It was a shorter-than-usual practice tonight, with the running time cut from two-and-a-half hours down to just two. This is the fourth practice in a row and guys are starting to get banged up. Coaches obviously wanted a lighter session this evening.
There were a number of big names out with injuries tonight: WR Devin Hester (general soreness), LB Lance Briggs (knee), LB Brian Urlacher (general soreness), DT Anthony Adams (calf) and CB Zack Bowman (concussion).
News and notes from Day 15
-Lance Louis, who left yesterday's practice with an illness, was back in the starting lineup today. C Chris Spencer, who jumped in with the starters after Louis' departure, was back with the second team. Yet Louis still doesn't look right. Tonight, he made a number of mental mistakes. On one red zone play, he watched as both the defensive end and defensive tackle ran right past him. He looked lost, like he wasn't sure which to block, so he decided not to block either.
-For a good chunk of 11-on-11s, the quarterbacks used their helmet radios, with coordinator Mike Martz calling plays from the sidelines. It was the first time in camp the team has delivered plays through the helmets.
-The Bears traded Greg Olsen because he didn't fit Martz's offense. Typically, Martz tight ends are asked to be more blocker than pass catcher. Yet Kellen Davis is probably the leading receiver on this team through 15 practices. His size and speed is a matchup nightmare for defenses. On one red zone play tonight, Cutler lobbed the ball into the back of the end zone. S Major Wright was all over Davis but the tight end was able to shield the defender with his body and make the high grab. I expect he'll be a regular target near the goal line.
-The more I watch Chris Spencer, the more impressed I become. He has great awareness inside and almost never allows anyone through in pass protection. During one 11-on-11 play, LB Dom DeCicco blitzed up the middle. Spencer picked him up and rocked him sideways, he then turned the other way and chipped the defensive tackle. He did go the wrong way on a sweep play later on, so he's still learning the offense. Once he becomes comfortable with the playbook and terminology, I truly believe he'll be a starter.
FB Eddie Williams
-FB Eddie Williams is a big hitter who has been impressive in camp and was very good in last Saturday's preseason matchup. His only competition is Will Ta'ufo'ou, who doesn't pack nearly as much punch. Expect Williams to be an integral part of the run game this season.
-CB Antereis Bryan is sitting below the cut line but he helped himself out tonight. He's shaky in one-on-one situations but he's not afraid to stick his nose in the run game. On one 11-on-11 play, Bryan crashed down on an off-tackle play and hit TE Kyle Adams so hard his knees buckled. Bryan then disengaged and took down the ball carrier. It was an outstanding play.
-The backup safeties had a rough night in team drills. Winston Venable allowed Knox to get 10 yards behind him for a TD. Craig Steltz broke prematurely on an out move by the split end, Kris Adams, who then turned upfield and blew past everyone for the wide open touchdown bomb. And on more than one occasion, Chris Conte got caught staring down receivers instead of keeping his eye on the ball.
-Roy Williams had a few more drops tonight and a couple of great plays. He's frustrating.
-With Briggs and Urlacher sidelined, the starting linebacker group consisted of Brian Iwuh (WILL), Nick Roach (MIKE) and Patrick Trahan (SAM). I was a bit surprised Dom DeCicco, who has been impressive so far, wasn't inserted in the middle. In that scenario, the coaches could have kept Roach at his normal strong-side position. Instead, Trahan got the call – an interesting decision. One player who looks to be in Bob Babich's doghouse is rookie J.T. Thomas. Every other linebacker saw the field during the scrimmage before Thomas. And even then, he didn't get many reps. Apparently the injuries he's been dealing with have plummeted him down the depth chart.
-The coaches are hoping undrafted rookie DE Mario Addison can fill in with the second team while Corey Wootton recovers from his knee injury. He's athletic and strong but very inconsistent. From the right side tonight, he was worked over by J'Marcus Webb play after play. He's definitely still a work in progress.
-Center J.C. Brignone shared third-team reps with Alex Linnenkohl. Neither player was all that impressive. On one play during 11-on-11s, Brignone was driven back by DT Stephen Paea until both players slammed into the running back, causing a fumble. Brignone needs to get back the nastiness he showed earlier in camp.
-For the most part, the offense had its way with the defense tonight. It's amazing what the loss of Urlacher and Briggs does to this unit.
-Once again, T Gabe Carimi demonstrated his mauling ability as a run blocker. On a goal line play, he crashed down on Amobi Okoye, driving the defender three yards away from the play. Then Carimi peeled off and laid a big hit on Marcus Harrison. From what I've seen, off-tackle-right plays near the goal line, with Marion Barber toting the rock, are going to score a lot of touchdowns this year.
-After a few recent subpar performances, WR Johnny Knox finally got back on track. He was working both the middle of the field and the sidelines. He's still an integral part of this offense, so seeing him re-focused is a good sign.
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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.