Bears

Kromer-Trestman pairing points to balanced firepower

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Kromer-Trestman pairing points to balanced firepower

The problems on offense were the focus going into this offseason, beginning with the firing of Lovie Smith and expanding with the hiring of Marc Trestman as head coach. That intensified again Wednesday when Trestman, noted quarterbacks mentor and offensive coordinator through his 17 years of NFL experience, made his first big hire also on offense and made it in the direction of addressing the offensive line.

Aaron Kromer, an offensive line coach with Northwestern, the Oakland Raiders (where he worked with Trestman in 2002-2003), the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the New Orleans Saints (2009-2012), will be Trestmans offensive coordinator, as first reported Wednesday by ESPN.

RELATED: Alouettes GM confident Bears made right choice with Trestman

Kromer also served as interim head coach through the Saints first six games in 2012 with Sean Payton and Joe Vitt serving suspensions.

Studying the Saints

Despite the upheaval surrounding the staff and organization as a result of the bounty scandal, the Saints were No. 3 in scoring with 28.8 points per game and No. 2 in yardage with 411 per game. By comparison the Bears topped 400 yards just three times all season.

There was little subtle about the New Orleans offense. While young quarterbacks like Robert Griffin III, Colin Kaepernick and Russell Wilson were fascinating the NFL with read-options, pistols and such, Drew Brees was doing what he always does.

Just throw, baby, of the Saints 1,067 plays, 697 (65.3 percent) were pass play.

Very significantly, however, Brees was sacked just 26 times, or once every 25.8 plays more than twice the rate Jay Cutler and Jason Campbell were going down.

That was being accomplished by scheme, Brees and Kromers offensive line despite losing Pro Bowl guard Carl Nicks through free agency.

Kromer-Trestman indicators

Kromer was the Raiders offensive line coach in 2002 when they reached the Super Bowl and then-coordinator Trestman was helping quarterback Rich Gannon have an MVP season.

The Raiders were a passing offense with Gannon throwing on 61.2 percent of the plays that year. He was sacked 36 times, or once every 18 dropbacks.

The most striking aspect of that offense, which was second in the NFL in scoring, was its balanced use of weaponry. Jerry Rice led the Raiders with 92 catches for 1,211 yards and seven touchdowns. But the No. 2 receiver was a running back Charlie Garner who caught 91 passes while he and Tyrone Wheatley were combining for nearly 1,400 yards.

Add to that wide receivers Tim Brown (81) and Jerry Porter (51, nine TDs) and the result was a diversified offense that totaled more than 6,200 yards. No Bears team has ever totaled more than the 5,837 in 1985, one of only two Bears teams managing even 5,800.

Staffing similarities

While not arrived at the same ways, the new 1-2 structure of Trestman-Kromer is similar to the 2010-2011 Bears alignment on offense of Mike Martz as coordinator and Mike Tice the line coach. Martz did not hire Tice but the combination did produce an 18-8 stretch before Jay Cutler was injured in the 2011 season.

Three questions for Bears CBs: Will continuity breed success?

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USA TODAY

Three questions for Bears CBs: Will continuity breed success?

Pre-camp depth chart

Outside corner

1. Kyle Fuller
2. Marcus Cooper
3. Michael Joseph
4. Tyrin Holloway

1. Prince Amukamara
2. Sherrick McManis
3. Kevin Toliver II
4. Rashard Fant
5. John Franklin III

Nickel corner

1. Bryce Callahan
2. Cre’Von LeBlanc
3. Jonathon Mincy

1. Can Kyle Fuller build off a 2017 breakout?

A year ago, it would’ve been unbelievable to hear Fuller would be fifth highest-paid cornerback in the NFL by average annual salary, ahead of two guys (A.J. Bouye and Stephon Gilmore) in whom the Bears had interest in free agency. This was a guy who — justifiably, given he missed all of 2016 with an injury — didn’t have his fifth year option picked up and wasn’t even assured of a roster spot coming into training camp.

But Fuller earned that paycheck with an outstanding season. Consider:

No cornerback was targeted more times than Fuller last year, even though only 51 percent of those targets were caught and he led the NFL in passes defended with 17, according to Pro Football Focus. Fuller held opposing quarterbacks to a rating of 69 when they threw his way, good for 17th among all cornerbacks.

“His preparation Is second to none,” fellow cornerback Prince Amukamara said. “How he prepares for games and how he anticipates what’s going on —  I feel like I prepared enough but when I watched him and how he does it before games there’s a lot I can learn from him and I’m just glad he’s back because he’s going to improve my game a little more and hopefully I can help him improve his.”

Why opposing teams targeted Fuller so much when Amukamara allowed a higher quarterback rating (89.1), didn’t have an interception and only broke up five passes is still a head-scratcher of sorts. But if Fuller wasn’t respected last year by opposing offensive coordinators, he will be in 2018.

So the goal for Fuller will be to be even more stifling when the ball is thrown his way. Adding a few more interceptions — he only had two last year, and both came in December — would go a long way toward him earning that four-year, $56 million offer sheet the Bears had to match.

2. Where will the interceptions come from?

The Bears are the only team in NFL history to record eight or fewer interceptions in three consecutive seasons, and Ryan Pace doubled down on an outside cornerback pairing of Fuller and Amukamara that only produced two interceptions in 2017. Nickel corner Bryce Callahan showed a bit of a playmaking streak last year with two interceptions (and a pretty sweet punt return touchdown in Week 1).

But that only accounts for four picks, a number which was equaled or eclipsed by 13 cornerbacks in 2017. All the pressure to get takeaways isn’t on Amukamara, Fuller, Callahan and a handful of reserves — Eddie Jackson and Adrian Amos will need to contribute more too — but given the questions surrounding the Bears’ pass rush, increasing the interceptions generated from this unit will be important for the overall success of the defense.

So if you see Fuller or Amukamara pick off Mitch Trubisky in Bourbonnais, perhaps look at it as good thing (it’ll be a learning experience for Trubisky, too, which isn’t a bad thing either).

3. Will any of the intriguing UDFAs make the team?

The Bears, a little surprisingly, didn’t draft a cornerback in April, but did sign a handful of undrafted free agents that will have an opportunity to fight for a roster spot in training camp. Two players in particular will be interesting to watch in July and August: Kevin Toliver II and John Franklin III.

Toliver is a former five-star recruit who didn’t live up to that hype at LSU, only intercepting two passes in 31 career games. The 6-foot-2 Toliver has projectable size and length, but his lack of production was why he went undrafted after leaving Baton Rouge following his junior season. He’s the kind of high-upside guy undrafted free agent who could garner some attention in training camp with a few good practices, but will have to consistently prove to the defensive coaching staff and special teams coordinator Chris Tabor he’s worthy of a roster spot.

Franklin may be more of a long shot, but the former “Last Chance U” star nonetheless will be a fascinating watch in Bourbonnais. The former quarterback-turned-receiver is now trying to not only make an NFL roster, but is trying to do so while learning an entirely different position on the side of the ball on which he’s never played before. Franklin had a healthy perspective on learning how to play cornerback during OTAs and minicamp (https://www.nbcsports.com/chicago/bears/last-chance-u-john-franklin-iii-chicago-bears-nfl-defensive-back-quarterback-wide-receiver), and the Bears saw something in his raw speed and athleticism to give him a shot on defense. It’d be a surprise if Franklin earned a spot on the 53-man roster, but it’d be one heck of a story if he even wound up on the Bears’ practice squad come September.

Allen Robinson appears on latest 'Big Guys in a Benz'

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USA TODAY

Allen Robinson appears on latest 'Big Guys in a Benz'

New Bears wideout Allen Robinson appears on the latest episode of 'Big Guys in a Benz' hosted by Anthony Adams. In the episode, Robinson touches on a number of topics from growing up rooting for the Minnesota Vikings despite being from Detroit, his favorite Chicago baseball team and how he went about free agency.

When asked where the Bears were ranked when looking at teams in free agency, Robinson said the Bears were No. 1 on his list.

...especially once they hired coach Nagy, you know, I had been watching his work over the past couple of years and I know it's a system that I would definitely fit into and flourish in. 

As far as growing up a Vikings fan?

Bears fans can forgive Robinson as he grew up idolizing Hall of Fame wide receiver Randy Moss. He went on to explain that once a year for his birthday he would get to go see the Vikings play in Detroit. Things came full-circle for Robinson when he was able to train for four weeks straight with Moss last summer, which Robinson said "took his game to the next level". 

When pressed to choose White Sox or Cubs, Robinson quickly responded "Cubs", making his allegiance to the North Siders known. 

And though the interview didn't touch on Robinson's ACL rehab, it did show how Robinson is quickly endearing himself to Bears fans as he prepares for a bounce-back season.