Training Camp Diary: Day 7

The seventh day of practice for the 2011 Chicago Bears is in the books. Bear Report publisher Jeremy Stoltz takes you through what he saw on the field from his sideline vantage point.

What a fiasco last night turned out to be. The sod at Soldier Field wasn't suitable for the players to practice on and more than 10,000 fans – who braved the Friday Chicago traffic, which was extra heavy due to Lollapalooza – went home disappointed.

Because the Chicago Park District didn't do its job properly, the Chicago Bears players were shipped back to Bourbonnais for a closed practice late last night.

Today's practice was open to fans and media alike. It was a steamy day on the campus of Olivet Nazarene University, yet that didn't stop Bears fans from showing up in droves.

A couple of players did not practice today: WR Johnny Knox and LB J.T. Thomas. Knox has lower back stiffness and hopes to return within the next few days. Thomas is out with "general soreness" in his leg/hip area. He, as well, should be back in the next couple of days.

News and note from Day 7

-CB Charles Tillman played extremely well in practice today. In regular 7-on-7 drills, Tillman had two passes deflections. One knockdown came on a diving play where his was able to maneuver his body and arm around the big frame of TE Desmond Clark. The practice also included a red-zone version of 7-on-7s. Tillman had another knockdown in that session as well. Most of the cornerbacks on the roster have looked shaky so far, except for P-Nut. He's focused on the field and is not taking plays off. His leadership in the secondary will be key for a unit that may have some potential holes to cover up.

-Yet while Tillman was good, DT Henry Melton was great. During 11-on-11s, Melton blew up play after play. He was exploding off the ball, gaining leverage and driving his way into the backfield. Against both the pass and run, he was a force. He's the starting three-technique at this point. If he continues his development, he'll make everyone in Chicago forget all about Tommie Harris.

-Anthony Adams is the other defensive tackle starter, yet he has not been anywhere near as impressive as Melton. As the nose tackle, he's not relied on to penetrate into the backfield; he's more of a space eater. Yet Adams is getting pushed around out there. On one play, center Roberto Garza rode Adams to the ground, slamming the 310-pounder onto his back. There is a lot of competition on the defensive line right now, so if Adams wants to keep his starting spot, he'd better raise his game quickly.

-Ladies and gentlemen, there was a Marcus Harrison sighting tonight. The defensive tackle, who showed up to camp overweight and who up this point has done nothing but wind sprints with a trainer, finally saw action on the field. He practiced last night as well but today was the media's first look at him. Harrison was rusty though and got shoved around at will. He'll only make the roster this year if he kicks it into high gear the next few weeks. I didn't see that out of him today.


DT Stephen Paea
Jonathan Daniel/Getty

-Staying with the defensive line, Matt Toeaina and rookie Stephen Paea were paired up for most of the afternoon. In that duo, Paea is serving as nose tackle. For the first time all camp, the offensive line was able to move him away from the ball. Maybe it was an off day, but he didn't look sharp. Amobi Okoye displayed a lot of quickness and is showing why he should fit in well as a three-technique. He dances too much at the line though, something for which coordinator Rod Marinelli has little patience. Tank Tyler performed well again. He is straight outmuscling the offensive linemen across from him on nearly every play. Besides Melton, Tyler has been the most impressive of the bunch.

-The linebackers and running back engaged in a one-on-one drill today that was very entertaining to watch. To start, backs broke out of the backfield and the linebackers had to try and cover them. On one play, LB Brian Urlacher matched up with RB Matt Forte. As Forte reached the line of scrimmage, Urlacher rocked him in the chest. Forte brushed off the hit, made a quick cut and caught the pass. It was an impressive showing by both players.

-The one-on-one drills were notable also for how poorly D.J. Moore performed. Pro Football Focus ranked him as one of the most effective blitzers of all NFL cornerbacks last season. In today's drills though, when running backs were charged with blocking blitzers coming off the edge, both Kahlil Bell and Dan Dierking, a training camp body, handled Moore easily. If he can't get pressure on the quarterback from his nickel position then he really has no place on the field, as his coverage skills are below average.

-Speaking of below average, cornerbacks Zack Bowman, Joshua Moore and Tim Jennings are all doing their best to hand the other guy the starting position. Each has his moment or two, but for the most part, all three have performed poorly. Jennings especially is having issues in run support, consistently getting locked up with receivers and allowing running backs to the sidelines. If any one of these three steps up, they'll earn the starting position. So far, none seem interested.

-Rookie Chris Conte got his first chance with the starters today, playing free safety alongside Chris Harris. For two full rotations, Conte got reps with the first team and he did just fine. Safeties are a tough position to evaluate when there's no tackling allowed but he held his own and never allowed a receiver behind him. He's not a challenger for Major Wright's starting spot yet, but by inserting him with the first team the coaches are revealing their intention to get him on the field this season.

-WR Dane Sanzenbacher has been the most impressive youngster so far in camp. He's an all-around solid pass catcher who does well working the underneath routes. Yet against press coverage, he struggles. His 5-11, 180-pound frame doesn't allow him the ability to shed press defenders, which could ultimately cost him a roster spot.

-WR Sam Hurd, who has a tentative hold on the fifth receiver position right now over Sanzenbacher, had a quality practice. In the red zone 7-on-7 drills, he was all over the field, catching slants, digs and fades for touchdowns. His size (6-3, 200) should make him a solid option near the end zone.

-I feel like a broken record, but starting tackles Gabe Carimi and J'Marcus Webb are really struggling right now. Against defensive ends Julius Peppers and Israel Idonije, they are getting eaten up. Then, when the defense blitzes, it gets really ugly. Carimi is not used to reading blitzes from the right side and it's obviously going to take some time for him to figure it out.

-The interior of the line is playing much better than the bookends. Garza, Lance Louis and even Chris Williams, who has been extremely inconsistent so far, looked good today. If those three continue to work well together, it's going to be hard for Chris Spencer to crack the starting lineup.

-The second-team defensive ends today were Corey Wootton and Vernon Gholston. If not for the players ahead of him, Wootton could be a starter right now. He's quick off the ball and has an outstanding rip move that allows him leverage off the edge. Yet just as good is his spin move, which he obviously worked on this offseason. On the other side, Gholston is yet to show much. When he gets a head of steam, he can use his quickness to slip past offensive linemen, but more often than not, he's slow out of his stance and can't get into the backfield.

-Jay Cutler and Caleb Hanie were the only quarterbacks to take reps today in 7-on-7s and 11-on-11s. Rookie Nathan Enderle stood and watched from the sidelines all practice.

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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.


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