BOURBONNAIS—Here are some thoughts and observations from the Bears’ practice on Friday morning, which ended 30 minutes earlier than usual because of forecasted inclement weather.
1. Safety Adrian Wilson turned his body to get in position to intercept a deflected pass during red-zone team drills, but he bobbled and dropped it. In fairness, it wasn’t an easy catch, but it would have been a nice highlight to his first session working with the first-string defense.
Evaluating Wilson, a five-time Pro Bowler whose greatest asset is his ability to hit, is difficult in practices during which there’s no tackling. Coaches at this point are looking for evidence that he knows the defense and his responsibilities, especially because he did not sign until after the offseason program ended.
Wilson does appear to be moving more confidently, which is one reason coaches practiced him with the first string on Friday. He ran as smoothly and as fast as I've seen him through one week of practice.
We need exhibition games to hurry up and get here so we can see how these safeties tackle. Too bad the opener is still a week away.
2. The second-string offensive line struggled to block undrafted rookie linebacker Christian Jones. This has developed into a trend.
The Florida St. product got to the quarterback once by breaking down offensive lineman James Brown with his hands. He later shot another gap before the offensive line accounted for him.
Jones’ ability to change direction fluidly stands out anytime he’s in coverage. Physically, he's a strong candidate to make the team. His greatest challenge is mental, as coach Marc Trestman pointed out.
“He’s a work in progress,” Trestman said. “I mean, you can see what he looks like out there. He’s a big, strong man who can run all day. He’s in great condition. He continues to learn and grow, and he’s certainly in the hunt each and every day to make the football team.”
At the very least, the 6-foot-4, 240-pounder is validating the notion that he would have been drafted if it weren’t for the diluted urine sample of his at the NFL scouting combine in February.
3. In a practice dominated by defense, linebacker Lance Briggs broke up two passes out of the nickel package. He read the quarterback on both and got sufficient depth in his pass drop to take away the passing lane.
His second break-up resulted in an interception by safety Danny McCray that got the defense off the field on the first play of the two-minute drill at the end of practice.
Briggs’ experience and knowledge help him compensate for any physical ability he might have lost at age 33, linebackers coach Reggie Herring said last week. To this point (with no tackling), Briggs has been effective in practices.
And it's worth mentioned that McCray has made multiple plays on the ball in two practices with the first-string defense.
4. Linebacker Jon Bostic was beaten on separate plays by two of the Bears’ best offensive weapons, players the caliber of which Bostic will regularly have to face. Running back Matt Forte stood him up on a blitz. Forte, one of the NFL’s best pass blocking running backs, squared Bostic up and won the leverage battle.
Later, tight end Martellus Bennett (6-6) made a leaping catch over Bostic (6-1) near the sideline about 20 yards downfield. Bennett posted Bostic up and shielded him with his body, showing off his basketball experience.
Early in practice, Bostic helped the defense get off the field during red-zone drills by executing his responsibility of covering running back Michael Ford in the right flat as the quarterback rolled right.
That display of athleticism in the open field is why he’s a starter in the nickel package, but he must refine some subtleties, such as playing the catch point on the type of route Bennett beat him.
5. Defensive end Jared Allen showed off the contact balance general manager Phil Emery lauded at Allen’s introductory press conference earlier this year. Allen rushed wide and used a rip move to get to left tackle Jermon Bushrod’s outside shoulder. When Bushrod tried to ride Allen out, Allen stayed low and strong enough to round his edge toward the quarterback. He would have affected the throw if contacting the quarterback were allowed.
6. Linebacker DeDe Lattimore batted down sixth-round rookie quarterback David Fales’ 15-yard pass over the middle during two-minute drill situations. Fales stared down his receiver, which prompted Lattimore to drift from the other side of the defense into the passing lane.
Passing windows are tighter in the NFL than college, and quarterbacks must try to create space with their eyes. That should come more easily for Fales with time and experience. Unfortunately for him, though, reps in team drills are hard to come by. Jay Cutler is eating into the second-team reps, which trickles down to the Bears' evaluations of Jordan Palmer and Jimmy Clausen. Fales stays after practice each day throwing routes as he tries to get more comfortable.
7. Michael Ola practiced at right guard with the first-string offense while Eben Britton (hamstring) sat out again. Ola has been working on setting a powerful base in pass protection, being “rooted” as he called it, without having heavy feet. It’s a delicate balance that Bushrod excels at, Ola said.
Coaches have consistently rotated Ola at different positions with the first and second string through one week of camp. He played for Trestman in Canada, which helps his roster candidacy.