The Chicago Bears just finished up the 14th practice of training camp. The session started on the regular practice fields but finished on Ward Field, where the Olivet Nazarene team plays its home games. It was a wet evening with drizzle throughout most of the session. Coach Lovie Smith said it was good to get the players out on a slick field.
"We're in Chicago and most of the time it's not sunny and perfect weather so it's always good to have a chance to practice when the field's a little slick," said Smith. "Last Thursday of course was a wet field so it's good for the quarterbacks and receivers be able to handle the ball when it is a little bit wet."
The night was capped off by a fireworks display that surely woke up everyone within a 10-mile radius.
-CB D.J. Moore suffered a thigh contusion early in the session and did not participate in team drills.
-WR Earl Bennett was excused from practice to be with his wife for the birth of their second child.
News and notes from Day 14
-In place of D.J. Moore, the coaches inserted Kelvin Hayden in the nickel spot. Hayden has experience in the slot, having played there with Atlanta last season. I talked with him after practice and, while he said there are substantial differences between the two systems, he feels very comfortable playing nickel for the Bears.
"It was good to let Kelvin get an opportunity to play with the ones," Smith said. "We feel like we have three starting corners with him. He can also back D.J. up. We shouldn't miss a beat. We want to be in this situation."
Hayden definitely has the speed to keep up with any slot receiver in the league. During 1-on-1 drills, Hayden lined up against WR Devin Hester. Hester stutter-stepped at five yards and then took off down field. Hayden slowed for a second at the stutter and fell behind Hester. Yet Hayden was able to track down Hester, one of the fastest players on the team, and make a play on the ball. If Hadyen can keep pace with Hester, he should have no problem with NFL slot receivers.
-There were three pushing matches tonight. The intensity on the field has ratcheted up as of late, with players knowing it's now or never to show the coaches they deserve a roster spot.
The most obvious pushing match came during 11-on-11 drills. WR Dane Sanzenbacher caught a pass on an out pattern. CB Tim Jennings, just seconds after Sanzenbacher snagged the ball and before he could turn his head toward the defender, leveled the wide receiver. Sanzenbacher got up and gave Jennings a shove in the chest.
"Getting in football mode, getting in a little bit of contact, but I've got to be smarter in those situations, protect our teammates," Jennings said after practice. "It was just one of those type of practices, got real emotional, real chippy out there, got real competitive. But I've got to be smarter and protect my teammates."
-Speaking of Sanzenbacher, he was dominant during 1-on-1 drills. His low center of gravity helped him keep his footing on the wet field, while those around him were slipping all over the place. Sanzenbacher three times beat CB Cornelius Brown handily.
If the Bears plan on keeping six wide receivers, the final spot will go to either Sanzenbacher or Rashied Davis. Davis is a strong special teams player but I haven't seen much out of him as a pass catcher. During 1-on-1s, he beat his defender but dropped a beautiful over-the-shoulder throw from QB Josh McCown. On the other hand, Sanzenbacher is lighting it up as a receiver. He does good things every day as a wideout and was returning kickoffs with the backups as well.
-RB Lorenzo Booker, who looked pretty good in Thursday's preseason opener, has apparently leapfrogged Armando Allen on the running back depth chart. Booker was working with the second team for a brief stretch during team drills tonight. He was also getting first-team reps as a kick returner alongside Hester.
-DT Jordan Miller looked outstanding during 1-on-1s. He destroyed G Chris Spencer on one rep, flew past G A.J. Greene on another and plowed over Greene on his final snap, knocking the offensive lineman on his butt. Miller is buried on the depth chart but his performance this past week could earn him extra reps Saturday night against the Washington Redskins.
-Speaking of Greene, he had a rough night during 1-on-1s. He couldn't handle Miller or any defensive lineman. He just doesn't appear to be NFL caliber at this point.
-Yet for as bad as Greene was, G Nick Pieschel was even worse. He fails to move his feet and has horrible balance. He slipped and fell on more than one occasion. He was so bad today that it wouldn't surprise me if the team cuts him tomorrow.
-The best blocker in 1-on-1s was C Edwin Williams. He has amazing balance and a strong upper body. He was not beaten on a single snap tonight. If he continues to impress and Spencer continues to underachieve, the coaching staff may be compelled to give Williams a shot at left guard, where he started seven games last season. Right now, he looks like the best interior offensive lineman on the team.
-OK, when I say this, keep the panic level down, but T Gabe Carimi does not look good. He was mediocre during 1-on-1s and was worked over by DE Israel Idonije during team drills. Carimi isn't moving fluid and could still be having discomfort in his knee. Whatever the reason, he does not look as good as he did at this point last year.
-T Cory Brandon is a physical specimen but he has a long way to go if he's ever going to be a regular season contributor. In 1-on-1s, DE Aston Whiteside – a lumbering player that is slow off the ball – put a spin move on him that knocked Brandon straight on his butt. Brandon's footwork is subpar, as is his balance. He must improve quickly if he's going to make the team.
-During 11-on-11s, the first team offense ran a number of offset-I formations. Yet FB Tyler Clutts was nowhere to be found. Instead, the club used a combination of tight ends Kellen Davis and Matt Spaeth as lead blockers. At this point, it appears Clutts' shot at making the roster are getting slimmer by the day.
-Chauncey Davis, who has been relegated to the third-team defensive end, lined up at defensive tackle today with the second team for a couple of snaps. His grip on a roster spot is slipping and the team obviously feels he doesn't provide much off the edge and were giving him a look inside. That said, he wasn't all that impressive at tackle.
-During team drills, rookie CB Isaiah Frey made a diving pass breakup on a hitch route. It was a very athletic play that demonstrated his quickness and anticipation. He has a long way to go but you can see flashes of major potential with Frey.
-I saw Wootton limping on a couple of occasions. He's wearing a brace on his knee but he was obviously in a bit of pain. It's something that bears watching.
-OT J'Marcus Webb, who was called out again by coordinator Mike Tice during his weekly press conference, took all of the snaps at left tackle with the first team during 11-on-11s. Chris Williams worked exclusively with the backups.
Offensive line coach Tim Holt said after practice that was due to the team not wanting to rotate during live drills. Williams will get reps with the first team tomorrow, he said. The competition is still ongoing.
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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.