s long wait for the Pro Football Hall of Fame ended this year and he will be enshrined this summer in Canton, Ohio. There is only one true kicker in the Hall of Fame: Jan Stenerud. Lou Groza was one of the finest offensive tackles of his era, as well as a kicker, and George Blanda’s place in the Hall of Fame was secured more by his work as a quarterback. I don’t see any long snappers gaining entry into the Hall of Fame any time soon. A better question would be can a return specialist like Devin Hester be voted in? I think Mannelly would tell you he would rather see his father-in-law Tommy John voted into the baseball Hall of Fame. I don’t have a vote, but I certainly think John’s 288 career victories and the pioneering surgery he had to continue his career makes him worthy.
With new players on the defense, will we see less blitzing from Mel Tucker? -- @SvpEmail from Twitter
Ideally, you want the front four to generate a strong pass rush on its own, allowing the defense to drop seven defenders into coverage. That is the goal of every team. The Bears were middle of the pack last season in terms of pressures. According to Pro Football Focus, they blitzed 30.6 percent of the time, which ranked 17th. The Cardinals were atop the list at 49.2 percent and the Jaguars were 32nd at 16.7 percent. The Super Bowl champion Seahawks were 28th at 21.4 percent. With defensive ends Jared Allen and Lamarr Houston, the Bears should have a chance to be productive with their front four.
Your thoughts on cornerback Al Louis-Jean? Did he show something good in OTAs? Do you think he can grab that last spot as a defensive back? -- @gallo07 from Twitter
Louis-Jean got his hands on a few balls during practices that I saw. He’s got good size at 6-foot-1, 187 pounds, but he’s raw and doesn’t come with a lot of experience from college. Louis-Jean started as a true freshman at Boston College, missed his sophomore season due to injury and was not in the Eagles’ starting lineup when last season ended. He left school with two years of eligibility remaining and was not drafted. He’s a long shot to make the roster. The Bears probably will keep five cornerbacks and maybe six on the 53-man roster. Count Tim Jennings, Charles Tillman and Kyle Fuller as locks. After them, Kelvin Hayden, Sherrick McManis and Isaiah Frey are in the thick of the competition. The best shot for a young player like Louis-Jean might be on the practice squad.
What are the chances of punter Tress Way beating out Pat O'Donnell? -- @NRDubya from Twitter
“I think it’s going to be a heck of a competition,” special teams coordinator Joe DeCamillis said. “I think when we drafted Pat, for whatever reason, Tress really picked his business up. He’s really punted well and it’s going to be a heck of a competition.”
I have to believe O’Donnell is the man to beat based on the draft pick investment. Could Way win the job? Sure, that is possible. But he would probably have to be much better in training camp and preseason to nudge out a draft pick. Way displayed a big leg last summer but was inconsistent. I’m sure he’s going to be more consistent this time around.
Not all drafted punters stick, though. O’Donnell was the only punter drafted this year and in the previous five drafts, 11 punters were selected. Brent Bowden, selected by the Buccaneers in 2010, had a very brief stay in the NFL. Zoltan Mesko, also drafted that year, has bounced around to a small handful of teams. Matt Dodge, another 2010 pick, struggled and is not in the league. So, draft status doesn’t make a punter a lock for a job but let’s just say O’Donnell is going to have a leg up on Way.
Do you think Adrian Wilson will be a situational player or an every down player or will he even make the roster? -- @kjarnecke from Twitter
The Bears filled out their 90-man roster last week when they signed two players, including the 34-year-old Wilson, who was a five-time Pro Bowl selection for the Cardinals. Wilson has not played in a regular-season game since 2012 as he suffered a torn Achilles tendon last August as a member of the Patriots. History shows you it is difficult for aging safeties to be contributors and Wilson will turn 35 this season. Based on his age and the serious nature of his injury last year, I don’t know how good his chances are. But the Bears risked nothing in signing him and it cannot hurt to take a look. If Wilson moves well, he’s at least competition for Ryan Mundy, who has been running by himself with the first team at strong safety. Thing is, if Wilson cannot win a starting job, I don’t know if he has value on special teams at this point. Could the Bears keep him as a situational guy and a backup? Sure, that is possible. Wilson is driven to continue his playing career, I know that much, and he passed a physical to get a contract. We’ll see what kind of football shape he is in when the team gets to Bourbonnais. Maybe he turns into a nice surprise. It could be he’s reached the end of the road too.
Hope everyone enjoys their summer. Training camp is coming soon.
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