Training Camp Report: Day 20

Did new quarterback Matt Gutierrez get any reps? What's the latest on the battle at nickel back? JC had a great seat for Chicago Bears training camp Wednesday and made these observations:

Pick Six
On Day 20, we have reached the point in Bourbonnais when so many of the players have training-camp legs and tend to go through the motions here and there – it's time to return to the friendly confines of Halas Hall in Lake Forest. Jay Cutler completed 17 of 27 passes Wednesday, including 8 of 12 in 7-on-7 drills and 9 of 15 in 11-on-11 work. He fired three touchdown passes in six red-zone attempts, with two of the three scores ending up in the capable grasp of tight end Greg Olsen, and then he launched a missile 60-plus yards through the air on a fly route that hit receiver Devin Hester in stride. As for rookie Dan LeFevour, he was 16 of 27 overall, which was a product of 6 of 12 in 7-on-7 and 10 of 15 in 11-on-11. Twice he found Juaquin Iglesias in the end zone during red-zone action, one of the highlight-reel variety when the second-year wideout climbed the ladder to reel in a fade pattern. ...

The Bears added another quarterback before Wednesday's practice, coming to terms with former Patriot and Chief Matt Gutierrez. Since second-string QB Caleb Hanie is sidelined presumably for the rest of the preseason with an injured throwing shoulder, Gutierrez may have to suit up as early as Saturday and play a quarter or so against the Raiders. Nevertheless, Gutierrez was nothing more than an observer in his first practice and didn't take so much as one snap during team drills. LeFevour struggled immensely in his exhibition debut this past Saturday at San Diego, which can be partially explained away by the fact that he didn't get too many reps in training camp before Hanie's injury, but he had the entire offseason program to get used to offensive coordinator Mike Martz's lengthy playbook. Should Gutierrez indeed get the call at Soldier Field, look for a lot of handoffs to the running backs. ...

It's possible the coaching staff has realized that Henry Melton isn't engineered to be an undersized defensive tackle in the 4-3, as he spent some time at defensive end during 9-on-9 drills for the first time in Bourbonnais. Give Melton credit for being fairly active against the Chargers last Saturday and getting noticed by Bears fans in the second half of a hard-to-watch preseason game, but he probably isn't going to crack the rotation inside. Both Anthony Adams and Matt Toeaina continue to play very well in practice. They are the perfect blue-collar workers to line up next to Tommie Harris, and Toeaina brings an element of flexibility to the mix since he can play nose or three technique. With Jarron Gilbert missing the workout yet again Wednesday, it's worth noting that undrafted free agent Barry Turner got a few first-team reps at left end. ...

LeFevour only threw one interception Wednesday, which is news in itself. Early on in 7-on-7, the former Central Michigan Chippewa tried to throw a simple check-down pass to Garrett Wolfe when none of his deeper options were open, but he apparently took the coverage of linebacker Nick Roach for granted. Roach broke on the delivery and stole the ball right out of Wolfe's outstretched hands, sprinting the other direction for a would-be pick-six before LeFevour even knew what happened. Further evidence that Roach is going to beat out Pisa Tinoisamoa for the starting job on the strong side: During special-teams drills, Tinoisamoa was getting a lot of reps on the punt team. Roach, who originally came to Chicago from San Diego in 2007 largely because of his reputation as a coverage guy, sat and watched for the most part. ...


CB D.J. Moore
Jonathan Daniel/Getty

Because it's the only spot on the field he has proven he can play consistently well, it might be time for the Bears to move Danieal Manning to nickel back again. One consequence of Major Wright's surgery is Manning looking more and more like the starting strong safety and Chris Harris over at free safety come Week 1, when the best lineup seems to be Harris at strong safety and Wright at free safety. D.J. Moore is seeing more reps at nickel back in practice, even though Corey Graham is experienced and better suited to play there from a height-and-weight perspective – Graham is 6-0 and 195, Moore is 5-9 and 192. Coach Lovie Smith keeps bringing up Moore's name during his post-practice comments, and Graham mentioned that the film wasn't too kind to him after the Chargers game. If Wright proves to be a quick healer, returning Manning to nickel back may be the way to go. ...

In order to make room on the current 80-man roster for Gutierrez and undrafted free agent safety Aaron Webster, who also signed Wednesday, the Bears waived guard Vince Vance and waived/injured linebacker Matt Mayberry. Vance wasn't able to dent the rotation despite both guard positions being somewhat up in the air all training camp long. Mayberry got injured in the preseason opener against the Chargers and hadn't practiced since. As far as Webster is concerned, he looks to be a training-camp body because the Midway Monsters are thin all of a sudden at safety. In addition to Wright, Craig Steltz isn't expected to suit up the rest of the exhibition slate, and both Manning and Josh Bullocks have missed time lately with minor ailments.

Injury Report
A total of players did not participate in Wednesday's practice: Bullocks, Gilbert, Hanie, Steltz, Wright, Earl Bennett, Hunter Hillenmeyer, Brian Iwuh and Patrick Mannelly. Iwuh was coming off a pair of dynamite workouts, but Smith said his knee was flaring up again and needed some rest. When asked earlier in the day about Bennett sliding down the depth chart, Martz said the third-year pass catcher is hurt right now and doesn't have much control over his own fate.

Stud of the Day
Hester was targeted 12 times and managed to record nine receptions, including that bomb down the left sideline when he simply ran past everyone in coverage. It's worth pointing out, however, that two of the three misconnections came in the red zone. On the first one, Hester made the catch but was out of bounds, and on the second one, Zack Bowman played the fade perfectly and knocked the ball away by the back-right pylon. Most of Hester's dirty work was being done in the hash-mark area on skinny posts and deep crosses. Maybe that's why he should be pulled from the starting lineup and made into a slot receiver.

Dud of the Day
Graham was not sharp and may be losing his grasp at the nickel back position. He had no answer for Olsen in the red zone. While he did get himself a pass defensed in 7-on-7, the only time his name was mentioned in 11-on-11 was when he interfered with wideout Devin Aromashodu on a shallow hitch.

Quote to Note
"We probably pulled him a little bit earlier than maybe I would normally. I just wanted to make sure we are further along with what we do before we keep him in there under that kind of circumstance." – Offensive coordinator Mike Martz all but admitting QB Jay Cutler was yanked from the preseason opener sooner than anticipated because the Chargers were blitzing a lot.


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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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