Training Camp Report: Day 2

Since Saturday was one of the very few weekend practices in Bourbonnais with the travel schedule being what it is, a terrific crowd of close to 10,000 people made their way to the campus of ONU. Bear Report had a front-row seat at Chicago Bears training camp and made these observations ...

Pick Six
For the first time since this past December, the Monsters of the Midway practiced in full pads and did it on an unseasonably cool August evening at Ward Field. A capacity crowd estimated at 10,000 people packed in everywhere to see Jay Cutler, and while he dazzled the masses from time to time with shorter bullets and deeper bombs, he wasn't quite as sharp as he could have been and even threw a pair of interceptions. Overall, he completed 9 of 12 passes during 7-on-7 and then 10 of 16 in 11-on-11, highlighted by back-to-back flies – one to Devin Hester down the left sideline and one to Earl Bennett on the right. Brett Basanez got the nod with the second team Saturday and struggled quite a bit, hitting on just 7 of 12 throws with an INT. Running the third team, Caleb Hanie was impressive with an 11-of-12 effort. ...

It's a good sign that Danieal Manning's hamstring injury wasn't more serious, as the fourth-year pro is going to be featured prominently at free safety, nickel back and kick returner in 2009. He was back on the practice field Saturday and appeared to be 100 percent once again, flip-flopping back and forth between safety and nickel depending on the alignment the offense puts on the field – Craig Steltz took over at free safety when the O went with three- or four-wide sets. At linebacker, Nick Roach got the majority of the first-team reps at strong-side linebacker after giving way to newcomer Pisa Tinoisamoa most of Friday. ...

Apparently, the coaching staff realizes they put way too much pressure on Matt Forte as a rookie and possibly contributed to the fact that he had injury concerns down the stretch his first season. He hasn't gotten too many reps through the first few days of training camp, with both Kevin Jones and Garrett Wolfe getting a decent amount of work Saturday with the first-string offense. It's just fine for Bears fans to be excited about a fully-healthy Jones since he was once an elite back in this league, but they would be wise to temper said excitement when it comes to Wolfe since he has looked great in the past only when there's no contact involved – he might be unemployed if he weren't such a good special-teams tackler. ...

On the surface, it's easy to understand why Zack Bowman is getting so much love at cornerback, with the injury to Charles Tillman putting the entire secondary in flux at the outset of training camp – he's more of an athlete than Corey Graham will ever be. But Bowman made a case for being a permanent fixture in the team's starting lineup Saturday, running stride for stride with Hester on a post pattern and leaping up to make an impressive interception even though the ball was delivered on time and on target. It's somewhat bizarre that Graham got all the action in 2008 after fellow rookie Trumaine McBride played well in '07, just like Graham earned headlines this past season but is now being pushed aside in favor of Bowman. ...


Urlacher got one of the two picks Cutler threw.
AP Images: Nam Y. Huh

As far as the rookie wide receivers are concerned, fifth rounder Johnny Knox continues to catch a lot of balls with the second-team offense and may get more of a chance with the starting unit before long. After catching a curl from Hanie over the middle, Knox made a serious stop-and-go move following a grab in front of Marcus Hamilton that elicited all kinds of "oohs" and "aahs" from the faithful on hand for the evening. Before that, fellow rookie Juaquin Iglesias just was not as impressive and didn't help himself with a somewhat shaky Day-2 performance, dropping a pair of quite catchable passes during positional drills and failing to make a dent in either 7-on-7 or 11-on-11. ...

The defensive line had a sensational showing, with three-time Pro Bowler Tommie Harris in particular seeing a lot of time in Saturday's second practice at the three-technique tackle spot, as opposed to minicamp and OTAs when he didn't get a single rep. Israel Idonije continues to be one of the more versatile contributors on the roster, switching back and forth between D-end and D-tackle depending on a variety of factors – the activity of Harris being one of them. With Mark Anderson looking more and more like a one-trick pony with his predictable spin move, it's time to come up with an alternative when starters Alex Brown and Adewale Ogunleye need a breather.

Injury Report
While speculation as to the severity of his hamstring injury was in play among the media, Manning appeared to be 100 percent healthy Saturday and took his rightful place as the free safety, nickel back and kick returner. Tillman wore a bucket hat once again and will continue to be nothing more than a spectator for the duration of training camp, even if he plans to play a preseason game or two. Marcus Harrison continues to run on the side, but no timetable has been set for his return to action.

Stud of the Day
Bears fans need to get comfortable with the idea of Bowman being one of the starting cornerbacks, and not just because Tillman is out of the lineup for a while with his back issues. The former Nebraska Cornhusker put his size, speed and athleticism on display all offseason long, and he's even stepped it up a notch since training camp began. That interception of Cutler he made was simply a thing of beauty – Vasher couldn't have made that play, point blank.

Dud of the Day
Since Hanie appears to be entrenched as the backup behind Cutler under center, it was interesting to see Basanez getting the second-team reps Saturday while Hanie moved down to No. 3. That probably won't happen again any time soon, as Basanez didn't look like an NFL quarterback most of the evening and doesn't have very much zip on the football. Maybe the coaching staff was trying to get a better look at him and see if he's worthy of a spot on the 53-man roster at all – perhaps he isn't.

Quote to Note
"You've got to understand each other from a standpoint that we've got to know what each other's doing at certain times. Once you play with a guy, you understand his calls, the way he blocks, his strengths, his weaknesses – those types of things. I think once you understand that and you play next to a guy for a number of weeks in training camp, you get a feel for him. And I think that helps the ballclub." – OT Orlando Pace on what he means when he says an offensive line needs to "jell."


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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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