As we pointed out earlier today, the Chicago Bears are tweaking the defensive line during nickel situations. For the past week of practice, Israel Idonije has been sliding inside to defensive tackle next to Henry Melton on passing downs, with Julius Peppers and rookie Shea McClellin on the edges.
Idonije said it's been three years since he last played defensive tackle but he didn't have any problem making the transition. He likened it to riding bicycle.
"The first practice, my first couple of snaps, you're just getting used to the timing," said Idonije. "The hands come quicker. Everything happens a little quicker inside. So yourself, you've got to bring your hands quicker. It's good."
This is a defensive front Chicago's coaches will likely only employ on third downs. As a result, Idonije won't be asked to stop the run as a tackle and won't have to bulk up as if he were making a permanent switch.
He said he has no problem with moving around and will do whatever the coaches tell him to on game days.
"If they ask me to do it that's what I'll do," said Idonije. "At the end of the day I do my assignment. So whatever that may be that's the plan. That's the way it'll be."
The Bears will face off this Saturday against the Washington Redskins and rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III. No quarterback in the NFL brings the same type of speed as RGIII – he ran a 4.38 and 4.41 40-yard dash at the 2012 Scouting Combine – which will provide a big test for Chicago's defensive ends.
"He's definitely a great athlete," said Shea McClellin. "You have to keep contain and make sure you're rushing in your area, basically, and just keep contain on him."
Keeping contain on a player like RGIII is much easier said than done. He's an ankle-breaker in the same mold as Michael Vick. Yet like Vick, RGIII can also beat you with his arm. He's a dangerous dual threat and could give Chicago's front seven headaches.
"He's a great athlete and a great passer, so when you have guys that fast that can get out of the pocket, and in Shanahan's offense, it's tough because it leaves some plays here or there," Corey Wootton said. "But you just have to follow your keys and play the angles on guys like that."
It will take a group effort on Saturday to corral RGIII.
"A lot of us have to be able to contain him," Wootton said. "Coaches have been stressing angles, especially against a guy who can run a 4.3, 4.4 40."
With Griffin, we'll get a good idea of which Bears defensive linemen have the quickness and agility to keep him from getting to the second level.
Another shot for Williams
Bears offensive coordinator Mike Tice began training camp with a 50/50 competition between Chris Williams and J'Marcus Webb for the starting left tackle gig. Yet after just a few practices, Williams was moved to right tackle, giving the appearance that Webb had won out. Yet after Webb failed to impress in the preseason opener, the competition on the left side quickly ratcheted back up.
"I don't know if I would clarify it as a second chance, but it's a chance for me to go out and win a starting job, which I've been trying to do all along," said Williams. "I'm just going to go out and play hard and let it sort itself out."
For a lot of veterans, training camp is an annoyance. There isn't much to learn and they end up getting a lot of days off – Julius Peppers has hardly practiced all camp. Yet that doesn't apply to guys like Williams that are fighting for their spot on the depth chart.
"I'm not in that position," Williams said. "Preseason is like a regular game for me. You go out there and you play hard, and you try and win a starting job."
If Williams can outplay Webb over the next few weeks, he could end up stealing the starting gig. One way or another, the sooner a winner emerges the better it is for a front five that needs to build cohesiveness before the start of the regular season.
"We're a pretty cohesive group already," Williams said. "We've all been around for a little while. When they decide to make who whatever, that's on [the coaches], but I'm sure the sooner the better."
News and Notes from the camp finale
The Bears conducted the final open practice of training camp this afternoon. It was a light session, with players in shorts and shells. Due to poor weather earlier in the day, today's crowd was the smallest of the entire preseason.
-LB Brian Urlacher was not on the field.
-G Chilo Rachal, who has been held out since the preseason opener, was back practicing today.
-There has been an ongoing debate amongst the media as to how many tight ends will be on the 53-man roster this year. Kellen Davis and Matt Spaeth are the starters, and the team used a fourth round pick on Evan Rodriguez this year.
That leaves Kyle Adams as the odd man out. Yet in walkthroughs today, Adams got a handful of reps with the starters. Would the Bears waste time putting Adams in with the ones if they were planning on cutting him?
To me, that's a sign. Adams was working in the fullback during some of his reps, which leads me to believe the club is seriously considering keeping him as the F-back and cutting FB Tyler Clutts. Adams is much more dangerous than Clutts as a receiver and has shown well as a blocker.
Adams has been very impressive in camp and is currently on the verge of playing his way into a roster spot – just as he did last year, when he was one of five undrafted rookies to break camp with the team.
-DE Chauncey Davis was working with the third-string kick return team. After starting camp as Chicago's No. 3 defensive end, he has recently been leapfrogged by both Shea McClellin and Corey Wootton. Seeing Davis working third-string special teams is a sign his days with the club are numbered.
-WR Rashied Davis dropped an easy pass on an uncontested deep ball. Davis has always had issues hanging onto the pigskin. He's currently in a roster battle with WR Dane Sanzenbacher. Slippery fingers won't help Davis' cause.
-QB Jason Campbell completed two 40-yard passes today, the first time in camp he's done so in a single practice. His downfield accuracy has been severely lacking all offseason, so it was a good sign to see him put a few deep balls on target.
-WR Eric Weems was running at full speed today without a limp. It appears the ankle injury that kept him out for five practices earlier in camp is no longer bothering him.
-RB Lorenzo Booker has shown me a lot of speed and quickness in the short time he's been with the team. As a kick returner, he looks electric. Pay attention to him on Saturday. If he breaks off a big kick return or two, he could climb into the conversation as Chicago's third running back this year.
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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.