It was another cold, windy morning for the first padded practice of Chicago Bears 2013 Training Camp. As usual, despite the less-than-ideal conditions, fans came out in droves. In fact, it was reported that more than 9,000 fans were in attendance for a Sunday practice at 9 a.m.
Even with the pads on, the Bears came away from today's session unscathed.
Notes from Day 3
-There is something about the first day of padded practice that can make hairs stand up on the back of your next. I woke up far ahead of my alarm clock today and, as if it were Christmas morning, I couldn't go back to sleep. For months, we've watched this team practice in shells. While working out in shorts and jerseys can still show a lot about the team, it pales in comparison to how much knowledge one can glean from a fully padded practice.
So it shouldn't come as a surprise that I was 10 minutes early to practice today. Coach Marc Trestman conducts walkthroughs and installations in the hour before fans are let on the practice fields at Olivet Nazarene University. I posted up where I could hear him giving instructions to the offense, which is always fun, no matter the coach.
These are slow walkthroughs in which every single part of the play is dissected to make sure everyone knows their roles. Players literally walk to their points. It's the exact opposite of a live drill, yet Trestman still found an opportunity to throw in a hurry-up play. Even in the most benign drill, he's still keeping his players on their toes.
-Trestman's disciplined coaching style carries over to his coaching staff. Late in the practice, a player was not ready to rotate onto the field and Trestman screamed to his staff: "Next time that happens, I'm cancelling the period."
-The Bears' defense forced three turnovers in each of the first two practices of camp. They forced two more today, giving them eight turnovers in just three practices. It just shows that, despite a new coaching staff, the emphasis on creating turnovers has not left Chicago.
A lot of media have been writing about the interceptions and forced fumbles as if they signal defensive dominance over the offense. That is not what I've seen. In fact, beyond the turnovers, the offense has gotten the better of the defense on a fairly consistent basis.
That continued today, with the offense scoring five touchdowns through the air. The first TD came during the initial two-minute segment, which Trestman always inserts right in the middle of positional drills. QB Josh McCown found WR Joe Anderson in the back of the end zone, beating S Craig Steltz in man coverage.
Anderson continues to make plays but he fumbled another ball today, giving him two fumbles in three practices. That is a surefire way to end up in Trestman's doghouse, so Anderson needs to learn how to protect the ball better if he wants to make this team.
Three touchdowns came late in the session during red-zone drills. The first was a pass from QB Jay Cutler to TE Martellus Bennett, the second was a Cutler pass to WR Brandon Marshall and the third was a catch by TE Fendi Onobun in the back of the end zone. On all three plays, the receiver was wide open.
Yet the best score came midway through practice during 11-on-11 drills. Cutler dropped back to pass and fired a pass to WR Alshon Jeffery, who was streaking down the right hash. Cutler launched a pass that sailed 50 yards in the air and hit Jeffery in stride at the goal line.
It was a great play by the offense but one has to wonder where the safeties? Chris Conte was in the area but he had no chance at making a play on the ball. That's not good back-end coverage.
-Even thought the pads came on today, it wasn't a very physical practice. Pads or no pads, the coaching staff does not want players hitting the ground, so guys weren't really flying into each other.
The one real good pop I saw came during 11-on-11 run drills. FB Tony Fiammetta led the play into the A gap. LB James Anderson filled the gap and unloaded on Fiammetta. It was a powerful collision that showed Anderson's willingness to blow plays up with reckless abandon. Those types of fills at the point of attack will filter plays back to the weak side, where Lance Briggs will be licking his chops.
-During positional drills, quarterbacks coach Matt Cavanaugh was working with his players on pass-rush avoidance. He was constantly sending bodies at his signal callers as they made their reads. It's a solid strategy, forcing the quarterbacks to deal with pressure on every snap, so they can hopefully do the same on game day.
Yet one drill threw me off. He had his QBs fake a handoff and then turn as if it was a bootleg. He then threw a pass rusher right in the quarterback's face. The QB then had to jump off his back foot to make the pass.
I understand the situational approach here. In that scenario, that's the only way to get the pass off. But honestly, does Cutler need more practice throwing off his back foot?
-During 1-on-1 drills, WR Marquess Wilson made an outstanding grab. It was a fly pattern against CB Isaiah Frey. Wilson got a step on the defender but the ball was a bit underthrown. The receiver slowed up and elevated over Frey to snatch the ball at its highest point. I spoke yesterday about Wilson's potential and he again demonstrated that on this play. He's a talented kid to say the least.
Frey got his though. Late in the session, working against Wilson, Frey undercut an out route and picked off the only pass of the day. It was a strong play from a developing second-year player.
-Trestman has no plans to let up on his quarterbacks and barked at his signal callers all day to get out of the huddle and to the line of scrimmage. During 11-on-11 drills, the offense was averaging a little more than 16 seconds in between plays. That's an Oregon-style of football right there.
-For the first time all offseason, we got to see 1-on-1 pass-rush drills between offensive and defensive linemen (video to come). It's the best part of camp and it did not disappoint.
"I get too aggressive sometimes," Long said after practice. "That is a problem of mine. I want to go jump on people and coach Kromer has said to take it easy and things will slow down for you in terms of recognition, and guys have said that to me as well."
Also after practice, Collins talked about Long's immense strength.
"He's really, really strong when he gets his hands on you," said Colins. "He just has that strength."
-During 11-on-11 drills, DE Corey Wootton was just working over RT J'Marcus Webb. On the first two plays of live drills, Wootton just flew past Webb as if he wasn't even there. A few plays later, Webb missed his assignment and allowed McClellin a free run at the quarterback. Webb did settle down after that but he looked horrible to start the session.
On the other side, LT Jermon Bushrod held his own against DE Julius Peppers but he was also beat on a number of occasions. Peppers makes a lot of guys look bad, so it isn't something to worry about. In fact, it should make Bushrod even better.
"I've played [Peppers] ever since I've had the opportunity to start, so I know what he brings," Bushrod said. "He has a lot of strengths. I don't know if he has too many weaknesses. When you practice against a guy like that, you have to fight to be on point as much as you can because he will make you pay for it."
-The defense blitzed a number of times during the team portions. The offensive line allowed a player through nearly each time. And during one kitchen-sink blitz, at least four guys had a chance at Cutler.
"It's the first day of pads," said Bushrod. "The first day of pads is always tough because you're on offense and you're kind of sitting back and trying to figure out the best position for you to be in. Sometimes there was a blitz, sometimes guys aren't in the right place at the right time. It happened to me a couple of times today. I got a little anxious thinking I can be too aggressive on some of these guys. They're quick inside and they have blitzes inside, so you've got to continue to be patient. That just comes with the more live reps that we get.
"Early on in practice I was jittery but you have to slow yourself down a little bit and try to fight to get it done. I know we're going to have ups and downs. We're going to fail and we're going to have great plays at times. But then we just have to learn from it. It's not easy."
-OL Eben Britton, who has spent time at right tackle and left guard with the second team, did not look good in 1-on-1 drills. Edwin Williams also struggled. Williams spent time at right guard today during team drills, as well as center. He played some left guard yesterday as well.
-Turk McBride, a defensive end by trade, was working at defensive tackle with the second team today. He isn't much of a pass rusher, so maybe he can help stop the run from the inside.
-To counter the constant pressure today, the offense dialed up a nice screen play during 11-on-11s. RB Matt Forte caught the ball in space with blockers in front of him but G Matt Slauson, who isn't knowm for his second-level prowess, missed his block. The play would have gone for no gain.
-While Long looked good today, he did have one mental mistake: a false start during team drills. Trestman immediately threw Long and the rest of the offnese off the field.
-Jamaal Anderson got looks today at both defensive tackle and defensive end. He didn't provide much pressure but his versatility is intriguing.
-The third-team defensive line was really solid today. On three straight plays during 11-on-11s, QB Matt Blanchard had to tuck the ball and run due to the pressure up front.
-During red zone drills, WR Devin Aromashodu, who has been working mainly with the third team, took one rep with the first team. The coaching staff obviously likes Aromashodu's size near the end zone.
-My favorite line from Trestman today: "COME ON! RAGE OFF THE BALL!"
Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of BearReport.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. He is in his third season covering the Chicago Bears full time. 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.