The Chicago Bears conducted the eighth practice of 2015 Training Camp this afternoon. The weather in Bourbonnais was hot and sticky, with temperatures in the mid-80s.
The crowd today was one of the biggest I’ve seen this year, filling three full parking lots.
RB Ka’Deem Carey sat out practice with a shoulder injury.
OT Tayo Fabuluje did not participate due to asthma and allergies.
“You know there is medication [for Fabuluje]. Our guys are trying to find the right mix or formula,” head coach John Fox said after practice. “So he’s working at it hard, but I think it’s just a combination of asthma and allergies. That’s something you don’t want to mess with until you get it medicated correctly.”
NOTES FROM DAY 8
-Today’s session was in shells – shoulder pads, helmets and shorts – yet a few players were dressed in full pads, mainly the receivers. Despite the fact most players were under-padded, the practice featured a lot of live contact, particularly in the trenches, which was surprising.
-The player of the day was DL Will Sutton. Working with the second team at nose tackle, Sutton manhandled rookie C Hroniss Grasu the entire practice. On at least five occasions I watched Sutton drive Grasu four to five yards deep in the backfield. Sutton was staying low, extending his arms and churning his legs. He would then shed as the ball carrier approached the line of scrimmage.
Sutton has been rotating at nose tackle and 5-technique and took a big step forward today. He looked like a true 3-4 defensive lineman, one who can hold his own and carry two gaps at the point of attack. His development would be a huge boost for the defensive line.
Conversely, it was hard to watch Grasu struggle so badly today. He showed little power and balance, and was lunging in pass protection. He also fumbled a snap with QB Jimmy Clausen. Grasu has been decent through camp to this point, so let’s chalk this one up to a bad day. If this continues though, it could indicate Grasu’s need for substantial further development.
-CB Tracy Porter took the majority of first-team snaps alongside Kyle Fuller today. Porter has stood out the past few days and made a very nice pass breakup on a deep ball during team drills yesterday. Porter is shorter than the rest of the cornerback competition but his experience has already helped him stand out in the eyes of the coaching staff.
-During individual drills, inside linebackers worked on their run fits. Of note was the need for both players to work in tandem. The coach lined up bags on the ground to indicate run lanes and then would pick a gap at the snap. The linebackers would then react.
The play-side linebacker’s job is to plug the hole aggressively, while the back-side linebacker slides behind the play for backup. On off-tackle and stretch runs, the play-side linebacker scrapes hard off the edge, with the back-side linebacker coming on a delayed scrape.
This is how the coaching staff wants its inside linebacker to attack the run and so far, it’s been working.
-Pass catchers squared off against the secondary in one-on-one drills today. Here are the highlights:
WR Cameron Meredith ran right past CB Jacoby Glenn on a fly route and created nearly 10 yards of separation for the easy touchdown grab.
I’ve mentioned him before but WR Marc Mariani is a player. His low center of gravity allows him to get in and out of his cuts quickly and he runs good routes.
Tracy Porter stuck with WR Marquess Wilson on a double move and forced an errant pass. It was a strong play by Porter. Later, Wilson went up and over Porter on a jump ball near the goal line. It was a good adjustment and a strong play by Wilson against good coverage.
CB Kyle Fuller was beaten easily by Alshon Jeffery on a go route, as was CB Al Louis-Jean a few snaps later. Yet Fuller made up for it with an interception against Mariani on a crossing route. Fuller has made some plays the past few days, although none against Jeffery, which leads me to believe Jeffery is too good to cover and Fuller isn’t as bad as he looked this off-season.
-LB Christian Jones had a big run fill in team drills. The play was A gap away and he filled the backside gap immediately and slammed the ball carrier in the backfield.
“Jones is coming, you know inside linebacker is an instinct, play-recognition position,” defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said. “That's why you see some of these guys that maybe don't have the greatest ability sometimes surviving in there and playing good because they're just really good at play recognition and reacting and he's getting better and better at that.”
-With Bushrod out, Charles Leno filled in at first-team right tackle. He was beat a few times, once badly by OLB Jared Allen, but the more I watch Leno, the more I think he can be the club’s left tackle of the future. His balance and footwork today were very good.
-During team drills, LB Mason Foster blitzed the A gap and had a clear path to the quarterback. Yet seemingly out of nowhere came RB Jacquizz Rodgers, who lifted Foster off his feet with a strong block. For a 5-8 running back to do that to a 6-2 blitzing linebacker, that’s impressive. Rodgers is a player.
-During run drills, LG Kyle Long pulled behind the play to serve as the lead blocker. C Will Montgomery got pushed back at the snap and lost his balance, creating a road block for Long. Yet Long just leaped right over Montgomery and lined up a quality kick-out block.
This was a play very few NFL guards can make. Later in practice, Long pushed DE Jarvis Jenkins backward 10 yards on a gut run. No joke, 10 yards. Long’s extreme athleticism, couple with his size and strength, is the reason he’s one of the best in the business.
-The offense keeps trying to block OLB Lamarr Houston with a tight end and he keeps making them pay. Houston is going to eat up the mismatches against tight ends that a 3-4 defense creates.
-During special teams drills, Alshon Jeffery worked with receivers coach Mike Groh catching a tennis ball over his shoulder, over and over and over. Jeffery never stops working at his craft.
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.