On Day 1 of Chicago Bears minicamp, the offense had a pretty good day moving the football. That was not the case on Day 2, as the defense took over and made both Rex Grossman and Kyle Orton look bad. Bear Report had a front-row seat for all the action at Halas Hall and made these observations ...
Pick SixRex Grossman had a solid day throwing the football Friday running the second-team offense, but he struggled immensely Saturday when back under center with the starting unit. The former first-rounder threw a trio of bad interceptions on the day, and several more could have gone back the other way but fell harmlessly to the ground. Mike Brown was the first one to victimize Grossman after Greg Olsen tipped the ball in the air on a crossing pattern, then Alex Brown timed his leap perfectly to take away a screen pass before it could get to Cedric Benson, and then Hunter Hillenmeyer stepped in front of a slant intended for Desmond Clark just one throw later.
Kyle Orton failed to cash in on a golden opportunity to gain some separation from Grossman in the quarterback competition, however, throwing three interceptions of his own on the afternoon. Trumaine McBride jumped a sideline route intended for Brandon Rideau that would have been an easy pick-six, then Hillenmeyer got his second INT on a pass that was forced to Olsen, and then Jamar Williams did the honors as he made a more aggressive play on the ball than rookie Earl Bennett on a shallow hook. Orton earlier fumbled a snap and was also forced to spike two screen passes into the turf as his running back couldn't get open with the rush collapsing around him.
The receiving corps has been decimated with Bernard Berrian leaving as a free agent, Muhsin Muhammad being released, and Mark Bradley going under the knife once again, but the coaching staff has to like what it sees out of both Marty Booker and Brandon Lloyd so far. Booker made an incredible one-handed catch on a skinny post in positional drills, and Lloyd has looked smooth overall the first two days of minicamp. Rashied Davis dropped a few balls early on in Saturday's session and had another where he gave a gator-armed effort as Brown came closing in from his safety position, but he made some good grabs during 7-on-7 and 11-on-11.
Devin Hester continues to be a magician on the gridiron, delivering the play of the day offensively Saturday on a deep bomb from Orton. From the moment the ball was in flight, it looked as if Orton had actually miscalculated Hester's blazing speed and simply overthrew him down the left sideline. But after he streaked past Kevin Payne around the 10-yard line, Hester kicked it into overdrive and somehow made the catch in stride to the amazement of every media member on hand.
One of the interesting special-teams drills the team ran Saturday involved the gunners trying to down pooch punts inside the 10-yard line. Both Corey Graham and Danieal Manning were able to catch a kick on the fly and kill it around the 5-yard line, but neither McBride nor Ricky Manning Jr. was as successful as the ball trickled into the end zone for a would-be touchback. Undrafted free agent receiver Curtis Hamilton made the most egregious error of the day, getting greedy on a bouncer and letting it cross the goal line because he had no idea where he was on the field.
Robbie Gould earned the biggest contract in history for a kicker during the offseason partly because he's done very well on field goals at Soldier Field, a place where Mother Nature can be brutal from time to time. Apparently the wind patterns swirl differently in Lake Forest, as Gould badly yanked back-to-back attempts from about 50 yards out that never threatened either goal post. Turns out it was undrafted free agent kicker Shane Longest who finally converted from that distance, while Gould hung his head in embarrassment and got playfully hazed by his teammates.
WR Marty Booker
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Bradley was once again the only player on hand who did not participate at all, but he almost had some unfortunate company about midway through Saturday's session. A pair of rookies, fourth-round safety Craig Steltz and undrafted free agent cornerback Trey Brown, converged on a pass from Nick Hill to Bennett near the right sideline, and the two defensive backs knocked knees as they both whiffed on the ball. Bennett ended up with a reception, while Steltz was lucky he only suffered a temporary limp going back to the huddle.
Stud of the Day
Since the first-string defense hasn't been running very much of the nickel package thus far, that probably means Hillenmeyer will stay on the field in passing situations a lot just like he did toward the end of last year. He seems to be relishing his new role in coverage, intercepting one ball from Grossman and then another from Orton just a few plays later. Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs will make all the Pro Bowls, but Hillenmeyer has turned himself into a solid strong-side linebacker.
Duds of the Day
No question about it, it was a miserable performance by both Grossman and Orton at the game's most important position Saturday. It's understandable that the front office didn't make a play for a free-agent signal-caller since there weren't any legitimate options available on the open market, but Jerry Angelo might rue the day he passed on both Brian Brohm of Louisville and Chad Henne of Michigan in the second round of the draft. The legend of Sid Luckman continues to loom large.
Quote to Note
"It would be hard, you know. It would be very hard." – WR Devin Hester when asked if he would be disappointed should he not receive a contract extension before the start of the season.
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.