Thursday was a good night to check out the balance of the depth chart at safety, as both Kevin Payne and Danieal Manning failed to participate because of minor aches and pains. Free agent signee Josh Bullocks got considerable time with the starting defense for the first time in training camp, and rookie Al Afalava was also in the mix in both 7-on-7 and 11-on-11. Bullocks came up with one of the highlight plays of the evening, intercepting a bomb down the left sideline intended for Devin Hester – Cutler never should have let it loose because Nathan Vasher was also in Hester's kitchen on the play. ...
It's officially time for Bears fans to get excited about Kevin Jones. Sure, Matt Forte is already one of the elite backs in this league and could threaten the 1,500-yard mark on the ground this year if he's healthy, but Jones came back to Chicago as a free agent in part because he was promised a bigger role on offense. That looks to be the case, as the former first-round draft pick ripped off several impressive runs, including a blast-off down the right sideline that he took all the way to the house to the delight of the 8,000 or so in attendance at Ward Field. ...
Not only was the depth chart at safety severely challenged Thursday, but several of the second and third corners are getting considerable snaps because of the injuries to Charles Tillman and Zack Bowman. Corey Graham and Trumaine McBride are being noticed, each drawing praise from coach Lovie Smith after practice, although fourth rounder D.J. Moore got no such praise – Smith said Moore needs to take better advantage of the opportunity he's been given. Undrafted rookie free agent Woodny Turenne made yet another big play, running stride for stride with speedster Johnny Knox and picking off Hanie's pass deep down the left sideline. ...
With Orlando Pace happy to sit out the majority of Thursday's workout, free agent addition Kevin Shaffer got all the first-team reps at left tackle. That kept Chris Williams at right tackle, although one would assume Williams slides over to left tackle in case anything happens to Pace this season. Shaffer is better suited to play the right side since he's known to be more of a run blocker, so having him protect the passer's blind side may be risky. ...
Top draft pick Jarron Gilbert has been on the field much more frequently the last few practices, which is a good sign for a player with a lot of natural ability but also fighting a veteran depth chart for snaps. He got some time with the starting defense at the three-technique tackle position, which should come as no big surprise since Tommie Harris is never in the huddle for more than a play or two before a substitute takes his place. Gilbert also switched him number from 73 to 90, so remember to make that change if you're keeping score at home.
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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.
Training Camp Report: Day 7
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