5 Things We Learned from Chicago Bears OTAs
While training camp is still far off, the Chicago Bears have been running organized team activities, giving us a little sneak peak into what we can expect in the future.
OTAs aren't official practices, but for all intents and purposes, they are practices. With a new coach in Marc Trestman installing a completely new offense, they're a little more important this year.
Early word from the players at camp is the offense makes them think more and think faster as they're working at a much faster pace.
The defense will be using the same terminology and has a lot of returning players, but there are some changes. The Bears have a new coordinator calling plays from the sideline, and someone else will be relaying them to the rest of the team with Brian Urlacher no longer leading the huddle.
Ultimately, it's hard to know what to take from OTAs. There are some players who are going to look great in shorts and others who won't stand out until they put the pads on.
However, these are just a few things we've learned so far this offseason.
Trestman and Allen Iverson Would Not Get Along
While the former NBA MVP wasn't a huge fan of practicing, Trestman has made the importance of it clear to the Bears.
NFL.com's Stacey Dales said the Bears' practice had "no shortage of intensity" as Trestman is trying to change the culture.
As running back Matt Forte explained to Dales, the faster tempo should help the Bears achieve a "game-like" atmosphere.
The intensity isn't limited to the offensive side of the ball, however, as Trestman is telling players to run, not walk, to drills. Plus, he has little tolerance for tomfoolery.
Adam Hoge of CBS Chicago went over an issue with veteran safety Tom Zbikowski and linebacker Blake Costanzo playing around between drills that left Trestman less than pleased.
It may not be a game, but Trestman certainly doesn't think practice is as silly as Iverson did.
Offense Will Be More Complex
Right after the intensity of the practices, the next most popular topic is the complexity of the new offense.
As Forte explained in an interview with the media on the team website, the offense is more challenging because it required players to learn multiple positions.
Every player's assignment on each play directly affects that of at least one of his teammates, if not the entire play.
"It's easy to learn what you do, but to actually have to learn the concepts of what the receivers doing, why I have to run this route to get that guy open," said Forte.
Receiver Earl Bennett referred to the offense as "player friendly" in an interview on ESPN 1000's Carmen and Jurko Show. Bennett also noted how the offense moves players around.
We have yet to see the offense work in its entirety or in game situations, but the difference is clear just on highlight clips that have been posted on the team website.
Last year's offense seemed to be based around playmakers making plays and not necessarily designing plays that put them in position to do so. That worked out well for Brandon Marshall and occasionally Matt Forte, but few others.
While it's hard to base a lot off of highlight clips, it seems the Bears receivers are getting open and typically facing the quarterback when the ball gets there—as opposed to having to make a play on it in the air.
Lance Briggs Is Taking on a Larger Leadership Role
A lot has changed with the Bears defense, particularly when it comes to the linebackers, but the former Pro Bowler remains with a bigger role.
With the decisions not to retain Brian Urlacher or Nick Roach and bringing in four new players at the linebacker positions, it was clear that more was going to be asked of Lance Briggs.
"Now he's the guy. He's that voice, he's putting guys in position," cornerback Tim Jennings said in an interview with NFL.com's Stacey Dales.
It isn't just about leadership and putting players in the right position, Briggs is also being asked to call the plays in the huddle. That has been a big adjustment, as he said in an interview on the team's website.
"It's very different," Briggs said. "I didn't call the plays before, and now I am. I just have a lot of respect. I've been spoiled for the last 10 years."
It shouldn't be a very difficult job for Briggs, considering the veterans the Bears have on their defense. It's a little odd that the responsibility was handed to an outside linebacker.
Briggs is under contract through the 2014 season, and he holds the keys to the defense for now.
Onobun Looks the Part
When the Bears brought in Fendi Onobun in early January, it was a move that received little publicity. After a few practices, his name has become popular amongst Bears fans.
Onobun is a freak athlete, but that has yet to translate to the football field. After playing basketball for four years at Arizona, he caught just two passes in one season at the University of Houston.
Since entering the NFL in 2010, the Bears are Onobun's sixth team. He's caught just two passes for 15 yards so far in his career.
It isn't the production that has raised eyebrows, but the potential.
According to NFL Draft Scout, Onobun ran the 40-yard dash in 4.45 seconds and registered a vertical jump of 37.5" while measuring over 6'5" and 250 pounds at Houston's pro day in 2010.
At Bears camp, he has looked like an NFL tight end, or at least a great athlete.
In an interview with the Dan Pompei of the Chicago Tribune, Onobun said he feels like the Bears are the "first team that has given him an opportunity to flourish."
He also noted that quarterbacks Jay Cutler and Josh McCown have been giving him some pointers. Cutler was also a big fan of Devin Aromashodu once upon a time, but Mike Martz didn't feel the same way as he got buried on the depth chart.
Since Aromashodu has done little with the Minnesota Vikings, it's hard to argue with Martz on that one, but is Onobun capable of producing in the NFL?
We won't find out until the pads go on, but it's something to watch for.
Gabe Carimi Puts Himself First
When just one veteran player refuses to take part in a team's offseason activities, it's a bad sign for him and his future on the team.
Prior to the team's minicamp, Gabe Carimi informed the Bears front office and coaches he would be working out on his own in Arizona this offseason. A highly questionable decision for a player learning a new position, a new blocking scheme and an entirely new playbook.
I'm sure Carimi has a copy of the playbook, but that's not the point. Football is the ultimate team sport. When the entire team is taking part in something, everyone should make an effort to be there.
Playing along the offensive line takes more than just learning technique and the plays. It's about learning how to play with the people next to you and block for those behind you. Bentley can't teach Carimi that.
The Bears are also in the process of trying to implement a scheme for what their players do best; they can't do that with Carimi unless he is there. If he's helping himself, even to the point where he can be a starter, he's still hurting his team.
There is nothing that he is doing with Bentley that he couldn't be doing with the Bears. The Bears have one of the most successful offensive line coaches in the business as their offensive coordinator in Aaron Kromer, it would be wise for Carimi to soak up as much as he can from him.
I have little doubt that he'll show up in great shape and ready to try to earn a job. He has the talent to start for them, but he put himself behind the players he's competing with.
Even though first-round pick Kyle Long isn't there, he has still found a way to attend the meetings, even if it catches some teammate off guard.
No player likes to work in the offseason, but they do it, and they like to do it together. Offseason workouts won't make or break a team, but they don't hurt.