The Chicago Bears this morning conducted the final practice of 2015 Training Camp. It was another brutally hot afternoon, with a relentless sun and thick humidity. The crowd at camp today was a big one, with fans taking advantage of their last chance to see the Bears up close.
RG Kyle Long was held out of the final half of practice to rest.
QB David Fales, who missed almost the entirety of training camp due to sickness, returned to practice today.
“He’s off PUP,” head coach John Fox said. “The medical people thought he was ready. They thought he had healed good enough to go out and do physical activities. He’s been doing some of that with the trainers on the sideline. To my knowledge right now he got through it pretty good.”
Fales looked rusty during team drills, which is to be expected.
NOTES FROM THE CAMP FINALE
Today’s session featured a lot of live action.
“We made it very, very competitive,” said Fox. “This was not one of those non-padded, easy, exit final days of camp. We kind of warned them and alerted them.”
With the grind of camp catching up to the players, as well as the second straight day of boiling heat, and the added contact, tempers flared early and often.
On one of the following snaps, Montgomery lined up over the ball and with his free hand grabbed Ratliff’s facemask twice before snapping the ball. This did not sit well with Ratliff, who was already wound up to the extreme.
Ratliff didn’t even bother rushing the play. Instead, he slowly walked over to Montgomery, got in his face and had a few words before sucker punching him when Montgomery wasn’t looking. It was a full-on right hook with an open hand that connected square on Montgomery’s face mask. It was the kind of hit from a hulking human being that could seriously hurt someone.
Ratliff was taken off the field as assistant coaches and teammates tried to calm him down, but he was having none of it. Eventually, Kyle Long, who wasn’t even practicing at the time, came over to speak with Ratliff. I caught Long saying, “We need everyone.”
Long had to physically keep Ratliff from going after Montgomery, at which point Fox stepped in. He halted practice and called the two players together. Fox and Long talked with the two men for a few minutes but there was never a handshake. Fox then spoke with Montgomery one-on-one and then Ratliff one-on-one. His conversation with Ratliff was much longer and more demonstrative.
Ratliff can be a loose cannon at time and today he was a powder keg. He got in four different fights before Fox calmed him down. While it’s great to see that type of intensity, at a certain point it becomes counterproductive. The entire incident took more than 10 minutes, time everyone spent standing around instead of practicing. In addition, clobbering someone in the face when they’re not looking is a great way to injure a teammate.
-The last portion of practice was live-action short-yardage and goal-line situations. The coaches called out “this is live” to both sides of the football. On the first snap, TE Dante Rosario caught a pass in the right flat and turned up-field. As he approached the sideline, S Adrian Amos pushed him out of bounds.
Rosario took exception and slammed his helmet to the ground. Then other players stepped in, including TE Martellus Bennett, who had words with Amos. Yet OLB Pernell McPhee came over and put his arm around Amos, as if to say to Bennett, “you mess with him, you mess with me.” Bennett walked away.
-During walkthroughs, the offense lined up on the 5-yard line using a four-tight-end set. Why would offensive coordinator Adam Gase practice a formation using four tight ends if he doesn’t plan on using it in the future?
Which leads me to believe the Bears will keep four tight ends on the 53-man roster: Martellus Bennett, Dante Rosario, Zackary Miller and Bear Pascoe.
-RB Senorise Perry has good speed as a ball carrier but he lacks lateral movement. His cuts are always thin and it’s hard for him to get East-West. If he can work on his cuts and agility, he’d have even more value as a running back.
-During 1-on-1 pass-rush drills, it became clear that Jared Allen has the same amount of burst he did last season, which is to say not much. Allen moves well in space and can have value as a 3-4 OLB but in terms of pass rush, he’s showing very little in camp for the second year in a row. Temper your expectations.
Other notes from pass-rush drills:
RT Jordan Mills handled OLB Pernell McPhee on three straight snaps, one time burying McPhee into the dirt. This is a good sign for Mills, who needs to take step forward in his development, yet it’s not great news for McPhee, who just hasn’t shown an elite pass-rush skill set in camp.
OLB Sam Acho made RT Micheal Ola look silly using a stutter-step/swim move to fly around the outside edge. Acho also drove LT Jermon Bushrod into the quarterback twice using a bull rush. Acho is a player and is going to surprise a lot of folks this year. On the flip side, Ola struggled against Acho and OLB Lamarr Houston. Ola, who had the second most snaps of any offensive lineman last year, might be on his way out.
DL Will Sutton continues to show improvement. He appears to be more comfortable with his added weight, which hasn’t sapped him of his quickness. On one snap, he drove hard into OL Tyler Moore before quickly swimming around him and into the backfield. It was an impressive rush.
-With Kyle Long out for the second half of practice, Vladimir Ducasse took reps with the first team. It appears Ducasse is still in the lead for the swing guard position, which is worrisome, as he was abused by DE Cornelius Washington in 1-on-1 drills.
-ILB Jon Bostic looks slow. During 7-on-7 drills, Bostic had no chance to keep pace with WR Ify Umodu coming out of his break, allowing an easy catch on a 12-yard out route. Later, Bostic could not run with TE Dante Rosario on a go route.
In fact, none of the inside linebacker looked good in coverage today. Christian Jones was beat handily by Rosario on a 12-yard sideline route, as well as a 20-yard seam route by Martellus Bennett; Shea McClellin couldn’t keep up with Zach Miller on an out route, who proceeded to throw a wicked stiff arm that nearly sent McClellin to the ground; while Bostic and Mason Foster look flat-out slow.
-During run drills, McClellin had a monstrous B-gap fill off the left side, crashing into RB Ka’Deem Carey three yards in the backfield. McClellin’s aggressiveness against the run has been impressive.
-OLB Willie Young took second-team reps for the first time in training camp. His job may not be as precarious as some thought.
-DL Brandon Dunn had an outstanding play during run drills, shooting the right A gap and launching Tyler Moore backward. Dunn then dove around the blocker and tripped up the ball carrier. Dunn is on the outside of the roster bubble looking in but plays like those could land him a spot on the practice squad.
-Later, DL David Carter manhandled Moore and made a play on the running back in the backfield. Moore has not shown much since coming to camp.
-I continue to worry about CB Tim Jennings, who appears to have lost a significant step. He’s yet to make a big play in camp and he looked bad in 1-on-1 drills today.
-Acho also had a solid play against the run. On a stretch run to his side, Acho extended and shed the initial block from the tight end. The guard then pulled to kick out Acho, who brushed off the block and got a hand on the ball carrier. Acho is an all-round player with three-down value.
-QB Jay Cutler caught his first touchdown pass of training camp. The Bears ran a double reverse near the goal line, with WR Eddie Royal eventually handling the ball. Cutler released into the flat and Royal found him for the easy touchdown pass.
-During team drills, Cutler launched a pass deep down the right sideline. CB Tracy Porter was in WR Marquess Wilson’s hip and tracked the ball well. As the ball approached, Porter mistimed his jump and couldn’t get a hand on the pass. Wilson made the easy over-the-shoulder grab for a 60-yard touchdown.
-During the 2-minute drill, Cutler was sacked three plays in a row. The offensive line is still struggling and looks lost against the blitz.
-OLB Lamarr Houston had a very good day. He looked good in 1-on-1 drills and had two sacks in team drills, beating both TE Bear Pascoe and RT Tayo Fabuluje. On the second sack, Houston had so much momentum he collided with QB Jimmy Clausen and sent the quarterback to the ground. It was the second time in camp Clausen has been knocked to the turf.
-In team drills, WR Eddie Royal streaked down the right sideline, with CB Terrance Mitchell running stride for stride. Clausen threw a pass that came up five yards short. Mitchell tracked the ball and went up for the interception but he didn’t high-point the pass. Instead, he faded backward when he jumped, allowing Royal to cut underneath and make the catch.
Mitchell has a decent shot at making this roster, or at least the practice squad, and good long-term potential but he obviously needs to work on his deep-ball defense.
-The jumbo defense consists of the following eight players in the box: DE Ego Ferguson, DT Will Sutton, NT Eddie Goldman, DT Jarvis Jenkins and DE Jared Allen, backed by ILBs Christian Jones and Shea McClellin, with Pernell McPhee in the interior rover role.
-McPhee hasn’t been a standout pass rusher but when the action goes live, he steps up. Case in point: on a B-gap run by RB Ka’Deem Carey, McPhee crashed from the backside and exploded into the runner. If McPhee is anything, he’s violent, and he loves to hit.
-Following the last session, Fox yelled, “Way to compete men,” which officially wrapped up training camp.
Thanks everyone for reading the training camp notebooks this year. I had a lot of fun watching practice and writing the reports, and I hope you all enjoyed them.
Now onto the preseason and a regular season that I feel is going to surprise a lot of people.
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.