For the first time since Chicago Bears 2013 Training Camp began last Friday, the skies opened up this morning and let through the sunshine. It was a beautiful morning with temperatures hovering in the low 70s throughout practice.
-DE Turk McBride ruptured his Achilles tendon and is out for the season.
-LT Jermon Bushrod strained his right calf early in practice and sat out the remainder. He's day to day.
-DE Cheta Ozougwu sat out practice with a hamstring strain. He is also day to day.
-WR Brandon Marshall took a veteran day off.
"Let me just start with the injury things that happened today," coach Marc Trestman said after practice. "We're real sad. You probably already heard about Turk. He's got a season-ending Achilles injury. That's a tough one. He has worked so hard, probably as high effort a guy as we have on this team on a daily basis, since the spring. That's really disappointing. We're really disappointed for him.
"Otherwise, you saw Brandon was out today. Brandon had three very good days of practice. He had a very good day yesterday and we decided we're going to give him a two-day rest here. He should be back and ready to go on Wednesday. Cheta is just nursing a slight hamstring. That will be day-to-day. And Bushrod had the calf strain early in warm-ups. That will be a day-to-day thing as well. We don't think it's serious, but it will be day-to-day."
Notes from Day 4
-With Marshall out, the club inserted Joe Anderson into the starting lineup. This should come as no surprise to Bear Report subscribers, as I've been talking about him for months.
On the second play of team drills, Anderson lined up wide right across from CB Tim Jennings. Anderson ran a fly pattern into the end zone and QB Jay Cutler fired a high pass to his receiver's back shoulder. Anderson adjusted to the pass, leapt up and snatched the ball over Jennings' head. He hit the ground hard but still held onto the ball. Anderson has looked great all offseason and he showed his playmaking potential on this play.
"Everything is important," Anderson said after practice. "I wasn't a draft pick or anything like that. I'm not complacent, I'm not content, I'm not satisfied. I want more so to get more you got to do a little. When you do good with a little, you get a lot more."
Anderson has already fumbled two balls, something that needs to stop. But if he continues to make plays like he did today, then he'll be a lock to make the final 53-man roster. And if a starting receiver goes down, the Bears should be fine, as they already know Anderson can score touchdowns in man coverage against All Pro cornerbacks.
-With Bushrod out, the coaching staff placed Jonathan Scott at left tackle with the starters. To this point, Scott has worked exclusively at right tackle with the Bears, yet he's no stranger to the left edge, where he was a starter for the Pittsburgh Steelers.
"It's not hard," said Scott. "I played left tackle and right tackle throughout my career, throughout college. I think that's just one thing the good lord has blessed me with, having the ability to be ambidextrous and be able to play both. I think the organization realizes that I have that skill set and I just have to go out there and do it."
What was obvious during 1-on-1 drills is that Scott is nowhere near as fluid as Bushrod. He's slower out of his stance and plays much more straight up. He had a hard time with Julius Peppers, although most do. We'll see how offensive coordinator Aaaron Kromer handles the situation if Bushrod's injury lingers, as J'Marcus Webb has been the starting left tackle in Chicago the past two seasons.
-Speaking of Webb, he has been pretty mediocre since the pads came on. He struggled in 1-on-1 drills again today, getting beat badly by DE Kyle Moore around the edge and then getting rocked on his heels by DT Zach Minter, who was just filling in at DE to get Webb one extra rep.
-The best player of pass-rush drills was DT Stephen Paea. He manhandled C Roberto Garza on the first snap, driving him onto his back, and then tossed LG Matt Slauson around on his next rep. Paea is ridiculously strong and it showed in a big way today.
-The second-most impressive player was rookie DE Cornelius Washington, who has shown all-day hustle throughout camp. Washington comes hard off the ball and can stop on a dime. He's also noticeably strong and can shuck blockers to the side when he gets leverage. With McBride and Ozougwu out, Washington put in good work with the second team today. He's a little sloppy sometimes but as of right now, he's on the fast track to a roster spot.
-TE Fendi Onobun has balance issues. He still hasn't learned how to squat down and keep a solid base in and out of his cuts. During positional drills, he slipped to the ground twice, which is probably the 10th time I've seen him do it this offseason. A receiver who can't stay upright is an unreliable player.
Not surprisingly, Onobun worked exclusively with the second and third teams today. I did not see him take a snap with the first team. Instead, Trestman used Steve Maneri in two tight end sets with Martellus Bennett.
Speaking of Maneri, I focused on him during pass-rush drills and I wasn't very impressed. From what I saw, he doesn't have the ability to block defensive ends 1-on-1. It wasn't a good day for the backup tight end group.
-Charles Tillman had another very strong outing today, knocking away three passes during team drills. His most impressive play came against RB Armando Allen, who was lined up out wide. Allen ran a five-yard in route, then double-moved back outside. Tillman broke quickly on the second move and made a diving deflection. He is showing no signs of slowing down.
-Another good pass breakup came from Chris Conte during 11-on-11 drills. WR Earl Bennett was wide open streaking down the right hash. Cutler's pass was slightly underthrown and Conte was able to close ground on the receiver and get his hand on the ball.
Yet it's a misleading play. If the ball is thrown well, it's an easy touchdown for Bennett, just like the one WR Alshon Jeffery caught yesterday. It was a nice job by Conte of tracking the ball and making a play but he's made some uncharacteristic mental mistakes the past two days.
-I was impressed with G Derek Dennis today in 1-on-1 drills. He demonstrated really good strength and balance. Conversely, DT Brent Russell hasn't shown much as a pass rusher. He has little more than a bull rush and hasn't been able to get any penetration.
-Up until today, James Brown and Kyle Long had been splitting reps at right guard with the starters. Today, Long only took one series with the first team, with Brown getting more than 90 percent of the RG snaps.
With Bushrod's injury, Jordan Mills worked at right tackle with the second team next to Long. It was a rookie right side that had its ups and downs. On one play, during 11-on-11s, they missed their assignments and allowed DT Nate Collins a free run at the quarterback.
Yet they also had some really strong snaps together. The most impressive came against a defensive-line stunt. The defensive end and tackle crossed paths in their pass rush. Mills slid inside and passed the end to Long, who snatched him up. Mills then changed directions and picked up the tackle swinging wide. It was an impressive play from a pair of kids in just their fourth training camp practice.
-I am absolutely convinced that WR Alshon Jeffery is going to break out in a big way this season. So far, he has done everything right. He's been working the deep routes and the underneath stuff and he's been tough to stop. He has taken the next step and that, combined with his height and speed, is going to be dangerous for opposing defenses this year.
-Defensive coordinator Mel Tucker has used nothing but vanilla defenses so far throughout camp. There have been occasional blitzes but nothing exotic. And as for the 3-4 formations he showcased in minicamp, those have disappeared. He may just be taking it slow with the intention of installing the more complicated packages later on but to this point, it's been little more than base 4-3 sets.
-The wide receivers and cornerbacks conducted 1-on-1 drills from the 5-yard line today. The most impressive defensive backs were Isaiah Frey and Zack Bowman. Frey was very physical in press coverage and uses his hands very well to battle the receivers. Later in practice, Frey got a couple of reps with the first team at nickelback in place of Kelvin Hayden.
Bowman showed up later in the session as well. In man coverage against WR Devin Aromashodu, Bowman ran stride for stride with the receiver down the left sideline. QB Josh McCown fired a 40-yard pass that was on target, yet Bowman tracked the ball and leapt at the perfect moment, knocking the ball away.
-LB James Anderson was on the field in nickel formation with the starters today, where he was in OTAs. The last three days, D.J. Williams has worked alongside Lance Briggs in passing sets. I asked linebackers coach Tim Tibesar after practice about the rotation.
"We've got to get more than just starters ready," Tibesar said. "We've got to get a lot of guys ready to go and they've all got to play at a starter's level. We're just trying to prepare everybody."
-According to Trestman, the motto for today was "Lock up the rock Day 4. Nothing is more important than that."
-Tight ends coach Andy Bischoff put his players through a drill in which the tight ends ran down the sideline and had to catch the ball with one hand. He then had them work on back-shoulder catches. Bischoff covers everything during positional drills.
-Aston Whiteside and Jamaal Anderson rotated between defensive tackle and end today. Whiteside made a few nice plays where he was able to penetrate and get in the backfield. Anderson has not been as impressive and hasn't shown much quickness or strength.
-In 1-on-1 drills, WR Marcus Rucker played well. On one play, he leapt in the back corner of the end zone, snagged the ball over the defender's head and still got his feet in bounds. Jackson has been working mostly with the third team but he flashed today.
-The offense has used a lot of play action out of shotgun formation, with backs crossing in front of the quarterback on the play fake. It's a different look that we've haven't seen from the Bears' play-action passing game in the past.
-RB Armando Allen continues to increase his reps with the first and second teams and is being used both as a running back and as a wide receiver. One first-team formation had RB Michael Bush in the backfield and Allen out wide.
-During 11-on-11s, Cutler rolled out right behind FB Tony Fiammetta. DE Shea McClellin closed on the play and drove Fiammetta right into the quarterback. So far, Fiammetta hasn't shown much as a blocker.
-Many of Trestman's offensive plays invite the rush and then are designed to dump the ball right over the top. It's a way to counter a relentless pass rush.
-DE Shea McClellin had a strong day, beating both Webb and Scott on separate plays. I'm not buying the fact he has put on weight but he hasn't lost any of his quickness and he appears more confident on the field.
-Overall, LG Matt Slauson hasn't been great in pass-rush drills, which is surprising, as protection is supposed to be his strong suit. We'll monitor this.
-LB James Anderson sniffed out a screen play today and likely would have taken RB Matt Forte's head off if it had been a live play. D.J. Williams hasn't stood out much so far, but Anderson sure has.
-I saw one snap in which Martellus Bennett was asked to pass block Corey Wootton 1-on-1. Wootton didn't get any pressure.
-During kickoff drills, special teams coordinator Joe DeCamillis had his players line up at the 50-yeard line, instead of the 30-yard line, to save them 20 yards of sprinting each rep.
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.