Minicamp Report: Day 3, Session 5

Which receiver got first-team reps Sunday? Which safety now deserves some first-team work? JC had a front-row seat at Day 3 of veteran minicamp for the Chicago Bears and made these observations:

Pick Six
Since coach Lovie Smith said after Sunday's final workout of minicamp that he was pleased with all the plays his defensive backs made, that must mean the quarterbacks weren't overly successful throwing the football. The numbers tend to back that up, as Jay Cutler was just 11 of 20 through the air and Caleb Hanie wasn't much better: 11 of 18. Both Cutler and Hanie were more efficient during 7-on-7 drills, both hitting on 8 of their 12 throws, but Cutler was only 3 of 8 in 11-on-11 action and Hanie was 3 of 6. Cutler's most memorable play of the day wasn't even his highlight, as he connected on a seam route over the middle with a diving Will Ta'ufo'ou, who was fully laid out and made the best catch of the weekend. As for Hanie, he delivered a missile to undrafted free agent Greg Mathews on a comeback pettern, with the receiver running it so precisely that fellow undrafted free agent Cornelius Brown tripped over his own spikes in coverage. ...

Getting back to the secondary, both the corners and safeties got their mitts on a lot of footballs Sunday, and not only in full-squad work but also in one-on-one stuff earlier in the day. Rookie Joshua Moore, Tim Jennings and Zack Bowman all came up with interceptions in one-on-ones, and Bowman was incredibly vocal and went so far as to tell one member of the media that he had better write about it since he was watching the drill quite closely – that was yours truly, by the way. Later, it was Craig Steltz making it known that he's not ready to bow out of the race for a starting job at safety. First the third-year pro knocked down a deep pass from Cutler to Desmond Clark, and then he picked off Hanie looking for Earl Bennett on a crossing pattern between the hash marks. ...

Much has been written about offensive coordinator Mike Martz, specifically how complicated his system tends to be and that his ego leads to inevitable clashes with other members of the coaching staff. All of that may or may not be true, but what is not being mentioned often enough is how good of a teacher he is, especially with the quarterbacks. All practice long, Martz is giving instruction between reps and showing everyone on offense exactly how he wants things to be done, and Bears players look to be soaking it in thus far. One play to be on the lookout for in 2010 is an immediate dump pass to the slot receiver. Martz likes his quarterbacks to take a lot of seven-step drops in order to push the envelope deep down the field, but this particular play is literally a one-step drop and a quick strike to a sprinting slot man, which is probably an adjustment made at the line of scrimmage when there isn't a defender lined up directly in front of that receiver. ...

While Julius Peppers and Mark Anderson have both been moving back and forth between right end and left end throughout minicamp, Smith said after practice that it may not work out that way during the regular season. Saying that minicamp is a good time to get different looks to see what works and what doesn't, Smith still expects to have a starting "right" end and a starting "left" end once live bullets start firing. But that doesn't mean Peppers and Co. won't be doing some flip-flopping here and there, as defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli said Sunday that Peppers can play both right- and left-handed better than any pass rusher he has ever coached. Earlier speculation suggested Israel Idonije was the lead candidate to be the starter opposite Peppers. However, it was Anderson getting almost all of the first-team reps, so look for him to be atop the depth chart once the Bears get to Bourbonnais in July. ...


WR Juaquin Iglesias
AP Images: Nam. Y. Huh

During special-teams activity, coordinator Dave Toub introduced a new drill Sunday that was fun to watch. The idea was to match up a return specialist with a coverage defender one on one, so Toub lined up the Jugs machine behind the coverage man and launched short "punts" to the returner. And since there aren't any full-contact drills ever run in a minicamp environment, the return men were actually wearing flag belts and the coverage defenders were charged with pulling them off as quickly as possible. Rookie Major Wright got taken to school once by Pro Bowler Johnny Knox. Wright thought he was going to take a really aggressive angle and make the "tackle" right after the ball was received, but Knox about broke the third rounder's ankles by stopping on a dime and reversing direction completely, eventually working his way downfield without being touched. ...

Back on Friday, it was Knox, Devin Hester and Devin Aromashodu getting all the first-team reps at wide receiver. Saturday saw the likes of Juaquin Iglesias and even Eric Peterman working with Cutler and Co. here and there, and Sunday introduced Rashied Davis to the starting unit once again. Bears fans are down on Davis since he had a tough 2008 and, therefore, wasn't featured very much on offense in 2009, but he is still one of the hardest working players on the practice field and did very well for himself throughout the three days of minicamp. Receivers coach Darryl Drake was preaching "patience" to his wideouts during positional drills, which is again the Martz influence taking shape since his route tree requires a few extra steps to be taken on certain routes in order to make them deeper. One way or another, Cutler is going to need time in the pocket to deliver a lot of these throws.

Injury Report
According to Smith, his team escaped minicamp unscathed and there are no new injuries to report. The team did get a scare Sunday, though. Bowman got his feet tangled with Hester on a fly route deep down the right sideline, a pass Hester ended up catching even though Bowman looked like he had it measured. Bowman stayed down for a few seconds before hobbling off the field, something Bears fans have seen way too often from the third-year pro. But he appears to be fine, and Smith didn't mention anything about it after practice.

Stud of the Day
He didn't get any time with the starters whatsoever all weekend long, but the coaching staff may have to reshuffle things heading into OTAs. Steltz was very good Sunday and made a bunch of plays in the secondary. Why Danieal Manning continues to be the default free safety is nothing short of baffling. He has shown time and time again that he can't be trusted snap to snap and will eventually give up a big play. Maybe Wright should have to beat out Steltz for the job, not Manning.

Dud of the Day
Chris Harris had a reputation for dropping interceptions during his first tour of duty in a Bears uniform, and that reputation has seemingly remained intact. He whiffed on a pair of sure INTs Sunday, which resulted in plenty of good-natured ribbing from his teammates. After the second drop by Harris, Charles Tillman delivered the line of the day: "Jairus Byrd would have caught it." Assistant defensive backs coach Gill Byrd, Jairus' father, was standing right next to Harris. Classic.

Quote to Note
"He's got a presence in the huddle. He can communicate. He can run the defense, and that's a confident feeling. That huddle is about confidence. You get the huddle break, and he gets everybody lined up and ready. And then his presence speaks for itself." – Defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli, when asked about Brian Urlacher being back at middle linebacker.


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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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