The Chicago Bears today conducted the second practice of 2013 with a full roster of both veterans and rookies. Media had access to the session, held outdoors in 85-degree, cloudless weather. It was a great day to cover the team, although many players struggled with the heat.
One player who is dealing with his own type of heat is Gabe Carimi, who was not in attendance for the second day in a row. Carimi informed the team that he'll be missing a portion of the "voluntary" organized team activities (OTAs), so he can work on his own in Arizona at the offensive line camp run by former NFL player LeCharles Bentley.
I'm told that Carimi, who has had numerous setbacks in his recovery from a dislocated knee suffered two games into his rookie season, doesn't have full trust in the training staff and that he feels more comfortable working out on his own.
The Bears did not make the coaches available to the media after practice, so we have no idea how Marc Trestman and Aaron Kromer feel about Carimi's absence. But it goes without saying that being the only player on the roster to miss OTAs, while trying to winning a starting job, doesn't bode will for the former first-round draft pick.
"That's going to be tough," said Matt Forte. "I don't play his position but I think it's probably pretty important to be here right now, just with all the news faces around and the new offense, especially."
-WR Brandon Marshall, who missed all of voluntary minicamps in mid April due to minor offseason hip surgery, did not practice. Yet he was the offense's most-vocal cheerleader.
Notes from Week 1 OTAs
-During voluntary minicamps, James Brown started at left guard and Matt Slauson started at right guard. Today, Slauson was on the left side and Brown was on the right side. This isn't all that surprising, as Slauson started the past three seasons exclusively at left guard for the N.Y. Jets.
With that switch, here is the starting offensive line:
The second-team offensive line:
-During practice, three linemen false started in 11-on-11 drills. The first was Scott, who was immediately kicked out of the play and replaced by Webb. Later on, Brandon false started and Trestman sent the whole second team off the field. On the very next play, Brown jumped early. Trestman then stopped everything and told Kromer, who was calling plays for the first time I've seen all offseason, to re-start the entire period of team drills. Needless to say, the head coach was not happy.
-It's pretty much a given that every Bears run is zone rush. All day today, the running backs used single cuts behind a zone scheme, including inside and outside zones, and stretch plays. Very rarely did an offensive lineman pull or trap. It usually consists of all five guys working in the same direction and picking off defenders in their path.
"I wouldn't say there are a lot of different runs," Forte said. "I would just say different blocking schemes. There are only so many runs: zone, outside zone, inside zone. They're different blocking schemes, which I think suits our offensive line."
-With Marshall out, the starting wide receivers were Alshon Jeffery, Earl Bennett and Eric Weems. Similar to voluntary minicamp, Jeffery appeared to be Cutler's favorite target out wide. Jeffery's comfort level in traffic is much improved and he again showed solid hands. During one play, he flew past CB Charles Tillman and made a nice catch down the seam in front of the safety.
Yet more impressive was Weems. On the first play of 11-on-11s, Weems ran a fade pattern into the back of the end zone. With CB Tim Jennings draped all over him, Weems pulled in a beautiful touch pass over his shoulder while dragging his feet in bounds. When a player comes out and immediately blow past an All-Pro cornerback who led the league in interceptions last year, you take notice. Weems had just two catches last year and likely won't be a major factor on offense this season, but in Trestman's new pass-heavy system, Weems could get a lot more reps. And if he's called into duty because of injury, his scrappy style of play will give him value on offense.
-Evan Rodriguez is Mr. Everything on offense. He lines up all over the field from play to play. He's out wide one snap, tucked in a bunch formation the next, in the backfield the next and at the wing the next. He's often moved in motion and is used both as a blocker and pass catcher.
He has a couple of challengers at his spot. Third-year tight end Kyle Adams took a few snaps in the wing and Harvey Unga (yes, Unga is still with the team) lined up at fullback for a handful of reps. Yet neither player has as much versatility and natural athleticism as Rodriguez, who will likely be a big part of the offense this year.
-In the backfield, Forte was in his spot as the starting tailback and Michael Bush was working with the twos. Yet on at least two snaps, Forte and Bush served in the same backfield. Very rarely, if ever, did Mike Tice use such a formation.
-On offense, the most impressive player on the field was tight end Fendi Onobun. He was working with the backups early in practice and made a number of plays. By the end of practice he had been moved up with the starters, serving in two-tight-end sets with Martellus Bennett. And Onobun again kept making catches with the ones. The 6-6, 260 pounder can really move for a player of his size and snagged every ball thrown his way today. Steve Maneri was the assumed No. 2 tight end coming into this offseason but after today's practice, I believe Onobun has commandeered that position.
-On defense, the same starting pieces were in place from last year with the exception of D.J. Williams at middle linebacker and James Anderson on the strong side. What I found interesting was that Anderson, and not Williams, stayed on the field with Lance Briggs in nickel formation. Typically the MIKE stays on the field on passing downs in a 4-3 but apparently the coaching staff feels Anderson is the better coverage linebacker.
-There were no pads on, so it's hard to truly gauge offensive and defensive linemen. Yet when one defender is consistently blowing past a blocker, you take notice. Such was the case with DE Corey Wootton and RT J'Marcus Webb.
Considering he's in a fight for a starting position, it's hard to imagine Webb was taking it easy today. Yet that's almost what it looked like as snap after snap Wootton just flew past him around the edge. This bodes well for Wootton, who is expected to take a big step forward in his first full season as a starter. On the other hand, Webb needs to get his feet out of the concrete.
-Here is the entire second-team defense:
DE Kyle Moore/Turk McBride
DT Nate Collins
DT Aston Whiteside
DE Cheta Ozougwu
OLB Khaseem Greene
MLB Jon Bostic
OLB J.T. Thomas
CB Kelvin Hayden
CB Zack Bowman
NB Isaiah Frey
S Craig Steltz
S Anthony Walters/Brandon Hardin
Of not here is Aston Whiteside as the No. 4 defensive tackle, Isaiah Frey as the backup nickelback and the absence of Shea McClellin, who was rotating exclusively with the first team. Rookie defensive end Cornelius Washington was working with the third team.
-Special teams notes: Devin Hester was again used exclusively on special teams. He started the practice catching kickoffs from the Jugs machine. He also spent time working on his outside release from the gunner spot in positional drills. The only player other than Hester returning kickoffs was UDFA RB Michael Ford, who served in that role during rookie minicamp as well. The primary punt returner was Weems, backed up by UDFA WR Josh Lenz. The backup long snapper to Patrick Mannelly is Jonathan Scott.
The Bears brought in punter Tress Way to challenge Adam Podlesh, the incumbent. Podlesh struggled with a hip pointer last year and had a disappointing season, finishing 30th in the league in yards per punt (42.0). Podlesh did not look good again today. He had a number of really horrible punts, peppered by some decent kicks. Tress, on the other hand, was dropping bombs. It's very early in the process but it's pretty clear that Podlesh's job is far from safe.
Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of BearReport.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. Follow Bear Report on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Bear Report Web site or magazine, click here.