The Bears practiced Saturday night at Soldier Field as part of their annual Family Fest. Here are some thoughts and observations from the session:
1. The safeties continue to rotate, just as coach Marc Trestman and general manager Phil Emery said they would. Adrian Wilson and Danny McCray began practice with the first string. By the end, it was Wilson and Ryan Mundy. Coaches need to see those guys tackle beginning with Friday’s first exhibition game.
It will be interesting to see whom the wheel settles on for Friday. Trestman said coaches will review personnel during Sunday’s player off day, so maybe we’ll see Monday afternoon what the first string will be as they begin to prepare for the Philadelphia Eagles.
Wilson was near two receivers that caught touchdowns during red-zone drills. On the first, cornerback Kyle Fuller passed receiver Alshon Jeffery off to the middle of the field when Jeffery cut in against zone coverage. Quarterback Jay Cutler sensed an opening and hit Jeffery in the back of the end zone next to Wilson. Later, tight end Martellus Bennett caught a touchdown on a corner route with Wilson trailing him from a deep position.
Vereen was smart in breaking up a pass against Bennett in one-on-one drills. The 6-foot-6 tight end cut ran a short crossing route and tried to shield the 5-11 safety with his body. Vereen didn’t try to run through Bennett. Instead, he played the catch point by sticking his hand in and knocking the ball away.
2. Linebacker Christian Jones’ physical prowess has been well documented in this space. However, Trestman and other coaches have been clear about the fact Jones must conquer mental challenges in order to earn a roster spot. There was an example of that Saturday when Jones overran running back Jordan Lynch, who caught a pass in the left flat.
A defensive back already had Lynch contained outside. Jones allowed Lynch to cut back, though, by overrunning the play. Learning from such plays and not repeat mistakes are Jones’ keys to making the final roster.
Physically, he continues to stand out. He jammed running back Michael Ford at the top of his route during red-zone drills, and the contact disrupted Ford’s stride. It was at the edge of the 5-yard area in which contact is permitted. Ford still was off balance when the throw arrived, and it fell incomplete.
3. Willie Young played right defensive end with the first string in place of Jared Allen, who had a veteran’s day off. Young’s long arms stand out. He can initiate contact with an offensive lineman and dictate the block. That’s how he beat left tackle Jermon Bushrod with a swim move on one rep in one-on-one pass protection drills. He got his left hand outside Bushrod’s right shoulder and set up the move.
Young dropped into coverage on one pass play late in the practice. He consistently gets his hands up when he’s rushing the passer, and his long arms could help block a passing lane in a varied look.
4. Second-year receiver Marquess Wilson jumped to catch a 20-yard pass near the left sideline with cornerback Charles Tillman on his back. Wilson won an inside release, which allowed him to go get the ball more easily. That might’ve been his most athletic catch of camp. I’m interested to watch Wilson block in the running game during the preseason.
5. Veteran receiver Josh Morgan has been sure-handed after a couple drops on the first two days of camp. Cutler connected with him near the sideline for a 15-yard gain. Morgan did well to get both feet in bounds. There’s a lot to sort out between Micheal Spurlock, Josh Bellamy and him during the preseason games. Unfortunately for Morgan, the other two have practiced returning kicks.
6. Rookie running back Ka’Deem Carey picked up linebacker Conor O’Neill’s blitz during team drills. It was a positive sign for Carey's ability to pass protect. O’Neill had a five-yard running start, but Carey was patient, squared his shoulders and was physical. Granted, O’Neill isn’t a starter, but Carey’s technique and toughness are signs he can handle that important responsibility.
7. There was another shotgun snap on the ground, this time by Roberto Garza. It’s happening too frequently.
8. Second-year defensive end David Bass stopped Carey behind the line of scrimmage on a shovel pass. Bass has proven he can make plays with his eyes (i.e. his interception return for a touchdown against the Baltimore Ravens last year.) This was another smart read. Remember, last week he kept backside contain after reading a quarterback keeper and caused an incompletion.
9. Rookie quarterback David Fales threw a pick-6 to safety Marcus Trice late in practice. Fales was under pressure, and there wasn’t a receiver near where the ball ended up. My first thought as Trice was running to the end zone was that Fales needs to get more reps if he is to achieve any sort of mental comfort this summer. That's not necessarily an indictment of how the reps are divided. It's just life in a crowded quarterback room.
10. There were two punting periods Saturday night. It was a gorgeous Chicago summer evening, so Soldier Field’s vaunted conditions were not a factor.
I charted the first session, which was fairly even. Unofficially, Tress Way punted a 55-yarder that hung for 4.76 seconds and a 50-yarder that stayed up for a whopping 5.06.
Draft pick Pat O’Donnell had a 50-yarder with a 4.85-second hang time and a 45-yarder that hung for 4.61.