Training Camp Diary: Day 10

The 10th 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.

It's beginning to feel like a trend. The Bears, for the third time in just two weeks of training camp, had their practice affected by factors outside the team's control. First it was the sod at Soldier Field on Family Night, then it was a thunderstorm that shortened Sunday's practice by more than an hour and tonight, about an hour into the session, the lights on the practice field at Olivet Nazarene University went dark.

It was a ComEd issue. Much of the area, including the media dorms, lost power. As such, the Bears players and coaches filed into buses and finished practice at a local high school. Ironically, the surface on the practice field was FieldTurf.

Go figure.

LB Chris Johnson missed practice due to injury, as did DT Anthony Adams, who was in a walking boot. Adams said at lunch it was a calf injury. He won't play this Saturday and his timetable for a return is uncertain at this point.

News and notes from Day 10

-The player who stood out in practice was backup QB Caleb Hanie, but for the wrong reasons. The team engaged in 7-on-7s, 11-on-11s and two-minute drills tonight. During those sessions, Hanie threw four combined interceptions. He consistently tried to force balls into coverage. And when receivers were open, he was sailing the ball high. It might have just been a bad night but Hanie did not look like a viable NFL quarterback tonight.

-Jay Cutler also had a rough night, although nowhere near as poor as Hanie. Cutler was off target all evening, missing his receivers with passes both too high and too short. His frustration toward the end of practice was evident, once whipping the ball into the turf after a pass play failed to develop. It would be easy to chalk it up to an outstanding night by the defense, and they did play very well, but there were plenty of pass catchers open. The quarterbacks just couldn't put the ball on target.


CB D.J. Moore
Nam Y. Huh/AP

-Nickelback D.J. Moore spent extra time off to the side working on his technique in run support. This is notable for the fact the rest of the corners did not engage in the same drill. It's obvious the team is worried about Moore's abilities to be a contributor against the run. He's been too easily swallowed up in the wash when runs come his way. We'll see on Saturday if the extra time he put in today will pay dividends.

-At this point, Charles Tillman is as much a coach on the field as he is a player. When the corners separate and work on positional drills, Tillman takes every opportunity he can to work with the younger players, passing down some of the knowledge he's gained during his nine years in the league. It's always good to see a veteran consistently imparting his wisdom to his less-experienced teammates.

-Tonight was the first night the team engaged in full-contact goal-line drills. It was quite a spectacle of bone-jarring hits. The biggest collision of the night went to rookie Tressor Baptiste, who filled the two gap and hit RB Chester Taylor so hard his grandkids will probably feel it. Baptiste has not grasped Chicago's defensive scheme and has only seen action with the third team, but one thing is for sure, the kid can hit.

-For those who have never witnessed a Bears practice, it's worth noting how intensely the offense and defense go at each other during live drills. There is a lot of trash talk that goes on. Whenever the defense can force a turnover, a chorus of "we got one" comes from the players in white jerseys. During the goal-line session tonight, RB Khalil Bell put a nice block on Tillman and decided to brag about it. Bad move. Tillman repeatedly mentioned Bell's role as a backup and hounded him all night about his scout team duties. Apparently, no one talks smack to Tillman and gets away with it.

-The team engages in 7-on-7 drills every night. The last four practices, those drills were run in the red zone. Obviously, the coaching staff is cognizant of the team's struggles in the scoring zone last year and are starting early in an effort to remedy the problem.

-One of the issues with third team offensive lineman Johan Asiata, who was thought of as starter material in training camp last year, is his tendency to quit moving his feet. He has struggled at guard against quick pass rushers. Coach Tice moved him to tackle during line drills and on nearly every play Asiata became flat-footed, allowing defenders the edge. He's an athletic big guy, so it seems to be a mental issue. Unless he makes a drastic change, he'll most likely be on the first cut list.

-Levi Horn is being shuffled between right guard with the second team and right tackle with the third team. In line drills, it was clear today that he is much better suited at guard. He has good upper body strength and when he locks on, his hands are strong enough to keep the defender at bay. Yet on the outside, he just doesn't have quick enough feet to stay in front of speedy edge rushers. Case in point: Rookie Jake Laptad, sixth best of the team's six defensive ends, just flat blew past Horn on one drill. If Horn can't block Laptad then he has no chance against good, or even average, pass rushers.

-J'Marcus Webb is improving daily at left tackle. At the beginning of camp, Julius Peppers consistently dominated him off the edge. Peppers still gets around him on occasion, but there's no player in the league outside of Jake Long who could stop him on every play – and even that's a stretch. Yet on the majority of plays Webb shows good footwork and hand usage. It's nearly impossible for him to play any worse than Frank Omiyale did last year on the left side. Expect Cutler's backside to be much safer in 2011 than it was last season.


G Lance Louis
Scott Boehm/Getty

-In the same line drills, LG Lance Louis did an outstanding job keeping DT Henry Melton away from the quarterback. Melton has been the best interior defender on the team so far, yet Louis dominated him. If Chris Spencer ever unseats Roberto Garza at center, it's going to be hard to remove Louis from the starting lineup. He's a former tight end who is very quick when pulling and can be a force when he gets a head of steam. He's been a very pleasant surprise up to this point in camp.

-G Edwin Williams was eaten up by DT Amobi Okoye in line drills. Williams has strong hands but his footwork is sloppy. Alternately, Okoye has the quickest feet of any of the defensive tackles. He presents a serious challenge to opposing blockers, as he relies on a number of different moves to get penetration up the middle. We may look back at the signing of Okoye as one of the best this offseason.

-LT Josh Smith could not handle DE Corey Wootton tonight. Smith has been solid so far in camp, so this may just be another case of Wootton being too difficult to block. His improvement over last season is night and day. Expect him to play a much bigger role this year, especially on passing downs.

-Rookie guard Ricky Henry is not an NFL player. He falls on his heels almost immediately in pass coverage, giving him no chance to stay in front of the defender. Don't expect him on the roster after first cuts.

-One of the pleasant camp surprises so far, center J.C. Brignone, had a difficult night. He can easily be knocked off balance, which, for a shorter player, is somewhat surprising. His hands are very strong though, and he packs a wallop when he hits, so it's obvious he needs to put in some extra time on his footwork.

-WR Sam Hurd limped off the field late in practice. The trainers worked on him yet he could not return. No word yet as to the injury.

-Not to sound like a broken record, but I would do a better job on the field than Vernon Gholston has done so far. He's yet to produce a single noteworthy play. He might as well be invisible out there. It's no surprise he's yet to earn his first NFL sack. In fact, he's being outplayed right now by rookie Mario Addison, who was able to get good pressure against the second team on a couple of occasions tonight.

-The defense completely outplayed the offense tonight in every team drill. Yet the offense did show well versus the blitz. Brian Urlacher and company came after the quarterback often, yet Cutler was able to recognize it nearly every instance and delivered to the hot route. Running quick patterns can negate the blitz and make up for some deficiencies up front. It was a problem last year, so it's good to see the offense working through the blitz this early in the offseason.

-Andy Fantuz dropped another pass tonight. The former CFL star was known for his glue-like hands coming into the NFL but he hasn't been consistent in his pass catching. He needs to have a big night Saturday if he's to have a realistic shot at making the 53-man roster.

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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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