On Wednesday, the Chicago Bears took part in their annual Varsity Bears High School Takeover practice, in which they hold a practice open to the public at a high school’s varsity football stadium. This year, the practice took place at Vernon Hills High School. I was fortunate enough to be able to make the drive up there to attend it. Here are some of my takeaways from the practice.
- Since my Twitter account is locked, I was unable to tweet live updates from my personal account. However, the nice folks at Full Press Coverage allowed me to use their Bears account for the night to tweet out videos and updates of happenings from the night. All of my tweets from the practice, as well as the other Bears-related tweets that they have, can be found here.
- If there’s one player in particular who stood out from the practice, it’s Michael Joseph. The undrafted cornerback more than held his own in one-on-one drills, and was consistently able to shut down Anthony Miller - arguably the best route runner on the team - whenever they paired up. The former Dubuque standout has had a good preseason, and he could possibly be a candidate to sneak onto the 53-man roster.
- Even though Miller failed to do much against Joseph, he still had a fantastic practice in his own right. All of the athleticism, route running prowess, and the improved hands that he displayed at training camp were showcased last night. He has been able to consistently separate against Chicago’s defensive backs, which is an encouraging sign of things to come from the rookie.
- Mitchell Trubisky didn’t have a terrible day, but he didn’t have a noteworthy day either. He under threw a couple of deep balls in one-on-one drills, but he was able to showcase athleticism and accuracy in many other drills. One can’t truly draw conclusions from a singular practice, so his issues with deep ball placement aren’t necessarily anything to worry about.
- After having taken a majority of his snaps in recent practices at center, rookie James Daniels didn’t have a single rep at the position. Instead, he played primarily at left guard, which is where he will presumably start at some point early in the regular season. He was also placed momentarily at left tackle in one-on-one defensive line drills, but that was more of a placeholder role as players like Eric Kush and Cody Whitehair got most of the interior repetitions.
- Speaking of the center position, Whitehair and Trubisky ran a snapping drill isolated from the rest of the team while offensive backups took reps in a scrimmage. Whitehair snapped the ball out of the shotgun to Trubisky, who would then make a quick dump off to one of the receivers participating in the drill. Whitehair has had his fair share of issues with shotgun snaps, but he didn’t have a truly bad snap at any point in the practice.
- I was able to attend training camp back near the end of July, and I must say that the offense that the Bears ran on Wednesday was more creative than what I saw in Bourbonnais. There were a handful of plays that saw players going in motion and there were several options run too. The most interesting set-up, though, was easily the Bears’ two-quarterback set. Both Trubisky and Chase Daniel lined up in the backfield, with Daniel taking the snap. He faked one handoff before giving it another back, while Trubisky played as a decoy. Although the offense wasn’t entirely out of its vanilla stage yet, there were more than a few flashes of what head coach Matt Nagy has in mind.
- Kyle Fuller wasn’t able to truly stand out during training camp, and this practice was no exception. He didn’t make any impressive plays in coverage, and he got beat by Allen Robinson during a one-on-one drill despite Fuller having grabbed onto Robinson well past five yards beyond the line of scrimmage. The Bears will be relying on him to be their top cornerback this year, so he will need to step up once the regular season comes around.
- Jordan Howard had a drop on a screen pass in scrimmage, but his hands were otherwise reliable for most of practice. He didn’t drop a single pass when he served as the lone receiver in quarterback agility drills early on, displaying the improved stickiness that he also flashed in training camp. He could face an even more prominent role in Chicago’s offense if he shows up as a receiving option out of the backfield in 2018.
- Roquan Smith was at practice, participated in some positional drills, and showed up in the full helmet, jersey and shorts. But the rookie linebacker, who is dealing with minor hamstring tightness, was inactive for the rest of practice. He worked with coaches and jogged a bit along the sidelines while his teammates were working on team drills. It’s better to be safe than sorry with Smith, who is unlikely to play in Saturday’s game against the Kansas City Chiefs.
- Since I know that you all read these articles for the latest in special teams news, new Bears long snapper Tanner Carew practiced snapping on the sidelines to Ryan Winslow. For the most part, Carew’s snaps seemed to be up to par with those of Patrick Scales. Although Scales’ snaps did seem to be slightly faster. Neither long snapper had issues with snap placement. Scales is probably the favorite to win a roster spot at the moment, Carew could certainly give him a run for his money.
- Leonard Floyd was spotted on the sidelines with a cast on his right hand, on which he recently had surgery after fracturing it against the Denver Broncos. With him out, the Bears’ less-heralded edge rushers got the chance to shine in practice last night. Unfortunately for them, nobody did. In both individual drills and team drills, no player off the edge stood out. None of them were particularly bad per se, but nobody made any impact plays during the night.
I don’t like to end these types of articles on a low note, so I’ll say that this was an overall solid practice for the Bears. The offense had more than its fair share of big plays, while the defense was able to hold its own. As they head into Saturday’s dress rehearsal matchup against the Chiefs, there is more than enough intrigue regarding which players step up in their first home preseason game of the year.
Jacob Infante is a Chicago Bears writer at SB Nation’s Windy City Gridiron. He is also an NFL Draft writer at USA Today SMG’s Draft Wire. He can be reached through Twitter (when it works again) @jacobinfante24 or emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.