The Chicago Bears conducted the fifth practice of 2015 Training Camp this morning. The weather today was beautiful, with temperatures in the upper 70s and very little humidity.
“He fell on it,” head coach John Fox said. “We’re just going to be cautious with it.”
Ball has been dealing with his foot problem since voluntary minicamp.
“We’ve managed it all off-season,” said Fox. “We’re kind of letting it rest.”
TE Zach Miller suffered a stinger in his shoulder but he returned to practice. TE Martellus Bennett left briefly due to stomach illness but he returned also. TE Brian Vogler left practice with a foot injury and did not return.
WR Kevin White remains on PUP with a shin injury and has not begun on-field work with the trainers.
“I think he’s making headway,” Fox said. “He’s been on the shelf for six weeks. At the end of the day I’d prefer him to be out there but I’ve seen guys miss time and have the seasons of their life.
“We're just not doing a lot with him as far as strong on-grass movement. I'm not going to get into all of his things but some of it is in water. His conditioning level … there's a lot of ways to build your cardio system without pounding on a particular body part. So we're in that stage and hopefully it continues to grow.
“I'm looking at it day-to-day. I can't predict [when he’ll return]. Sooner rather than later is what I hope but it's just a hope.”
NOTES FROM DAY 5
-LB Jon Bostic has been on the shelf the entire off-season with what he said were multiple different injuries.
“To be honest, it wasn’t even a back injury,” he said. “It was more stuff from shin, hip; it just kind of went up in the back. But we were all good once we figured it out. It just took a little while to figure everything out.”
He suited up for practice the first four days of training camp but did not participate in any team drills. Today, he finally got limited reps in live-action drills and he came ready to play.
On one snap during 11-on-11s, he flew into the left C gap on a stretch run and clobbered the running back three yards in the backfield. On the next snap, Bostic blitzed the right B gap, worked his way around a block and batted down the pass from QB Jimmy Clausen.
For a guy who hasn’t practiced in more than seven months, it was a heck of a display. Bostic took his reps alongside Mason Foster with the second team. They were limited reps, two at a time, before being replaced by DeDe Lattimore.
He continues to make plays and with both Jeffery and White out, Wilson was QB Jay Cutler’s top target today. There are a lot of mouths to feed in this offense but Wilson is currently carving out his slice of the pie.
-RB Jacquizz Rodgers made a pretty one-handed diving grab on a swing route from a poorly thrown ball by Cutler. Rodgers has looked confident as a one-cut runner and I paid close attention to him in pass protection today, where his small size and thick base allow him to anchor and drive into the chest of blitzing defenders.
He’s not the flashiest player on the team but Rodgers does everything well, which is the reason he’s the primary backup to RB Matt Forte at this point.
-On one of the early snaps in team drills, OLB Sam Acho went right around LT Charles Leno. Surprisingly, despite his success the first week of camp, Acho took most of his reps with the second team, with Jared Allen working almost exclusively with the starters.
-During individual drills, offensive linemen worked with medicine balls. They put their hands out in front of them, a few inches apart, and would punch the ball with open palms as it was thrown at them. They then punched the ball back and forth as the worked laterally down the field. One guy then laid on the ground and punched the ball back up as it was dropped toward him. Then they punched the ball on one foot. Finally, they punched the ball as they worked out of their playing stance and into their kick step.
The point of the drill, as far as I could tell, was to strengthen the hand punch and familiarize the players with doing it on the move. Repetition is the way to build muscle memory, so if the hand punch becomes second nature, fundamentals have then been instilled.
-During positional drills, tight ends practiced option routes where they broke down and turned for the ball five yard down the field. It is truly remarkable how much more athletic TE Martellus Bennett is than the rest of his position group. He’s on an entirely different level then the club’s other tight ends.
In 1-on-1 drills, Bennett was unstoppable, literally. He caught every pass thrown his way, basically just having his way with every safety he faced. His size and athleticism is really something to watch and it doesn’t appear his off-season contract squabble has affected his ability to be a beast on the field.
-CB Kyle Fuller was the only defender able to stop Bennett today. During goal-line drills, Cutler found Bennett a yard deep in the end zone. Bennett reached up for the pass, which was out of Fuller’s reach, but as he came down Fuller got his hand on the ball and ripped it away. Bennett did not complete the catch, which would have been ruled an incompletion.
That’s now the second day in a row Fuller has made an outstanding play on a pass breakup. Is his confidence building?
-During positionals, the down linemen worked with the one-man sled. At the snap, the sled would tilt in either direction and the defender had to extend his arms and then angle his body to the proper defensive position. Rinse and repeat. These types of two-gap fundamental drills are commonplace in Bourbonnais.
Later, Royal beat CB Tim Jennings on a deep in route. Royal is having a very good camp.
Other notes from 1-on-1 drills:
CB Al Louis-Jean (6-1) had a nice pass breakup against WR Cameron Meredith (6-3), knocking the ball out of the receiver’s hands. Without his height, there’s no way Louis-Jean makes that play. Later, Meredith beat CB Qumain Black on a fly route but dropped the ball. His hands are sketchy.
WR Marc Mariani is not a bad receiver and he continues to make strong plays in 1-on-1 drills. In addition, he served as the No. 3 receiver today with White and Jeffery on the shelf.
WR Dante Rosario beat S Antrel Rolle badly on a deep out. Rolle has yet to stand out in camp so far.
-During run drills – which included all players but receivers, cornerbacks and one safety – NT Eddie Goldman looked outstanding. There are concerns about his weight and conditioning level but he’s a powerhouse at nose tackle. His strength and consistent leverage makes him very tough to move inside. He’ll be a critical component to Chicago’s run defense this year.
Other notes from run drills:
DE Jarvis Jenkins is also very hard to move and he moves well laterally.
On one snap, G Kyle Long reached the second level and literally tackled LB Shea McClellin, who didn’t appear too happy about it. This is third or fourth time I’ve seen Long get involved with a teammate and it’s only the fifth day.
McClellin blitzed the A gap on one run and he was swallowed up by LG Matt Slauson. McClellin has actually been very effective as a blitzer, so this says more about Slauson and his brick-wall approach to blocking.
DE Cornelius Washington struggled mightily to hold the point of attack. It was very disappointing to watch as he got consistently push backward and out of the hole. Washington has special teams value but he needs to get tougher inside if he’s going to make the 53-man roster.
NT Terry Williams had a very good stack and shed before gobbling up the running back. He followed that up by beating G Conor Boffeli badly with a bull rush in 1-on-1 drills, before dumping Boffeli on his backside. Williams had a strong practice.
-Notes from 1-on-1 drills between offensive and defensive linemen:
Acho beat RT Jordan Mills on an inside rush for the sack. That’s just par for the course for Mills.
Slauson once again beat up on DT Jeremiah Ratliff, riding him past the pocket on an inside rush before burying him to the grass.
DE Jared Allen had an exceptional bull rush against LT Jermon Bushrod, driving the blocker into the quarterback. Bushrod has always lacked a heavy base and Allen took advantage of it.
G Tyler Moore was smoked by DL David Carter, who used a nice swim move to reach the backfield. Moore does not look like an NFL blocker.
RT Tayo Fabuluje had two quality back-to-back reps against OLB David Bass, stonewalling him at the point of attack and locking him up. Fabuluje does not have good lateral movement but once he gets his hands on you, it’s curtains.
-During the first 7-on-7 session, QB Shan Carden was showing improvement. He looked decisive and completed three passes in a row. On one of his completions, he used a ball fake to clear the linebacker before throwing the pass behind him.
Carden then threw two bad interceptions. David Fales can’t get back on the field soon enough.
-QB Jimmy Clausen wasn’t much better and is still struggling to complete passes beyond 10 yards. On one snap today, Clausen let fly a deep pass that came up 10 yards short, resulting in an easy interception for Louis-Jean.
-OLB Kyle Woestmann had another strong day and picked up two sacks during team drills against LT Cameron Jefferson. Woestmann is approaching 53-man sleeper status and is a top candidate for the practice squad.
-I’ve noted C Hroniss Grasu taking a leadership role with the second-team offense. He’s vocal in the huddle and at the line of scrimmage, which bodes well for his ability to lead the offensive line in the future.
-I like OL Jason Weaver. He’s been working at right guard with the second team and he’s been very solid, showing good balance and power. The second-year player has practice squad written all over him, with potential for even more.
-OT Michael Ola has not shown me anything so far this year and was beat badly by Bass on an outside rush during 11-on-11s. Don’t be surprised if Ola doesn’t make the roster this year.
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.