Training Camp Report: Day 13

The defense continues to catch up to the offense in Bourbonnais, as the passing game is now not coming so easily to Rex Grossman & Company anymore. Linebacker Hunter Hillenmeyer was carted off the field with a sprained ankle, but it does not appear to be serious at this point. BearReport.com had a front-row seat for all the action at Olivet Nazarene University and filed this report.

BLIPS, BLURBS & BLASTS
The list of players missing practice is again fairly short: linebacker Brian Urlacher, cornerback Nathan Vasher, linebacker Michael Okwo, and tailback Adrian Peterson. Fullback Jon Goldsberry is performing in drills for the first time in quite a while, but not for long as he takes his pads off half-way through practice and is not able to continue. Head coach Lovie Smith said on Tuesday the Peterson would be back for Wednesday's workout, but he's nowhere to be found once again. Nothing to write home about for Urlacher, who's simply utilizing another veteran's day. Okwo has been receiving treatment and may miss Saturday's preseason opener against the Texans for precautionary purposes ...

Linebacker Hunter Hillenmeyer is carted off the field midway through practice after rolling his right ankle, although it's not considered to be serious. Naturally, he attracts a crowd as he leaves the dining hall later in the day, walking with a minor limp and a wrap around that ankle. Hillenmeyer simply repeats "I'm fine" over and over again to reporters and heads back to his room at Parrott Hall ...

It appears that I may have to officially throw in the towel on my dark horse to make the 53-man roster. I was incredibly impressed with receiver Brandon Rideau during the offseason program at Halas Hall, and I maintain my belief that the team will keep six wideouts this season because newly-converted Devin Hester has a dual role and is being asked to do so much this season. However, Mike Hass has clearly established himself as the No. 6 receiver – Hester, Muhsin Muhammad, Bernard Berrian, Mark Bradley, and Rashied Davis are all obviously locks – and catapulted himself past Rideau on the depth chart. Not that Rideau has been unimpressive in Bourbonnais because that's not the case, but Hass has simply been sensational and is generating a lot of buzz these days ...

There's a new wrinkle on defense right there that I don't recall seeing before. Defensive end Mark Anderson begins to rush the quarterback from the right side during 11-on-11 drills, but as tailback Cedric Benson runs his pattern out of the backfield, Anderson pulls off and covers him in the flat. Perhaps that is some sort of zone blitz being incorported into new defensive coordinator Bob Babich's scheme, which I believe is a new twist ...

With Vasher taking the day off, seventh-round draft pick Trumaine McBride is actually seeing some time with the first-team defense so Ricky Manning Jr. can keep getting his reps at nickelback. McBride has been one of the biggest surprises and best stories of training camp, outplaying fifth-rounder Corey Graham from Day 1 and not shying away from the fact that he's battled a speech impediment since he was very young. He's a big reason why veteran Dante Wesley was considered expendable and traded to the Patriots this week. It's hard not to root for guys like McBride, who was a three-year starter at Ole Miss but got passed over on draft weekend ...

There is also a new look on offense today, as Bradley is lining up in the slot quite frequently while being flanked by starters Muhammad and Berrian. Up until now, Bradley had been used primarily at flanker or split end with the likes of Davis and Hester in the slot. This actually puts the Bears' three top receivers on the field at the same time and gives quarterback Rex Grossman all kinds of options and potential one-on-one matchups. Davis appears to be much more comfortable than he was last season thanks to a full year of playing receiver under his belt, but he better step it up a notch if he wants to keep his little niche as the slot man. Bradley is simply too good to keep on the sideline for long, and we all know that Hester is going to get on the field a lot with everything he can do ...

The crowd on hand gets a big-time scare during 7-on-7 action. Hester runs a post pattern from the right side of the formation, and quarterback Brian Griese delivers the ball to him deep over the middle. Safety Brandon McGowan closes fast and actually pops Hester pretty good with his shoulder pads to jar the ball lose and break up the pass. Hester goes crashing to the turf, probably because he never thought he was going to get hit like that. He's slow to get up as the fans hold their breath, but he eventually jogs back to the huddle and looks to be just fine ...

As a matter of fact, Hester catches a pass from Griese on a zero route the very next snap and just about breaks rookie cornerback Greg Fassitt's ankle as he fakes him out of his jockstrap, so he's fine ...

Safety Adam Archuleta has a reputation as a great in-the-box player who struggles with coverage in open space, but he's made a pair of nice plays today down the field. First, he runs stride for stride with the speedy Berrian on a fly pattern as Grossman's throw falls harmlessly to the ground, and then he knocks down a pass for tight end Desmond Clark over the middle during red zone drills to foil a potential score. The trade of Chris Harris to the Panthers is an affirmation that the organization believes Archuleta's struggles in Washington last season have more to do with him not being utilized properly and less to do with some sort of dropoff in his ability ...

The defense is once again making it tough on the offense today, especially in the two-minute drill at the end of practice. Grossman's first pass is tipped at the line of scrimmage by defensive tackle Darwin Walker before being intercepted in the middle of the field by Ricky Manning Jr., quickly ending the drive. On the first-team offense's second attempt, cornerback Charles Tillman steps in front of a post pattern by Berrian near the goal line and comes up with yet another interception. Griese, on the other hand, has more success with the twos. He drives the offense right down the field, hitting rookie tight end Greg Olsen down the seam for a big-gainer on the first play of the drive and then finding him again a few snaps later in the end zone for a touchdown.

FYI: The Bears have another two-a-day scheduled for Thursday, with a mini-practice at 10:45 in the morning and then a 7:00 evening session under the lights at Ward Field.

(M. Spencer Green /AP Photos)

NOTABLE QUOTABLES
Head coach Lovie Smith
On his general impressions of how training camp has gone thus far:
"[We're] pleased with what we've seen so far. You practice against each other for quite a while, and it's just not the same as playing against someone else. By the second week you're anxious to play another opponent, so that's where we are. Tomorrow we'll starting looking at the Houston Texans a little but, getting ready to play against someone else. And that should help us a lot with the evaluation."

On possibly being a little thin at linebacker heading into the Houston game:
"We had three guys [out of action today] with Hunter going down. Coming in we felt like we had good depth, and right now just the next guy will move up. We'll take a long look at Rod Wilson while other players are out. Jamar Williams is still going strong. We still have Brendon Ayanbadejo. We came in with seven guys. None of the injuries are serious, but as I see it you just get a chance to take a long look at some of those guys that are fighting for jobs."

On how new linebackers coach Hardy Nickerson can improve the defense:
"Well, a lot. I think he's taught them a lot already. Hardy Nickerson was the best linebacker I've seen to be able to use his hands. For a small guy, he struck with a big impact. He can help them with that. Pass rush, different things like that.

On how far along Cedric Benson is this season compared to the last two:
"I don't know exactly how far, but that should at least put him right on schedule being able to. But he's gone through all the offseason work, getting a chance to go to training camp, and now play the football games. Not ahead of schedule but just right on schedule, and that's where we want our team."

On whether he will do any gameplanning for the first preseason game:
"Sure. When you say game plan, we'll look at them a little bit. We're not going to put in a game plan that we would during the regular season, but we didn't play them last year so it's the first time we've played against that staff. So we'll look at them and have a small game plan you can say."

John Crist is the Editor in Chief of BearReport.com and a member of the Professional Football Writers of America. To read him every day, visit BearReport.com and become a Chicago Bears insider.

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