Minicamp Report: Thursday

Maybe the Chicago Bears don't need a veteran QB behind Kyle Orton, with Caleb Hanie emerging as a dependable No. 2 option. Unfortunately, there's still nobody to throw the ball to on offense. Bear Report had a front-row seat for all the action Thursday and made these observations ...

Pick Six
The quarterbacks had three totally different days weather-wise during minicamp, as Tuesday was warm yet windy, Wednesday was cooler but calmer, and Thursday was pretty but bitterly cold. Kyle Orton was 7-of-9 during 11-on-11 drills, although he was intercepted by Danieal Manning on a deep crossing pattern to Earl Bennett – his only other incompletion was a flat-out drop by Rashied Davis. Caleb Hanie was back in the No. 2 spot in the rotation, putting together a 5-of-6 performance that included one poorly thrown screen pass intended for Kevin Jones. Brett Basanez was the No. 3 again, where he was an unimpressive 1-of-3 after first overthrowing Kellen Davis down the seam and then misfiring behind Devin Aromashodu on a slant route. ...

The Bears are thin along the offensive line and could really use another top-flight talent at tackle, but Thursday's workout highlighted just how bad this team is at the wide receiver position. The six players on the field during minicamp workouts have combined for a grand total of 156 receptions in the NFL: 74 from Davis, 71 from Devin Hester, seven from Aromashodu, four from John Broussard, and goose eggs from Bennett and Brandon Rideau. As a measuring stick, Marvin Harrison, who just happens to be available on the free agent market right now, set the single-season league record with 143 catches back in 2002. There is no way Chicago can head to training camp with this group of pass catchers. At the very least, another veteran and a Day-1 draft pick must be added to the mix. ...

The defensive backs didn't make too many plays the first two days of minicamp, but the unit made its presence felt with some big plays Thursday. Not only did Manning pick off Orton during 11-on-11, but both Nathan Vasher and Josh Bullocks got an INT during 7-on-7 action earlier in the day. Vasher took advantage of a lazy throw from Orton over the middle, while Bullocks got one off Basanez on a deep ball down the right sideline in the vicinity of Broussard. ...

A lot of Bears fans are counting on Tommie Harris to bounce back with another Pro Bowl year after struggling so badly with injuries the last two campaigns, especially since he hasn't spent this offseason rehabbing from surgery. While it's hard to get a good look at either offensive or defensive linemen during minicamp since nobody is wearing pads and there are no full-contact drills at all, that didn't stop the coaching staff from taking it easy on Harris during the three days of workouts. He got an awful lot of rest, meaning he's still not 100 percent or everyone's scared to death of him getting dinged up again. ...

According to a story in Thursday's Chicago Tribune, Bennett had a hard time getting on the field as a rookie last season because he couldn't pick up the playbook quickly enough. When asked about the story after Day 3 of minicamp, Bennett didn't back off what he said, assured everyone that the offense started to click with him the second half of 2008, and claimed he's totally comfortable with the calls heading into '09. Needless to say, those comments were somewhat curious coming from the all-time leading receiver in the history of the SEC – doubly curious when he did it at an academics-first institution like Vanderbilt. ...

Bullocks apparently has a lot to learn when it comes to how this team goes about its business in practice. During Tuesday's 11-on-11 work, he laid some wood to Bennett to break up a pass down the field, so Thursday there was a buzz along the sideline from various media members about Bullocks getting heat from the veteran Bears – he's not used to their flag football-esque routine. Head coach Lovie Smith still believes in as little contact as possible getting ready for live action, even if that means poor tackling habits sometimes carrying over from the exhibition schedule into the regular season.


Brown and the D-line like what they hear from Marinelli. (Charles Arbogast/AP Images)

Injury Report
Lance Briggs was excused from Thursday's session for personal reasons. In his stead, Jamar Williams got the majority of the snaps at weak-side linebacker. There were no new injuries of note during minicamp.

Stud of the Day
The more the second-team offense is on the field, the more you have to like the way Hanie is running it. Most of the experts out there had the Bears needing to sign a Byron Leftwich or a Jeff Garcia in free agency to have a veteran in the bullpen behind Orton, but Smith again reiterated his confidence in Hanie after Thursday's practice. Offensive coordinator Ron Turner is also mixing up his approach from time to time when Hanie is at the controls, even calling a pair of quarterback draws to most everyone's surprise.

Dud of the Day
For the millionth time: Hester is not a No. 1 receiver in this league. At least he wasn't on this day, as the former All-Pro return man wasn't able to reel in a couple of tough catches during positional drills, only came up with one reception during 11-on-11, and even fumbled an end-around once he saw Adewale Ogunleye holding containment from his left defensive end position. The receiving corps as a whole was quite unspectacular Thursday, which was highlighted by the fact that Hester looked like he was still somewhat unsure of himself at times.

Quote to Note
"Well, obviously, you want to be the starting quarterback, but Kyle has done a great job. He's earned that position. I'm coming in, competing for the No. 2 job. If my play elevates me higher than that, then great. So, that's just kind of how I approach it. I'm just competing to get into the games." – Quarterback Caleb Hanie when asked about his mindset heading into training camp this summer.


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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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