The seventh practice of Chicago Bears 2014 Training Camp is in the books, which means we’ve officially reached the halfway point of camp. Including Family Night tomorrow, the Bears will hold just seven more practices before camp breaks.
Today’s session was held under overcast skies, which were threatening thunderstorms. As a result, practice was shortened to just fewer than two hours. Typical practices have run roughly two and a half hours to this point.
-Kyle Long (viral infection), Craig Steltz (hamstring) and Chris Conte (shoulder) all missed their seventh straight practice. Roberto Garza was excused for personal reasons and Charles Tillman was given the day off.
Coach Marc Trestman said Long should suit up tomorrow for Family Night.
“I think he’ll do individual, if we’re on schedule here,” Trestman said after practice. “He may do more than individual but I wouldn’t count on it. Our goal is to get him in pads tomorrow night and get him through individual. Then we’ll see where he is on Sunday and work in a positive way to get him on the field.“
-Matt Slauson (shoulder) began practice in full but sat out the second half of the day.
NOTES FROM DAY 7
-The first thing I saw upon walking on the field today was WR Josh Bellamy letting a pass go right through his hands in positional drills. This has been a common occurrence since OTAs.
-For the first time since camp began, Adrian Wilson took all of his reps with the starters. The 13-year veteran has been rotating with the second and third teams to this point in camp but he worked alongside Danny McCray with the first team for the entirety of practice.
“I think what Adrian has done, he’s kind of worked himself back into playing football, and we’ve kind of just stood back and allowed him to acclimate himself on not only what’s going on in the classroom, but let him get his feet underneath him on the field,” Trestman said. “And he continues to get a little better each and every day, and Mel and Chris and John felt it was time to move him up there and get a day’s practice. We’ll look at the tape – I couldn’t comment on it – but we’ll look at the tape and see how he did and continue to move people around.”
The safety position is extremely tough to evaluate when players can’t hit and pass rushes can’t finish. That said, Wilson has not looked very fast on the back end and he hasn’t shown a whole lot of hustle.
This could be a savvy veteran saving his energy for the snaps that count or it could be a sign of a player who has lost his burst. Either way, his movement up the depth chart, even if for one day, is a sign that Wilson is in the mix to earn one of the starting safety spots. His play in the preseason should tell us whether Wilson has the chops to still play in this league.
-During the first set of team drills, Shea McClellin had two disruptive blitzes. The first came after he blitzed through the right B gap untouched, which would have resulted in a sack less than a second after the snap. The second came on an edge blitz in which McClellin blew up RB Michael Ford.
In general, I’ve seen much more blitzing this year than I did in last year’s camp. I’ve seen double A-gap blitzes, nickelback blitzes, linebackers coming from every possible gap and zone blitzes in which defensive linemen drop into coverage. If this blitz frequency carries over to the regular season, the Bears could end up one of the blitz-heaviest teams in the league this year.
-DT Ego Ferguson had a number of impressive snaps against the run today. When he stays low and fires off the ball, something the coaching staff has been drilling into him since rookie minicamp, he’s nearly unstoppable.
-DT Jeremiah Ratliff has been one of the most consistent defensive linemen during 1-on-1 pass-rush drills. He has shown very quick feet, a cadre of rush moves and immense upper body strength. Today, Ratliff dominated RG Michael Ola, consistently out-muscling him into the backfield.
-Like Wilson, it’s tough to gauge Jared Allen in 1-on-1 drills. He’s been stymied by Jermon Bushrod on nearly every snap, showing very little burst or maneuverability. You have to think he’ll flip the switch ones the lights go on and the games matter but to this point, Allen has looked like just another guy.
-With Long and Garza out, and Slauson on the sidelines for the second half of practice, the Bears eventually ended up with a starting offensive line of LT Jermon Bushrod, LG Brian de la Puente, C Taylor Boggs, RG Michael Ola, RT Jordan Mills.
If the season started today, I believe Boggs, Ola and de la Puente would all make the team, with Eben Britton the ninth offensive lineman, assuming he’s healthy.
-The Bears signed OT Dennis Roland last night. He’s listed at 6-9, 315, and he looks every bit of it. He’s a massive player who showed decent strength and balance in 1-on-1 drills. He worked today at right tackle with the second team.
With Britton out indefinitely, the Bears have to start looking at potential replacements. Charles Leno Jr. is in the mix, as is James Brown, but no other tackles on the current roster give me any confidence.
Roland has 30 starts in his six-year career and will be given a legitimate shot to earn the swing tackle spot. If Britton’s hamstring injury lingers and Roland has a strong preseason, he could back his way into a roster spot.
On one snap during red-zone drills, Frey broke on a pass intended for TE Martellus Bennett, knocking the pass up in the air. Later, working with the second team, Frey knocked away a jump ball intended for Josh Bellamy in the back corner of the end zone.
Frey, last year’s starting nickelback, needs a strong training camp and preseason to find his way onto the final 53-man roster. Today was a good start.
-During “tight red zone” drills, as Trestman calls it, the defense absolutely dominated. All together, 15 plays were run inside the 10-yard line, 13 passes, and the offense scored just one touchdown coming on a Ka’Deem Carey plunge from the 1-yard line. Other than that, it was a defensive show.
“Today, in the tight red zone, the defense amped it up,” Trestman said. “We had some contested throws, knockdowns, some real good plays defensively.”
This is a good sign, as these plays were made without the help of Tillman or Jennings. We all know the offense is going to score points this year. The question marks revolve around the defense, so to see them step up and shut down a potentially potent NFL offense bodes well for this team going forward.
-WR Marquess Wilson has made plays throughout camp, continuing today with a great high-point catch on a jump all down the seam. When asked about Wilson’s progress, Trestman confirmed for the first time this offseason that Wilson is officially in the lead to claim the club’s No. 3 receiver role.
“The indicators are right now is that he’s still competing for that position, and he’s in the lead right now into winning it,” said Trestman. “His conditioning level is better. His training level. He’s bigger now. He’s thicker. Believe it or not, he’s thicker and there’s more girth to him now than there was a year ago. And he knows the offense. He’s highly intelligent. We can play him at any position, which increases his value to our football team if Brandon or Alshon were, heaven forbid, to go down. But right now, he’s on track to be the third.”
-Two days in a row I’ve watched James Brown, working at left guard with the second team, flat out miss a blitz read. Today, LB Christian Jones lined up across from Brown, showing blitz before the snap. When the ball was snapped, Jones came, but Brown looked the other way. If it were live action, QB Jordan Palmer would have been flattened.
-On one snap, WR Josh Morgan ran a 12-yard hitch route. CB Kyle Fuller broke on the pass and smother Morgan, never allowing the pass to reach the receiver. Fuller continues to show fearlessness in his physical style of play, which is encouraging.
-DT Nate Collins has been very mediocre the past three practices, yet Tracy Robertson has been improving. Today, Robertson earned a few reps with the first team in base defense. The Bears may want to keep five defensive tackles this year and if Collins can’t step into that No. 5 role, Robertson may be able to swoop in and steal one of the club’s final roster spots.
-On the first play of the two-minute drill, Jay Cutler tried to find Brandon Marshall down the left seam. Lance Briggs was trailing the receiver and elevated to make a play on the pass, tipping the ball in the air. Danny McCray came down with the interception and just like that, the two-minute drill was over.
It was a very athletic play from Briggs, who may still have a little bit of gas left in the tank.
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.