The Chicago Bears this morning conducted the second practice of mandatory veteran minicamp.
It was a brutally hot session, with temperatures in the mid-80s and humidity into the 200s, with very little wind or cloud cover.
-In yesterday's notebook, I mentioned that WR Marquess Wilson left the field with an apparent foot injury. John Fox confirmed today that Wilson re-fractured his left foot and will need surgery. It is the same foot Wilson hurt late last year. As a result, he may have to begin the season on PUP.
-Absent for the second day in a row was OL Ted Larsen, while TE Rob Housler did not participate again. OLB Pernell McPhee is still nowhere to be found. OT Nate Chandler was also a no-show.
-CB Kyle Fuller came onto the practice field late. He worked during positional drills but did not participate in any of the team drills for undisclosed reasons.
-With Fuller out, Bryce Callahan once again worked as the starting boundary cornerback, alongside Tracy Porter. Demontre Hurst lined up as the starting nickelback, as well as the third-string safety. Kevin Peterson, the UDFA out of Oklahoma State, was the dimeback.
-TE Zach Miller had a good day and it's becoming clear that his role in the offense this season is going to be big. He's been one of QB Jay Cutler's favorite targets the past month and this afternoon was no different.
Miller's best snap came as a pass catcher against LB Danny Trevathan in man coverage. Miller ran a hitch-and-go and left Trevathan in his wake. Miller created three yards of separation and was wide open down the left sideline, yet Cutler overthrew him.
Trevathan is no slouch in coverage and Miller consistently gives him everything he can handle in the passing game.
I overheard Miller on the sidelines say to his teammates, "You gotta play the game within the game," which to me shows an athlete who understands the mental part of beating coverage.
-The first snap of team drills featured Adrian Amos (still wearing the red "don't hit me" jersey) and Harold Jones-Quartey. Yet after a few plays, rookie Deon Bush replaced Jones-Quartery in the starting lineup. Bush continued to rotate with the first team throughout the day and was even lined up as a starter with Amos in the final 11-on-11 drill.
On one of the final snaps of the day, Bush picked off a deep pass that was tipped by Leonard Floyd.
I mentioned Bush during rookie minicamp and OTAs as arguably the most impressive player in the secondary, and it's clear the coaching staff has taken notice of the fourth rounder as well.
-WR Alshon Jeffery was nearly unstoppable for the second day in a row. During the first 7-on-7 session, he stemmed to 15 yards and drove CB Jacoby Glenn out of his backpedal. Jeffery then quickly turned back to the QB for an easy catch.
A play of note: the first-team offense ran a play-action pass that sent Jeffery and Kevin White up each hash. Both of the 6-3 wideouts sprinted to 17 yards, driving both safeties deep. They then each hitched back to the quarterback. Cutler hit Jeffery wide open for an easy first-down catch.
Think about that if you are a safety, both Jeffery and White sprinting up the field with a full head of steam. If the safety doesn't turn his hips and get down the field, he's going to get beat deep, which creates easy space for an intermediate curl route.
-With Wilson out for the foreseeable future, the competition at wide receiver is about to heat up. One player who stood out today was Marc Mariani.
Early in team drills, he caught a beautiful pass on a post route in which he beat the cornerback and split the safeties. The play would've gone for a 40-yard touchdown.
Later in the two-minute drill, Mariani found a soft spot in zone coverage on a deep out. Cutler hit him in stride for an easy 22-yard gain.
Remember, Mariani earned Cutler's trust late last season and he was also the only player on the team who didn't drop a pass. He's not big or overly athletic but Mariani continues to show reliability, which is extremely important.
-In tight man coverage, rookie CB Deiondre Hall lined up across from rookie WR Daniel Braverman. Braverman ran a three-yard crossing route and created immediate separation. From the far side, Miller ran his own crossing route and Hall got caught up in the traffic. This allowed Braverman to create about 8 yards of separation for the easy catch and go.
Pick plays were a staple of former offensive coordinator Adam Gase and it appears Dowell Loggains plans on continuing that tradition.
Later, Braverman was able to again create room on a 12-yard curl route, on which Hall was late on his break. Braverman, who just can't be stopped during these non-padded off-season practices, was open for the catch but the pass went right through his hands.
Hall later redeemed himself though. On a deep sideline route, Hall broke in front of WR Josh Bellamy and used his long arms to reach in front and knock the pass away.
Hall is talented and athletic but he's a work in progress and doesn't appear suited to cover smaller, quicker receivers like Braverman.
-During red zone drills, Cutler ran a delayed handoff to RB Jacquizz Rogers. ILB Jerrell Freeman read the play and shot the gap untouched for what would have been a tackle for loss.
I just cannot say enough good things about what I've seen from Freeman the past month, both in coverage and against the run.
-In the red zone, the offense tried to run a hurry up play at the 3-yard line, yet they substituted personnel as they rushed to the line of scrimmage. This didn't sit well with defensive coordinator Vic Fangio, who yelled at Loggains across the field "If you're going to sub, we get to sub. Knock that off."
Loggains responded "You're 100 percent right Vic. That's on us." Loggains then turned and berated his assistant coaches for trying to sub on a hurry up play. He might be small but Loggains is fiery.
-During second-team red-zone drills, CB De'Vante Bausby had two interceptions.
The first came on a tipped pass in the right flat that bounced off TE Khari Lee's hands. The second came on an end-zone pass that bounced up in the air off WR Cameron Meredith's hands, for which Bausby made a diving grab.
Bausby, a second-year player out of Pittsburgh State, is buried on the depth chart but cornerback is a weak position on this roster, so plays like these will surely help his odds of cracking the final 53-man roster.
At the same time, Lee and Meredith need to make those catches.
-During red zone drills, NT Terry "Swamp Monster" Williams picked up a sack on QB David Fales, beating C Cornelius Edison with a bull rush. This says more about Edison than it does Williams, who is a ponderous pass rusher.
-11-on-11 drills featured a lot of blitzing by the defense. On two straight plays, ILB Danny Trevathan went untouched into the backfield. Obviously the coordination along the offensive line, particularly against the blitz, is going to take some time.
To counter the extra rushers, Loggains began dialing up screen plays. It was a fun game of chess to watch between Fangio and Loggains.
-I mentioned yesterday that DL Eddie Goldman put rookie G Cody Whitehair on his butt with a power move. Today, Goldman picked up a sack using a rip move to drive C Hroniss Grasu four yards into the backfield. Goldman looks good, while Grasu does not look any stronger.
-First-round OLB Leonard Floyd had an impressive snap against the run. TE Greg Scruggs tried to lock him up at the point of attack but, all in one motion, Floyd extended his arms and then threw Scruggs nearly on his face. Floyd then chased down the ball carrier from the backside.
Floyd may not be big but he knows how to use his length and quickness to quickly fight off blocks.
Later, I noticed Floyd being used in the Rover role, lined up in a two-point stance across from the 3 gap. Remember, versatility is one of Floyd's best assets. Floyd then picked up a sack on a speed rush against second-team LT Nick Becton.
Finally, Floyd's best play came in the final team session. He dropped into coverage and trailed the tight end down the seam. QB Brian Hoyer tried to put the pass over Floyd's head, yet he jumped, reached into the air and tipped the pass to Deon Bush for the turnover. The athleticism he showed on this play was something else.
It was a good day for Floyd.
-I've talked a bit about FB Paul Lasike and he appears on the fast track to a roster spot. He's being used in short-yardage and goal line situations and today made a pair of solid catches out of the backfield. He's a big guy but he has soft hands, which could make him a valuable weapon on play action passes.
-Yesterday, I mentioned that Kevin White dropped an easy slant pass on one of the first snaps of team drills. Today, the offense ran the exact same play and Cutler hit White in stride. This time, the ball stuck in White's hands before he turned up the field.
Later, White had the best catch of the day. On a deep cross, Cutler fired one of his trademark missiles, yet the pass was high. White elevated nearly three feet and snatched the ball out of the air. It was an extremely impressive catch.
-Speaking of the Rover role, I also saw both Lamarr Houston and Akiem Hicks line up as a two-point mid-line rover.
-During 11-on-11 drills, the offense ran a delayed handoff. RG Kyle Long rode Hicks toward the inside. When Hicks saw the play being run outside, he tried to shift his weight and pursue the ball carrier. Yet Long stonewalled him using pure upper-body strength and forced Hicks to one knee.
Hicks is a massive human being, so for Long to physically dominate him is truly saying something. Those two battle throughout each practice, which is going to make each player better in the long run.