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In Bourbonnais: Training Camp Observations

| July 28th, 2018

I made it out to Bears training camp today, and thought I’d share a few thoughts and observations. Obligatory note: keep in mind it was only one practice, and players have good/bad days.

Offense

  • I got a great up-close look at TEs doing blocking drills. Dion Sims is a much better blocker than any of the other guys. The TE coach was working with Shaheen a ton, but he struggled to mirror.
  • When TEs and RBs did blocking 1 on 1s against linebackers, it was ugly. The defense won almost every one of those battles. That’s not good considering the Bears don’t exactly have a great stable of pass rushers, and Floyd didn’t even participate.
  • Tarik Cohen’s blocking in particular was ugly. On his first rep, he got bullrushed by some UDFA OLB I’ve never even heard of. On his 2nd rep, he dug in to try to prevent that and Nick Kwiatkoski ran around him without being touched. I don’t expect Cohen to be a great blocker, but that was ugly.
  • I’ve heard a lot of good things about Dion Sims as a pass catcher in the first week of camp, but man is he slow. He lumbers out there running routes and doesn’t have that extra gear to separate.
  • The 1st string offense as a whole really struggled today. The defense dominated them. Part of that could be because Allen Robinson, Taylor Gabriel, and Trey Burton were all not playing for a decent amount of those drills, meaning Sims, Bellamy, and Fowler saw a lot of targets. I can only hope that we don’t see that repeat itself during the season.
  • The offense even struggled in 7v7, when there is no pass rush and it’s supposed to favor the offense. Check downs almost every time.

  • Part of that was on Trubisky. To me it looked like he was clearly thinking too much out there. Chase Daniel was noticeably quicker through progressions, which makes sense given that he’s known the offense for years while Trubisky is just learning it.
  • Trubisky wasn’t throwing much to his main targets, so the timing wasn’t quite there with the WRs either. They have a long way to go before the season starts, but it seems more mental than anything at this point.
  • Credit to the 2nd string offense though. They looked pretty good against the 2nd string defense. I think that highlights the depth the Bears have on offense as well as the injuries the defense has at linebacker.
  • Kevin White played a lot today. I’ve heard a lot of good things about him in camp, but wasn’t very impressed. He didn’t really create any separation when going against Prince or Fuller
  • Josh Bellamy is always open, but you never know if he’s actually going to catch the ball. Nothing seems to have changed there.
  • There’s been a lot of attention paid to Jordan Howard’s hands this offseason, and he got several dumpoffs sent in his direction today. He didn’t drop any of them.
  • Kyle Long had to be pulled from full team drills and calmed down 2x. Once he dove on Prince Amukamara after the whistle in a non-tackling situation, and another time he put Akiem Hicks on his ass.
  • Anthony Miller looked like the best WR on the field today, but we didn’t see much of Taylor Gabriel or Allen Robinson.
  • Speaking of Gabriel, he sat out the last 85% or so of practice and didn’t have his helmet for it. He seemed to be limping a little and favoring his right leg; to me it looked like maybe his calf was bothering him. He didn’t leave to go to the training tent though, so hopefully it was nothing serious.
  • I saw most of the injured players who didn’t practice out there in shorts watching, but there was no sign of Hroniss Grasu, and a guy who’s been there every day told me he hasn’t been seen since getting hurt. That plus the fact they signed another C suggests to me his injury is serious.
  • Centers Cody Whitehair and James Daniels both had bad shotgun snaps over the QB today. The new C they just signed last night, Jack Allen, was working on shotgun snaps on the sideline with a coach during team drills.
  • Michael Burton was very involved as a pass catcher today. He caught a number of dump-off passes in full team drills. Guys I talked to who have been at more practices said they hadn’t seen him with 1s much on offense before that.
  • The offense had some issues getting lined up multiple times. Trubisky had to move guys to the other side, or they had to ask other players where they were supposed to line up. You can tell they’re learning a new offense.
  • In general I’m not too worried about the O at this point. They were rotating so many personnel packages through, new offense, their main veterans (Long, Robinson, Burton, Gabriel) all sat out a bunch. It’s very much a work in progress, and it showed.

Defense

  • If the offense had a bad day, then the defense had a good one. That’s the double-sided coin of intrasquad practices. If you want to focus on the positives, the defense was great today. You could really tell it was a veteran unit that was in a familiar system, and all the players were in sync with each other.
  • Sam Acho had himself a day. It felt like he was living in the backfield all day, he didn’t lose a single rep in 1v1 drills that I saw, and he stuffed a few run plays too.
  • Prince Amukamara in particular looked really good to me today. He had a few INTs, which continues a theme from camp. I really hope that carries over to actual games.
  • Cre’Von LeBlanc also had a couple interceptions and a deflection, and general good coverage in 1v1 drills.
  • I also thought it interesting that Bryce Callahan got some time outside on the 2nd string (in addition to his normal starting nickel role).
  • UDFA Michael Joseph from DuBuque spent a good amount of time on the 2nd string too. He didn’t get thrown at much, so it’s tough to say how he did.
  • Bears D also had a really interesting look on the goal line with 4 DL, 2 OLB, and only 1 ILB. That must be their jumbo package, essentially worked out like a 6-man DL.
  • Rookie OLB Kylie Fitts didn’t practice again today with an arm injury. That’s a bummer, because he drew some praise from coaches earlier this week and I wanted to get a look at him. The Bears need all the edge rush help they can get, so anything from him would be a big plus.
  • That’s all I have on the defense. I spent more time focusing on the offense since that’s the new scheme with more new parts.

Special Teams

  • There’s not a ton to say here, as they only spent maybe 5 minutes on full-team ST drills, and the ST only drills were a field away from where I sat.
  • One thing I did notice was how strong Cody Parkey’s leg is. He was drilling 40-45 yarders with room to spare (albeit by himself without rushers), and the kicks looked like they would have been good from 60. That’s nice to see after suffering through two years of Connor Barth.
  • The one chance at a FG that Parkey got was wide right from 52 yards. Rookie punter Ryan Winslow was holding; fans who have been at all the practices said Parkey has struggled with Winslow holding but hasn’t missed when Pat O’Donnell holds. Consider that an early leg up for O’Donnell in the punting competition.
  • Tarik Cohen served as the punt returner in the one drill they did. I assume he’s going to be the guy there again this year, barring something unexpected.

Podcast Plug

I hung out at practice with some of the guys from Da Bears Bros, and did a podcast with them afterwards. Give it a listen to get some of their insights, as well as a few things I probably forgot to mention on here.

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