Today's Chicago Bears practice session went nearly three hours and finished with a live tackling drill. It was the team's last day in Bourbonnais until Sunday. Tomorrow is Family Night at Solider Field and Saturday is a day off.
LB Brian Urlacher was suited up and practiced in full for about an hour. He then tweaked his knee during rush drills and sat out the remainder of the practice. No word yet on the extent of the injury but it appeared the team was just being cautious.
WR Devin Hester was not on the field, excused for personal reasons.
WR Eric Weems is still nursing a sore left ankle and missed his second practice in a row.
LB Adrien Cole missed his third straight session.
News and Notes from Day 7
-It appears as if the left tackle competition is nearing an end. J'Marcus Webb lined up with the starters for the third day in a row. Chris Williams worked at right tackle with the backups, while also getting occasional reps in place of Gabe Carimi with the starters.
Webb has looked better the past week but I'm still not sure he's considerably better than he was in 2011. I see him holding a lot and he was beat around the edge by Shea McClellin on more than one occasion this afternoon.
Yet it Webb's position to lose at this point, for better or for worse. Barring a serious setback, it looks like he'll be getting all the reps on the left edge going forward.
-Shea McClellin had his best practice of training camp today. He was inconsistent during pass rush drills but showed good burst off the line. During team drills, he beat Webb on a couple of occasions, although he struggled some against T James Brown.
His best play came on an attempted screen pass. McClellin got into the backfield and then quickly broke down. Jason Campbell tried to lob the ball to the running back in the flat but McClellin went straight up and snatched it out of the air. He pulled it down for an interception.
During the first padded session last Saturday, McClellin knocked down two pass attempts. He obviously has great awareness on pass plays and knows how to be disruptive even when he can't get to the quarterback.
I wrote this morning that everyone needs to calm down about him and understand that he's a rookie who will need time to develop. He took steps toward that goal today, which is a great sign for the youngster.
-DT Henry Melton showed well today against the run. During rush drills, he twice was able to penetrate the gap and get into the backfield. He still struggles to hold his ground at times but it's good to see him making progress in that area of his game.
-The more I watch DE Corey Wootton, the more impressed I become. He was an absolute beast today. He was quick and strong in positional drills, dominant in rush drills and a force off the edge during team. If he stays healthy, which is a big if, he'll have a breakout campaign this year.
-Defensive lineman Demario Pressley has been lining up at tackle throughout camp, yet today the coaches put him outside at end. He has decent quickness and good strength, but he's buried on the depth chart at DT. If the position switch gets him going, he could be a practice squad candidate.
-Besides the top three defensive tackles, the most impressive players at the position have been Nate Collins and Jordan Miller. Collins has worked his way into a rotation at 3-technique with the backups. He explodes off the ball with good pad level and is relentless. His power inside can be an asset to this team.
Miller is arguably the hardest worker among those players vying for the fourth DT spot. He's quick through the bags and does well anchoring inside against the run. He's not much as a pass rusher but his all-around effort has gotten him noticed by coordinator Rod Marinelli.
-WR Alshon Jeffery worked with the starters in place of Hester. He was inconsistent, which is to be expected from a rookie, but he shows a lot of potential. He made a nice deep grab during 7-on-7s, although the referee on hand called him out of bounds.
Against zone coverage, Jeffery stands out. He's great at finding open areas. Yet in man coverage, he still needs work. For a big guy, he is not very physical and on one play, 5-8 Tim Jennings launched Jeffery out of bounds. He needs to get tougher, and his route running still must improve, but I like what I've seen out of him so far.
-WR Brandon Marshall made the greatest catch I have ever seen up close. It was 40-yard fade pattern in the end zone. QB Jay Cutler made a beautiful pass against Cover 2. S Brandon Hardin was late getting over, leaving Marshall open on the far sideline. The pass was over his shoulder and, in stride, he reached out with his left hand and pulled in the one-handed touchdown.
His athletic talent is off the charts. Bears fans, you have never seen a receiver like this in your lives. Get ready for something special this year.
-The Bears ran a swing pass to Jeffery out of the left slot, with Marshall out wide. Marshall put a block on Jennings that sprung Jeffery for a nice gain. Not only is Marshall an outstanding pass catcher but he's also a quality blocker.
-T Chris Williams looked very good as a run blocker today. On the right edge, he consistently mauled defenders. His time at left guard has done him well, and it's likely the reason coordinator Mike Tice moved him to the right side, where run blocking is at a premium.
-WR Dane Sanzenbacher had a heck of a practice. He was catching balls all over the field, one of which he ripped out of the hands of CB Isaiah Frey. At the same time, Devin Thomas struggled, getting stripped on one play by LB Jabara Williams. Most assume that Thomas will win that competition for the team's final receiver spot, because of his ability in the return game, but after today, I'm not so sure.
Additionally, with Hester out, Sanzenbacher was returning punts during special teams. Bears coaches are giving him every shot to make the roster and he's making the most of his opportunities.
-QB Jason Campbell looked great today. I've been very critical of him because of his inaccurate deep balls but he was on point this afternoon. He made two beautiful passes 30 yards down field, hitting his receiver in stride both times.
-One of those passes went to Armando Allen, who again showed his ability in the passing game. He has the speed to blow past linebackers in coverage and the quickness to make defenders miss.
During live drills, he took an off-tackle carry, broke a tackle and then made another defender miss before scrambling for 20 yards. Allen has, by far, outplayed Kahlil Bell during camp.
-Speaking of Bell, he twice ran the wrong way on a play fake during team drills. Mental mistakes like that could cost him.
-DT Brian Price looked lethargic most of the time, bordering on lazy. He also looks out of shape. It seems like he's constantly trying to catch his breath.
Yet he showed amazing power today. He doesn't have much more than a bull rush but that's one big bull. On one pass play, he exploded into Edwin Williams and drove the offensive lineman five yards into the backfield before dumping him on the ground.
You see flashes of serious potential from Price. If he can put it all together, he'll make this roster.
-WR Terrian Crump caught at least three balls during team drills. He's a big target who can create separation. He's a strong candidate for the practice squad.
-The second-best catch of the day came from none other than Brittan Golden. During live drills, QB Matt Blanchard threw the ball to Golden on an out route. Three defenders converged on the receiver, yet Golden went up and snatched the ball away from everyone. He took a hit as he came down but still hung onto the ball. Just another outstanding practice from Golden.
-T James Brown is an NFL player. While Webb was struggling to block McClellin throughout the practice, Brown was just burying him. Over and over, Brown used his solid base and strong punch to keep defenders at bay, then used his strength to drive them into the ground. I'm very impressed with this kid.
-Today was the first time I have seen Cutler throw a pure back-shoulder pass. He threw it to Jeffery, who was being covered tightly by CB Charles Tillman. Yet the throw was perfect and Jeffery made a nice play on the ball. Tillman had no chance. If Cutler can incorporate that pass into his game, a la Aaron Rodgers, he'll be able to take that next step this year.
-For the second time in as many practices, I saw McClellin drop into coverage from the end position. He looked good out in space. His ability and experience in coverage will allow the Bears a lot of options with their zone blitz packages.
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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.