Bears Training Camp Diary: Day 3

We empty our extensive notebook from the first padded practice of Bears training camp, a session that included the much-anticipated 1-on-1 linemen drills, a flourishing rookie corner and more.

The Chicago Bears today wrapped up the third practice of 2014 Training Camp. It was a hot, muggy session that last nearly two and a half hours. Attendance peaked at roughly 9,500 today, and those on hand were amped up and ready for football.

INJURIES

S Craig Steltz (hamstring), G Kyle Long (viral infection) and S Chris Conte (shoulder) all missed their third straight practice. Also on the shelf was WR Terrence Toliver (toe), whom coach Marc Trestman said will be day-to-day.

CB Tim Jennings (quad) missed yesterday’s practice but suited up today. He participated in warm ups and a few positional drills. He then took himself off the field and did not return.

DE Willie Young (quad), who missed the second half of yesterday’s session, returned this morning and practiced in full.

NEWS AND NOTES FROM DAY 3

-Despite the hot conditions, Trestman was in rare form today, pushing his players from start to finish. After the first set of team drills, the players broke to their positional stations. As they scattered across the field, Trestman yelled: “If you’re walking, you’re absolutely wrong. Find a coach!”

Later during positional drills, Trestman grabbed a body pad and took his shots at the wide receivers after they made their catches. And in full sleeves and long pants, Trestman probably ran more than 400 yards chasing plays from behind.

It’s easy to ask a lot from your players when you’re putting in nearly as much work yourself.

-The highlight of practice came during the 1-on-1 sessions between wide receivers and cornerbacks, during the reps in which WR Alshon Jeffery and first-round CB Kyle Fuller squared off.

On the first snap, Jeffery ran a seven-yard in route. Fuller broke quickly out of his backpedal and beat Jeffery to the ball, picking up a nice pass breakup. The two then went back and forth, with Jeffery outmuscling Fuller on a hitch route, then beating him on a go route that was overthrown.

It was competition at its highest. Jeffery is a Pro Bowl wideout who wasn’t going to let the kid show him up, yet Fuller stood his ground. This session alone was worth the price of admission. This pairing, if it continues throughout camp, is only going to make these two better.

-Fuller had a very strong day overall. He smothered WR Marquess Wilson on a crossing route, giving the receiver no room to make a play on the ball. Later in practice, WR Eric Weems ran a quick slant on a hot route, yet Fuller was again right in his back pocket and knocked the ball away.

It’s only the third practice of camp, so it’s too early to make concrete evaluations of any rookie on the roster. Yet based on what I’ve seen of Fuller the past three months, including a standout session in pads today, he appears to be the real deal.

-Speaking of Weems, he stood out during 1-on-1 drills as well, beating the defender across from him on nearly every snap. Short, intermediate and deep, Weems looked very sharp as a receiver. He has earned a bunch of first-team reps the first three days of camp.

-WR Marquess Wilson also had a good practice. During the first snap of team drills, Wilson ran a fly route with S Ryan Mundy trailing him. QB Jay Cutler lobbed a 50-yard pass to the front of the end zone. Wilson tracked the ball and high-pointed it over the head of Mundy for the touchdown grab.

Later, Wilson showed good speed in creating separation from CB Kelvin Hayden on a crossing route, with Cutler hitting him in stride. On another snap, Wilson ran a 12-yard hitch against zone coverage, sitting between Hayden and Fuller. Cutler fired a missile to Wilson, who was smacked in the arms by both cornerbacks immediately after he caught the ball, yet Wilson hung on.

They were all impressive plays from a receiver who has shown considerable improvement so far this training camp.

-A lot of folks are curious about the linebacker situation but in all honesty, this is too fluid of a situation to predict. The shuffling of linebackers happens on nearly every snap during team drills. From play to play, the linebacker groupings on the first and second teams are never the same, so this is a competition that’s going to take a while to pan out.

For Shea McClellin, the pads didn’t show us a whole lot about his ability to fill gaps at the point of attack, as there is no tackling. In coverage, he nearly got a hand on two passes thrown in his coverage area. The good news is he nearly got two PBUs, which shows improvement; the bad news is both passes were completed with McClellin in no position to make the tackle. The work continues.

-With Kyle Long out, Eben Britton has taken all of the first-team snaps at right guard. Britton last season served as the club’s Monster Tight End, lining up outside the offensive tackles on both sides of the line. With Britton inside, the team turned to TE Matthew Mulligan to serve in the Monster role for one snap with the first team today.

Mulligan is big, wide-bodied tight end who isn’t much of a pass catcher but his girth (6-5, 267) could serve the team well as an in-line blocker. Getting a snap with the starters is a good sign for Mulligan.

-S Adrian Wilson is still rotating with both the second and third teams.

-During special teams punt drills, the fans went absolutely bonkers when it was P Pat O’Donnell’s turn to kick. It eventually evolved into a full section of the crowd chanting “Mega-Punt, Mega-Punt, Mega-Punt.” Even coordinator Joe DeCamillis, who has 25 years coaching experience, was taken back by the response to his rookie punter.

“That’s a first,” DeCamillis said after practice. “I was thinking, you’ve got to be kidding me over there. It was ridiculous. Let’s keep the kid’s feet on the ground so far.”

At one point, O’Donnell punted a ball from his own 15-yard line into the far end zone. The unofficial hang time for that kick was 5.12 seconds. It was an extremely impressive kick, yet DeCamillis cautioned against anointing O’Donnell as the starter.

“I don’t know about that yet, that’s jumping the gun a little bit,” he said. “It was one practice today. I thought he did some good things today and we’ve just got to keep working and hopefully he keeps continuing stacking good days on good days.”

-Today was the first day of my favorite part of training camp: 1-on-1 linemen drills. The session pits offensive linemen vs. defensive linemen in individual pass-rush situations.

The star of those drills was DT Nate Collins, who had three “sacks” during the session. Collins showed good burst off the ball and very active hands, ripping and pulling his way past opposing blockers. It was a very impressive display from a player just nine months removed from a torn ACL.

“[The explosiveness] is coming back,” said defensive line coach Paul Pasqualoni. “We’ve had three days and these three days were a big improvement in regard to his movement from OTAs. So far, so good, but again it’s only three days. We’ve got to see how he handles the grind and the intensity of practicing every day.”

Collins has been working mainly with the third team but if he continues to have days like today, he’ll work his way onto the roster as the fifth defensive tackle.

-Rookie DTs Will Sutton and Ego Ferguson did not fare as well during 1-on-1 drills. On Ferguson’s first snap, he came out of his stance and fell flat on his face. Of his roughly five snaps, he was able to generate pressure just once using a bull rush. He definitely has a lot of room for improvement.

Sutton showed good burst and quickness but didn’t use his hands well enough or show enough upper-body strength to create separation from opposing blockers. It was their first day in pads, so they can obviously improve, but Chicago’s second- and third-round picks definitely looked like rookies today.

-For the blockers, Jordan Mills stood out amongst the starters. On his first rep, DE Lamarr Houston beat him around the edge but after that, Mills held his own against both Willie Young and Trevor Scott. Mills has been every up and down so far in camp but he showed improvement today, which is a good sign for the Bears offensive line.

-Houston once again slid inside to defensive tackle in the pass-rush sub package, with Willie Young stationed on the edge. At DT, Houston had a field day with Eben Britton, who struggled in both 1-on-1 and team drills. Houston showed an impressive blend of power and explosiveness that Britton just could not handle.

“We can play Lamarr inside or outside,” Pasqualoni said. “He’s very versatile. That’s the beauty of Lamarr.”

-The second-team offensive line: LT James Brown, LG Dylan Gandy, C Brian de la Puente, RG Michael Ola, RT Joe Long.

Ola had a good day and flashed during team drills. On one snap, he drove Will Sutton onto his back, which was impressive to see.

-WR Chris Williams continues to impress. It seems like every time he’s thrown the ball, he finds a way to make the catch. He plays much bigger than his size and isn’t afraid to go up for passes in traffic. By my count, he made at least six catches during team drills, two of which were sliding grabs near the sidelines.

-In the battle to be RB Matt Forte’s backup, it appears Michael Ford has the early lead. The past three days, he’s taken the majority of first-team reps behind Forte, with fourth-round rookie Ka’Deem Carey working mainly with the second team.

-LS Chad Rempel is in a competition with Brandon Hartson for the club’s long snapper job. Unfortunately for Rempel, he had two bad snaps today during punt drills.

-S Ryan Mundy had a solid practice. On one snap during team drills, Mundy chased down TE Martellus Bennett from behind and was able to knock the pass away. On another rep, Mundy forced a run play inside, which went for no gain. After the snap, Mundy received some love from secondary coach John Hoke.

-For the first time all camp, there was no on-field scuffle between players. There was a brief shoving match between Roberto Garza and Lamarr Houston but the two quickly made peace.

The only collision came from LB D.J. Williams, who filled a gap and laid a hit on Ka’Deem Carey. Welcome to the NFL rook!


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.


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