OTA practices don’t typically mean much as far as foreshadowing, but for the Chicago Bears it certainly dropped some juicy hints.
Domenik Hixon injury clears way for Josh Morgan and Chris Williams
It really is a tragic end for a good player. Domenik Hixon has constantly flashed NFL ability both as a receiver and special teams ace. Unfortunately like so many other promising talents in history, his body just can’t meet the demands as he suffered a third torn ACL. While this news could push him towards premature retirement, it also opens up another vital roster spot in a crowded receiving corps. Fringe players like Josh Morgan, a veteran free agent from Washington and Chris Williams, a return ace from Canada suddenly have a greater chance of making the cut.
Tim Jennings move to nickel corner more about size than skill
Perhaps the biggest buzz regarding schemes and alignment on offense or defense for the Chicago Bears centered on seeing Pro Bowl corner Tim Jennings moved from his outside spot to the inside nickel position during sub package schemes. At the same time rookie 1st round pick Kyle Fuller was plugged in at his position at left corner opposite Charles Tillman. Some might see this as a demotion for Jennings, which would be unusual considering the nice new deal he just got from the team. However, the move has far less to do with skill, of which Jennings has plenty, and more to do with size. Traditionally opposing offenses have their smaller, quicker receivers play in the slot and push their bigger targets to the outside. At 5’8″ this would make life much easier for Jennings while allowing the 6’0″ Fuller to provide a better matchup on the outside.
Shea McClellin showing comfort level is a good sign
Part of a reason why a player doesn’t have success as a pro is because teams sometimes put him in a position where he’s not comfortable. Many felt that was what was unfolding with the Chicago Bears and 2012 1st round pick Shea McClellin. After floundering for two seasons at defensive end where his clear lack of bulk and size worked against him, the team made a consensus decision to push him back to linebacker where it was hoped his speed and athleticism could flourish. Not to long after the announcement, McClellin was frank in saying it was a move he felt needed to happen. Early reports have said he looks quite natural at the position. If that is true, then the bust labels might just be put on hold for the third-year defender.
Brandon Marshall leadership is having an effect
The strength of the team is in talent of course but also its leadership. For a time after the departure of Brian Urlacher it was wondered if anybody would step up to seize the mantle. To everyone’s great surprise, it would see wide receiver Brandon Marshall has accepted the baton and his efforts are already bearing fruit. After turning teammate Alshon Jeffery into a breakout star in 2013, Marshall brought even more Bears players down to his training center in Florida to work. Early reports out of practice say that the skill position players, especially the wide receivers are all in superb shape. Any coach will say that fatigue is the first obstacle that must be overcome in order to win.