The stormy weather stayed west long enough to allow the Chicago Bears to conduct a full practice this afternoon. It was the second session of mandatory veteran minicamp.
The sidelines were light today, with most of the news cameras gearing up for tonight's Stanley Cup Finals, featuring the Chicago Blackhawks, a team from which Marc Tretman believes there is a lot to learn.
"I was just talking to some of the guys about the way that the Blackhawks have handled their success throughout the season. They've gone out with the constant daily mindset of just trying to get better. That's what you hear from the players," Trestman said. "They are a hard-working team. I've watched them play in person and on TV. You can learn from the way they built their team and how they've responded, not only to their success but also the periodic adversity they've had throughout the year. As professionals, coaches and athletes, we can learn from them and their success. I think we do watching them play."
-A third wide receiver, rookie Marquess Wilson, also sat out with a minor hamstring injury.
"[Wilson] had a tweak, a light [hamstring], so we kept him out," said Trestman. "We're being very prudent with Brandon and as I said yesterday, Alshon tweaked his [hamstring] last week on a long ball. We're just trying to be mindful and make sure they're healthy as we move into training camp, with this month behind us."
Notes from Day 2
-Today's session began with typical positional drills and then, as he did yesterday, Trestman quickly changed gears and had the team run roughly seven plays in hurry up mode.
And then everyone went back to their stations. Trestman obviously wants to keep everyone on their toes by mixing up the schedule every day.
-This applied to special teams as well. During the course of each practice, special teams coordinator Joe DeCamillis rushes onto the field three or four different times to work with his players. The sessions are brief, typically around seven or eight minutes, before he's sent back off the field. Today, he had the starting punt return unit line up near the opposing goal line. Patrick Mannelly snapped the ball but the scout team ran a quick fake that caught the defense napping.
This didn't sit well with DeCamillis, who immediately rushed in and told the defense they had just cost the team a chance at the playoffs.
Yeah, that's the level of intensity at these practices.
-After positionals came the 1-on-1 drills between receivers and cornerbacks, and running backs and linebackers. Yesterday, Joe Anderson made Tim Jennings look foolish three straight times. Today, Jennings wasn't having any of it, as he was in Anderson's hip pocket every snap in which the two squared off. As a result, Anderson was unable to haul in a single pass against Jennings.
-Also during 1-on-1s, we saw a sight we haven't seen for more than half a decade: Devin Hester playing defense. He jumped in as a cornerback and matched up against Devin Aromashodu, who ran a quick slant and blew past Hester.
After practice, Hester said he was just messing around, and Trestman confirmed as much.
"No, he's just moving around," said Trestman. "If you've seen him throughout, he's been working with the defensive line, he's picking different groups on the team on both sides of the ball to spend some time with and be involved. His focus is on the return game."
-The rotation of players on both sides of the ball has blurred the lines between the first, second and third teams. At almost every position, players are working at multiple levels, with different guys around them on nearly every snap.
For example, at the beginning of practice, DT Nate Collins was working with the starters. Later in the session, he was working with the third team, alongside starter Stephen Paea. In addition, DE Corey Wootton saw snaps with all three teams, Jay Cutler took a number of snaps with the entire second team, RB Armando Allen worked with the second team, and rookie DE Cornelius Washington got reps with the second team.
We also saw fluctuations in positioning, particularly on defense. We'll start in the secondary. With the first team, Tim Jennings and Kelvin Hayden split reps at nickelback, with Zack Bowman slotted out wide. Along the front seven, things got even crazier.
Defensive tackles were being shuffled in and out all day, yet there was an entire team session that did not feature a single DT. Instead, defensive coordinator Mel Tucker lined up four defensive ends along the line of scrimmage. At one point, Wootton, Turk McBride, Kyle Moore and Cheta Ozougwu, all ends, were the only defensive linemen on the field. Not only that, but Tucker was using Wootton in a stand-up rover position, moving him constantly until the snap of the ball. At the same time, the linebackers, and at least one safety, crowded the line as well, with everyone moving pre-snap. This created a very confusing defense for the offense to get a read on.
With the first team, McClellin played the rover role, just as he did last season. These sets basically rely on two or three down linemen, with everyone else in a stand-up position showing blitz.
**Editor's Note: Of course, I caught all of this on film.**
-McClellin also stood out on another play, although this time for his pure speed. During 11-on-11s, TE Kyle Adams caught a swing pass and took off down the field. He went basically untouched, as it was a great play call against the blitz, yet about 30 yards up-field, Adams turned and there was McClellin chasing him down. Also in pursuit was 33-year-old Julius Peppers. The pure athleticism and diversity of Chicago's defensive ends is truly something to watch on a daily basis.
-For the first time all offseason (at least in the portions to which the media has been present) the defense used a number of safety blitzes. And they weren't just your standard, off-the-edge safety rushes. On one play, Craig Steltz crept into a linebacker position before the snap and shot the A gap.
We're finally getting to see some of the creativity Tucker will be bringing to the defense.
-Part of the reason the Bears waived Evan Rodriguez, beyond his off-field issues, is because of the team's faith in Fendi Onobun as a weapon in the passing game. For one snap today, he showed some flexibility lining up in the fullback spot and catching a pass out of the backfield.
-Trestman had the offense run a handful of snaps out of their own end zone. Each play was a play-action fake that featured a rollout. In fact, rollouts were prevalent throughout practice. During positionals, Cutler, Josh McCown and Matt Blanchard all practiced their rollout technique. And during team drills, the rollouts kept coming. Some folks have worried about a possible reduction in the number of rollouts due to Trestman's West Coast system, yet today's practice showed that those plays will be a staple of the new playbook.
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.