Now that the Brian Urlacher soap opera is between acts, the Chicago Bears can focus on getting back to the Super Bowl. It was an interesting first day of workouts at minicamp to say the least. Bear Report had a front-row seat for all the action at Halas Hall and made these observations ...
Pick SixWe start off Friday's minicamp report once again with the quarterbacks, as it was Kyle Orton's day to run the first team with Rex Grossman relegated to second-string duties. During 7-on-7 drills, Orton connected on 9 of 11 passes, although most of his completions were off the dump-off variety to his running backs as opposed to longer throws down the field. Grossman was 8-of-8 through the air, including a nice deep-in route to Marty Booker and a fly pattern to rookie Earl Bennett along the left sideline – that ball was underthrown, however. Moving on to 11-on-11 action, Orton did fumble a snap about halfway through practice, while Grossman concluded the day's workout with a long strike to Mike Hass, who made another beautiful catch on a ball thrown behind him.
Along the offensive line, this is how the first team lined up Friday: John St. Clair at left tackle, Terrence Metcalf at left guard, Olin Kreutz at center, Roberto Garza at right guard, John Tait at right tackle. As for the second unit: rookie Chris Williams at left tackle, Anthony Oakley at left guard, Josh Beekman at center, Tyler Reed at right guard, rookie Chester Adams at right tackle. Williams should be transitioned to the starting offense at left tackle before long, although Oakley over Beekman at left guard is certainly interesting.
Devin Hester is still the most exciting player on the field, as it is always difficult to take your eyes off him when he's between the lines. Bears fans will be happy to know that he was the only player back returning punts all day long, which means head coach Lovie Smith's proclamation that he may limit Hester in the return game in order to take advantage of him more offensively looks to be hogwash. He also had a pretty good day catching passes, in addition to reeling in a screen pass and running an end-around toward the end of the session.
The play of the day on the offensive side of the ball was authored by new addition Brandon Lloyd, who may be called upon to step into the one of the starting receiver spots vacated by Bernard Berrian and Muhsin Muhammad. During 7-on-7, Lloyd got loose down the middle of the field and made a diving catch on a bomb from Orton that would have gone for a gain of about 40 or 45 yards. He isn't overly fast and may have trouble getting separation from defensive backs, but he's a smooth runner and a long strider.
Two of the defensive rookies look like pretty solid picks at this point in the proceedings: second-round tackle Marcus Harrison and fifth-round cornerback Zack Bowman. Harrison got a lot of snaps at the three-technique tackle with the second team alongside nose Matt Toeaina, showing a quick first step and pretty good speed in the open field. Bowman was only getting reps with the third team on defense, but he got some oohs and aahs from teammates and coaches alike when he lined up at gunner on the punt team and blew past Brandon Rideau with a good move.
One defender who certainly appears to be on his way out of town is Ricky Manning Jr., who didn't get any action with the first-stringers in the nickel package. As a matter of fact, he was lined up opposite Bowman with the third team at corner as Trumaine McBride and Corey Graham took most every snap with the second unit. Another interesting note is that the starting defense did not run any nickel coverage whatsoever, so look for Hunter Hillenmeyer to be on the field more than ever this coming season.
WR Devin Hester
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
Mark Bradley was the only player on the field who did not participate at all Friday, as he is recovering from arthroscopic knee surgery and still questionable for the start of training camp. A pair of defensive tackles who were badly banged up a year ago, Tommie Harris and Dusty Dvoracek, did a little work in positional drills but nothing at all during 7-on-7 or 11-on-11.
Stud of the Day
It's amazing that Charles Tillman has still never been to a Pro Bowl, as he was the best player on the field today for a defense that's loaded with former Pro Bowlers at most every position. On one particular play during 11-on-11, he would have destroyed Lloyd on a crossing pattern because Orton was just a little late with the throw on a bootleg. One snap later, Tillman stripped rookie Matt Forte of the football in the open field after a routine handoff – much to the young running back's dismay.
Dud of the Day
Veteran Alex Brown appears to have recaptured the starting job at right defensive end, and youngster Mark Anderson did very little to prove that he still deserved top-of-the-depth-chart honors. Williams was manhandling him routinely when the second teams were on the field, including once when it looked like Anderson guessed the snap count right yet still couldn't get around the edge. On the next snap, Grossman took advantage of Anderson's itchy trigger finger and got him to jump offside with a hard count out of the shotgun.
Quote to Note
"It's always tough when you come into a season without playing at all the season before. To get the three games in at the end of the year that I did and to get a lot of work in so far in the offseason, I feel like I'm a better player." – QB Kyle Orton on getting three starts during 2007 as opposed to not playing at all in 2006.
And oh by the way ...
... this Brian Urlacher guy looked awfully good, too.
John Crist is the Publisher of Bear Report and a member of the Professional Football Writers of America. To read him every day, visit BearReport.com and become a Chicago Bears insider.