Minicamp Report: Day 1, Session 2

What is immediately visible in Mike Martz's offense? Which defenders are switching positions? JC had a front-row seat at Day 1 of veteran minicamp for the Chicago Bears and made these observations:

Pick Six
As far as the quarterbacks are concerned, backup Caleb Hanie continued to get just as much work as starter Jay Cutler, although sixth-round pick Dan LeFevour had to take the proverbial "mental reps" more often than not. Cutler completed 12 of 17 passes in the afternoon session, including 9 of 11 in 7-on-7 drills and 3 of 6 in 11-on-11 action. Hanie was much better in the second workout than he was in the first, hitting on 12 of 16 throws: 8 of 9 in 7-on-7; 4 of 7 in 11-on-11. LeFevour managed to connect with his target on all three of his attempts in 7-on-7 but did not participate in 11-on-11. At one point, both the first- and second-team offense were slinging the ball all over the field, highlighted by 13 consecutive completions during 7-on-7. ...

There is a definite change to the way the Bears are employing their corners on D, where Charles Tillman played on the left side and the departed Nathan Vasher took care of the right side for so many years. At times, Tillman would play either side of the field when he was matched up one-on-one all game long with a Santonio Holmes or a Calvin Johnson, but even when that was the case, he took every rep in practice – at least in those practices open to the media – on the left side. Not anymore, as it appears Tillman has been moved to the right side and Zack Bowman is the new left corner. Needless to say, it's only May and there are still almost four months to go before Week 1, but this is certainly a noteworthy switch. It suggests the coaching staff now believes Bowman to be the team's top corner, as most QBs are right handed and, therefore, tend to throw the ball more often to the defense's left. ...

Any preconceived notion that offensive coordinator Mike Martz doesn't use the tight end in his passing attack appears to be wrong, as Greg Olsen and Desmond Clark were both targeted quite often on Day 1 in each session. Quite regularly, there were two tight ends on the field at the same time, and they lined up everywhere from in tight to out wide to in the backfield to out in the slot. While Olsen and Clark ran a ton of routes, Kellen Davis and Richard Angulo stayed in and blocked an awful lot because Brandon Manumaleuna is out of action after a knee scope. Another thing to notice about Martz's offense is the sheer pace at which it's run and how often the formations are changed before the snap. Wideouts are sprinting from the huddle to the line of scrimmage instead of jogging, and at times all five of the eligible receivers alter their alignment prior to the pigskin hitting the signal caller's hands. ...

Coach Lovie Smith did his best to clear up any injury news following Friday's morning workout, like Manumaleuna being held out or Earl Bennett still not 100 percent thanks to a scoped knee of his own. One player's name yet to cross his lips, however, is Israel Idonije, who is making a much publicized move back to full-time defensive end since neither Alex Brown nor Adewale Ogunleye is in town anymore. We have seen a lot of Mark Anderson so far in 11-on-11 drills opposite Julius Peppers, but Idonije hasn't taken a single rep yet in full-squad action and instead has been watching from the sideline. Perhaps he's still banged up from last season, a season he finished on IR, although his injury was not considered severe at all. Getting back to Peppers, the two-time All-Pro showed his versatility on one play by dropping back into coverage and knocking down a slant pass from Cutler to Chester Taylor. ...


QB Jay Cutler
AP Images: Nam. Y. Huh

On special teams, the Bears worked on the kickoff and kickoff-return units in the morning session, and then the afternoon focused on punt and punt return. On kickoff returns, Danieal Manning looks to be atop the depth chart right now, with Johnny Knox behind him and, sure, Devin Hester getting an attempt here and there. On punts, Hester and Knox were the only return men and split time. Special teams coordinator Dave Toub caught the kickoff-return unit napping on the very first rep of the morning session, calling a Robbie Gould onside kick that was recovered by Will Ta'ufo'ou. Toub reminded all his minions to be on the lookout for some crazy stuff this season because of overtime rules changes. ...

Pisa Tinoisamoa got the majority of the first-team reps at strong-side linebacker in the morning session since he is only going to practice once each day, as he is coming back from knee surgery. We expected to see Nick Roach in the starting lineup for the afternoon practice, but instead we got a heavy dose of – believe it or not – special-team ace Tim Shaw. It looks like Roach is yet another player recovering from some sort of offseason procedure and isn't quite ready for full-squad reps. After sitting in the morning, Tommie Harris was out there in the afternoon at his familiar three-technique tackle position. The defense as a whole simply looks more normal with him in there, no offense to Matt Toeaina.

Injury Report
While Olin Kreutz isn't expected to be back at full strength until right around the start of training camp, he was doing some light running on the side during positional drills. Described by Smith as "sick" for the morning workout, Marcus Harrison must have been sent home early because he was nowhere to be found later in the day.

Stud of the Afternoon
Peppers, Peppers, Peppers. Talk about passing the eye test. After just one practice, it's clear to everyone in attendance that Peppers is a freak of nature athletically and brings an element to the Chicago defense it hasn't had during Smith's tenure. He swatted down that screen pass from Cutler to Taylor with minimal effort. Also, he was blowing past both Chris Williams and Frank Omiyale repeatedly in 11-on-11.

Dud of the Afternoon
On the first snap of 11-on-11 drills, Cutler took his time in the pocket and managed to connect with Hester on a deep post that elicited all kinds of "oohs" and "aahs" from the gathered media. The alleged victim on the play? It appeared to be Manning, who continued to get the lion's share of first-team reps at free safety since the nickel package wasn't used at all on Day 1, and we know Bears fans are tired of watching him get burned on the deep ball.

Quote to Note
"Peppers understands that you have to perform every time you come here. He won't even let you [compliment him]. He practices extremely hard and plays that way. I've heard that guys like [Patrick] Kerney and Jared Allen practice really hard. I have never really seen it from a Pro Bowl defensive end. but this guy goes 110 percent every practice. You can tell why he's the best. I feel already like I cannot come in here and have an off day. He makes you push as hard as you can to be as good as he is." – DT Tommie Harris, when asked what he thinks of Julius Peppers so far.


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John Crist is the Publisher of BearReport.com, a Heisman Trophy voter 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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