The Chicago Bears conducted the eleventh practice of 2015 Training Camp today. The weather was hot with mild humidity. Temperatures hovered in the mid-80s but it felt much warmer.
NOTES FROM DAY 11
-Today’s practice was a light session that featured a lot of special teams and situational work in preparation for Thursday’s preseason opener against the Miami Dolphins.
The Bears ran through every special teams unit and every conceivable in-game situation: Hail Mary, kneel downs, kickoffs from midfield, etc.
Of note was the kickoff team, which is as follows (from left to right): Demontre Hurst, Al Louis-Jean, Sam Acho, Josh Bellamy, Robbie Gould, Cornelius Washington, Senorise Perry, DeDe Lattimore, Jeremy Langford and Ryan Mundy.
Outside of Mundy, Langford, Gould and Acho, every guy on this unit is on the roster bubble. Their presence on a first-team special teams unit bodes well for their chances of making the final 53-man roster.
During kick-return drills, among those returning kicks was RB Daniel Thomas. I’ve talked a few times already about Thomas’s potential as a short-yardage back but I always tempered because he lacked value on special teams. Obviously, Chicago’s coaching staff wants Thomas to make the team, which is why they were giving him run at kick returner. If he has added value on special teams, he’ll be a lock for the final roster.
-The highlight of today’s practice was a scuffle between OLB Lamarr Houston and TE Dante Rosario. On a pass play, Houston rushed Rosario off the edge. Rosario did a decent job staying in front of the defender, which didn’t sit well with Houston, who threw Rosario to the ground after the whistle.
Rosario then stood up, collected himself and started swinging. A typical person would take a step back when a big 6-6 athlete in full body armor comes in arms flailing, yet Houston just stood there and easily defended himself until it was broken up.
Outside of Jeremiah Ratliff, Houston is the person on Chicago’s roster I’d least like to meet in a dark alley.
-TE Kevin Greene, signed last week, is just a camp body. Today I watched him fall down twice while running routes.
-OLB Willie Young has seen limited action the past few days. He’s working with the third team and looks very hesitant to plant on his foot. Despite leading the team in sacks last year, Young is on the outside looking in and needs a strong preseason to retain his roster spot.
-I talked yesterday about the advantage of lining up the outside linebackers in the slot. Against the run and bubble screens, it gives the Bears an advantage.
On the flip side, it can create unhealthy matchups for the defense, particularly in man coverage. Case in point: TE Blake Annen, who is by no means fleet of foot, easily beat Houston on a double move today. Houston had no idea what he was doing in coverage, which can be said about pretty much every outside linebacker on the roster.
That could come back to haunt coordinator Vic Fangio and the defense if the OLBs are left on an island.
-CB Terrance Mitchell made his obligatory pass breakup during red-zone drills. Surprisingly though, CB Demontre Hurst is still ahead of Mitchell on the depth chart. That said, if Mitchell shines in the preseason, he’ll challenge Hurst for a final roster spot.
-Beyond getting walloped by Houston, Dante Rosario had a rough day. He could not block OLB Pernell McPhee on an outside rush, resulting in a sack, and then dropped a wide-open pass in the flat on a bootleg. Rosario is still getting most of the backup reps behind Martellus Bennett and appears to be holding off Zach Miller, for now, but more days like today won’t keep Miller at bay for long.
-RT Jordan Mills had a nice block on DE Jarvis Jenkins, who used an inside move in an attempt to cross up the blocker. The fact that Mills mirrored the defender and locked him up, one of the few times all camp he’s done so, says less about Mills and more about Jenkins, who offers very little as a pass rusher.
-The biggest hit of the day came from LB Jonathan Anderson, who filled the B gap and dropped the hammer on RB Daniel Thomas. As most of you know, Thomas is a load to bring down, which makes the hit by Anderson, who is fighting for a spot on the practice squad, that much more impressive.
-On one snap during team drills, DL Will Sutton rushed the outside shoulder of RG Jason Weaver. It was a strong move, which forced Weaver to literally tackle the defender before he collapsed the pocket. Sutton has flashed recently and may still have value on passing downs.
-I haven’t seen much from OLB David Bass of late. Today, Michael Ola had no trouble handling Bass, which isn’t a good sign. In addition, Bass jumped offside during two-minute drills, causing Ratliff to throw his hands up in frustration.
Bass was a stud during off-season activities but overall, he’s been pretty quiet in Bourbonnais.
-WR Alshon Jeffery and TE Martellus Bennett continue to impose their will effortlessly against the defense. Neither player can be stopped.
-Fangio likes to move OLB Pernell McPhee around before the snap, and he often shoots one of the interior gaps. Notable is that McPhee typically blitzes in the shadow of a defensive lineman, which essentially floods a zone and forces a blocker to pick a pass rusher. Almost every time, McPhee finds a way to create pressure.
-CB Kyle Fuller had a bad practice. He was beaten routinely by Jeffery – if I had a nickel for every time I’ve written that since March – and then allowed WR Marquess Wilson to create three yards of separation on a fade pass in the back corner of the end zone.
-One of the most impressive plays of the day came from LB Jon Bostic. Blitzing B gap right, Bostic exploded into Ola and knocked the blocker on his butt, creating a pile at the feet of QB Jimmy Clausen.
Bostic has performed very well this camp. The inside linebacker positions are both wide open and if Bostic can carry over his strong play into the preseason, he could leapfrog either Christian Jones or Shea McClellin and into the starting lineup.
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.