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Marshall is his own worst critic

Posted by Larry Mayer on August 20, 2012 – 3:10 pm

Brandon Marshall set up a touchdown with receptions of 41 and 20 yards on the Bears’ opening possession in Saturday night’s 33-31 preseason win over the Redskins.

But if you thought the three-time Pro Bowler was happy with his performance, you’d be wrong.

“It’s never as good as you think or it’s never as bad as you think,” Marshall said Monday at Halas Hall. “To me it’s a little humbling. I have to be more disciplined in my routes and on the field. 

“You don’t want to take away from the excitement and things that we accomplished out there a few days ago. But on my end I have to be more disciplined. I’m ready to get back to work.”

It appeared that Marshall was being overly critical of his play. But as one of only three NFL receivers to compile at least 1,000 yards in each of the last five seasons, the 6-4, 230-pounder evidently holds himself to a higher standard.

“I’m always hard on myself,” Marshall said. “I’m my own worst critic. There are high expectations this year. We understand that. But it’s not going to change the way I approach the game or prepare. Maybe one day you can sit down and I’ll go over that preseason game last week and show you how awful it looked. I just can’t make those mistakes.”

Marshall said that he needs to focus on “little things” such as his route depth, being in the right place and being on the same page as the quarterback.

“It’s things that if you catch it now it won’t hurt or affect us once the season starts,” he said. “Luckily it didn’t bite us. But we’re just trying to catch it before it hurts us in the future.”

Marshall and quarterback Jay Cutler certainly seemed like they were on the same page when they teamed up for a 41-yard completion down the right sideline on the Bears’ first play from scrimmage.

“We took advantage of what the defense was giving us,” Marshall said. “We were excited to see that coverage and Jay put us in the right position. Jay did a great job of recognizing coverage and definitely loved the match-up. He could have went anywhere on the field, but he chose to come to my side and we made the play.”

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Bush changing people’s perceptions

Posted by Larry Mayer on August 20, 2012 – 2:55 pm

A few weeks ago in training camp Michael Bush insisted that he’s more than just a bruising battering ram capable of lowering his head and driving the pile back a yard or two.

The 6-1, 245-pound running back proved that assertion in Saturday night’s preseason win over the Redskins, nimbly faking out linebacker Perry Riley on an eight-yard touchdown run.

“I think he has quicker feet than anyone anticipated, making the guy miss in the hole,” quarterback Jay Cutler said Monday at Halas Hall. “That kind of threw us for a loop just watching it.”

Bush signed a four-year contract with the Bears in March after spending his first five NFL seasons with the Raiders, rushing for 2,642 yards and 21 touchdowns on 256 carries while playing in 61 games with 19 starts. He also caught 91 passes for 879 yards and 1 TD.

“He’s a hard worker,” Cutler said. “He’s a professional. He can do it all. He can catch passes. He’s a sleeper. He turns it on on game days and he can make plays for you.”

Bush knows there are perceptions of him that aren’t true.

“Just because I have a long stride, some people say I’m slow,” Bush said. “Because I’m big, some people say I can’t move. But I don’t know what y’all been watching. I’ve been doing it for a while.

“I think you guys don’t know what you guys got. I just keep showing everybody each week and just getting better. I know what I can do. I just need for you guys to believe as well.”

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Marshall impressed with rookie receiver

Posted by Larry Mayer on August 20, 2012 – 2:54 pm

Brandon Marshall acknowledged that it may be too early for Alshon Jeffery to begin crafting his Hall of Fame speech. But the veteran receiver has been very impressed with his rookie counterpart.

“What does [Bill] Parcells say? Let’s not induct him in Canton yet,” Marshall said with a laugh. “But if he continues to do what he’s doing, he’ll have a chance to get great in this league.”

Jeffery has performed well in training camp and the Bears’ first two preseason contests, catching a game-high four passes for 35 yards against the Broncos and three passes for a team-leading 62 yards versus the Redskins.

“I’m really impressed with his game,” Marshall said. “I’m really impressed with his ability to take in what we’re trying to accomplish in the playbook. You can tell he’s been really coached and I look forward to big things out of him this year.”

Marshall, who had only 20 receptions as a rookie before recording 102, 104 and 101 in his next three seasons, feels that the adjustment from college football to the NFL is different for everyone.

“I’m seeing guys like A.J. Greene, Alshon, Julio Jones, you’re seeing those guys come in and make an immediate impact right away,” Marshall said. “For me, I wasn’t the professional right away that I should have been. 

“Alshon is a guy who gets it early. And you’ve got guys like me who talk to him about continuing to stay on that path and be professional. He’s ahead of schedule.”

Marshall hasn’t and won’t speak with Jeffery about the 15-yard penalty the rookie drew against the Redskins when he ripped off cornerback DeAngelo Hall’s helmet during a shoving match.

“One thing we talk about around here is we want to play physical,” Marshall said. “We’re going to be smart, absolutely. We don’t want to get those penalties. But it’s hard to play this game while letting people punk you.

“Everyone knows DeAngelo Hall, what type of player he is. He’s a great player, but he’s feisty and he knows how to get under people’s skin. We’ll be smarter next time, but we want [Jeffery] to be physical and have that aggression out there on the field.”

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Weems preparing to make Bears debut

Posted by Larry Mayer on August 16, 2012 – 6:31 pm

After missing part of training camp and the preseason opener with an ankle injury, receiver Eric Weems is healthy and excited about playing in Saturday night’s game against the Redskins.

“I’m just going to go out and play football; what I’ve been blessed to do all my years in the NFL,” said Weems, who signed with the Bears in March after spending his first five seasons with the Falcons from 2007-10. “I’m just going to go out and play football and everything will take care of itself.

“I feel good. The coaches gave me some time to get right and I feel like I’m good to go and ready to perform.”

Weems caught 24 passes for 205 yards and two touchdowns in 55 career games with the Falcons. He also excelled on special teams, earning a Pro Bowl nomination in 2010. In five seasons Weems recorded 41 special-teams tackles and averaged 25.6 yards on 113 kickoff returns with one touchdown and 10.6 yards on 77 punt returns with one TD. 

In addition, he returned a kickoff 102 yards for a touchdown in a 2011 playoff game against the Packers.

Among other roles, Weems is expected to serve as a gunner on punt coverage this season.

“The key is to beat the man in front of you,” he said. “You’ve got to have a lot of skill to do that, to beat two guys at one time. You’ve just got to be patient and once you see an opportunity you’ve got to go because the window of opportunity of beating two guys opens and closes right away.”

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Chris Williams eager to prove himself

Posted by Larry Mayer on August 16, 2012 – 5:29 pm

With J’Marcus Webb failing to perform up to expectations in the Bears’ preseason opener against the Broncos, Chris Williams seemingly now has a second opportunity to win the starting left tackle position.

But Williams, who is expected to share first-team reps with Webb in Saturday night’s preseason game against the Redskins, isn’t necessarily looking at it like that.

“I don’t know if that qualifies as a second chance,” said the 2008 first-round draft pick from Vanderbilt. “It’s a chance for me to go out and win a starting job, which I’ve been [trying to do] all along. I’m just going to go out and play hard and let it sort itself out.”

Williams is eager to show coaches that he deserves to start this season.

“We’ve all got something to prove,” he said. “You want to prove that you can go out and be consistent and consistently block people. I’ve been preparing the whole camp trying to win a starting job.”

Asked if he would like get the left tackle position solidified Saturday night, coach Lovie Smith said: “We want to get all of our positions solidified, but not many of us performed the way we needed to last week. I assume we’re all going to do a better job this week, left tackle included.”

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Lovie Smith impressed with RG III

Posted by Larry Mayer on August 16, 2012 – 5:24 pm

Coach Lovie Smith is eager to see how the Bears defense fares against Redskins rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III in Saturday night’s preseason game at Soldier Field.

The reigning Heisman Trophy winner, who was selected by Washington with the second overall pick in the draft, completed 4 of 6 passes for 70 yards with one touchdown and a 145.8 passer rating in the Redskins’ 7-6 preseason-opening win over the Buffalo Bills.

“I’ve been impressed with him for a long time,” Smith said. “His college coach [at Baylor] is an old high school friend of mine, so I’ve followed them and him quite a bit.

“He can do everything you want a quarterback to do. He had over a 145 quarterback rating in the 14 plays he played last week. He’ll be a good challenge for us. It seems like most of the quarterbacks these days are athletic, and they can beat you moving around, buying time to complete passes, and he can do that.”

On Griffin’s third and final series against the Bills, he capped an eight-play, 80-yard drive with a 20-yard touchdown pass to Pierre Garcon.

Before starring at Baylor, Griffin attended Copperas Cove High School in Texas, the same school that produced Bears cornerback Charles Tillman. During the NFL Combine in February, Griffin said that he was inspired by Tillman’s success.

“I met Charles for the first time when I was a seventh-grader and he was in the league,” Griffin said at the time. “To watch him play the way he has and be a Pro Bowl player, it’s an inspiration. We’ve both got long hair, both went to Copperas Cove High School and hopefully we’ll both have great NFL careers.”

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Forte shows explosiveness in practice

Posted by Larry Mayer on August 13, 2012 – 11:21 pm

Matt Forte is considered one of the NFL’s most talented and versatile running backs because of plays like the one he made during Monday night’s practice at Ward Field.

Splitting out wide left, Forte raced down the sideline past linebacker Lance Briggs and hauled in a long pass from quarterback Jay Cutler.

“He’s been great, like he’s always been since Day 1 he stepped in the building,” coach Lovie Smith said of Forte. “He’s the ultimate pro. He can do everything you want him to do.

“Tonight you saw him line up out wide, score a long touchdown pass. He can run routes like a receiver can and make you miss in the open field. We have a lot of things in store for him this year.”

Last year Forte became the first player in NFL history to compile at least 900 yards rushing and 400 yards receiving in each of his first four seasons.

After sitting out last Thursday’s preseason opener against the Broncos, Forte is expected to play Saturday night when the Bears host the Redskins at Soldier Field.

“Matt Forte will play this week,” Smith said. “We need to get [backup running back] Michael Bush some quality reps and we need to get our offensive line going. In order for us to do the things that we want to do offensively, we’ve got to get the running game going and hopefully we can.”

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Tice the latest to praise Jeffery

Posted by Larry Mayer on August 13, 2012 – 2:58 pm

Offensive coordinator Mike Tice on Monday joined a growing chorus of Bears coaches and players who have been singing the praises of rookie wide receiver Alshon Jeffery.

The second-round draft pick from South Carolina, who has been excelling in training camp, caught a game-high four passes for 35 yards in last Thursday’s preseason opener versus the Broncos.

“We were real pleased with Jeffery,” Tice said. “He made some plays for us and really dominated physically. [He] threw people around, and that was pleasing to see.”

Jeffery has made several impressive catches in practice, especially over shorter defensive backs in red zone drills. Tice is confident that the 6-3, 216-pounder will produce similar plays in the regular season.

“I believe with that young man it will translate,” Tice said. “I think we can all see that. That is a big, physical specimen. He played in the SEC against great competition. The speed of the game is not too big for him. He’s played in front of big crowds.

“He is very calm, doesn’t get overexcited, in fact to the point where I say every day, ‘You OK?’ [He responds], ‘Yes, sir.’ He’s a very polite young man. He has been raised right. He’s a great athlete. He won four [high school] state championships in basketball. You want to throw the ball up to him and let him go get it. He’s going to do that.”

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Tice surprised Spencer struggled

Posted by Larry Mayer on August 13, 2012 – 1:55 pm

Bears offensive coordinator Mike Tice said Monday he was “very surprised” that veteran left guard Chris Spencer did not play well in last Thursday night’s preseason opener against the Broncos.

“Grade-wise for us last season he had the second-highest grade,” Tice said. “Everyone wants Chris Williams and Chris Spencer to be like [right tackle] Gabe [Carimi]. It is two different styles. That is why we have Gabe on the right-hand side. He is a bruiser. But I was very surprised [about Spencer]. It was certainly not a tape—and Chris knows this; we spoke about it—you want on your résumé.”

In six seasons with the Seahawks from 2005-10, Spencer made 66 of 70 starts at center. His first NFL start came at left guard in 2006 and he opened the final three games of the 2009 season at right guard.

Last season Spencer started 14 of 15 games played for the Bears at right guard, but he was moved to left guard this year with Lance Louis shifting from right tackle to right guard to make room at right tackle for Carimi, a 2011 first-round pick who missed 14 games of his rookie season with a knee injury.

“Chris’ experience at guard has been minimal before he got here,” Tice said. “He was a center. So anything at guard is new for him. But at the same point when we get a guy like Lance Louis and Carimi and you put those guys together on the right side, you should be formidable in the run game, so that is really important.”

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Steltz helps defense bounce back

Posted by Larry Mayer on August 12, 2012 – 7:12 pm

After getting torched by big receivers Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery in a red-zone drill Saturday, the Bears defense gained some revenge Sunday, recording five interceptions.

Safety Craig Steltz picked off two passes, while cornerbacks Tim Jennings and Charles Tillman and safety Major Wright had one interception apiece.

“Defensively, we’ve had some guys really step up,” said coach Lovie Smith. “A guy who’s having a great camp is Tim Jennings, making plays, really getting confidence in his play. And Craig Steltz. He’s been around here a long time. All he does is continue to show up and play his role.”

Steltz’s interceptions both came against backup quarterback Jason Campbell. The versatile fifth-year pro picked off one of the passes by stepping in front of a receiver in the corner of the end zone. Throughout training camp, Steltz has continued to demonstrate why he’s one of the Bears’ most valuable players.

“He’s a great special teams player,” Smith said. “When you’re a backup safety you need to be a core four-phase special teams player. He does that, but we would be comfortable playing him at the free or strong position. He’s a coach on the field, all of those things, a valuable part of our team.”

Steltz also excelled during a spirited one-on-one blocking drill that pitted blitzing defensive backs against running backs. It was the first time the Bears have conducted that drill in this year’s training camp. After beating a blocking back on multiple occasions, Steltz celebrated with his fellow defensive backs.

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