The Chicago Bears conducted the fourth practice of 2015 Training Camp today. It was a warm afternoon session, with temperatures reaching the low 90s, although they were tempered by a nice breeze.
Attendance for today’s practice appeared to be the largest of training camp to this point.
WR Alshon Jeffery sprained the AC joint in his shoulder but returned to practice. As did DE Jarvis Jenkins, who dislocated his finger. The trainers popped his finger back in place and he was back on the field.
NOTES FROM DAY 4
-Practice today was by far the most physical session I’ve witnessed in four-plus years covering the Bears. Run drills, which did not feature receivers or cornerbacks, were borderline live contact, with running backs going to the ground on nearly every snap.
LB Mason Foster filled a B gap run and exploded into RB Jeremy Langford for one of the biggest plays of the day. Foster is still working with the second team but that type of physicality brings him one step closer to a starting role.
DT Will Sutton struggled against the run. At nose tackle, he cannot hold the point of attack against a double team and is pushed aside easily.
On one snap today, Sutton lined up at left defensive end, or 5-technique, and the offense ran right at him. RB Ka’Deem Carey had a huge hole off the right side and went untouched for nearly 15 yards. Notable on Carey’s run was his lack of speed. He looked like he was running in quicksand.
Of the six running backs on the roster, Daniel Thomas ran with the most power. On one snap in the red zone, Thomas burst to the second level and lowered the boom on S Malcolm Bronson. On another snap, Thomas made a nice cut to avoid backfield pressure and burst into open area on the weak side. With six running backs in camp, he’s a long shot to make the roster, but Thomas’ stock surely rose today as a potential short-yardage back.
OLB Sam Acho had an enormous hit on RB Jacquizz Rodgers on an off-tackle run. Acho shed a block from the tight end and delivered a blow to the diminutive Rodgers. Acho also looked good in one-on-one linemen drills and beat RT Jordan Mills around the edge for what would have been a sack during team drills.
Later in the session, Acho set the edge on a stretch run left, forcing the running back inside to his help, and then chased down WR Marquess Wilson on the sidelines after a catch. Acho is still working with the first team and obviously has no intention of relinquishing his place on the depth chart.
On one third-team snap, LG Tyler Moore pulled behind the line of scrimmage and attempted a kick-out block on LB Jonathan Timu. It was a big collision and Timu stopped Moore in his tracks. Timu has good movement skills and was aggressive today, which should bode well for his chances of making the practice squad.
-The play of the day came during 7-on-7 drills. QB Jay Cutler slung a pass deep down the left sideline to WR Alshon Jeffery. CB Kyle Fuller was in coverage and stayed in Jeffery’s hip pocket. As the ball approached, Jeffery leaped over the defender and high-pointed the pass. Fuller stayed on the play though and got a hand on the ball, ripping it away from the receiver before he hit the ground. The pass went incomplete.
This was a strong play from Fuller and reminiscent of how he performed in training camp last year. He hasn’t been a standout player this off-season but it’s possible a big play like this one will give him the confidence to find consistency.
-NT Eddie Goldman is going to make a very good two-gap nose tackle. He comes off the ball hard and keeps his pad level low. He also uses good arm extension and utilizes rip, shuck and swim moves to separate from blocks. Goldman worked with the first team today with Ratliff taking most of the day off.
-NT Terry Williams is round and stout (6-1, 322) but he lacks ideal balance. If he gets pushed too far to one side, gravity starts to take over and it become easy for offensive linemen to finish blocks. He’s big but Williams must play with a better base if he’s going to make the final 53-man roster.
-RB Jacquizz Rodgers is a good one-cut runner. On stretch runs behind zone blocking he’s decisive and hits the hole hard.
-Will Sutton had a rough day against the run but made a great play as a pass rusher in team drills. Sutton was lined up shade right over C Hroniss Grasu and used a quick rip move to drive the blocker backward at the snap. Sutton then separated from Grasu for what would have been a sack. It was a strong play, easily his best this year.
Sutton is working with the second team at both nose tackle and 5-technique but has not yet secured a roster spot. He was a highly productive pass rusher at Arizona State, so he might be able to provide value in sub packages.
-WR Cameron Meredith (6-3, 207) is tall, somewhat thin and very fluid. He made a very nice catch on a 20-yard comeback, snatching the ball out of the air and immediately turning up the field. For what it’s worth, Meredith looks the part of an NFL wide receiver.
Yet he has lapses in concentration. For example, running a zero route on a bubble screen, Meredith reached out for the ball but turned his eyes toward the defense too soon. The ball hit his hand and then the ground. Meredith is working with the second team and has some potential as a receiver but not if the coaching staff can’t count on him to make routine catches.
-During goal-line drills, CB Terrance Mitchell had a pretty pass break up in the back of the end zone, elevating high in the air to knock the ball away.
-QB Shane Carden is struggling to make quick decisions and does not have good accuracy or velocity on his passes. I don’t want to throw the kid under the bus but he just doesn’t look like an NFL quarterback.
-There were two minor scuffles during practice today. In a session as hard-hitting as today’s was, it’s surprising there weren’t more.
-During goal-line drills, WR Ify Umodo made a nice jumping grab in the back corner of the end zone, high-pointing a pass on a fade route over CB Qumain Black.
-OLB Kyle Woestmann is a good-looking player who has shown good quickness and power. The undrafted rookie played in a similar 3-4 system at Vanderbilt, giving him a leg up on many of the team’s other outside linebackers. Woestmann has found a role on special teams as well, so keep an eye on him as a potential 53rd man as we move through the preseason.
-T Cameron Jefferson has been working with the third team at left tackle and has performed well. He showed good upper body strength during one-on-one drills and has held his own in pass protection during team drills. The 6-5, 320-pounder is an early practice-squad candidate.
-Here is the club’s first-team kickoff unit: Brock Vereen, Adrian Amos, Shea McClellin, Senorise Perry, Sherrick McManis, Robbie Gould, Cornelius Washington, Josh Bellamy, Sam Acho, Al Louis-Jean and Demontre Hurst.
Of note is the presence of Bellamy, Perry, Washington, Louis-Jean and Hurst, all of whom are bubble roster players. Their spot on the first-team kickoff unit is a good sign.
Also of note is that Dante Rosario and Ryan Mundy, both of whom were staples on special teams last year, are not included in this unit.
-On kickoffs, special teams coordinator Jeff Rodgers uses a layered, or tiered, system in which certain players are expected to bust up the play deep down the field, while others drop in behind at the second level and two more stay back at the third level. It’s much more than just gap control on kickoffs for Rodgers.
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.