Bears family night doesn't disappoint

Chicago Bears Family Night, held at Soldier Field, was an opportunity for most fans to get their first look at a team most believe is championship caliber. It's safe to say, no one left disappointed.

After a spirited practice session, held at Solider Field for Family Night, Chicago Bears wide receiver Brandon Marshall addressed the crowd. Being interviewed by Bears radio play-by-play announcer Jeff Joniak, Marshall talked about the amazing support the fans have shown him. As he did, the 27,352 fans erupted, which caused the new Bears wideout to stop and smile.

He then made a prediction.

"Keep this here," Marshall said, "Super Bowl."

Marshall also said he'd like to retire as a Bear. For those on hand to witness the show he put on during practice, that was music to their ears.

Injuries

LB Brian Urlacher rested his knee for the third straight practice. We'll monitor this but I still believe the team is just being cautious.

WR Devin Hester, who missed Thursay's session due to personal reasons, was back in practice.

News and notes from Family Night

-During 7-on-7 drills, coordinator Mike Tice worked almost exclusively with his bunch and double-wing packages. For nearly every rep in the bunch formation, Marshall was isolated on the weak side. That typically creates a one-on-one matchup.

Whether Charles Tillman or Tim Jennings lined up across from him, Marshall exploited those matchups. Down the seam, on slant and out routes, on fade routes, you name it and Marshall used it win that one-on-one. He's not a one-trick pony, whose only value is downfield. He'll use the entire route tree to get open.

The team did a lot of work near the red zone, in both 7-on-7 and team drills, in which Marshall caught multiple touchdowns. Early on, he beat Jennings deep for a 30-yard TD, an over-the-shoulder grab where he was able to get both toes down before falling out of the back of the end zone.

Later in the practice, during goal line drills, he ran a slant pattern and was able to get in front of Jennings. LB Lance Briggs floated over to undercut the pass but QB Jay Cutler fired it in there anyway, which just shows his confidence in Marshall. Briggs got a tiny piece of the pass but Marshall was still able to make the grab, amidst double coverage, and got both feet in bounds.

It was just another great catch, one of many so far this offseason, from a great receiver.

-Despite Marshall taking advantage of him on occasion, Jennings looked real good otherwise. He made a number of nice pass breakups. What's most impressive is his anticipation in zone coverage. He breaks quickly, almost before the ball is released, and is aggressive when the ball is in the air.

You can almost equate Tim Jennings as the defensive version of Carolina WR Steve Smith. Like Jennings (5-8, 185), Smith is also undersized (5-9, 185) yet there isn't a tougher wideout in the NFL than Smith. For that reason, he's considered one of the best pass catchers in the game.

Jennings isn't one of the best corners in the NFL but no one gets more out of their size than him. And on top of that, he gets to play against Marshall all day every day, which is only making him better. Right now, I don't believe there is any chance Kelvin Hayden overtakes him for the starting role.

-TE Kyle Adams doesn't get a lot of press but he does a lot of good things on the field. As both a blocker and a pass catcher, Adams is more than serviceable. He has a lot of value as an F-back in Tice's offense.

During last night's sessions, he ran a crossing route during 7-on-7s. QB Jason Campbell found him just as Adams cleared the linebacker. The pass was out in front but Adams made a nice reaching grab for the TD. He's fourth on the TE depth chart right now but based on the way Adams has played so far, a case can be made for keeping all four this year.

-LB Geno Hayes is a quality player in coverage. I worry about his run-stuffing ability but he can more than keep up with this team's group of talented tight ends.

-During 7-on-7s, QB Jason Campbell had WR Dane Sanzenbacher wide open down the right seam. Yet Campbell overthrew the pass and it resulted in an interception by S Anthony Walters.

Campbell is a quality, experienced quarterback who can manage an offense if called into duty. But it's these types of plays that cause me to worry sometimes. His downfield accuracy is wildly inconsistent in practice, and there's no reason to believe that won't be the same on game day.

-The left tackle competition is over, with J'Marcus Webb the winner. Chris Williams is now getting reps at right tackle, rotating with Gabe Carimi. Don't read too much into that. Carimi is healthy and will be the starter. The club just wants Williams to get extra reps on the right side, where he hasn't played in more than two seasons.

-A few formation observations.

Tice wants to spread the field but not in the same way as his predecessor Mike Martz. Tice has yet to use a formation with four or more wide receivers. Every formation includes at least one tight end and running back. When he goes empty backfield, it's usually a quick pass from shotgun formation, so the front five doesn't have to hold their blocks as long.

What Tice is trying to do with these sets is push the defense toward the sidelines. Repeatedly, he spreads his players across the line of scrimmage and runs them on out and corner routes. He then tries to attack the middle of the field with a back or tight end.

One example from 7-on-7s: A double wing set with Cutler in shotgun and RB Matt Forte in the backfield. At the snap, the front receiver on both sides ran a flag route, taking the safeties with them. The underneath receivers both ran out routes, taking the corners with them.

Forte then slipped through the middle of the line and sat in the open zone five yards downfield. After the easy catch, he had time to turn around and room to make a move on the linebacker. That play run on 3rd and 3 would be an easy first down.

A second example came on the goal line. Five players were spread across the line – three receivers, a tight end and Forte out wide. Cutler took the snap from shotgun, took one step backward and then broke forward on a QB draw. There wasn't a player around to stop him from scoring the TD.

-On the sidelines, I watched as Patrick Mannelly and Adam Podesh practiced their field goal snap and hold. Podlesh was doing it with one hand, snatching the perfect snap out of the air and placing the ball, laces out, with his right hand. Needless to say, you don't have to worry about any botched snaps or holds on field goals this year.

-Third-string receivers Terriun Crump and Chris Summers both looked great during live tackling drills. Summers went up on a deep sideline ball, pulling in a 40-yarder, while Crump caught four passes during the drill. Fighting for a place on the practice squad, each did himself well last night.

-Also impressive during live drills was RB Lorenzo Booker. During one play, he caught a swing pass, juked a defender and picked up 10 more yards before being dragged down by three players. It was the first time Booker has stood out so far in camp but it was an impressive catch and run nonetheless.

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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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