While today isn't the official start of training camp, the media did gather in Bourbonnais to hear general manager Phil Emery and head coach Lovie Smith speak about the upcoming season.
Phil Emery started off talking about the Bears roster and expectations for the upcoming season. Expectations are high in Chicago.
Emery spoke about wide receiver Johnny Knox and where he's at in his recovery and rehab.
"He's able to do all the lifting, he's doing quite a bit of rehab, he's doing some light running and he's back able to get off the assisted treadmill," Emery said.
The notable news bit here may be that Knox is unable to run at full speed and is not running at the level expected. An assisted treadmill is concerning, and while Emery did not outright state that Knox would be put on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list, that seems inevitable.
The decision to put Knox on the PUP list will be made tomorrow, after the Bears go through their conditioning test.
Emery was also asked about to what extent the Bears have made progress towards putting together a roster that can compete for a Super Bowl title.
"I think we've made progress, but to say a Super Bowl contender? That has to be earned on the field. Do we have good talented players that can contribute towards a winning team and moving towards our goals of winning a championship? Yes, we do. Are we there? No, we're not," Emery said.
"We've got to earn that every day on the field. That's a daily job from a personnel perspective—a daily job for everybody in our building. To be on the same page, to move forward...we have to earn it," Emery said.
I appreciate Emery's candor on this subject because it means he goes to work every day with the idea in mind of improving the team. In his mind, the ideas of the "offseason being complete," "there's a roster in place" and "now it's up to the coaches to win" don't fit his mindset.
Emery is clearly of the opinion that he wants to address any weakness moving forward, regardless of what point of the season it is—the preseason or Week 12 of the regular season.
There was also discussion about the left tackle battle between Chris Williams and J'Marcus Webb and what type of progress needs to be made towards a winner in this position battle.
"J'Marcus Webb, ideal body type for a left tackle, very long individual, very good feet, very good range, certainly has the temperament for it. 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. Does he need to make more to be that what I described consistent starter...that we know that our left tackle is a consistent starting NFL player? Yes, he needs to make progress," Emery said.
More candor and honesty from Emery, even if it sounds a little sugarcoated. The statement, however, cuts to the meat and potatoes of the type of player J'Marcus Webb is. Webb has the physical and athletic ability. He just needs to be more consistent mentally.
Webb's biggest problems last year were the mental lapses in his game—times where he would lose focus and get lazy with his technique or his effort. Those are the areas he needs to improve.
Lastly of note, Emery covered the fourth defensive tackle spot on the roster and the competition between the five players to replace Amobi Okoye, who was such a valuable asset last year. The question was put to him about having enough competition on the interior of the defensive line.
"I believe we do. We signed Nate Collins, DeMario Pressley and John McCargo early. Those folks, along with the group that we had, does provide a good rotation of players to see who comes forth in camp, to see who is that fourth defensive lineman," Emery said.
"Does that mean that at any given part of our roster we've stopped looking? No, it doesn't," Emery said.
The takeaway here is there are five guys who Emery is immediately confident will step up from this competition and be the player the Bears are looking for as a fourth DT. Will that player be as good as Okoye? Probably not.
If there is a weakness in that position, then the Bears will look to improve by adding a veteran after the roster pair downs later in the preseason.
Quotes were taken from the live press conference broadcast on CSN Chicago earlier today.
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