The Chicago Bears conducted the second practice of Organized Team Activities (OTAs) this morning. It was the first practice open to the media.
The weather at Halas Hall was absolutely gorgeous, with temperatures in the mid 80s and occasional cloud coverage. It was a hot day, which appeared to have an effect on a number of players.
Players not in attendance: WR Alshon Jeffery, OLB Pernell McPhee, OL Tayo Fabuluje and DL Will Sutton. Jeffery is working out on his own and McPhee is still recovering from an off-season knee scope, while Sutton and Fabuluje are sick.
Present but not participating were RB Jordan Howard and S Adrian Amos. Howard did not practice the final two days of rookie minicamp and is still sidelined for an undisclosed reason. Amos is still recovering from off-season shoulder surgery.
-Joseph Sommers, a UDFA out of Wisconsin-Oshkosh, is listed as a tight end on the depth chart. Yet today, he played exclusively at the fullback position, both in individual drills and team drills.
This is an interesting development, as it appears Sommers will compete with Paul Lasike for a spot on the roster as the club's fullback, assuming they keep one. Lasike is far bigger and more powerful but Sommers is taller and moves much better. It's a battle worth watching.
-The heat in Lake Forest took its toll on TE Greg Scruggs. The 310-pound, fourth-year tight end walked off the field after the first set of team drills and never returned. Not a good start for a fringe player trying to earn a roster spot.
-One big positional change of note: Christian Jones is now working with the outside linebackers. Jones started 13 games at inside linebacker last season and led the team in tackles. Yet he's now working in the OLB group.
Remember, Jones was an edge rusher his senior year at FSU, so he has experience lining up out wide. Early in team drills, Jones was giving RT John Kling fits and was consistently beating him around the edge. Later in 11-on-11s, Jones picked up an easy sack after collapsing hard on a naked bootleg.
Jones is going to struggle to earn a roster spot at such a crowded position but, based on what I saw today, it appears OLB is the right spot for him.
-With the first team defense, Jerrell Freeman is calling the plays, something he did with the Colts as well.
"It’s not hard," Freeman told me after practice. "You get the call, you give the call. It’s pretty simple. Once you get it in your ear, you’ll probably have a little this, a little that, to tell different people but it’s pretty simple."
-With Amos not participating, the starting safeties were Chris Prosinski and Harold Jones-Quartey. Of note was one snap in which Jones-Quartey was covering WR Deonte Thompson. Thompson wasn't happy with Jones-Quartey's active hands and, as they walked back to the huddle, Jones-Quartey got in Thompson's face and challenged him to speak up. Thompson walked away.
Like I said, the heat got to a few guys today.
-WR Kevin White looks 100-percent healthy, yet he was rusty, both physically and mentally. On the second snap of team drills, White ran a deep out and beat CB Kyle Fuller. The pass from Jay Cutler was perfect but White dropped it.
Later, I noticed at least three occasions in which White had trouble lining up properly.
In general, White and Cutler struggled to connect. Cutler fired three deep passes to White during 11-on-11s and none of them were completed. In fact, White didn't even get a hand on any of the three passes. Obviously, those two are still developing chemistry.
-The starting nickelback is still Bryce Callahan. During team drills, he had a very impressive interception.
Cutler rolled out on a naked bootleg and was pressured by OLB Lamarr Houston. Cutler made a hurried throw into the right flat and Callahan dove to pick it off.
-On offense, coordinator Dowell Loggains was using a walkie talkie to call in plays to Cutler's head set. On defense, the coaches were using a combination of hand signals and numbered cards held up by an assistant. I've never seen Bears coaches using cards before.
-Speaking of interesting drills, the QBs worked off to the side during special teams drills. New quarterbacks coach Dave Ragone took two large inflated balls and fired them at the quarterbacks as they dropped into the pocket. The QBs had to avoid the balls and fire a pass into a net with targets.
Of note is that Brian Hoyer badly overthrew the target on both of his reps. In fact, Hoyer had a very poor day overall. He was hesitant to release the ball and fired passes into coverage on a number of snaps. On the second snap of second-team 11-on-11s, Hoyer was picked off by ILB John Timu on a crossing route. It was a solid play by Timu but a pass Hoyer should have never thrown.
-Loggains was definitely in charge of the offense today, barking orders to players and assistant coaches from all over the field. He's far more vocal than Adam Gase.
-Bears starting offensive line: LT Charles Leno, LG Ted Larsen, C Hroniss Grasu, RG Kyle Long, RT Bobby Massie. Noteworthy is the presence of Larsen, and not rookie Cody Whitehair, at left guard. Whitehair worked with the second team at LG. Larsen also took snaps at center with the third team.
Second-team offensive line: LT Nick Becton, LG Whitehair, C Cornelius Edison, RG Manny Ramirez, RT Jason Weaver. Ramirez also rotated at center with the third team.
-QB David Fales' arm strength has not improved. He threw two passes today that were high-school level.
-On one snap during team drills, TE Rob Housler ran a wheel right down the right sideline. OLB Willie Young was in man coverage and ran stride for stride with Housler. His body positioning never allowed Housler to make a play on the ball.
This was a very impressive snap from Young, showing good speed and coverage ability.
Later, Housler ran another wheel route and was able to beat CB Jacoby Glenn on the deep go. Cutler dropped in a beautiful touch pass to Housler in stride.
-The heat got to WR Marquess Wilson, who was sidelined about halfway through the practice. Again, not a great sign for a player whose job is nowhere near secure.
-On special teams, here were the players returning punts: Marc Mariani, Eddie Royal, Daniel Braverman, Kieren Duncan and Omar Bolden.
-Impressive catches were made today by WR Cameron Meredith, who made a contested grab across the middle with Callahan in his hip pocket, and WR Josh Bellamy, who hauled in a difficult ball on a sideline hitch in which CB Tracy Porter was all over him.
Bellamy was very vocal in today's practice, something I've never seen from him before. He's clearly stepped up his leadership game.
-CB Kyle Fuller was beat at least a handful of times today. It's deja vu all over again, as he was routinely torched in OTAs last year, only this time it's not Jeffery beating him but pretty much whoever lines up across from him.
-S Deon Bush had a solid pass breakup during 11-on-11s, undercutting a deep out pass intended for Bellamy. Bush has more range than most give him credit for.
-C Hroniss Grasu definitely looks bigger, particularly in the chest and stomach area. The weight gain the coaches have talked about is real.
-First-round OLB Leonard Floyd didn't do much today but I was impressed with his never-ending hustle. He chases down every play, no matter the drill. He's also extremely good at working through the wash of bodies, where his slight frame allows him to maneuver through small gaps.
Floyd did have one play in which he used an inside head fake to help turn the corner against LT Nick Becton, which would have likely earned him a sack.
-LT Charles Leno owned OLB Lamarr Houston all afternoon. The pads aren't on, so it's tough to truly gauge linemen, but Houston never got close to the quarterback all morning.
-Third-round DL Jonathan Bullard had one very impressive snap, working right past OL Martin Wallace and penetrating into the backfield for a sack. When Bullard flashes, he's beastly.