The Chicago Bears this afternoon conducted the sixth practice of 2016 Training Camp.
It was a full crowd on the practice fields at Olivet Nazarene University, with the stands at capacity and fans filed three deep off the edges. The weather today in Bourbonnais was sunny and hot, which is nothing new, although a decent breeze kept it bearable.
The following players did not practice:
WR Eddie Royal (concussion)
WR Derek Keaton (knee)
TE Zach Miller (concussion)
TE Ben Braunecker (ankle)
OLB Roy Robertson-Harris (illness)
ILB Nick Kwiatkoski (hamstring)
CB Brandon Boykin (pectoral)
The following Bears were limited today:
OL Kyle Long (calf)
TE Khari Lee (shoulder)
DL Marquis Jackson (hamstring)
DL Terry Williams (shoulder)
OL Adrian Bellard (knee)
WR Alshon Jeffery (muscle tightness)
OT Nick Becton (illness)
ILB Danny Trevathan (knee)
A few notes on injuries:
-Long returned today after missing the last four-plus practices due to his calf injury. He worked during positional drills but sat out the rest of practice.
Trevathan hurt his knee about midway through practice. The trainers looked at him on the sidelines and he did not return.
Jeffery was full go for most of practice but sat out the final team portion due to "muscle tightness". When asked to clarify the injury, head coach John Fox said: "It just got tight and we're going to be cautious with that type stuff, especially in the hot weather." Which of Jeffery's muscles were tight is still a mystery.
-WR Marquess Wilson, who is on PUP due to off-season foot surgery, is out of his walking boot.
Day 6 Notebook
-On one of the first plays of team drills the offense ran A gap left with RB Jeremy Langford. Left guard Cody Whitehair pulled behind C Hroniss Grasu and then up-field off his hip. ILB Danny Trevathan stepped up to fill the gap, yet Whitehair came downhill on him and put the veteran on his heels. This gave Langford a cut back lane for another seven yards.
Whitehair has struggled with some fundamental aspects of his game and has not looked great during pass-rush drills. He needs to clean up his footwork and be more consistent with his balance so he can anchor against the bull rush. Yet on this play, we see why the Bears drafted Whitehair in the second round. His quickness and movement ability allow him to swing into the lead blocker role, while his power helps clear the hole. Whitehair has work to do but the potential is there.
-On an A gap dive, RB Ka'Deem Carey hit the hole where ILB Jonathan Anderson was waiting for him. Carey made a nice outside cut to get around Anderson, then made two more cuts before putting a hit on S Deon Bush to finish the play.
Carey is only on one first-team special teams unit (kickoff return) but even so, he has a place in Chicago's committee backfield. He's the hardest runner on the team and he looks better this camp -- his field vision in particular -- than he has the past two years. Right now, Carey is running like an NFL starting running back.
-One of the biggest brawls of camp came about an hour into today's practice. I didn't see who the initial culprits were but at different points Sam Acho, Lamarr Houston, and Willie Young all get the hands. Then Akiem Hicks got clobbered, as Bobby Massie came out of nowhere and dumped Hicks on his butt. I may not have seen who started it but Massie sure finished it.
-On a play-action bootleg, QB Brian Hoyer found TE Rob Housler in the right flat. ILB John Timu put a lick on Housler as soon as he caught the ball, which stopped the play after just a two-yard gain.
Timu has been impressive in camp to this point. He's filled run lanes with authority and shown improvement in coverage, particularly his awareness in zone sets. He's still not the fastest linebacker, which will ultimately hurt him in coverage, but improved instincts should help mitigate his lack of speed.
-The second pushing match of the day came between WR Daniel Braverman and CB Sherrick McManis. Compared to its predecessor, it was an uneventful scuffle.
-During team drills, OLB Lenoard Floyd set the edge on an off-tackle run before shedding the block and making the tackle at the point of attack.
A few plays later, Floyd and fellow rookie Jonathan Bullard lined up on the right side of the line. RT John Kling and RG Donovan Williams wedged out both defenders and created a massive hole off the right side.
Later, Floyd flew too far upfield on an off-tackle run, which created a huge outside cut lane for RB Jordan Howard.
Finally, on a play-side sweep, Kling was able to hook Floyd inside, which allowed the running back to turn the corner.
There are concerns about Floyd's ability against the run. Some of those concerns are justified. When the big offensive linemen get their hands into his chest, he struggles to get off the block. But when he's able to extend his arms, he has the strength and quickness to disengage from blockers. Now he just needs to find some consistency.
-During 11-on-11s, the offense set up a screen to Langford. It was executed well, with Grasu and RG Ted Larsen out in front of the play. Langford picked up eight yards before ILB Jerrell Freeman threw him to the dirt.
I've noticed a lot of screen plays the first six days of training camp, primarily utilizing Langford. It's clear offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains wants to get Langford, his most explosive running back, in space.
-A dual A-gap blitz between Trevathan and Freeman was again picked up well by the interior of the offensive line. Cutler had time to throw and fired to WR Marc Mariani over the middle of the field, yet CB Demontre Hurst was all over Mariani and knocked the pass away.
Hurst is currently working at safety with the third team and nickelback with the second team. CB Kyle Fuller sat out the final team session, which slid Bryce Callahan from the slot to the boundary corner position, with Hurst filling in as the first-team nickelback.
Hurst is a jack-of-all-trades in Vic Fangio's secondary.
-During team drills, WR Josh Bellamy ran a deep go route up the right sideline. QB Brian Hoyer fired a pass in Bellamy's direction but CB De'Vante Bausby never let the receiver get behind him. At the same time, S Deon Bush was closing in for a big hit on Bellamy. The pass ended up overthrown and incomplete.
Bausby continues to make plays. The 6-2, 190 corner has size, speed and confidence, and can outmuscle receivers at the line of scrimmage. Bausby has worked his way up to the second team.
-During 7-on-7s, QB Connor Shaw ran a naked bootleg and fired a strike on the run to WR Kieren Duncan, who ran a deep stop. Every time Shaw hits the field, he makes a good decision. He has good field vision and elusiveness, and may just be the best backup on Chicago's roster.
-The play of the day came from WR Kevin White during 7-on-7 drills.
Working against CB Tracy Porter, White stemmed to 12 yards and used a stutter step to freeze the defender. White then turned on the burners and left Porter in his wake.
The Jay Cutler pass was beautiful and dropped in over White's outside shoulder. White tracked the ball, made the grab and dragged both feet in bounds before falling out of bounds.
With each practice I become a bigger believer in White's potential alongside Alshon Jeffery. Those two could be special together.
-Speaking of Jeffery, he was his usual dominant self early in practice but the defense got the best of him late in the day.
On one snap, Porter was able to break up a 15-yard back shoulder pass from Cutler to Jeffery.
On the next snap, CB Kyle Fuller stuck with Jeffery on a 20-yard stop route before knocking the pass away.
Jeffery can be unstoppable at times. It is what it is, but it's great to see the team's corners actually step up and make a few plays against him. That's progress.
In a later session, Porter had a nice pass breakup on a 50/50 deep ball against Bellamy.
-During 7-on-7s, Bellamy let a pass bounce right off his hands. Drops have been a problem in the past for Bellamy, so we'll see if this trend continues.
-When Trevathan left the field with his knee injury, ILB Jonathan Anderson filled in with the first team alongside Jerrell Freeman.
-In 7-on-7s, S Deon Bush lined up in the box and roamed the underneath zone after the snap. Hoyer fired a pass to WR Cameron Meredith on an intermediate crossing route and Bush broke underneath the pass for what should have been an interception. Unfortunately for Bush, he dropped a pass that hit him in both hands.
-Later, rookie S DeAndre Houston-Carson dropped into the same underneath zone and, like Bush, nearly had a pick-six -- but the ball bounced off his hands.
-WR Kieren Duncan ran a 17-yard comeback, created separation from CB Deiondre Hall immediately out of his break and made the easy catch before falling out of bounds.
Here we have a tale of two players. Duncan has been a major bright spot ever since earning his roster spot following a rookie minicamp tryout. He makes plays every single day in practice, using his speed and quickness to beat defenders. He's small (5-7, 175) but he has a legitimate shot to make the 53-man roster and is a lock for the practice squad.
On the other end of the spectrum, Hall is struggling. I haven't seen him make a play all of training camp and he just cannot handle the smaller, faster receivers like Duncan and Daniel Braverman. Hall might have Charles Tillman's size but, unless he makes a drastic turnaround the next few weeks, I don't see him making much of an impact his rookie season.
-Later, Duncan ran a deep out route against CB Jacoby Glenn. Duncan was so quick out of his break that Glenn had to grab him to keep him from creating separation. The pass fell incomplete but Duncan earned a pass interference call.
-During team drills, OLB Christian Jones was able to beat LT Charles Leno around the edge. That forced a hurried throw from Cutler that fell incomplete.
Leno has been solid so far in camp but Jones worked him on this play. The OLB position is stocked but Jones has looked very good as a pass rusher and he's a core member on special teams. Right now, Jones is a lock for the final 53.
-During the 2-minute drill, WR Daniel Braverman lined up in the right slot and ran a flare route toward the right sideline. Hoyer dropped in a beautiful pass, which Braverman caught over his shoulder.
Immediately after the catch, S Deon Bush put a lick on Braverman, which sent him hurtling out of bounds. Yet Braverman never lost control of the ball and the play went for a big gain.
After getting into the red zone, Hoyer threw a jump ball in the back corner of the end zone. It was a 50/50 pass between CB Sherrick McManis and Braverman. Guess who came down with the ball for the touchdown?
Marc Mariani has filled in as the first-team slot receiver during Eddie Royal's absence but Braverman has already worked his way onto the second team. If he keeps playing like this, it's only a matter of time before he overtakes Mariani, and possibly Royal.
-Due to his mysterious "muscle tightness" Jeffery sat out the final red-zone team drills. WR Cameron Meredith took Jeffery's spot with the first team.
I've been talking about Meredith all camp and, sure enough, as soon as Jeffery steps off the field, the Bears insert Meredith into the starting lineup. He's earned it.
The play of note with Meredith was a trick play in which Meredith caught a bubble screen then stepped back and fired a cross-field pass to Langford. The pass was ugly and off-target, and fell incomplete. Remember, Meredith was a high school quarterback and began his collegiate career at Illinois State under center.
"You’ve got to really challenge them not to be frustrated like when you have a bubble pass and Jeremy Langford’s open," coordinator Dowell Loggains said. "That’s the part that’s most frustrating."
1-on-1 Pass-Rush Drills
-OLB Leonard Floyd drives TE Gannon Sinclair into the face of the quarterback. Good show of power.
-OLB Sam Acho swims right past TE Tony Moeaki for the sack.
-TE Rob Housler locks up OLB Christian Jones off the left edge. Good balance by Housler.
-Floyd throws Sinclair to the side on a quick inside move. Sack.
-Moeaki lines up across from OLB Lamarr Houston. The snap count is on "two" but Houston keeps jumping offside. Moeaki sits still through four offside jumps. Finally Houston stays onside and rushes on the second "hut". Moeaki locks him up easily. When Houston didn't jump the snap, he wasn't as effective. Worth noting.
-FLoyd beat Sinclair with an inside swim move. Sack.
-G Ted Larsen locks up DL Akiem Hicks, who cannot push his way into the pocket. Solid block.
-C Hroniss Grasu is too quick for NT Eddie Goldman, who can't work his way into the backfield. Good feet by Grasu.
-OLB Willie Young drives LT Charles Leno into the QB.
-Jones flies past TE Greg Scruggs an an outside rush.
-RT Bobby Massie easily locks up Acho.
-Hicks uses an inside rip move and drives G Donovan Williams into the QB. Pure power.
-NT Will Sutton puts a wicked swim move on C Cornelius Edison and picks up the easy sack.
-G Martin Willace easily works DL Ego Ferguson past the pocket.
-T Nick Becton does a good job riding Young through pocket on an inside rush. This might be the first pass-rush snap of camp in which Young did not pick up a sack.
-Floyd uses a spin move but T Jason Weaver does a good job of staying in front.
-G Dan Buchholz locks up DL Cornelius Washington and then turns him away from the quarterback before riding him past the pocket. Very good block from Buchholz.
-Larsen takes a snap at center vs. NT Terry Williams. At the snap, Larsen takes a step backward and uses Williams' own momentum to throw him face first into the dirt.
-DL Keith Browner uses a quick spin move but G Cody Whitehair shuffles his feet and stays in front of the defender.
-OT Adrian Bellard drops his head at the contact point and Jones flies right around him for the sack.
-Scruggs locks up OLB Lamarr Houston initially but Scruggs stops moving his feet, which allows Houston to collapse the pocket. Scruggs is showing progress but he still has a ways to go.
-OT John Kling swallows up Acho.
-Williams stymies DL Jonathan Bullard, who can't separate from the block.
-DL Marquis Jackson swims right past Wallace for the sack.
-Floyd gets the jump on Leno on an outside speed rush but Leno recovers and pushes Floyd past the pocket.