The weather in Lake Forest was much sunnier and warmer today for the second practice of Chicago Bears rookie minicamp. Temperatures hovered in the upper 50s with the clouds giving way to warm sunshine late in the session. Unlike yesterday, Marc Trestman and his rookies took to the outdoor fields this afternoon for a full two-hour practice.
Yet former Bears linebacker Wilbur Marshall was on hand for an up-close look at this year's crop of rookies.
Notes from Day 2
-Offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer, who spent almost all of his practice time last season with the offensive line, did not work with the team's blockers today. Instead, during positional drills, Kromer focused on the quarterbacks, supervising David Fales, Jerrod Johnson and Adam Kennedy. O-line coach Pat Meyer worked by himself with the offensive line.
Over the offseason, Kromer expanded his title to coordinator and Pay Meyer was elevated to offensive line coach. Today, we saw a glimpse at the new coaching structure on offense.
"The title is giving Pay Meyer more of an opportunity to have a bigger voice in the offensive line room, and it's also given myself a chance to broaden my horizons and not spend 100 percent of my time with the offensive line when it comes to practice and meeting time," Kromer said after the session. "And so, I'll be able to get out a little bit more. At the same time, I want to make sure that I'm on top of what we're doing with the offensive line. Really hands on still, but able to spread myself out a little bit.
"When you're a coach that's continuing to want to grow, you want to make sure that you're in all aspects of the offense and all aspects of the game. Sometimes an offensive line coach can get pigeonholed into just doing that job. I've made it a point throughout the years to make sure I didn't. Although the title changed, I was already working in some of that capacity. [It was] more of a promotion for Pat than anything."
-During receiving drills, head coach Marc Trestman was focused intently on the timing of his quarterbacks. During one drill, the receivers ran a skinny-post hitch at roughly 17 yards down the field. Trestman repeatedly drilled into his throwers the value of releasing the ball before the receiver made his break.
"You can't wait for him to make his break," Trestman said. "The ball has got to be out."
After practice, Trestman said his on-field intensity is part of the bigger picture.
"I just know that through experience, that the harder we can make practices, the easier the games are," he said. "That's what we try to provide for them during the course of practices."
-For the second day in a row, Trestman took a strong interest in the progress of fourth-round rookie running back Ka'Deem Carey.
During positional drills, with running backs catching passes out of the backfield, Trestman found Carey after a catch and run. He spent a good 30 seconds with the rookie, showing him the proper technique to tuck away the ball.
During 11-on-11 drills, after Carey made a nice catch on a mid-level crossing pattern, Trestman again had words of encouragement for the former Arizona runner.
In general, Carey has looked great the past two days as a pass catcher. He's been able to create separation from defenders with ease and has shown solid hands. If Carey can build on the skill set he's shown in camp, he could develop into an even bigger part of this year's offense than most originally believed.
"Ka'Deem Carey has suddenness. When he sees a hole, he's able to get North," said Kromer. "He even did it a couple of times on tape yesterday that when you go back and watch in on tape, you say why did he run there, and then you say to yourself ‘How did he get from there to over there and gain three yards when no one was looking really. That's what Ka'Deem Carey can do. He's a North and South runner, meaning when he decides to put his foot in the ground he doesn't dance, he just goes. He's gaining yards, and that's what we like about Ka'Deem: He makes a cut, and he gains yards. That's what we're looking for."
-The Bears invited two workout tight ends to camp, one of whom, Andre McDonald, is a towering player. He's 6-8 and has shown decent receiving skills the first two days.
On one play during 7-on-7 drills, McDonald ran a wheel route and turned up-field. Quarterback Jerrod Johnson lobbed a nice touch-pass ball deep in the direction of his tight end. McDonald, 30 yards down the field, went up and high-pointed the ball with defenders all around him. It was a very impressive play and easily the top catch of rookie camp to this point.
The Bears lack depth at tight end, so if McDonald has one more strong outing tomorrow, he'll likely earn a trip to training camp.
Hurst picked off a pass during 11-on-11 drills, undercutting a hitch route, and returned the ball for a touchdown. Later in team drills, he had another quality pass breakup, reaching in front of his receiver on an out route.
Question marks surround the depth of Chicago's corners and Hurst is doing his best to make his mark early. Right now, he's working against players who will likely never see an NFL roster, yet if he can build on this weekend throughout OTAs and training camp, Hurst could earn a spot on the final 53. Remember, Hurst is a player the coaching staff was very high on last season.
-The Bears did not draft a receiver and did not sign a wideout in undrafted free agency. Yet Rashard Smith out of North Carolina State made a statement today. He had three catches in team drills and showed a knack for getting open. He's made the most of his opportunities so far and even earned some praise from Trestman after a solid catch and run.
"That was awesome," Trestman said.
Smith was also used as the No. 1 kick returner during kickoff drills.
-I mentioned yesterday the on-field demeanor of linebackers coach Reggie Herring. That demonstrative display was cranked up a notch today, with Herring losing his mind on multiple occasions. After his screaming fits today, it would be very surprising if he had any voice left after practice.
One thing is for sure, Chicago's linebackers this year will not be getting a free ride. Herring is going to push them to the brink.
-Yesterday, third-round defensive tackle Will Sutton had a solid practice. Today, he took it one step further.
Players weren't in pads, so it's always tough to full evaluate linemen, but Sutton was dominant today in shells. He was explosive off the snap and showed outstanding leverage working into the backfield. During 11-on-11 drills, he was in the quarterback's face on nearly every snap.
Sutton looks trim and quick. He's fast out of his stance and active with his hands after the snap. On the final snap of one 11-on-11 session, Sutton blew past his blocker and had to slow up to avoid obliterating sixth-round QB David Fales.
After the play, defensive line coach Paul Pasqualoni and assistant defensive line coach Clint Hurtt both sprinted over to Sutton to give him encouragement after his strong play. Through two days, Sutton appears even better than advertised.
-Jerrod Johnson has been the most impressive of the quarterbacks at minicamp but he still struggles with his decision-making. Once during both 7-on-7s and 11-on-11s, Johnson could not pull the trigger and was forced to tuck the ball away. In those drills, it's unacceptable to take sacks.
-Post-practice, Kyle Fuller was part of a group of roughly six players working independently as punt returners. He did not return kicks in college but it appears the coaching staff is giving him a look at the position.
Fuller plays with a lot passion and even let out "woohoo" holler in between kickoffs during special teams drills. If he can get excited about that, imagine the intensity he'll bring once the action is live.
-Rookie punter Pat O'Donnell didn't get a chance to show off his big leg today, as special teams coordinator Joe DeCamillis didn't put the players through punt drills.
It's worth noting, though, that O'Donnell was not used during kickoff drills. Some big-legged punters often double in the kickoff role, but that doesn't appear to be the case with Chicago's sixth-round selection.
-Devin Hester may be in Atlanta but his ghost still exists in the Windy City, today in the form of large bouncy ball. During special teams coverage drills, the balls were used to represent a kick returner.
At one point during instructions, one coach, with the ball held over his head, yelled, "This is Devin Hester. Tackle him."
Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of BearReport.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. He is in his fourth 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.