It appears as if the starting job at strong-side linebacker is Nick Roach's to lose, as he took every first-team rep and was never asked to step aside for Pisa Tinoisamoa. Roach was on the field as much as any defender, as the coaching staff kept it simple and stayed in a base 4-3 formation throughout the session – no nickel at all. On one play in 11-on-11, Roach blitzed hard off the edge and got to Cutler unscathed for a would-be sack, although the play continued and Chester Taylor ended up catching a sloppy screen pass. As for the other linebackers, Hunter Hillenmeyer made a play batting down an intermediate pass on a crossing route from Hanie to Eric Peterman. Brian Urlacher didn't have any trouble draping Brandon Manumaleuna on a corner pattern, and, as a matter of fact, it wouldn't be a bad idea to make sure the blocking-specialist tight end never runs a corner again. ...
Speaking of tight ends, the prevailing sentiment after the hiring of Mike Martz as the new offensive coordinator was that the position would become obsolete in the passing game, at least in terms of running routes and catching passes. Martz has said more than once already that tight ends must put their hand on the ground and be blockers first in his scheme. But it certainly didn't look that way Friday, as seemingly half the completions from both the first- and second-team offense came courtesy of the tight ends. Desmond Clark was winded after practice, and he deserved to be after reeling in eight passes. And a whole bunch of them were deep down the field on seam routes and corner patterns, as opposed to 5-yard curls under the linebackers. ...
Shiny new defensive end Julius Peppers was still moving around, just like he was throughout the offseason program, so it will be interesting to see if he ever finally settles in as a right end or a left end. But while Mark Anderson got most of the first-unit reps in minicamp and OTAs, it was Israel Idonije getting just as much time with the starters. Along the interior, Tommie Harris said Thursday he was healthy enough to suit up for every practice in Bourbonnais, and while it's only a matter of time before he's given a veteran's day off, he took a fair amount of snaps at the three technique before giving way to Henry Melton and Matt Toeaina. Anthony Adams and Marcus Harrison got equal time at nose tackle, with Harrison being in better shape than he was at this time a year ago. It's worth noting that fourth-round pick Corey Wootton seemed to be out there more than second-year pro Jarron Gilbert, but Gilbert did come up with a fluke INT of Hanie on the final play of the day. ...
Along the offensive line, although it's still too early to make definitive statements on the depth chart, Johan Asiata got most of the first-team reps at left guard between center Olin Kreutz and left tackle Chris Williams. Josh Beekman relieved Asiata here and there, with Lance Louis just a second teamer. New right tackle Frank Omiyale committed a false-start penalty on the first snap of 9-on-9, drawing the ire of offensive line coach Mike Tice, but he did look quite comfortable in 11-on-11 and seemed to have Idonije's number. During individual drills earlier in the day, the linemen were pounding the sled, which is an unfamiliar sound at ONU. Tice wants this group to attack more than it has recently. ...
On special teams, Friday focused on the punt team. Brad Maynard is recovered from the offseason scope on his right hip and launched a couple of perfect spirals. Unless something drastic happens, Rashied Davis and Corey Graham are going to be the gunners, as both of them are terrific at this very technical task. Hester and Johnny Knox were the only two return men to field punts, and all they did was catch them cleanly – no actual returns were run. Before practice officially got under way, Robbie Gould kept the crowd entertained by splitting the uprights routinely from just about every angle on the field.
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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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