Mini Camp Report: Saturday

Rookie mini camp continued on Saturday at Halas Hall, and after some first-day jitters, a few of the youngsters started to open some eyes. In particular, one of the quarterbacks took a small step back, while one of the wide receivers took a giant leap forward. BearReport.com Editor in Chief John Crist had a front-row seat at Halas Hall and got to see all the action up close.

  • Hats off to the equipment manager, the diminutive Tony Medlin, for putting the rookies' names on the front of their helmets in tape for today's practice. None of us in the media had any clue who most of the non-contract players were and couldn't tell one guy from the next. By the end of Friday's practice, we kept calling one of the non-roster quarterbacks "Henry Burris" just because he was wearing No. 10.

  • Chris Leak threw the ball better than I expected on Friday, but he's struggling mightily on Saturday. First he looks to his right for Garrett Wolfe on a swing pass, but Wolfe was running his pattern to the left. The he slips and about does a split on a dropback from center. He fumbles a snap shortly thereafter. And most importantly, he's very inaccurate today when throwing passes further than 15 yards or so downfield.

  • Josh Beekman looks to be running very well for a guard and certainly much better than the non-roster offensive linemen. And even though Aaron Brant is 6'7" and 315 pounds, he appears to be in pretty good shape and doesn't lumber around like a slob. Time will tell if Beekman and Brant will be any better than last year's rookie practice-squaders, Tyler Reed and Mark LeVoir, but the early reviews are good for both.

  • Wolfe was incredibly impressive catching the ball out of the backfield on Day 1, but he's having a tougher time on Day 2 for some reason. He seems a little bit tired today and may have worn himself out after busting his tail all day yesterday. It's probably just a concentration lapse and not anything mechanical, so no worries as of yet.

  • The star of the day is David Ball, the undrafted free agent receiver out of New Hampshire. He was known for his incredibly soft hands in college, but he dropped quite a few catchable balls in Friday's practice. But today, he's made three or four near-impossible grabs and is getting "oohs" and "aahs" from the small crowd of media and scouts that are on hand watching the action.

  • Another free agent receiver, Drisan James of Boise State, makes a couple of tough catches in traffic and even got a nod from head coach Lovie Smith after coming up with one ball right in front of two defensive backs.

  • Greg Olsen's brother, Christian, is one of the quarterbacks who has been invited to participate in mini camp, but this looks to be a Casey Urlacher situation. He's certainly big and strong, but he looked like he was going hunting with all the wounded ducks he threw today. If he couldn't get on the field for the Virginia Cavaliers, he'd be better off serving as his sibling's personal assistant than trying to make a career for himself in the NFL.

  • In special teams drills, Wolfe is back deep and showcases his speed returning kickoffs. And even though he blasts through a gaggle of defenders on one particular return, coach Dave Toub notices that Wolfe is carrying the ball in his left hand despite the fact that he was darting for the right sideline. "Put that ball away!" Toub shouts.

  • Leak just threw an interception that was returned for a touchdown in the two-minute drill, so it's just not his day today.

  • The defensive coaches are crazy about their loose ball philosophy. Every single time the ball hits the ground, even if it's just an incomplete pass out of bounds, the defense is instructed to pounce on it and take it all the way back to the end zone among a convoy of blockers. The youngsters didn't do this in college apparently because none of them remember to pick up those incompletions and seem almost startled when the coaches start barking at them to do so.

The players get loose at the beginning of practice at Halas Hall in Lake Forest

Head coach Lovie Smith
On how he feels so far after two days of practice:
"Day 2 went exactly the way we wanted it to. We saw improvement by the players. Yesterday – the first day out – you don't know for sure if you can play, but the second day normally you get a chance to see a little bit more of what they can do. We were able to see that today. The quarterbacks threw the ball better. The receivers caught the ball a lot better. The defensive backs made a few plays. I think we're seeing the best of everyone, and that's what you want to do. We'll end up keeping some of the players. I'm really pleased with some of the players that came in without a contract. So I would say a few of those guys will end up coming back with us [to training camp], and that's always good."

On what he's seen from LB Michael Okwo so far:
"We watched a lot of video on him. He has a lot of talent. [He's a] smart guy, of course, being a Stanford grad and all that stuff. But he's what we're looking for at the linebacker position ... good quickness, good speed. [His] change of direction is real good, and he's been a playmaker. So we're anxious to put him into the mix at the linebacker position."

On RB Garrett Wolfe's performance these last two days:
"He's a versatile running back. We've had a chance to see him do a few things. We of course know how he can carry the football, and he can return the ball. But what I've been impressed with as much as anything is the way he's caught the ball. He has good hands. Most people don't know that. [The] typical tailback doesn't get the chance to catch the ball a lot, but he's shown a different part of his game. Hopefully, the return will be another part of his game we'll know about."

John Crist is the Publisher of Bear Report and Editor in Chief of BearReport.com. To read him every day, visit BearReport.com and become a Chicago Bears insider.

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