There are still times when Jay Cutler drops back in the pocket and appears hesitant to make a decision, although there was less of that Wednesday than there has been in recent practices. Overall, he completed 15 of his 23 attempts during the workout. He was 7-of-10 in 7-on-7 and 8-of-13 in 11-on-11, including 3-of-5 in red-zone action and 4-of-7 in the two-minute drill. It's quite apparent that Cutler is going out of his way to build rapport with Devin Hester, who was targeted more than any other receiver by far – including on three of his seven throws in the two-minute drive. The Pro Bowler was picked off twice, although the first one was tipped by Hester and fell into the waiting arms of Trumaine McBride. The second, however, was a bad read, as Craig Steltz easily stepped in front of a pass down the seam to Greg Olsen. ...
I wrote last week that the coaching staff is being creative to get Corey Graham on the field because he's one of the top defensive backs on the roster. It's obviously not going to be at corner, where veterans Charles Tillman and Nathan Vasher are rightfully atop the depth chart again. Steltz and Kevin Payne have both done well during OTAs at the two safety positions, so Graham is having a hard time competing there since he didn't start getting snaps at safety until recently. But Wednesday, Graham was working with both the first- and second-team D at nickel back. As a matter of fact, Danieal Manning was on the sideline for all of 7-on-7 and 11-on-11, meaning he could be benched in favor of Graham at that all-important spot before long. ...
Not only was Matt Forte nursing a sore hamstring that's been bothering him for a few weeks, but Kevin Jones was also watching Wednesday's workout from the sideline. Head coach Lovie Smith addressed the media after practice and professed that Jones would be a bigger part of the offense in 2009, although he didn't make any specific mention of why the former Lion was held out of the session. Both Garrett Wolfe and Adrian Peterson saw a lot of action, with Wolfe getting most of the first-team reps and Peterson taking care of the second-team attack. When asked about his Forte-Jones combo, Smith also made sure to say a few nice things about Wolfe, but Peterson's name did not cross his lips. Since he's obviously not a part of the plan on offense, the only way to justify a roster spot for Peterson is if he again proves to be indispensible from a special-teams perspective. ...
There was a time in the middle of Wednesday's practice when McBride was the best player on the field, which is saying something since he's done little to deserve even second-team reps for most of the offseason program. Not only did he pick off a pass from Cutler after it was redirected by Hester, but he came back just a few snaps later and knocked down a throw from Caleb Hanie intended for Peterson. The running back ran a wheel route, where he originally runs parallel to the line of scrimmage but then turns upfield once he gets to the sideline. However, McBride recognized the pattern immediately and almost came up with his second INT of the afternoon. Zack Bowman worked with the first team as Tillman took the day off, leaving McBride, D.J. Moore, and Woodny Turenne on the second unit. ...
Among the extra nuggets of interest offensively Wednesday, Frank Omiyale was again ahead of Josh Beekman on the depth chart at left guard and looks like he'll ultimately win that job come Week 1. Hanie had a very sharp day throwing the football, burning Turenne by hitting Johnny Knox on a fly pattern deep down the left sideline – that pass seemed to be in the air forever. Brandon Rideau continues to get lots of time with the starting offense and right now is a lock to not only make the team, but maybe play a significant role in 2009. Cutler's incredible arm strength was on display during 7-on-7, most notably on a corner route to Hester that somehow ended up as a completion in front of Payne. Hanie manufactured a touchdown in the two-minute drill to end practice, connecting with Juaquin Iglesias on a go route past Moore. ...
On the other side of the ball, not only was draft pick Al Afalava on the field more than free-agent signee Josh Bullocks, but the youngster was making plays and the veteran was hardly noticed. Bowman dropped a sure interception on the first play of 11-on-11, an overthrown bomb from Cutler to Earl Bennett, but the corner got crossed up and couldn't reel it in Willie Mays-style. With Brian Urlacher attending but not participating, Jamar Williams was once again the middle linebacker. Pisa Tinoisamoa got all of the snaps on the strong side with both Nick Roach and Hunter Hillenmeyer nothing more than observers, so that competition could be over even before the team even heads to training camp. Israel Idonije might not get to make that switch back to end from tackle, as Tommie Harris still isn't doing much and hasn't taken a single rep for either 7-on-7 or 11-on-11 the entire offseason.
Rookies Iglesias and Knox share a laugh on the practice field during OTAs at Halas Hall.
Nam Y. Huh/AP Images
Seven total players were held out of all drills Wednesday: Forte, Hillenmeyer, Jones, Joey LaRocque, Roach, Tillman, and Urlacher. There was a little more goofing around than normal throughout practice, and the day was even cut short about half an hour. Thursday is the final day of the offseason program, so don't expect anybody with any sort of injury concern to push it before Bourbonnais.
Stud of the Day
He's far from a lock to make the 53-man roster because of all the reshuffling going on in the secondary, but McBride was impossible to ignore Wednesday. The former Ole Miss Rebel was credited with one interception and a few passes defensed, as he got some time with both the first- and second-team D. McBride may have to beat out the rookie Moore in order to keep his job, and while Moore has more upside defensively at this point, McBride plays a lot of special teams and may be a more important player for the coming season.
Dud of the Day
Nobody flat-out stunk up Wednesday's practice, but there were a few less-than-stellar moments. Cutler did throw two picks, although one of them was tipped and not totally his fault. Bowman mishandled what should have been another Cutler INT, even though it was a tough grab. Michael Gaines continues to have problems catching the football consistently, allowing McBride to knock one out of his hands. And neither Wolfe nor Peterson did much in the backfield, despite getting all the attention with both Forte and Jones sidelined.
Quote to Note
"Of course, everybody wants to talk about Jay. Jay did a super job. When he came here, I started evaluating him from that point on. Everything we've asked him to do, he's been able to do. Every day, he's been working hard. Each day, he's worked to move into more of a leadership role. I don't think there is any question right now what his role will be this season on our football team. Of course he can throw the ball, but taking command of the offense [and] being that face out front is important." – Head coach Lovie Smith on QB Jay Cutler during OTAs.
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.