Training Camp Report: Day 3

Not many people think Devin Hester truly is a No. 1 option in this league, but the Midway Monsters did their best to disprove that notion Sunday. Also, two familiar names on D were held out of action. Bear Report had a front-row seat at Chicago Bears training camp and made these observations ...

Pick Six
Bears coach Lovie Smith went out of his way to say that Jay Cutler is starting to get more familiar with the offense and seems like he's been around for a while already, and it certainly looked that way Sunday in 7-on-7 drills. Cutler was a perfect 12-of-12, including a pair of absolute missiles – one to Greg Olsen, one to Devin Hester – on deep curl routes. Earl Bennett later beat press coverage from Nathan Vasher down the left sideline to reel in a fly pattern 40 yards downfield. Cutler wasn't quite as sharp in 11-on-11, connecting on 9 of his 16 throws, but he put perfect touch on a ball down the seam to Desmond Clark that was just over linebacker Jamar Williams and just under safety Danieal Manning. Caleb Hanie was back with the second-team offense and put together a 10-of-12 performance that included a few tuck-and-run situations, but No. 3 Brett Basanez had another poor showing despite being 7-of-11 at the end of the day on the stat sheet. ...

Both Lance Briggs and Hunter Hillenmeyer were observing most of the afternoon because of Smith's favorite injury, "general soreness," but neither is expected to be out of action for any significant period of time. Williams got most of the snaps with the starting defense at Briggs' weak-side linebacker spot, while the competition between Nick Roach and Pisa Tinoisamoa resulted in equal time on the strong side. Rookie Marcus Freeman got his first significant action of training camp, most of it with the third unit at weak-side 'backer. ...

While most Bears fans probably feel better about both offensive tackle positions now than they did last year, there are still a decent amount of questions surrounding left tackle Orlando Pace and right tackle Chris Williams. Pace is a mountain of a man in the huddle and presents a veteran calmness about his game that you just can't fake, while Williams has been somewhat chippy with reporters of late – that might even be a good thing since it appears he's out to prove the naysayers wrong. Kevin Shaffer is getting all his reps on the right side of the line, which would lead one to believe that Williams would shift to the left side should anything happen to Pace, and seventh rounder Lance Louis has actually been solid as the second-team left tackle. ...

Josh Bullocks came to the Bears in free agency with an infamous highlight tape floating around on YouTube yet a boatload of unrealized potential as a fairly recent second-round pick, but he's spent the majority of his time so far on the third-team defense and doesn't appear to be threatening for playing time at either strong or free safety. He did have one very good play Sunday, making up a lot of ground with the ball in flight to snare an interception from Basanez on a corner route intended for Kellen Davis. That being said, sixth rounder Al Afalava is getting more attention thus far and works his way onto the second unit from time to time. ...


Briggs was held out of practice as a precaution.
AP Images: Nam Y. Huh

The Wildcat formation made its debut in training camp Sunday, with Hester lining up in the shotgun and Cutler splitting out wide to the left. After taking the center snap from Olin Kreutz, Hester faked an inside handoff to Matt Forte going left and then ran around right end to the delight of the 11,000 or so on hand – the attendance was confirmed by ONU officials as a Bourbonnais record, by the way. And then twice during full-team drills, Hester was the recipient of a reverse and had all kinds of room to run after catching the defense napping. ...

It always takes the newbies some time to learn how the Bears go about running their practices, as Smith's style involves almost no legitimate hitting whatsoever. First it was undrafted rookie free agent Kevin Malast grabbing Garrett Wolfe during 9-on-9 ground-game drills and drawing the ire of Bob Babich, and then Tinoisamoa smacked Wolfe again after the diminutive one caught a swing pass out of the backfield from Hanie. That stuff is frowned upon by this organization throughout training camp, especially since the injury report is relatively short right now.

Injury Report
Once again, Charles Tillman and Marcus Harrison were the only players missing in action completely, as Tillman continues to nurse his back after surgery and Harrison works on getting his weight down a few pounds. Briggs and Hillenmeyer were held out of team drills as a precautionary measure. Expect both veterans to be back in the mix as soon as Monday.

Stud of the Day
While he did drop one pass he should have caught and failed to reel in another that would have qualified as highlight-worthy, Hester was all over the field Sunday and had the fans whipped into a frenzy from start to finish. Offensive coordinator Ron Turner gave onlookers a sneak peek into what they can expect from Hester in 2009, lining him up in several spots, sending him in motion liberally and getting the ball in his hands as often as possible. The Wildcat formation was just icing on the cake, but look for it once a game or so during the season.

Dud of the Day
Not only did Wolfe get lit up on two occasions Sunday, but he also put together his worst practice in recent memory. He dropped a few passes out of the backfield, including a quick middle screen, which is odd since he came into the league with a reputation for having sure hands. And when he was given the ball in 9-on-9 action, he got swallowed up near the line of scrimmage way too often.

Quote to Note
"Absolutely. It starts with Coach. If you just watch him coaching us and going through drills, his intensity is on another level. That's contagious. It spreads to us, and we're playing on another level right now." – DL Israel Idonije when asked if he can see the difference in the defensive line since Rod Marinelli arrived.


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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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