The defensive backfield did a commendable job covering pass catchers Wednesday and intercepted three balls along the way. However, two of the three may as well have been gift-wrapped by the intended target. In 7-on-7, Hanie threw a perfect pass over the middle for Richard Angulo, but the tight end had the ball clang off his hands and straight into the breadbasket of a thankful Al Afalava. Shortly thereafter, LeFevour was looking for undrafted free agent Freddie Barnes along the right sideline, but it was batted away by fifth rounder Joshua Moore, then bounced off Barnes before being secured by Josh Bullocks. INT No. 3, to be fair, was legit, as Chris Harris stepped in front of a corner route from Cutler to Olsen on the first play of 11-on-11. ...
Screens were a focus of Wednesday's workout for offensive coordinator Mike Martz, as he must have called a dozen different variations of them from start to finish. In the passing game, the Bears are losing nothing when they take out starter Matt Forte and replace him with backup Chester Taylor, as both of them are terrific receivers and can run every route required rather well. One thing to watch for this season is when Forte splits out of the backfield way out wide and gets matched up one on one with a linebacker, as that play will often be a fly route down the sideline, with Cutler having full confidence in Forte outrunning his coverage. Tight end screens are also plentiful and something that distinguishes this system from Ron Turner's. Clark caught two of them on the day. ...
Another facet of Martz's scheme that has been talked about a lot in Bourbonnais is the idea of the QB throwing the ball to open spots, not necessarily to open receivers. In a timing-based offense such as this one, it's up to the receiver to beat press coverage and be in a certain spot at a certain time, as Cutler is often being asked to launch the ball into a small window before the wideout makes his break. A perfect example came Wednesday, as Devin Hester lined up wide right and matched up man to man with Zack Bowman. Hester essentially ran a stop-go-stop, with Cutler pulling the trigger after No. 23 made his initial stop. Bowman couldn't have covered the route any better, but the ball was delivered on time and on the money, and Hester was where he was supposed to be at the right time, so it ended up being an 18-yard completion. ...
Instead of writing even more about what is happening on the field during training camp, I want to take a moment to write about what is NOT happening. Neither Jarron Gilbert nor Henry Melton is doing anything of note in team drills. At least Melton shows a flash here and there going up against the offensive linemen during individual work, which is more then Gilbert can say to this point. Gilbert, general manager Jerry Angelo's top pick in the 2009 NFL Draft, has made a grand total of one play all training camp long, and that was when he accidentally knocked down a short pass dropping into coverage on a zone blitz – the 6-5, 288-pounder never turned around and simply got lucky. Rookie Corey Wootton has been twice as good as Gilbert, who looks like a square 3-4 defender being banged into a round 4-3 hole. While Melton is undeniably the better athlete, Matt Toeaina is the better player and should get more playing time behind Tommie Harris at three technique. ...
Both Martz and coach Lovie Smith were asked Wednesday – Martz before practice and Smith after – about playing time for Saturday's preseason opener at San Diego. That conversation among the coaching staff won't happen until Wednesday evening, but even though the offense needs all the live-bullet reps it can get in order to master Martz's system, don't look for the starters to play more than a series or two. Talking to reporters following the workout, Cutler made no effort to lobby for additional snaps. It would be a surprise if any Bear of consequence was on the field in the second quarter. With 27 players to cut before the regular season begins, it's perhaps more important to see what the twos and threes can do against the Chargers.
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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.
Training Camp Report: Day 13
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