The Chicago Bears conducted the third practice of 2015 Training Camp this morning. The weather was hot, muggy and stifling, with temperatures in the mid-80s.
Today’s session was the Bears’ first padded practice since Week 17 of the 2014 regular season.
G Kyle Long bruised his shoulder yesterday and was held out during the final third of today’s practice. Head coach John Fox said it’s nothing serious. Long had his right shoulder wrapped in ice at lunch.
CB Kyle Fuller, who hurt his ankle yesterday, did not participate in team drills.
NT Terry Williams did not dress due to an undisclosed injury.
T Jermon Bushrod was given a veteran day off to rest.
ONE-ON-ONE DRILLS: LINEMEN
As my long-time readers know, my favorite part of padded practices are the 1-on-1 pass-rush drills between the offensive and defensive linemen. It’s the session of practice that gives a clearer picture of the skill sets and potential production of the team’s linemen.
After three months of limited contact in the trenches, I was front and center for the best practice drill in all of football.
The top player from today’s session was easily G Matt Slauson, who was dominant against nearly every defender he faced. On two straight snaps, Slauson completely stuffed Jeremiah Ratliff, who is the club’s best interior pass rusher.
On the first snap, Ratliff swung his right arm behind his body and then delivered an intense club to Slauson’s shoulder. It was a move that would have knocked most offensive lineman off balance, yet Slauson stood there like a brick wall and locked up Ratliff. On the next snap, Ratliff tried to use an inside swim move. Slauson sunk his hips and drove right into the defender, drive Ratliff back two yards.
It was an extremely impressive set of reps for Slauson, who is the top offensive lineman on this team. Two years ago, Slauson outplayed Kyle Long and should have been named to the Pro Bowl and last season, his absence for 11 games due to a shoulder injury was a huge detriment to the front five.
A healthy Slauson is going to pay big dividends this season.
Other notes from 1-on-1 linemen drills:
-DT Ego Ferguson does not have much of a pass-rush arsenal beyond a bull rush. That needs to change.
-C Will Montgomery was beaten badly by Ratliff on his first rep but then stuff NT Eddie Goldman on his next snap. Montgomery doesn’t have great lateral movement but he’s pretty stout once he locks up his defender.
-C Hroniss Grasu had a nice rep against DT Will Sutton, getting leverage under the defender’s pads and riding him past the pocket.
-Kyle Long took a few reps at right tackle, as well as right guard. His edge snaps both came against OLB Sam Acho. Long stuffed Acho on both snaps, yet after the first one, he chose to deliver a final blow at the end of the play. This didn’t sit well with Acho, who gave Long a piece of his mind.
Yesterday, Long threw Christian Jones to the ground on a second-level block, which Jones did not appreciate, and then got into a fistfight with Jenkins. If Long continues at this pace, he may not have anything left for the regular season.
-RT Jordan Mills looked like he was in cement boots and was beaten badly around the edge by McPhee. Mills really needs to raise his level of play or Long will be the Week 1 starter at right tackle.
ONE-ON-ONE DRILLS: COVERAGE
In 1-on-1 coverage drills, receivers squared off against cornerbacks and running backs matched up with linebackers.
The play of the day came from WR Marquess Wilson. Facing CB Sherrick McManis, Wilson ran a post-corner route to the front right pylon. McManis had solid coverage and ran stride for stride with the receiver the whole way down the field.
As the ball approached, Wilson elevated and high-pointed the pass. He reached over McManis and was able to retain control of the ball as he hit the ground. It was just one more in a long string of strong plays by Wilson this off-season.
Other notes from 1-on-1 coverage drills:
-LB Christian Jones had a very nice pass breakup against RB Ka’Deem Carey on an out route. On their next snap against each other, Carey barely beat Jones by using a nice juke move to disguise his break. Jones is quick in coverage and his long arms allow him to reach passes others can’t.
-Ball was also beat by WR Alshon Jeffery, who is nearly impossible to cover.
ONE-ON-ONE DRILLS: PASS PROTECTION
In pass-protection drills, running backs squared off against inside linebackers and tight ends squared off against outside linebackers.
The top performer was ILB Shea McClellin, who looked outstanding as a blitzer. On his first rep against RB Matt Forte, who is a very good blocker, McClellin used a wicked swim move to fly right into the backfield. On his next snap, McClellin drove into Forte’s outside shoulder before swimming inside for the sack.
McClellin has struggled in coverage but the former defensive end was exceptional as an A-gap pass rusher.
Other notes from pass-protection drills:
-Later, Bass flew around the outside edge against TE Bear Pascoe, who lumbers on the field.
-TE Zach Miller, who is known as a pass catcher, looked good in pass protection.
-RB Daniel Thomas stuffed ILB Christian Jones on an inside blitz, using a solid base and good mirroring skills.
-Despite his size, RB Jacquizz Rodgers is a pretty good blocker. He’s so short and stout, he’s hard to push backward, and he’s almost always able to gain leverage.
NOTES FROM DAY 3
-On one snap during team drills, McClellin blitzed the right A gap and clogged the hole at the point of attack. Rodgers cut outside yet Jones trailed behind McClellin, cut up-field and dropped the ball carrier at the line of scrimmage.
Jones and McClellin are still taking all the reps with the starters and this was a very impressive one-two blitz punch against a stretch run.
-With Bushrod out, Charles Leno took all of the first-team snaps at left tackle. When Long left the field, Vladimir Ducasse filled in at right guard.
-Practice today featured a ton of contact during team drills. On nearly every run play, the running back hit the ground.
This is a night-and-day departure from the philosophies of former head coach Marc Trestman, who was deathly afraid of any contact in practice. It’s very possible the camp hitting could have a positive effect on the club once the games matter, as contact won’t then be foreign to them.
-NT Eddie Goldman is a load. He uses very good arm extension and when he sinks his hips, he’s impossible to move. He’s going to make a very good two-gap nose tackle against the run.
-QB Jimmy Clausen has struggled the entire off-season but looked much better today. He looked confident and threw with accuracy. He appears to be growing in Adam Gase’s offense.
-One of the best catches of the day came from WR A.J. Cruz, who laid out with full extension to grab a low-and-away pass from Clausen. Cruz’s value is on special teams but this was a pretty impressive play from the small wideout.
-G Ryan Groy, working at left guard with the third team, struggled today. On one snap, DE Olsen Pierre used a quick sidestep that threw Groy off balance. Had it been live action, Pierre would have had a sack.
-During 11-on-11 drills, there was one very interesting snap. The defense lined up with four cornerbacks – Alan Ball, Tim Jennings, Sherrick McManis and Al Louis-Jean – and just one down linemen. The outside linebackers roamed the edges and when the ball was snapped, all four linebackers blitzed, forcing Cutler to scramble out of the pocket.
It was the most elaborate blitz package I’ve seen from defensive coordinator Vic Fangio this year and gave a glimpse as to the depth of his playbook.
Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of BearReport.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. He is in his fifth season covering the Chicago Bears full time. Follow Bear Report on Twitter.