We empty the notebook from the first practice of Chicago Bears off-season training activities (OTAs) open to the media, which was our first opportunity to see the entire 90-man roster on the field together.
Chicago Bears off-season training activities (OTAs) kicked off this week and today was the media’s first chance to see the full 90-man roster up close.
Actually, up close is an exaggeration, as media was forced to watch practice from roughly 50 yards away.
Weather in Lake Forest was overcast and rainy, yet head coach John Fox opted to practice outdoors, despite the inherent injury risk of playing on a wet field. Today’s session, like every practice up until training camp, was not padded.
Week 1 Notebook
-Players not in attendance today who were excused for health or personal reasons: WR Titus Davis, WR Deonte Thompson, C Hroniss Grasu, ILB Danny Trevathan, G Josh Sitton, G Kyle Long, TE Zach Miller and OLB Willie Young.
Players in attendance but who did not participate: WR Kevin White, RB Jeremy Langford, S Harold Jones-Quartey. In addition, OLB Willie Young and OLB Lamarr Houston were two of a handful of players wearing red jerseys, which typically indicates they are injured and not ready for full-speed action. Neither player participated in team drills.
When asked about Kevin White, who has played just four games in two NFL seasons, Fox offered no details.
“We’re just trying to make sure we get guys ready for camp, and even more precisely, for game one against Atlanta,” Fox said after practice. “So we’re going to do anything necessary to make that done.
“He was injured last year, he came off surgery and we’ve got about six or seven others of those. It’s really the same as everybody else.”
While White didn’t practice today, QB Mike Glennon indicated he did some sort of work yesterday.
“He made some really good plays yesterday that got me excited and the rest of the team,” Glennon said. “He’s really eager to learn. I know he’s eager to get back out on that field.”
-The MVP of practice today was WR Kendall Wright, who was unstoppable for most of the day working with the first team alongside Markus Wheaton and Cameron Meredith.
On the second snap of 7-on-7 drills, Wright ran a 15-yard out route and made a tiptoe sideline catch on a pass from Glennon. Later, Wright made a diving catch on a slant pattern, beating CB Cre’Von LeBlanc on an inside move.
He then made an impressive grab in traffic on an intermediate crossing route, snatching the pass out in front of him, and then easily beat CB Bryce Callahan on a skinny post, creating instant separation out of his break. At the end of practice, Wright found open area near the sideline after Trubisky bought time with his feet and made the easy catch before falling out of bounds.
Wright was not limited to slot duty and made catches from every spot on the field. He showed immediate chemistry with Glennon, using his outstanding quickness and burst to consistently make the secondary look silly.
-Second to Wright was WR Josh Bellamy, who was the standout receiver with the second group.
One one of his first snaps, Bellamy beat CB Kyle Fuller on a shallow cross. A few plays later, he beat CB Prince Amukamara on a deep cross route.
Bellamy later beat S Deiondre Hall on a deep corner route to the back of the end zone, elevating over the defender to make the catch, before spiking the ball.
Bellamy is one of the team’s core special teams players but his hands have always been sketchy. Today, he not only caught every pass thrown his way, he found a way to beat three different defenders for easy grabs.
-QB Mike Glennon had a decent outing. He looked comfortable in the offense, for the most part, and made a number of quality throws. He had some questionable tosses as well, but that’s to be expected, but it was good to see him show a relatively high level of comfort in only his second practice with his new team.
Afterward, Glennon discussed his role as the starting quarterback and his reaction to the Bears drafting Mitch Trubisky.
“I think just like everyone here, I was surprised. That’s the bottom line,” said Glennons. “But it was made clear to me about 10 minutes after from a call from Ryan and the next morning again, the 2017 season is my year. That’s all I can worry about. I’m not worried about the future. I’m not worried about the past. I’m worried about the present and right now this is my team and that’s where my focus is.”
-QB Mark Sanchez took most of the second-team reps and Trubisky worked mainly with the third team. The reps were divided evenly among all three, with Trubisky getting as many snaps, if not more, than Glennon. It’s clear the Bears are going to make sure Trubisky gets his work in, no matter how many quarterbacks are ahead of him on the depth chart.
With Glennon, Sanchez and Trubisky hogging all the reps, Connor Shaw barely saw the field.
-I still haven’t seen K Andy Phillips attempt a field goal.
-RB Jordan Howard had the look and feel of an established running back who knows it’s his show. He looked very confident and appears to be in great shape.
The same goes for WR Cameron Meredith, who practiced like the club’s No. 1 wideout today. Early on, Meredith beat CB B.W. Webb out of the slot on a quick slant, then made a sliding grab from Glennon on an 8-yard crossing route.
Meredith finished off practice by elevating for a high pass from Glennon, using every inch of his 6-3 frame to haul in the pass near the sideline. Right now, the receiver room is led by Meredith.
-Second-round TE Adam Shaheen is still huge, even amongst the veterans. The 6-7, 280-pounder stands out even amongst a host of big teammates.
Yet, just as he did in rookie minicamp, Shaheen made a number of plays today. His first came on the second snap of 7-on-7s, with Trubisky finding him on a quick out for the easy completion. Later, Shaheen elevated for a high pass from Trubisky and hauled in the football with one hand, which was very impressive.
It’s early, and I’ve only seen four practices from him, but Shaheen appears to be the real deal.
Additionally, TE Dion Sims looked very fluid as a pass catcher today and demonstrated solid hands. Sims also had the only false start of the day.
-Bears outside linebackers coach Brandon Staley said a few weeks ago that Leonard Floyd had added about 15-20 pounds over the off-season. During positional drills, I was able to get about 20 yards from Floyd and, from my vantage point, he definitely looks bigger. He fills out his jersey more and even his legs looked thicker.
Also noticeably bigger is NT Eddie Goldman, although that may not be a good thing.
-Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio wasted no time dialing up the blitz packages during team drills, sending ILB Jerrell Freeman up the A gap on just the second snap of 11-on-11s.
Pressure was fairly consistent today, which likely had a lot to do with the absences of both Long and Sitton, and it made life difficult for the quarterbacks. Sanchez in particular struggled with defenders around him, while Trubisky showed too much hesitation with the pocket collapsing.
-Sanchez threw the only interception of the day, a pass over the middle to a covered receiver that was tipped in the air and corralled by CB Bryce Callahan.
-Marcus Cooper and Prince Amukamara were the starting boundary corners and they stayed on the same side of the field (Cooper left, Amukamara right) throughout practice. Cre’Von LeBlanc lined up at nickel.
-WR Tanner Gentry, the star of rookie minicamp, had one nice catch that stood out, making a two-handed snatch on a deep crossing route on a bullet pass from Sanchez.
-Trubisky did not fumble any snaps and, from my admittedly horrible vantage point, I did not see him bobble any snaps either.
-FB Freddie Stevenson saw plenty of reps with the first-team in I-formation. The one play that stood out came with Stevenson running a 15-yard comeback route near the sideline. The pass from Trubisky hit him in the hands but Stevenson dropped it.
For him to make the roster, he must be more consistent as a pass catcher going forward.
-During 11-on-11s, TE Daniel Brown was lined up against S Adrian Amos in man coverage. Brown ran a wheel route and turned up the right sideline. Amos bit on the initial move, allowing Brown to gain three yards of separation and make the easy 25-yard catch.
Amos has struggled in man coverage throughout his career and today was no different.
-Fourth-round RB Tarik Cohen had the only fumble of the day, dropping the ball shortly after a handoff with Sanchez. It’s worth noting that in one of only two full games of collegiate film available of Cohen, he put the ball on the ground. His ball security is worth monitoring going forward.
Cohen also missed OLB Sam Acho on an edge rush, stepping up into the pocket instead of sealing the edge, which would have resulted in an easy sack for Acho. Not a great start for Cohen.
-The only play of note I saw from WR Rueben Randle came on a 12-yard in route that hit him in the hands, which he dropped.
-During special teams drills, offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains put all four of his quarterbacks through an accuracy competition, with six-foot high barrels stacked at different passing levels. The QBs took turns dropping back and firing at the targets, trying to put them through the hole near the top of the barrel.
Loggains was very fired up during this drill, which appeared to be more of a team-building exercise than anything else. It’s notable that Trubisky more than held his own against the veterans, and even Shaw looked sharp.