BOURBONNAIS, Ill. – The prime directive of the 2015 offseason was to reduce the interception and general turnover tendencies that had marred the career of Jay Cutler. The elimination of interceptions was immediately evident last year when Cutler went interception-free for the first 11 practices, an improvement that played out through the regular season.
The dream of another 11 pick-less practiced died on Monday when a Cutler pass went off the hands of wide receiver Alshon Jeffery and was deflected by cornerback Kyle Fuller into the hands of safety Harold Jones-Quartey. A Cutler pass last weekend had been gathered in by cornerback Tracy Porter but it was a throwaway after a simulated sack of Cutler, and not even the defense considered it a takeaway.
But the 2015 defense had a historically poor year taking footballs away from opponents, ranking 30th in percentage of passes intercepted and with only one team (Baltimore) picking off fewer than the eight passes intercepted by the Bears.
For coach John Fox, an inherent conflict exists: wanting his defense to take footballs away from his offense, which he dearly wants to hold onto the thing.
“That’s what we’re here to get better at,” Fox said. “We’re trying to possess it on offense and trying to take it away on defense. That’s simple, but not easy. I think today’s pick was a batted ball or a tipped ball and sometimes those happen. We need to try to make it happen more on defense and obviously our goal on offense is to protect the ball”….
…Pass protection is an emphasis for the Bears’ offensive line and the group had some very good and some very bad on Monday. Left tackle Charles Leno Jr. continued having a superb camp with repeated “wins” in one-on-one’s against various edge rushers, highlighted by a stand-up of 2015 sack leader Lamarr Houston…Tight end Greg Scruggs thoroughly handled outside linebacker Sam Acho in their initial rep, but Acho and Christian Jones breezed past Scruggs for simulated sacks, as Scruggs continues working at a position change from defensive tackle…
…Diminutive wide receivers Daniel Braverman and Kieren Duncan have been among the early camp highlighters with max-efforts for spectacular catches. The concussion-protocol situation with Eddie Royal projects to give Braverman, Duncan and Marc Mariani added snaps in an intense competition for what could be a receiver group as small as five, depending on how many running backs the staff elects to keep on final cutdowns.