The Chicago Bears took the field for their fourth padded practice of the 2012 preseason on Wednesday, and I was back in Bourbonnais with my notebook in-hand. You would have thought I’d have learned my lesson from Sunday, but alas, I forgot my sunblock . . .
I’ve been alternating between offensive and defensive drills during my time at camp to try and get the most out of my analysis. Of course, 7-on-7s and 11-on-11s give us a look at both sides of the ball during each practice. There was a lot to see Wednesday, and I know I didn’t catch it all. Here are the things I did:
- Easily the biggest nugget out of camp today was a development in the battle at left tackle. The Bears have been alternating reps at LT between Chris Williams and J’Marcus Webb on a practice-by-practice basis. Today should have been Williams’ day. It wasn’t. Williams didn’t take a single snap on the left side and was relegated to second-team at right tackle. Instead, the Bears opted to put UFA OL James Brown—who has impressed in camp so far—in at second-string LT. Webb has out-performed Williams throughout camp, and the Bears may have been sending Williams a message today. It’s also possible that the battle is all but over—with Mike Tice wanting to get his crew set early. Lovie Smith obviously downplayed the switch, saying that “nothing has been decided” this early in camp. We shall see what happens tomorrow.
- Speaking of James Brown: the kid looks strong and physical. He’s obviously made an impression on the coaches and, if he continues to do so, he may find himself making a run at an active position should the starting tackle struggle during the season. He’ll make this roster—print it.
- So, I have a conspiracy theory for you: since I’ve been at camp, Bears’ wide receiver Devin Thomas has struggled. He hasn’t been terrible, but he’s struggled a bit by comparison. He’s dropped more balls than any receiver on the roster (that I’ve seen), but today was a different story. QB Jason Campbell looked to be constantly targeting WR Devin Thomas during 7-on-7s. To me, it was almost laughable how often it happened. Every time Campbell was running the offense, he looked to Thomas and tossed him the rock. I saw Thomas fist-bump with Campbell following their final reps. Sounds conspiracy-ish, I know, but after some homework, I realized that Campbell and Thomas were teammates in Washington together in 2008 and 2009. It would appear, to me anyway, that Campbell was giving Thomas an opportunity to make a showing today on purpose. Wouldn’t you?
- DE Corey Wootton looked good today. I watched him during bag drills, and he looked fast and powerful. He absolutely blew up Chris Williams on the right side of the line on multiple occasions during 11-on-11s.
- Rookie DE Shea McClellin continued to improve today. I saw him get some good inside pressure during full-contact 11-on-11s. He struggles to finish along the edge, but it’s all things he can learn. He’s a good football player, guys.
- Nobody is in the kind of shape Matt Forte is in camp. He looks like the guy we called one of the best in the league last season. He made an excellent diving catch in the “endzone” today and toyed with the safety he beat afterward.
- Jay Cutler looked to Marshall on four of five occasions during 7-on-7s by my count. Marshall and he connected on three of them. The connection is clearly there—it didn’t go anywhere, kids.
- DT Brian Price needs time. He was noticeably slower and more winded than his counterparts today and yesterday. He slipped and fell at the end of bag drills early in the day. He has a lot of work to do, but once he’s there, he has the talent.
- Henry Melton had a nice pick off a tipped ball—would have gone for a TD.
- Brandon Marshall, after beating Tillman deep, proceeded to put Peanut in a headlock and tell a fan watching from the endzone to “take the picture.” It was a joke and Tillman played along, pushing Marshall afterward. Both players laughed. Marshall is fitting in right now, and he’s been that way all throughout camp.
- Rookie S Brandin Hardin and veteran S Craig Steltz took some first-team reps today. Of all the safeties on the roster right now, Craig Steltz looks the part the most to me. He also had a nice pick today.
- QB Jason Cambell struggled today during 7-on-7s. He had a couple picks and a few under thrown balls. He also struggled to get the ball out quickly at times. No big deal, he’s been pretty good throughout camp so far. He’s a hell of a backup.
- The offense struggled vs. the defense as a whole today (second day in a row).
- Rookie S Brandon Hardin dropped an easy INT today. I only make note of it because, when a rookie picks off Jay Cutler in training camp, coaches take notice. When they have the chance and fail, they also take notice.
- MLB Brian Urlacher sat out practice today. It was thought to be a veteran’s day off, but Lovie Smith said after practice that he had some soreness in his knee. Speaking of that, expect Urlacher to continue to wear his knee brace throughout the regular season in 2012. It’s not coming off anytime soon.
- CB Jeremy Ware practiced for his first time today. I didn’t take much notice of him
That’s my notebook from today.
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