The Chicago Bears have officially broken training camp and are now full swing in the preseason, heading into the third contest this Saturday against the Kansas City Chiefs.
Before I get into the practice reports, I'd like to apologize for my absence the past four days. I had a family issue involving my wife and have been in and out of hospitals since last Thursday. Thankfully it appears she will be fine, so let's get back into it.
In addition to today's session, I also attended Sunday's practice, although I didn't have the time to post a write up. As such, I'll include my notes from Sunday in today's practice notebook.
Sit back and grab a cold one, this is going to be a big one.
On Sunday, 21 Bears sat out practice, either due to injury or for a veteran day off or because they were excused for personal reasons.
Pernell McPhee has been working with the trainers the past two practices, doing light jogging and calisthenics. He is still running with a limp but he actually looked a lot better today than he did on Sunday. It appears there's an outside shot McPhee will be ready for the regular-season opener, although I think it's likely he'll miss at least a game or two.
Additionally, WR Marquess Wilson is still on PUP and C Hroniss Grasu has not yet been placed on IR.
In addition to McPhee, Wilson and Grasu, the following Bears did not practice today due to injury or illness: RB Jeremy Langford, WR Deonte Thompson, CB Kyle Fuller, CB Bryce Callahan, OLB Sam Acho, ILB Danny Trevathan, WR Derek Keaton, G Kyle Long, CB De'Vante Bausby, S Deon Bush, WR Kieren Duncan, ILB Nick Kwiatkoski and ILB Jarrett Grace.
DL Jonathan Bullard was excused for personal reasons, while ILB Lamin Barrow left practice early due to a foot injury.
Returning to practice today were TE Ben Braunecker, OLB Leonard Floyd, OLB Roy Robertson-Harris, DE Cornelius Washington and RB Senorise Perry. NT Eddie Goldman did not finish Sunday's practice but was a full participant today.
Players in red "no-contact" jerseys today were TE Zach Miller, WR Eddie Royal and CB Jacoby Glenn.
-Christian Jones has been working as an inside linebacker the past two practices. Remember, Jones led the team in tackles last year as the club's starting MIKE linebacker but has been playing outside linebacker since OTAs.
This may be due to attrition, with Trevathan and Kwiatkoski on the shelf, but Jones worked at ILB during positional drills this afternoon so this could be a permanent move.
This should be a good thing for Jones, who is a core player on special teams. He now can add positional versatility to his resume, which should help him secure a spot on the final 53-man roster.
-With Grasu out and Long on the shelf, here is Chicago's starting offensive line: LT Charles Leno, LG Cody Whitehair, C Cornelius Edison, RG Ted Larsen, RT Bobby Massie.
Larsen will likely shift back to center once Long returns from his shoulder injury but this is a good sign for Edison, who has been solid this off-season. Edison has a good shot at making the final roster as the primary backup at the pivot position.
-During red-zone team drills, DL Keith Browner cut inside of RT Bobby Massie, gaining immediate leverage, before tracking down the ball carrier from behind.
Browner had a standout performance in the second preseason game and has built on that the past two days. He's now working with the second team and today took reps at nose tackle and defensive end. This is Browner's fifth training camp in the NFL but he's only played three total games during his career. This could be Browner's last shot at the NFL and he's been playing like a man backed into a corner. If he continues to shine, Browner could supplant Ego Ferguson as the final defensive end on the roster.
-In the red zone, QB Jay Cutler took a three-step drop and fired a bullet to WR Kevin White running a slant pattern. White cut in front of S Adrian Amos and the ball stuck in his gut for the TD.
Later, White easily beat CB Deiondre Hall on a quick out, then beat CB Kevin Peterson on a deep out during team drills.
Today, during 1-on-1 drills between cornerbacks and wide receivers, White matched up against CB Tracy Porter. White stemmed to 15 yards, using a stutter step at 10, before breaking toward the sideline. Porter was sitting on the hitch and broke forward in unison with White. Yet White ran a perfect route, taking a shallow angle to the sideline, which allowed him to create a sliver of separation from Porter.
Cutler fired a missile that was placed beautifully, just outside of the reach of Porter. White kept working toward the sideline and reached out at the last second, snatching the bullet pass out of the air before quickly turning upfield.
White dropped a pass on Sunday but that was the first pass I've seen him drop since OTAs. He's clearly comfortable in the offense and Cutler loves throwing to him. His athleticism is as impressive as advertised and he's been nearly unstoppable the past few weeks. White is developing every practice and looks like he's ready for the start of the regular season.
-During run drills, Cutler and Royal did some 1-on-1 pitch and catch. Royal hasn't practiced in full since the first week of training camp and has been trying to shake off the rust, which is a necessity, as Daniel Braverman and Marc Mariani are pushing him for the starting slot receiver role.
-During 7-on-7 drills, CB Kevin Peterson had a nice PBU on a 50/50 deep ball against WR Alshon Jeffery. Peterson held his position with the pass in the air, high-pointed the ball and knocked it away.
Against Jeffery, one of the best deep-ball receivers in the league, this is an extremely impressive play. Peterson hasn't made much noise since rookie minicamp but plays like these could earn him a spot on the practice squad.
-During team drills, the offense ran a screen pass in the right flat. RG Ted Larsen wasn't able to clear the line of scrimmage to the second level, forcing RB Jacquizz Rodgers to reach over Larsen to make the catch.
This drew the ire of offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains, who screamed at Larsen to get out of the way. Loggains' intensity never wanes and no one is immune to a butt-chewing ... no one but Cutler that is.
-During team drills, OLB Lamarr Houston lined up across from the B gap in a two-point stance, in the rover position, from which he blitzed.
A few plays later, Houston dropped deep down the right hash in coverage. WR Marc Mariani easily beat Houston up the seam and caught the pass over the top. Houston was upset with himself for allowing the completion.
Houston executed deep drops in the preseason games, so it's clear defensive coordinator Vic Fangio isn't afraid to use Houston in multiple roles. Look for that continue once the games count.
-Before one 11-on-11 snap, OLB Willie Young dropped into the slot as if he were in coverage. Fangio then yelled, "Willie, you're going!" to which Young replied, "Thanks Vic, appreciate it" -- before rushing off the edge.
Nothing gets past Fangio.
-The backup quarterbacks have not been sharp the last two practices. Brian Hoyer has looked especially dull, as has David Fales, with both passers missing far too many open receivers.
Hoyer is coming off a putrid performance in the second preseason game and clearly needs to regain some of his confidence.
-The best throw of Sunday's practice came from QB Connor Shaw, who dropped in a beautiful touch pass to WR Kieren Duncan running a deep post corner.
-The Bears ran situational drills to finish Sunday's practice, which included last-second field goals. The offense would run one 3rd-down play from midfield. If the pass was completed, the offense would then quickly line up and spike the ball and the field goal team would come on the field.
These were all long kicks for Robbie Gould -- between 45-55 yards each -- and he missed five in a row. It was an ugly showing. He was better today but it's clear that Gould is no longer the kicker he once was.
-The second-team offensive line: LT Garry Williams, LG Amini Silatolu, C Khaled Holmes, RG Shelley Smith, RT John Kling.
-The Bears executed today's session as if it were a Wednesday practice during the regular season. Head coach John Fox said they are now in the first stages of building the team's weekly routine.
"Everything is a schedule," Fox said after practice. "I don't care who you are or where it is, at home or at the office, there's a routine and a schedule. You like getting guys acclimated to the point of where we've got a 12 o'clock kickoff for a preseason game [this Saturday], which is a typical Sunday kickoff for us in our region. I think the more you can expose guys to scheduling, kind of what you're expecting in the preparation, I think the better."
As such, today's practice bordered on two-hand touch, with very little live contact or contested passes when the ball was in the air. Many of the sessions were scout team, with one side or the other running plays from the Chiefs playbook. In addition, crowd noises was pumped in at high decibels through sideline speakers when the defense was on the field.
-The first-team punt unit: Jonathan Anderson, Christian Jones, LS Patrick Scales, John Timu, Sam Acho, Chris Prosinski, Jacquizz Rodgers, Darrel Young and P Patrick O'Donnell. The gunners are Sherrick McManis and Josh Bellamy.
-The first-team kickoff unit: Jacquizz Rodgers, Christian Jones, John Timu, Chris Prosinski, Sherrick McManis, Josh Bellamy, Jonathan Anderson, Sam Acho, Jacoby Glenn, Demontre Hurst and K Robbie Gould.
The names on both these units -- Rodgers, Jones, Anderson, Timu, Prosinski, Acho, McManis and Bellamy -- are your eight core special teams players. All eight are near locks to make the 53-man roster.
Notable here is the addition of Timu, who replaces Lamin Barrow in both starting units.
-During special teams drills, quarterbacks coach Dave Ragone put his players through an interesting drill. One QB would stand in the middle of four dummies, which were being manned by Ragone and the other three passers.
At the whistle, the QB would move around as if in the pocket and his teammates would shove him from every direction with the dummies. The whole time, Ragone was yelling at the players to keep their head up and focused down the field.
-One of the final plays of the day was a gut run by RB Senorise Perry, who fumbled the ball the moment he cleared the line of scrimmage. Fumbles have been rare this off-season and this one likely ended any hope Perry had of making the team this year.
S Harold Jones-Quartey scooped up the fumble and broke toward the sideline. Most of the defense had filtered behind the play, so Jones-Quartey eventually had to dodge sideline players on his way to the end zone. Yet Jones-Quartey failed to locate outside linebackers coach Clint Hurtt, who is roughly 6-6, 350 pounds. Jones-Quartey collided into Hurtt, who didn't give an inch. Jones-Quartey spun off the hit and was woozy. He required medical attention from the trainers but walked away unscathed, as far as we know.
A few minutes later, Hurtt asked the trainer if HJQ was OK and then said, "They don't make 'em like they used to." I laughed so hard my stomach hurt.
1-on-1 Pass-Rush Drills
-LT Charles Leno shuts down an outside rush from OLB Sam Acho.
-DE Ego Ferguson easily drives G Martin Wallace into the QB. Sack.
-OLB Danny Mason uses an outside rush to get LT Garry Williams off balance before throwing him to the ground. Sack.
-OLB Roy Robertson-Harris uses a bull rush against LT Mike Adams. Adams anchors and shuts it down.
-DE Akiem Hicks executes two consecutive spin moves to beat RG Ted Larsen. Sack.
-DE Mitch Unrein easily beats G Amini Silatolu with a swim move. Sack.
-Next snap, Sialtolu holds up against Unrein's bull rush, although he's pushed into the QB's face.
-Leno shuts down a quick inside rush from Mason.
-RT John Kling stuffs Robertson-Harris off the right edge on back-to-back snaps.
-OLB Lamarr Houston uses a head fake and goes right around RT Bobby Massie's outside shoulder. Sack.
-Larsen rides Hicks past the pocket. Good block.
-C Cornelius Edison locks up NT Eddie Goldman at the line of scrimmage and never allows any penetration.
-Edison does the exact same thing on the following snap.
-Unrein uses a swim move to fly past RG Cody Whitehair.
-On the next snap, Whitehair rides Unrein inside and then dumps him on his face. Unrein stands up and shoves Whitehair three times, once right in the face. Whitehair keeps his cool and walks back to the huddle.
-Houston beats Leno with a quick inside rush. Sack.
-On the next snap, Leno stymies Houston on an outside rush. Houston taps Leno's helmet as if to say "good job."
-Acho uses a bull rush against Adams, who anchors and keeps the defender off the QB.
-On the next snap, Acho rushes up the outside, putting Adams on his heels. Acho then punches Adams in the chest, which nearly puts the offensive lineman on his butt. Horrible balance from Adams here. Sack.
-DE Cornelius Washington uses a head fake and swat to fly right past RG Jason Weaver. Sack.
-C Khaled Holmes shuts down NT Will Sutton's bull rush.
-Wallace anchors well against Ferguson's bull rush.
-Leno stuffs an inside rush from Acho. Good footwork and anticipation.
-Houston uses a quick swim move and flies right past Kling. Sack.
-Larsen rides Hicks past pocket. Good body positioning and leverage.
-NT Terry Williams drives Edison into the face of the QB, although he never gets a hand on him.