Bears Training Camp Notebook: Day 14

We break down in detail today’s Chicago Bears practice, which was held at Halas Hall, a session that featured a new-look secondary, a cornerback who continues to make plays and more.

The Chicago Bears broke camp on Sunday, with the entire team leaving Bourbonnais and moving back to the northern tip of Illinois. Today, the Bears conducted practice at Halas Hall, which is technically an extension of training camp, making it the 14th practice of camp.

The weather in Lake Forest was beautiful, with cloudy skies and temperatures in the 80s. This was a closed practice, meaning no fans were present, but open to the media. Players participated in shells: jerseys, helmets and light shoulder pads.

INJURIES

Daniel Thomas (knee), Ryan Mundy (hip) were limited participants. TE Chris Pantale did not participate and will be the only player who won’t travel to Indianapolis for the second preseason game.

WR Alshon Jeffery (foot) did not practice and unlikely to play on Saturday.

“Yeah, I think it’s a pretty good idea that he won’t,” head coach John Fox said. “We won’t rush it. If there’s a miraculous recovery, like all plans they can change.”

NOTES FROM DAY 14

-The play of the day came late in the session during team drills. On the previous snap, CB Sherrick McManis was beat by WR Marc Mariani on a deep cross. McManis wasn’t happy he allowed the pass and let fly an expletive in frustration.

On the next snap, Mariani ran a quick-out route in the right flat. McManis trailed the receiver and broke hard on QB Jimmy Clausen’s pass. McManis made a nice reaching grab and immediately turned up the field for a pick-six. It was one of the most athletic interceptions of camp.

For the past two practices, McManis has taken reps in the slot with the first team. Today, he was there at nickelback with Tim Jennings and Kyle Fuller out wide. Most assume Jennings will slide inside on sub packages but that may not be the case, as it appears the coaching staff wants to gauge McManis’s ability in the slot.

-The defensive coaching staff played musical chairs with the cornerbacks today. McManis and Demontre Hurst rotated at first-team nickelback, while Fuller, Jennings and Tracy Porter rotated at the boundary spots.

Notable in the rotation was the absence of Alan Ball, who took all of his reps with the second team. Right now, Ball is clearly a backup making starter money ($3 million this season).

-RB Matt Forte has not lost his burst or speed. I watched him closely during individual drills and, even at 29, he’s still the most explosive running back on the roster.

-During positional drills, the offense once again worked on two-man rub, or pick, plays. Two receivers would cross, with the outside receiver stopping on a hitch and the inside receiver sprinting up the sidelines. These rub/pick plays are par for the course in a Bears practice this year.

The drill was run perfectly, except for Ke’Deem Carey, who dropped his only look on a wheel route. Carey has never been an impressive pass catcher.

-I saw ILB Shea McClellin get beat in man-to-man coverage three times during team drills. On none of the plays was McClellin beat badly but he just couldn’t break up any passes today.

Of all the things McClellin must improve as the club’s starting middle linebacker, coverage is at the top of his list.

-I’ve noticed more and more cornerback blitzes as camp has progressed, both from the slot and boundary positions.

-OLB Willie Young was back working with the third team today, after taking most of his reps with the second team the past two practices. Still, if the Bears keep five outside linebackers, and I believe they will, Young has a strong chances of retaining his roster spot, which doesn’t bode well for David Bass.

-Back in OTAs, CB Al Louis-Jean was in a regular rotation with the first team. Since then, he has slowly slid down the depth chart and is now taking reps almost exclusively with the third team, which is a bad sign.

That said, Louis-Jean had an extremely impressive diving pass breakup today, which demonstrated his athleticism and potential. He’s still young and developing, and could be a quality player in a year or two, but at this point, Louis-Jean is on the outside looking in.

-Here is the first team punt unit (from left to right): Brock Vereen, Dante Rosario, Jon Bostic, Thomas Gafford, Sam Acho, Mason Foster, Jeremy Langford, with Jacquizz Rodgers as the up back and Senorise Perry and Sherrick McManis the gunners.

-During red zone drills, OLB Pernell McPhee lined up across from TE Zach Miller. It was man coverage and McPhee was forced to trail Miller throughout the play. QB Jay Cutler scrambled and bought time, then lobbed a pass into the back corner of the end zone to Miller. McPhee stayed with his man and had the awareness to reach up and knock the pass away.

For a 280-pound linebacker who looks like a defensive tackle, this was an impressive display of athleticism.

-Also during red-zone drills, TE Martellus Bennett ran a quick pop pass down the left seam. ILBs Christian Jones and Shea McClellin were both near the passing lane, yet neither could get a hand on the ball. It was a nice lob pass by Cutler but a poor job of reacting to the pop pass by the starting inside linebackers.

-The offense ran even more rollouts and naked bootlegs today. Those are going to be a big part of coordinator Adam Gase’s playbook this year.

-With S Ryan Mundy on the sidelines for the second half of practice, the Bears inserted Anthony Jefferson alongside Brock Vereen as the second-team safeties. Jefferson appears to be the next man up if any of the top four safeties – Rolle, Amos, Vereen, Mundy – miss any time.

-During red-zone punt drills, P Patrick O’Donnell showed what he’s shown the past two years: inconsistency. His first punt was a dead shank and looked like a wounded duck fluttering to the sideline. His second punt nearly touched a cloud and soared more than 50 yards.

If O’Donnell can ever find consistency as a punter, he’ll be one of the best in the game. Until then, though, he’ll be little more than average.


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.

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