The second-to-last Chicago Bears training camp practice of 2012 was a long, hot, uneventful session. Players were not in pads, thus no line drills and no contact. It was a walkthrough session, preparing the team for the Washington Redskins on Saturday night.
While it was boring for the media, I always feel bad for the fans who drive long and far to see their favorite team up close, only to witness them do nothing but light activity. Hopefully, the fans today were new to Bourbonnais and didn't know what they were missing.
-LB Brian Urlacher had his knee scoped today and was not on the field. Coach Lovie Smith said it was a successful operation.
"The treatment we were giving Brian, the knee didn't respond as well as we wanted it to, so we had a scope this morning, a minor scope on his knee," said Smith. "Everything came out the way we wanted it to. He's back here right now. We're still right on schedule, whatever that schedule is. Brian had talked about definitely being ready for the regular season. We of course think that, and we'll just see how it goes from here."
-Also out: LB Dom DeCicco (groin), G Chil Rachal (groin), Stephen Paea (ankle), DE Demario Pressley (hamstring) and LB Adrien Cole. Paea was not wearing the walking boot he has donned the past few days, which is a good sign.
News and quotes from Day 15
-At left tackle, Chris Williams and J'Marcus Webb again split reps, although today they rotated with both the first and second team. Yesterday, Webb worked with the ones in team drills and Williams worked exclusively with the twos. This competition is far from over.
-TE Kellen Davis had an outstanding day. He caught three passes in red zone drills in between three defenders, each for touchdowns. I haven't talked a lot about Davis this offseason – he has basically boycotted the media because a radio station broadcast HIS words about not wanting to play for former coordinator Mike Martz, so I've boycotted him as well – but he was too good to ignore today.
During team drills, he ran a post corner route and made an over-the-shoulder grab between two defenders. In 7-on-7 drills, Davis has been used constantly, running everything from hitches, to drags, to seam routes. He still runs a bit stiff but his size and great hands have earned the trust of QB Jay Cutler.
-Something I've seen over and over by the offense is an offset formation, although not your typical two-tackle offset. Coordinator Mike Tice likes to stack Davis and another tight end, usually Matt Spaeth, on the edge. It creates a look where four guys are to one side of the center and only two are on the other side. This forces the defense to think pre-snap and make adjustments.
What they like to do is allow the defense to shift toward the stacked side, then run counters the opposite way, where there are less defenders. And when they do run a power slam to the strong side, there are is mass of huge bodies there to block for the running back.
-During red zone drills, Davis lined up out wide to the right and WR Alshon Jeffery was positioned in the slot. Against man coverage, this created a mismatch between Jeffery and LB Patrick Trahan. As you might've guessed, Jeffery ended up scoring a touchdown. This is a creative way by Tice to create a mismatch that the defense just could not handle.
-Another player that has boycotted the media for most of camp, Matt Forte – who apparently forgot that every single one of us wrote at least one article last year saying he deserved to get paid – has also not been the focus of my diaries. Yet he's been just outstanding all camp. He has shown no ill effects from the ACL injury last year and looks just as fast and quick as ever. He's going to have a monster season.
-At right tackle, the Bears had been using Cory Brandon to spell Gabe Carimi with the first team the past few days. That experiment didn't last long, as James Brown got first-team reps today rotating with Carimi. Brandon is as raw as sushi and looks lost at times. He's a physical specimen (6-7, 324) but he's not a natural athlete and often looks clumsy and confused.
Brown on the other hand is technically sound and uses great footwork. If he were three inches taller – Brown is only 6-4 – he'd easily be in line for a roster spot.
-DT Henry Melton, as he did one other time during camp, was catching punts during special teams drills. For those wondering, that won't happen during a game.
-QB Jay Cutler didn't have his greatest day, throwing four interceptions. There seemed to be some communication issues with him and his receiver on his last pick.
-WR Earl Bennett is not getting enough publicity. He has been as good as any wideout on the team this offseason, yet all anyone wants to do is talk about Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery, and for good reason. But don't sleep on Bennett, whom I believe is going to have the best season of his career this year.
On one play, Bennett beat CB Charles Tillman deep and S Chris Conte was too slow to get to the sideline. Unfortunately the pass was overthrown. As the two defenders walked down the sideline, I heard Conte say to Tillman, "Earl's a little faster than I thought."
-During red zone drills, the offense lined up in a bunch right formation. WR Rashied Davis was isolated away from the bunch. At the snap, he ran a flag route and was wide open for the touchdown. This is a formation and strategy the Bears have used often on offense and looks as if it will pay dividends this year, especially when Marshall is the player isolated in man coverage.
-Jeffery took most of his reps with the first team today, with Hester taking the majority of his snaps with the second team. Don't read too much into this, other than Jeffery is definitely going to be a big part of the passing attack on game days.
-Another formation note from the 3-yard line: Bunch right, QB Jason Campell in shotgun. The two front receivers, TE Kyle Adams and WR Eric Weems, both ran flag routes, clearing out the secondary. The back receiver, WR Dane Sanzenbacher, ran a quick out and was wide open for the touchdown.
-Jeffery has been almost unstoppable in the end zone. Due to his size and jumping ability – he was a four-time state champion in basketball in high school – he's able to bring down almost every fade pattern thrown his way. Yet today, CB Isaiah Frey twice was able to knock away the ball from Jeffery in the back of the end zone. I've seen a lot of progress out of Frey over the past few days.
-Finally, to give you an idea of how boring practice was today, for a good chunk of the session the quarterbacks were throwing balls at the crossbar from the 25 yard line. And as you might have guessed, Jason Campbell didn't his the crossbar once.
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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.