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Davis expected to have expanded role

Posted by Larry Mayer on July 29, 2012 – 2:36 pm

With Mike Tice replacing Mike Martz as Bears offensive coordinator this season, it’s no secret that tight ends are expected to be more involved in the passing game.

“Tight ends are the No. 1 reads and the No. 2 reads on a lot of passing plays now and a lot of the quick-game stuff will be good for us,” said tight end Kellen Davis.

The likelihood that Davis would be more involved in the offense was a big reason he chose to re-sign with the Bears in March after attracting serious interest elsewhere in free agency.

“I enjoy getting the ball,” Davis said. “It’s always fun and it amps me up, but I like run blocking too, especially if we can open up a big hole. Anytime we can get big plays, I’m up for that, especially when they’re going to me.”

Used predominantly as a blocker and a red-zone threat as a receiver last season, Davis led the Bears with five touchdown receptions while catching only 18 passes for 206 yards.

The 6-7, 267-pounder has appeared in all 64 games with 20 starts in four seasons since arriving in 2008 as a fifth-round pick from Michigan State, catching 28 passes for 300 yards and nine touchdowns.

Coach Lovie Smith is a big Davis supporter, saying during the offseason that he boasts great size, is a great in-line blocker and is “skilled enough as an athlete to be able to move outside and do some things.”

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Marshall benefiting from facing Tillman

Posted by Larry Mayer on July 29, 2012 – 1:47 pm

Bears receivers coach Darryl Drake isn’t the only one helping Brandon Marshall become a better player.

“He’s competing against one of the best corners in the NFL in Charles ‘Peanut’ Tillman, and Peanut is making him work,” Drake said. “It’s only going to make him better as time goes on. I’m very excited about what Peanut’s doing to get Brandon ready.

“Brandon welcomes that challenge and understands and knows that it’s only going to get him better. The thing that I don’t want him to do is get frustrated because Peanut’s going to win some of those battles. I expect [Marshall] to win every battle, but at the same time I have a lot of respect for [Tillman].”

Drake also has a lot of respect for receiver Earl Bennett, who is often overshadowed by Marshall and Devin Hester despite consistently making plays, especially in key third-down situations.

“He’s underappreciated by a lot of people because he’s very consistent,” Drake said. “He does what everybody wants him to do, but I don’t think he will get overlooked in this offense. He’s an integral part, a big part because he does all the subtle things, all the little things. He does all those things right.

“The quarterback has a great rapport with him. He knows where he’s going to be, and the thing about it is Earl’s going to make the play.”

Rookie receiver Alshon Jeffery, a 6-3, 216-pounder, has also made plays early in training camp. Drake especially likes the second-round pick’s size, hands and ability to get in and out of breaks.

“As he learns to use his body and body up people and do those things, he’s only going to get better,” Drake said. “But I do like his ability to catch the football and his ability to run routes. He’s gotten so much better and you still seethe improvement that he’s made since Day 1.”

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Battle for starting spot a ‘dogfight’

Posted by Larry Mayer on July 29, 2012 – 1:15 pm

The most hotly-contested battle for a starting job at training camp is being waged by J’Marcus Webb and Chris Williams at left tackle. The two are dead even and splitting first-team reps in practice.

“It’s going to be a dogfight for those two guys,” said offensive coordinator Mike Tice. “I’m not going to put up with any crap as far as turning [pass-rushers] free and not protecting the quarterback. We have too many athletes to not be able to throw the football explosively.”

Webb, a 2010 seventh-round pick from West Texas A&M, started all 16 games at left tackle last season after opening 12 games at right tackle as a rookie.

General manager Phil Emery feels that Webb possesses the ideal body-type for the position with good length, feet and range as well as the right temperament.

“He needs experience and he needs to show consistency as he gains experience,” Emery said. “He came in here and he played right tackle, so last year was his first year as a left tackle, and as a first-year left tackle did he make progress? Yes, I do believe he did. I think he made progress.

“Does he need to make more to be a consistent starter, that when we line up on Sundays we know that our left tackle is a consistent starting NFL player? Yes, he needs to make progress.”

Williams, a 2008 first-round pick from Vanderbilt, joined the Bears as a left tackle before being moved to right tackle in 2009. He returned to left tackle late that season before switching to left guard in 2010. Williams started the first nine games at left guard in 2011 before sustaining a season-ending wrist injury.

The ability to pass block with consistency will be a key factor in determining the starter.

“We’re going to keep the heat on both of them,” Tice said. “What we want to see is who’s going to block our good pass rushers. I know they can both run block, but we’re not going to go out there and run the ball 50 times a game. So you’ve got to be able to protect. If you can’t protect, you can’t play for us.”

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