By Adam Hoge-
LAKE FOREST, Ill. — The 10 most important things to know from Halas Hall on Tuesday:
1. The timing of Santonio Holmes’ signing may be related to Zach Miller’s season-ending injury.
It’s easy to look at the Holmes signing as a boost to the wide receiver depth, but you can’t forget that running back Matt Forte and tight end Martellus Bennett will be the third and fourth receiving options for Jay Cutler whether Holmes makes this team or not. Their health is just as important as Brandon Marshall’s and Alshon Jeffery’s, especially because losing Bennett would greatly impact the personnel the Bears will deploy on the field.
Three wide receiver sets are popular around the NFL, but Marc Trestman and offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer aren’t married to them, mainly because they like their depth at tight end and have a reliable fullback in Tony Fiammetta that they can use frequently as well. That allows the Bears to deploy less three wide receiver sets and still have success.
“We feel like we have a good group of tight ends still with the three that we have left, and we have a good fullback,” Kromer said. “So for us to be able to go into a game with a balanced game plan with ’21’ personnel, ’12’ personnel, you just need balance. We can adjust. The offense is built to adjust that way.”
“21” personnel refers to two backs and one tight end, while “12” personnel refers to one back and two tight ends. In either case, there will only be two wide receivers on the field. As long as Marshall and Jeffery stay healthy, they will always be those two wide receivers.
But what if tight end Martellus Bennett goes down? It would be a lot harder to deploy two tight end sets when neither Dante Rosario or Matthew Mulligan scare you as pass catching options.
In that case, the No. 3 wide receiver would see a lot more playing time.
Many are wondering why it took the Bears so long to sign Santonio Holmes after he worked out for the team in Bourbonnais Aug. 5. Realization that Eric Weems was not going to be the No. 3 wide receiver probably had something to do with it, but don’t discount the impact of Zach Miller’s season ending foot injury either. Miller was emerging as a legitimate pass catching option in the Bears’ offense, which would have given Trestman even more flexibility in avoiding three wide receiver sets.
Santonio Holmes was signed to provide depth at wide receiver, but having a good No. 3 wide receiver also greatly helps when opposing defenses know they only have to prepare for one pass-catching tight end.
2. Jared Allen did not practice Tuesday. No reason to be alarmed. Allen has a shoulder bruise. Could it impact his playing time Friday in Seatlle? Maybe. But at this point, all that matters is his playing time Sept. 7 against the Bills.
3. Lance Briggs returned to practice. Bruises tend to happen in football. After missing Monday’s practice with a knee bruise, Briggs was back out there Tuesday.
4. Jay Cutler called Eric Weems’ release “a tough cut.” The quarterback targeted Weems three times in the first two preseason games and all three attempts fell incomplete. On the last attempt, Cutler was visibly upset with Weems. Two days later, Weems was cut.
“It’s a tough cut,” Cutler said. “Very well liked in the locker room. Well respected. I know the coaching staff liked him. But at the end of the day, everyone understands we have to do what is best for this team and I thought it was a good thing of letting him go at this time so maybe he can get on with another team and get a chance to make somebody else’s roster.”
5. Kromer sees a different Jay Cutler.
“We’ve absolutely noticed. I think everyone in the building has noticed a difference in Jay,” Kromer said. “None of us knew Jay very well before getting here last year and we worked through the year and that first year is always hard on everybody but what we see and what I see in Jay Cutler right now is a guy that is the leading the group. A guy that is approachable and is working to make everybody better because he realizes that it’s important that everybody is on the same page with him.”
6. Cutler worked out with Santonio Holmes an hour after he signed. The Bears had the weekend off, but Kromer said Cutler was out on the practice field throwing passes to Holmes 60 minutes after the wide receiver signed his contract Saturday.
7. The Bears hope Holmes can play Friday. If the wide receiver can learn enough of the playbook to be ready Friday, he’ll play. It could be his only opportunity of the preseason to get game reps with Cutler, but Trestman said he wants to make sure Holmes is comfortable before he throws him out there.
8. Kromer is more involved in the passing game this year. He’s in his second year as offensive coordinator, but it’s no secret that Trestman is calling the shots. That said, Kromer has been given more responsibility this year and is more involved in the entire offense after Pat Meyer took over the offensive line duties.
“He is more involved in the passing game,” Cutler said. “He is giving his two cents and sitting in on more of our meetings and trying to be more involved, which is good. It is always good to have another perspective and another set of eyes on what we do as quarterbacks.”
Last year, Kromer designed the run game, which meant when Trestman opted for a run play, he called what Kromer gave him.
9. To get ready for Friday’s late kickoff, the Bears are adapting their eating and sleeping habits. This is pretty typical for a West Coast night game, but it’s even more of an issue this week because the game won’t kickoff until 9:00 p.m. Central Time. Usually primetime games on the West Coast are played around 5:30 p.m. Pacific Time (still 7:30 p.m. in Chicago) because the television times don’t change. To accommodate for the change, players were instructed to go to bed at 10:15 p.m. Tuesday night and 11:15 p.m. Wednesday. As a result, they are reporting to Halas Hall later in the morning as well.
10. Cornerback Kyle Fuller (ankle) and right tackle Jordan Mills (foot) remain out. Same goes for cornerback Isaiah Frey (hamstring), offensive lineman Eben Britton (hamstring) and offensive lineman Brian de la Puente (sprained MCL).
Adam Hoge covers the Bears for 87.7 The Game and TheGameChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter at @AdamHoge.