Training Camp Report: Day 1

Where is Julius Peppers lining up on the defensive line? Who caught more balls than anyone on Day 1? JC had a front-row seat for Chicago Bears training camp Friday and made these observations:

Pick Six
The first day of training camp looked a lot like the last day of OTAs as far as the quarterbacks are concerned, with starter Jay Cutler and backup Caleb Hanie splitting time about 50-50, which meant sixth-round pick Dan LeFevour and recent free-agent pickup Mike Teel did nothing but take a bunch of proverbial mental reps. Getting a lot of work on Day 1, Cutler was 23 of 31, including 9 of 12 in 7-on-7 drills and 14 of 19 in 11-on-11 action. His best throw of the day was a deep corner route to Devin Hester near the left sideline, squeezing the ball in there just before Danieal Manning arrived from his strong safety spot. Hanie completed an impressive 90 percent of his passes, 27 of 30 overall, highlighted by 11 of 12 in 7-on-7 and 16 of 18 in 11-on-11. Although most of his deliveries were of the dump-off variety, he did hit Kellen Davis down the seam over a trailing Kevin Malast. ...

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. ...


Mike Martz and QB Jay Cutler
Nam Y. Huh/AP

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.

Injury Report
As coach Lovie Smith promised Thursday in his training camp-opening comments, all 80 players suited up and participated from start to finish. Knox was a little slow coming back to the huddle after a collision down the field with Charles Tillman, as he initially looked to be favoring his left arm. But upon further examination, Knox had apparently just taken a cleat to the man region.

Stud of the Day
Clark was simply sensational, catching everything thrown his way and needing every inch of his wingspan on more than one occasion. The veteran admitted after practice that he can't help but take it somewhat personally when most of his reps are coming with the second-team offense, but he's letting his play on the field do the talking. Potential or no potential, Kellen Davis' roster spot is in jeopardy.

Dud of the Day
Targeted early and often by Cutler, Knox didn't have his best day considering how well he performed throughout the offseason program. On the very first snap of 7-on-7, Knox dropped a perfectly-thrown out route along the left sideline, plus he had a fumble later. But Cutler didn't shy away from the second-year speedster, firing more passes his way than to Hester and Devin Aromashodu combined.

Quote to Note
"We're not going to catch any balls in the offense, so let's keep that going. We're not going to catch any balls. We'll just be blocking tight ends, and that's how we'll contribute to the offense. That's what we're going to do this year." – TE Desmond Clark, with his tongue planted firmly in his cheek when asked about the tight ends supposedly not being featured in Mike Martz's system.


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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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