Energy. Palpable energy.
The first training camp practice of the 2011 Chicago Bears season finished a few hours ago. Throughout the practice field, from the players to the coaches to the fans, and even the media, there was a buzz. After enduring the longest lockout in league history, every person on the Olivet Nazarene campus was in extra-high spirits, as football has finally returned.
The players participated in shorts today, with full-contact practices not set to begin until next week. The 11 free agents the front office signed this week stood on the sidelines, as signees can't begin practicing with the team until Aug. 4, per the rules of the new collective bargaining agreement.
As such, the following players were on the field, yet not participating in drills: WR Roy Williams, DT Anthony Adams, LB Nick Roach, WR Sam Hurd, P Adam Podlesh, DE Vernon Gholston, TE Matt Spaeth, FB Will Ta'ufo'ou, QB Caleb Hanie, RB Khalil Bell and OL Edwin Williams.
Notes from Day 1
-DT Henry Melton said this offseason he had put on weight. He wasn't lying. The 15 pounds Melton packed on give him a noticeably thicker frame. That said, he did not get much penetration during 11-on-11 drills and looked slow coming off the ball. The weight could be a hindrance. It's worth watching.
-Melton played alongside DT Matt Toeaina with the first-team unit. It will be interesting to see which of the two is shuffled down to the second team once Adams returns. My guess is Toeaina, as he's better suited at nose tackle. Although if Melton continues to underwhelm he could easily slide down the depth chart.
-The starting five along the offensive line: LT Frank Omiyale, LG Chris Williams, C Roberto Garza, RG Lance Louis, RT J'Marcus Webb. First-round pick OT Gabe Carimi played left tackle with the second team. As of this writing, Olin Kreutz still hasn't signed with the team. If Carimi can't crack the starting lineup and Kreutz signs elsewhere, there folks is your starting five in 2011. Yikes!
-Carimi spent a lot of time across from DE Nick Reed, who got the best of the rookie more often than not. On one of the last plays of the day, Reed used his quick inside spin move to blow past Carimi. It's just the first day for the rookie, but it's going to take him some time to develop.
-In the walkthrough portion of practice, Garza and Cutler fumbled two snaps. During 11-on-11 drills, the coaches slid Williams inside to center for a few plays, and he proceeded to fumble two more snaps. Anyone know where we can find an experienced center?
S Major Wright
-With Roach on the sidelines, the first-team strong-side linebacker was rookie J.T. Thomas, who had a rough day. He seemed lost in coverage. During 7-on-7 drills, Thomas was beat three times by three different players. Linebackers coach Bob Babich was in his face all day. He'll most likely keep getting the first-team reps while Roach is out, which is good, because he needs them.
-Safety Major Wright played with the first team next to Chris Harris. Tim Jennings started opposite Charles Tillman at the cornerback positions. Zack Bowman started with the second team. This could be a fluid situation, as Bowman is bigger and more athletic than Jennings. It's something to watch going forward.
-Lining up with the second team, WR Andy Fantuz looked outstanding. He runs great routes, gets low in his breaks and has hands of glue. Twice during 7-on-7 drills he made Bowman look silly.
-During positional drills, offensive line coach Mike Tice seemed very impressed with the effort of Louis, who looked good in the strength portion and showed good agility during pull drills.
-Johnny Knox and Devin Hester were the starting wide receivers with Earl Bennett rotating in occasionally. Bennett spent most of his time with the second team, often drawing the ire of receivers coach Darryl Drake. Hester looked outstanding, catching everything thrown his way, including a diving catch on a 25-yard post pattern during 11-on-11s.
-I'm not sure about his accuracy but Richmond McGee can boom the ball downfield.
-Special teams coordinator Dave Toub gave rookie Dane Sanzenbacher extra reps during punt-return drills. Returning kicks could be Sanzenbacher's ticket to an NFL roster spot, yet he looked great in 7-on-7s and 11-on-11s as well. He's much faster than he's given credit for. WR Travis Cobb also took some of the punt-return reps.
-QB Nathan Enderle had a difficult first day. He too often demonstrated poor form, with the ball often coming out with its nose pointed downward, resulting in multiple passes falling short. During 11-on-11 drills he consistently tried to force the ball into coverage. He has a cannon for an arm but he still has a long way to go.
-RB Harvey Unga demonstrated more than once his soft hands in the passing game. He looked a little lost on the inside runs but he can definitely be a threat through the air.
-DT Marcus Harrison was nowhere to be found. He came to camp overweight and failed his physical. He hopes to be back out on the field tomorrow. I'll eat my right hand if he makes the 53-man roster this year.
-Kellen Davis is the new No. 1 tight end and he looked great. He made an outstanding catch in traffic down the seam in 7-on-7s.
-Rookie DT Stephen Paea played with the second team alongside Tank Tyler. Neither player showed much during 11-on-11s.
-With Williams on the sidelines, wide receiver Onrea Jones got a large number of reps with the first team.
Follow me on Twitter: @BearReport
Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of BearReport.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. To read him every day, visit BearReport.com and become a Chicago Bears insider.