And just like that, poof, they were gone.
The Chicago Bears held the third and final practice of mandatory veteran minicamp this afternoon and now get a well-deserved six-week break before the start of training camp. It was another hot day in Lake Forest, yet coach Marc Trestman was happy with the effort of the players under the intense sun.
"Just a heck of an offseason," Trestman said after practice. "We think we're a strong, more explosive football team going into this offseason, and we'll see where that takes us here as we get into [training] camp. [There was] a really good ebb and flow to practice, some good stuff on both sides of the ball, some high energy. I really like where we left this thing.
"I think we got a lot done and looking back, a lot of things came together. It's a lot of changes in everybody's life, as we proceeded through this entire offseason I thought the guys worked hard, as I said, almost every day. They were extremely cooperative, and very flexible, and that goes to our veterans who have really done a great job of making the changes that we need to make, and the subtle things that are different than how we've done it before, and showing our young guy how to do things right as a professional. It was a good start."
-Receivers Brandon Marshall (hip), Alshon Jeffery (hamstring) and Marquess Wilson (hamstring) all sat out today. Safety Major Wright worked out early but sat out the second half of practice. We were unable to confirm his injury.
Notes from Day 3
-For most of the offseason, watching Marc Trestman's new offense has been, for lack of a better term, boring. That's not to say it won't be successful but watching a West Coast system go through the paces, it lacks a lot of pizzazz. There is plenty to see but for the vast majority of plays, the ball flies fewer than 10 yards through the air. Such is the way of a short-passing system.
Yet today, possibly because it was the team's last practice for nearly six weeks, balls were sailing down the field regularly. All three quarterbacks were very liberal in their use of the deep ball, which is a far departure from the dink-and-dunk passing game that has been on display the past two months.
As a spectator, it was fun to watch, but the end result wasn't very pretty for the offense. Of all the passes attempted today of more than 20 yards, roughly 10-15 of them, just a couple were completed. Give the defense credit, as they definitely got the best of the offense today, but the downfield attack has to improve if Trestman's new passing game is going to run on all cylinders.
-I spent time during positional drills watching tight ends coach Andy Bischoff. He put the guys through their usual paces but then switched gears and had them do blocking drills. The first drill consisted of a tight end in his down stance, with two guys holding pads across from him. At the snap, the tight end would drop back as if he were pass blocking, alternately punching each bag with his hands as they closed in on him.
This was a drill that former offensive coordinator Mike Tice used every single day with the offensive linemen. Yet I've never seen tight ends do this drill. This shows the importance the Bears are putting on the ability of their tight ends to block.
-Bischoff also used a drill that you usually see at the baseball field. He had the tight ends squat down while two different balls, a little bigger than softballs, were rolled at him. The player had to squat down and use both hands to knock the ball back to the coaches. I assume this was a drill aimed at improving balance and hand/eye coordination. It was unique to say the least.
-One last note on the tight ends. During passing drills, the tight ends ran a number of different routes but the one that interested me most was a seam pattern that used a double move. It's not a complicated pattern – the player runs 10 yards up the field, cuts softly outside for two yards and then cuts back inside – yet it shows the different ways they are planning on putting pressure down the middle of the field.
-FB Tony Fiammetta worked alongside Matt Forte as the starting RB duo during passing drills. It has taken Fiammetta less than a week to become firmly entrenched as the club's full-time lead blocker. He's not a great pass catcher but he looked competent out of the backfield. Think Jason McKie.
Fiametta is also a member of every starting special teams unit, so he has third-phase value as well.
-New wideout Jerrell Jackson showed good body control and hands during passing drills. On one hitch pattern, the ball was thrown a good three yards to his outside, yet Jackson was able to extend and snag the football. During team drills, Jackson took reps with the second team alongside Terrence Tolliver and Brittan Golden.
-Also during passing drills, I noticed the running backs running jerk routes out of the slot. Very interesting.
-With Paea out, Nate Collins took first-team reps at nose tackle. It's obvious the coaching staff feels very good about Collins as the primary backup at nose. It will be interesting to see how he performs once the pads go on.
-Staying at defensive tackle, Christian Tupou, a UDFA whom Bear Report has previously mentioned as player with a solid skill set, actually saw a rep with the first team today. That's quite an ascension. Tupou isn't taking anyone's starting spot but he'll definitely be in the DT mix at training camp.
-DT Sedrick Ellis, a former first-round draft pick the club signed this week, did some warmup work but did not see the field during team drills. During the special teams portions, he was working with defensive line coach Mike Phair and a few other D-lineman on stunts and conditioning. We'll have to wait until camp to find out where the Bears are going to line up Ellis.
-In place of Major Wright with the first team, the Bears used Craig Steltz at strong safety. This is not surprising but it just confirms Steltz's status as the No. 3 safety on the roster.
Yet up for grabs is the fourth safety spot, which will be awarded to either Brandon Hardin or Anthony Walters. Safety is arguably the hardest position to evaluate from the sidelines, so it's very difficult to say which player is in the lead. What I do know is Trestman was giving Hardin some love today for his read-and-react skills. I always look for those types of interactions between coaches and players, as it tells you a lot about where that player stands.
-Kelvin Hayden is the starting nickelback and Isaiah Frey is his backup. That much we know. Yet Tim Jennings has also been rotating inside. Yesterday, Jennings moved into the slot with the first team, with Zack Bowman positioned out wide. Today, Jennings stuck to the sidelines with the first team, yet he actually took a rep with the third team during the final 11-on-11 portion. What this tells me is that, beyond Hayden and Frey, the Bears don't have another dependable corner to play out of the slot. That bodes well for Frey's chance at making the final 53-man roster.
-Recently signed receiver Devin Aromashodu had a good practice and made a couple of nice catches. His best grab came on a wheel route down the sidelines. He found the soft area between the corner and safety in the Cover 2 and caught a beautiful touch pass from Josh McCown in stride. Aromashodu has played against the Cover 2 his whole career, in both Chicago and Minnesota, so it's no surprise he knows how to get open.
-The offense has practiced a number of play-action rollouts the past few days. On every single rep, the pass goes to the short man in the flats. The ball never gets thrown down the field.
-On defense, in nickel formation, the Bears are consistently using three defensive ends. And, like they did yesterday, are using one of those ends in a standup rover spot. That continued today, with ends, safeties and linebackers all crowding and moving along the defensive line. From this came a number of exotic blitzes, most of which put serious pressure on the quarterbacks. Folks, this isn't your father's defense.
-Earl Bennett has been solid but unspectacular all offseason, going about his business in the slot. Today, he found a soft spot in the zone, shielded the defender with his body and made a 20-yard grab. After the play, Trestman barked, "That's a clinic by Earl there!"
-Against linebackers, Matt Forte is having his way. Forte is being shifted and moved all over the field, which typically gives him a 1-on-1 matchup with a linebacker. To this point, not a single Bears linebacker has been able to stop him.
-Trestman today again counted down the play clock during team drills, putting pressure on his signal callers to get the play off.
"I just want them to have a sense of urgency making the calls, assessing the defense and doing those kinds of things," Trestman said. "We'll have a clock in training camp. It'll be easier on the voice. I want them to get to the line of scrimmage and it's like any other quarterback in the league, time is of the essence. We've got a lot of work to do even before the snap. It's the same everywhere. We just want to make sure we have that sense of urgency with each and every play."
-Jonathan Scott has not looked great at right tackle with the second team. On one snap today, Cheta Ozougwu just flew right past him, which elicited a round of "ooohs" and "aaahs" from his defensive teammates.
Yet fifth rounder Jordan Mills, working at RT with the third team, showed some serious improvement today. During rookie minicamp, we captured on film offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer working with Mills on his stunt blocking. Today, the third-team defense repeatedly used stunts against Mills and he did a great job of picking them up. He was able to ride slant inside and still recover and get back outside for the swing rusher. The kid is coming along.
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.