Training Camp Report: Day 20

After a brutal performance by the offense Tuesday afternoon, Devin Hester and Co. came back strong Wednesday evening. One of the rookies continues to impress most everybody down in Bourbonnais. Bear Report had a front-row seat at Chicago Bears training camp and made these observations ...

Pick Six
Following Tuesday's horrendous performance, Jay Cutler looked a lot more like, well, Jay Cutler under the lights at Ward Field in Wednesday's evening workout. The Pro Bowler started off strong in 7-on-7 work by hitting on 10 of 12 passes, including back-to-back rockets to Greg Olsen on a deep curl and then Brandon Rideau on a slant. Cutler went on to connect on 10 of 18 throws in 11-on-11 action, highlighted by another deep curl to Devin Hester and later a pretty corner route to Earl Bennett. Second stringer Caleb Hanie has been very sharp ever since playing so well in the preseason opener at Buffalo, putting together a 16-of-22 performance overall and setting up Robbie Gould for a 35-yard field goal in two-minute time. Brett Basanez has become the forgotten man under center after his three-interception meltdown against the Bills, although he was a respectable 4-of-7 on the evening. ...

If the Bears are looking for extra pressure this season from their defensive ends, it's going to have to come from the starting duo of Alex Brown and Adewale Ogunleye. Mark Anderson is simply a non-factor and not getting into the backfield very often, and it doesn't seem to matter if he's facing starting-quality blockers or practice-squad fodder – both Kevin Shaffer and Cody Balogh stoned him repeatedly Wednesday. Ogunleye, on the other hand, has looked good the last few practices and knocked down yet another pass from Cutler during 11-on-11. ...

Coach Lovie Smith wasn't quite sure what the injury to Kevin Jones was when asked about his backup running back after practice, but if this were hockey and not football, it would simply be referred to as a "lower-body" injury. That meant an extra workload for Matt Forte for most of Wednesday's session, and the second-year pro ran the ball effectively, caught the ball effortlessly and even dropped back to throw on one occasion. Forte took a sweep right near the enemy 15-yard line and lofted a halfback-option pass toward the back of the end zone for Hester, although Al Afalava wasn't fooled and broke up the play. ...

Even though the Cover 2 necessitates quality play from a pure free safety patrolling the center of the field, the prolonged absence of Danieal Manning has forced the coaching staff to again switch Kevin Payne from his most natural spot at strong safety over to the free safety position. While neither Craig Steltz nor Josh Bullocks seems to be taking advantage of the thinned-out depth chart, the rookie Afalava is quickly turning into a fan favorite in Bourbonnais and keeps making plays despite only being a sixth-round draft pick. Not only did Afalava knock away that halfback-option pass from Forte to Hester, but he also came away with the lone interception of the evening when he stepped in front of a Cutler pass intended for Desmond Clark in the shadow of his own goal line. ...


Afalava keeps playing well with the starting D.
Warren Wimmer Photography

With wide receiver arguably the weakest position on the entire roster, rookies Juaquin Iglesias, Johnny Knox and Derek Kinder have all been given a chance to contribute – Iglesias and Knox have even been given first-team reps from time to time. Iglesias started off slow but has played much better of late, making a particularly nice catch on a quick slant from Hanie during the two-minute drill. Knox, however, was terrific the first week or so but has really fizzled out ever since, including a poor effort Wednesday on a fly pattern that was only half a step out of his reach – for some reason, Knox didn't have the desire to even extend for it let alone dive. Kinder has rarely deserved more than a shot on the third team. At best, he's a candidate for the practice squad right now. ...

Enough with the Wildcat formation, Ron Turner. Once again, Chicago's offensive coordinator reached deep into his bag of tricks and came up empty. With Forte lining up in the shotgun and Cutler wide left, Forte took the snap, faked an inside handoff to Jason McKie and darted off around right end before flipping the ball to Hester on the reverse. Brown was not fooled, keeping containment firm like the veteran he is and blowing up the play for what would have been about an 8-yard loss. Let's see if Cutler and Co. can run the basics of the playbook effectively before trying to earn a black belt in trickeration.

Injury Report
Manning, Jones, Zack Bowman, Nick Roach, Israel Idonije and Matt Toeaina were nothing more than observers Wednesday. Charles Tillman did some more individual work on the side and seems to be moving pretty well at this point. With Manning missing so many reps and Afalva playing so well at safety, don't be surprised if Manning loses his gig as the starting free safety and moves back to just nickel and kick returner – which may be a good thing.

Stud of the Day
It's hard to ignore what Afalava has been doing with the first-team defense in recent days. His reputation is that of a tough in-the-box defender who lacks pure coverage skills. That being said, his best plays Wednesday were when he was operating in space while matched up against quicker skill-position players.

Dud of the Day
It doesn't look like Nathan Vasher can play anymore, Bears fans – at least not at the level that earned him the nickname "The Interceptor" earlier in his career. Not only did he make zero plays Wednesday for the umpteenth practice in a row, but now he's losing first-team reps in certain situations. Corey Graham and Trumaine McBride both got a lot of work, and Vasher was pulled altogether during the red-zone period.

Quote to Note
"I didn't read it. I talked to Devin as soon as I was notified about it. He's fine. I'm fine. Things get taken out of context and blown out of proportion all the time. He's done a great job, I think, for me. He's our No. 1 receiver, and he's done a heckuva job on the field and in the classroom." – QB Jay Cutler when asked about his comments regarding WR Devin Hester after last Saturday's preseason game in Buffalo.


Agree? Disagree? Let your voice be heard on our message board RIGHT HERE.


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.


Bear Report Top Stories