It started out like any other day. I changed the brake pads on my car, then I snuck in a quick viewing of "Dude, Where's My Car?" Then, the ladyfriend and I hopped in the car with some family folk and we went to that holy place of preseason football, Bourbonnais, IL.
A great many things happened on that field. I watched Pat Mannelly spin a ball on his fingertips for a solid five minutes. I saw Isaac Bruce and it's weird to see him in the orange shorts, but he looks like you could give him a uniform and he'd be the best receiver on the team immediately.
What happened with regards to actual football, might you ask? Anything exciting? Titillating? I guess you'll find out because now you're hooked and will follow me after the jump.
First things first, this team looks fast. Offense looks fast. Defense looks fast. Everyone looks like they've got some juice (non-steroid) in their step, and they're working hard.
After the relatively boring onside kick practice, followed by individual position warm-ups and stretching, we got into 1-on-1 WR/DB drills. A lot of tough, well fought battles going on here. After one play, Peanut was a little slow to get up after breaking up a Johnny Knox reception. After a quick run through the rotation of other guys, they were up again.
Knox ruined Peanut's life on this one. He came out, matched up on him, and gave him a quick double step that rolled Tillman onto the ground. That almost felt like it was some of Bruce's input-it was a very veteran move to put on a veteran corner, and he sold it hard.
The rest of 1-on-1 was solid, too. Receivers seem to know what they're doing with their routes, and the extra experience is very encouraging. A couple of the young DBs made some decent coverage plays, and the QBs' arms all look solid, but only one is spectacular. Jay Cutler's throws look like they should have a small amount of fire coming out of the back of them.
After 1-on-1s, we got into 7-on-7 red zone drills, which apparently has become the talk of the night since Greg Olsen caught 5 TD passes there. Let me say this about 7-on-7. It was certainly impressive, and they did indeed look sharp, but temper your expectations. Not having 3 or 4 hungry defensive lineman, or blitzing backs, the advantage should go to the offense. So they looked good, but don't expect 100% red zone touchdown conversion. It's not going to happen.
This brings me to what I think was one of the most promising plays of the night, though. Rashied Davis caught a pass coming over the center and got leveled, in a life-ruining manner, by Major Wright. It was one of those hits that just makes everybody in the crowd go "Oh DAMN", and much more physical than you're typically used to seeing in camp. But that's why they wear pads, right?
Now, 11-on-11 was great to watch. Julius Peppers is a big scary man who can do big scary things to people, but Chris Williams seems to be learning a lot. The Bears really need to lock in a front 5, though, so that they can start to really build cohesion. My two favorite parts of the 11-on-11? The very first play, Jay Cutler threw an absolute beauty of a touchdown pass to Greg Olsen, right down the seam, and split the safeties. It looks like a play they could pull a lot, especially if they get a lot of looks where the safeties are either wide, or they catch one absolutely out of position. My other favorite part was seeing our friend Chris Harris up in the box, on what looked to be a safety blitz, or maybe him just playing the run hard, but he got picked up and Cutler put a pretty one down the left side to Knox for around 25 yards or so, and he probably could've made some moves to get farther if he wanted.
Steltz had a big night, too. He made a nice fingertip grab in 11-on-11 practice, and then had the awareness of the sideline to get both feet down. A short while later, he made another pick off of Cutler, who didn't look quite as sharp in the 2 minute drills as he did during red zones and full team scrimmage. Steltz looks like Thor, and he seems to be taking advantage of every opportunity he can while Manning is out.
So what did I take away from this practice? A lot of tempered expectations. The Bears really do have a fair amount of talent on this team, and seem to be working on structuring it properly. I didn't get to watch as much of the line practice as I would've liked, but it really is going to be the key on both sides of the ball. If the o-line can hold up it's end of the bargain, Cutler and these receivers/running backs could really make some defensive backfields pay. Conversely, if the "Rush Men" can generate some pressure, we've got some guys who might be able to ballhawk again.
If they can't get that straightened out to at least "average", though, it's going to be another painfully long season of close games and what-ifs. I cannot wait for some in-game action this weekend.