Zach Azzanni

Cam I am? Why the Bears see Dontrelle Inman as an ideal fit for their second-half offense

USA Today

Cam I am? Why the Bears see Dontrelle Inman as an ideal fit for their second-half offense

The Bears probably aren't expecting Dontrelle Inman to produce to the level Cameron Meredith did last year, but there are plenty of similarities between the two wide receivers that are worth noting. 

Inman is 6-foot-3, 205 pounds; Meredith is 6-foot-3, 200 pounds. Both players had breakout seasons in 2016: Inman with 58 catches for 810 yards and four touchdowns, Meredith with 66 catches for 888 yards and four touchdowns. Beyond the measurables, Bearswide receivers coach Zach Azzanni said Inman and Meredith are comparable in terms of their length and catch radius, which he said “we were missing, quite frankly.”

“Especially in traffic, he’ll go up and make a play,” Azzanni said. “We were missing that length when Cam and Kevin (White) went out, that length got dropped down. And catch radius for a quarterback is a big deal out there. So it’ll be nice to have a guy with some length out there.”

That’s an interesting point from Azzanni about length: Tanner Gentry (before the move to acquire Inman) was the biggest and tallest receiver on the Bears at 6-foot-2, 209 pounds, but has struggled to get open and has only been targeted three times since Mitchell Trubisky took over as the team’s starting quarterback. Tre McBride and Josh Bellamy are 6-foot, Markus Wheaton is 5-foot-11 and Kendall Wright is 5-foot-10. 

Just being tall and rangy doesn't make someone a good receiver, of course. Azzanni, too, has been impressed by how quickly Inman has picked up the terminology of the Bears’ offense. 

“He’s a smart kid, he’s a pro, he went out there the last two days and I think he lined up wrong one time and it was just a brain fart,” Azzanni said. “That’s pretty darn good for just getting here. So I’m excited to see what he can do.”

The Bears will need Inman and Trubisky to develop a chemistry quickly — one day of practice wasn’t enough for that to happen last week before heading to New Orleans, where Inman was inactive on Sunday. Inman said he quickly learned how quick Trubisky’s passes get to receivers — “I was like, okay, he spins it, so I gotta get my head around,” he said — but the pair has put in extra reps during and after these two off week practices to help foster that connection. 

“He’s got a big frame and he runs really good routes so he’s a guy to throw to,” Trubisky said. “He’s very ball savvy, so just continue to rep that chemistry along with the other guys and we’re going to continue to get better.”

Inman wasn’t a factor in the Los Angeles’ Chargers’ offense in 2017, with Keenan Allen — who Inman replaced in the lineup last year after a torn ACL — Tyrell Williams and Travis Benjamin getting most of the receiver snaps. He only was targeted four times in four games, and hasn’t been active since Oct. 8. 

So assuming Inman is active for the Bears’ Nov. 12 date with the Green Bay Packers, it’ll have been a month between games for him. But for the short-term, Inman’s goal is to keep studying the Bears’ offense during these four off days before reporting back to Halas Hall on Sunday. 

Also on Inman’s to-do list: Trying to settle in Chicago. He’s barely had a chance to catch his breath since being traded here a week ago, after all. 

“I don’t have a jacket,” Inman said. “So I have to go back and get all my stuff, pack up my old place. And study still, but at the same time prepare for the move now.” 

Kevin White shines at Bears practice, but raises questions after

Kevin White shines at Bears practice, but raises questions after

When first-year wide receivers coach Zach Azzanni met with the media Monday, he spoke about needing to keep Kevin White's mind off what's being said about him, and showing him his 2014 college tape to remind him how good he can be. He also spoke about how he's most effective, and believes in, bringing a "college style" of hard coaching to the Bears in his first year in the NFL.

Wednesday morning, before going out and having his best practice of camp (and maybe that's why), White sent out a conspicuous tweet that left the impression he was indeed paying attention to some things that were being said about him: "Believe none of what you hear and half of what you see."

The famous Ben Franklin quote came out of nowhere, without a reference point, and White was asked about it after practice.

"It was just a quote," he said. "I think some people may take a story and run with it. It wasn't true so that's just how I feel about some things, some people. Like if I wanted to tell you a secret and by the time it got across through everybody and got to me it wouldn't be the same. So that's really it."

Moments earlier, White was asked about Azzanni showing him his college tape, but indicated the coach's assertion that he initiated it to serve as a confidence tool wasn't accurate.

"As far as the college film, that was amongst players: me, Kendall Wright and Victor Cruz," White said. "It was actually Kendall's idea to watch each other's college film since we had a little time off. Watched mine, then watched Kendall's, then watched Victor Cruz, when he was with the Giants. As far as that goes, that's all I know."

Reporters circled back to the topic as White was asked about how Azzanni (his third position coach in White's three years here) helps him.

"Coaching me like everybody else."

Is he giving you a boost?

"As far as...?"

Helping you get better.

"Yeah I think everyone as a staff is helping me and everyone else get better."

Are you upset he told the college tape story?

"What story?"

That he showed it to you?

"Who showed it to me?"

Coach Azzanni.

"Like I said, it was me, Kendall Wright, Victor Cruz. Watched mine, watched Kendall's, then watched Victor Cruz with the Giants."

When the topic was broached in a subsequent interview on 670 The Score's "Bernstein and Goff," White said Azzanni was in the room at the time, and that he doesn't need to watch film from his West Virginia days to restore his confidence.

Unless the tweet was about something completely unrelated, we're left with the impression there's some miscommunication or non-truth-telling on some level here. Or both.

But after two frustrating seasons in which leg injuries limited him to just four games, White just wants to get on the field. What his relationship is with Azzanni is now in question.

Azzanni was a great interview on Monday, but would he dare go so far as to take credit for something that wasn't his idea, or misrepresent whether it was used for motivation and confidence? If that's the case, should White have just let it slide publicly rather than make this a topic now and raise a discussion over whether he can get along with his coach? It's another narrative now when all White really wants is to play, and prove doubters wrong.

But if someone with whom he should work closely and trust tells the media an inaccuracy with his coaching methods, is he right to take a public stand over ironing it out behind closed doors?

As much as White wants to say he blocks out what's being said about him (especially negatives), it's obviously not the case with his tweet, and if this is what it's referring to. It's bringing more off-the-field attention as it was somehow brought to his attention. (Perhaps seeing, our someone he knows seeing, the Tuesday "Pro Football Talk" headline "Bears trying to remind Kevin White he was once good at football" led him down this road, who knows?)

There's also the possibility White was referencing something totally different and the college tape story isn't really a big deal to him, and all's fine with Azzanni despite declining an opportunity to express that he's helping him. But that clarification never came, saying it was just "general stuff."

Azzanni is an energetic, enthusiastic assistant getting this opportunity after 18 years of collegiate coaching experience, including stops at Florida and Tennessee. Now that it's out in public, you can bet this topic is now a discussion point between, at least, him and White.

It's a long season and any misunderstanding certainly needs to be worked out. Every team has players who may not be crazy about their coach. But winning teams don't let this become public.

Good for talk shows and readership, bad for chemistry. And just the thing White claims he likes to avoid.

Self Confidence 101: Bears sending Kevin White back to college


Self Confidence 101: Bears sending Kevin White back to college

If Bears fans had the opportunity to talk with Bears wide receivers coach Zach Azzanni, they'd walk away loving their chances of this group making an unexpected impact. Here's some of what Azzanni shared Monday after practice in Bourbonnais:

On the development of Kevin White after two injury-plagued seasons: 

"We talk about a golf shot every day. Like, 'what keeps you coming back to practice? What was that one golf shot that you remember that got you excited, that makes you want to come back for more?' So every day, we do that in our room. This morning, we watched his West Virgina highlight film again. He forgets about that sometimes, because of the battle he's had the last two years. I'm pleased with him. First day was great, second was OK, and today (Monday) he comes back out and he's buying in. You see flashes of what we want him to be, of what he wants to be. We've just got to block out the noise for him. I can't let him read the papers and the media. I just can't let him because there's going to be some negative in there that gets into his head and he can't let that happen. He's got to be positive and we've got to go in out bunker in there and I've got to tell him how great he is all the time, because he is."

On going back to White's West Virginia tape, circa 2014:

"I wanted him to see how he used to go up and just grab that ball out of the air, and he's starting to do that again. I know he had a drop the other day in one-on-ones the other day. He's a prideful kid, and he lets that beat him up and you cannot do that. You can't let one drop give you another drop. Kobe Bryant takes 60 shots a game. There's a reason. He clears it out, like he didn't even take those first 59. He keeps shooting and that's what Kevin's got to do. He's got to put it away. We've got to be on the positives too. He ran a great route, great release, physical, violent, ran a great route, now he's got to finish it. You've got to also understand there's some good in there too.

"He's a prideful guy. He's got some conscience. He wants to do well for Chicago. For Ryan Pace, for coach (John) Fox, for Dowell (Loggains), all these guys. He wants to do well and I tell him, don't worry about all that. Do well for you. Don't worry about the media and all the people outside. Let's just be the best player you can be.

Cam Meredith: 66 catches in 2016, so 2017?

"The sky's the limit for Cam. He's everything you want in an NFL receiver. He's tall, he's loose, he's got great ball skills, can run. He's smart because he played quarterback, so he gets the game a little bit better maybe than other players at the position. He's still got a lot of work to do and that's what's fun. So every day we're working on some of the little things to help him take his game to the next level, and he's willing. He just had an 'OK' second day, and when I played it for him, he didn't think he did. Then when you press 'play,' he looks at me and he's like, 'you're exactly right, coach.'  He's starting to get what the standards are and he's getting better and I'm excited about him, really excited."

Victor Cruz's encouraging start

"He's been through it all. Great seasons, Super Bowl, injury setbacks, he's seen it all, right? Big market in New York so he's definitely a good sounding board for those guys. As far as the first couple days? He's still learning the offense. But we're asking him to do things he did previously. Some of the routes he's running? That's what he did. It's too late in his career to reinvent a route tree for him. We got him to do the things he does well. A good first three days. I wouldn't say excellent, but good. I think what me and him are vibing together is, you know, I don't really care how long he's played. I'm going to push him like he's a rookie. At first, he was like, `Wow,' but now he appreciates it, I think."