Training Camp Report: Day 14

The Chicago Bears did not have a full-scale practice Tuesday in Bourbonnais, instead doing a lot of scout team work in preparation for Thursday's preseason opener against the Chiefs. Since there isn't much to break down from Tuesday, JC takes a closer look at training camp as a whole after two weeks.

Pick Six
Head coach Lovie Smith revealed Tuesday that Kyle Orton will receive the start Thursday at home against Kansas City, which means Rex Grossman gets the nod next week in Seattle. Smith didn't reveal how he came to his decision, although it's possible that he wanted to start Grossman on the road since he was showered with boos at Soldier Field during the team's Family Night practice this past Friday. In all likelihood, Smith will name his No. 1 QB for the regular season after their exhibition matchup with the Seahawks because the third preseason game is when the starters see the most action. Whether it's Grossman or Orton, the winner will need as many reps as possible in order to be adequately prepared for Week 1 at Indianapolis. Grossman is ahead of Orton on most everyone's scorecard to date in Bourbonnais, although that lead has been trimmed the last few days. ...

Matt Forte is the unquestioned starter at tailback right now, working his way ahead of Adrian Peterson on the depth chart. The rookie from Tulane has been quite impressive from the very first time he put that orange C on his helmet, running strong between the tackles, catching the ball out of the backfield, and earning respect from the veterans with his humble approach. Kevin Jones appears to be getting closer in his return and actually put on a pair of shoulder pads Tuesday, but he remains on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list and could be there for the start of the regular season. Neither Peterson nor Garrett Wolfe has done much in training camp thus far, so expect Forte to have a big workload right out of the gate. Between P.J. Pope and undrafted free agent Matt Lawrence, Pope has been getting more reps and looks like a good bet for the practice squad again. ...

The wide receiver rotation is completely open, as Devin Hester and Rashied Davis are listed as co-starters on one side of the formation while Marty Booker and Brandon Lloyd get similar billing on the other side. Rookie Earl Bennett was really getting the job done the first week or so of camp, but he's slowed down to some degree the last several days and has let some catchable balls hit the ground. While Lloyd and Davis were both solid as a rock during the offseason program, neither has been able to maintain that momentum all the way through in Bourbonnais. Practice-squad veterans Mike Hass and Brandon Rideau continue to show flashes of brilliance, each catching a lot of passes during drills. The key is Hester, who may not be a primary target in this league but still finds a way to take your breath away on a daily basis. ...

The O-line was the biggest reason this offense struggled so mightily in 2007, and there is little reason to be optimistic about 2008 up front right now. Olin Kreutz's return after being sidelined for six days with an Achilles problem certainly helped, but the rest of the line is walking on thin ice. First-round draft pick Chris Williams couldn't even get through two practices before he was shelved with back spasms, and he looks to be getting worse instead of better if you simply watch the way he's walking around the Olivet Nazarene University campus. Neither Terrence Metcalf nor Josh Beekman looks to be the answer at left guard, and now Beekman will be forced into action since Metcalf had his knee scoped and might miss a few weeks. While John Tait will remain at right tackle even though Williams isn't ready to play, there have been rumblings that Roberto Garza could move from right guard over to left out of pure necessity. ...

All is well on defense for the most part provided everyone can stay on the field. Tommie Harris is getting most of the reps at three technique, which is a relief since he was watching more than he was participating during the offseason program. Anthony Adams is an underrated run-stuffer at nose tackle, and both Israel Idonije and Matt Toeaina look to be capable backups in the rotation. The linebackers are as solid as ever, as Hunter Hillenmeyer just keeps getting better in the shadow of Pro Bowlers Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs. Mike Brown is still the defensive heart and soul despite missing all that time the last four years with injury after injury, and Charles Tillman is rounding into form after being excused from several practices because of a family matter. ...

As far as the rookies are concerned, Forte by all accounts is indeed the every-down back general manager Jerry Angelo talked about on draft weekend. Bennett has made a bunch of tough grabs and should get a chance to produce right away at wideout, although Marcus Monk still has a lot to learn about catching passes in the NFL. Marcus Harrison has been up and down so far at D-tackle, earning praise one day but getting schooled the next. Craig Steltz has really improved and could be the primary backup at safety over Kevin Payne, who's been a ghost ever since returning from last year's broken arm. Both fifth-round selections, Zack Bowman and Kellen Davis, have been better than advertised and should make the team without a problem.


CB Zack Bowman
Warren Wimmer Photography

Injury Report
Rookie Chester Adams has finally returned from the stomach ailment that forced him to miss about a week and a half of training camp, lining up with the second-teamers at right guard alongside fellow seventh-rounder Kirk Barton. A pair of second-year disappointments, Dan Bazuin and Michael Okwo, continues to battle nagging injuries and could be in jeopardy of making the 53-man roster. Metcalf's knee scope will likely keep him out of the starting lineup come Week 1, which might not necessarily be a bad thing since he was beaten soundly this past season after taking over for Ruben Brown. Dusty Dvoracek has played a grand total of one game in two years, so the fact that he hasn't practiced yet because of a bad calf is another ominous sign for a promising career – he's already 27 years old, by the way. And until Williams proves that he's ready to assume his role at left tackle, all this reshuffling of the offensive line will have gone for naught.

Stud of the Day
If you had to pick an MVP on offense through two weeks of training camp, it's hard to ignore Forte in the backfield even though he's just a rookie. Not only has he done everything asked of him on the football field and more, but he's also proven to be the anti-Cedric Benson off the field. Defensively, Nathan Vasher has been very good most every day after missing so much time a year ago with that painful groin tear. The secondary just isn't the same unless both Vasher and Tillman are in the lineup, especially since they help support the run so well from the cornerback position. Robbie Gould has also been a standout, so look for him to finally bang a couple of 50-yarders this season.

Dud of the Day
Metcalf and Beekman need to step it up in a hurry unless they forever want to be known as the weakest links along the offensive line. Mark Bradley walks around the locker room like he's coming off an All-Pro season, even though Smith's depth chart says he's no better than the No. 5 receiver right now. The coaching staff would love to see Danieal Manning develop into a dependable nickelback, but he's been shaky – Corey Graham might be better suited for the role. Bazuin just can't stay on the field for more than a few practices in a row, while Okwo is no more than a third-string linebacker these days. On special teams, Bennett shouldn't be backing up Hester as the return man since he can't field the ball consistently.

Quote to Note
"Don't look into any of these decisions that we've made right now. It's a starting spot, and there's no rhyme or reason as to why we're going this direction. It's just the way I want to go right now." – Head coach Lovie Smith after he announced that Kyle Orton will start over Rex Grossman in Thursday's preseason opener.

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.


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