I’m getting the hang of training camp. I managed to arrive in time to find a seat in the shade, I spent more time focusing on the plays than the players’ outfits, and I legitimately hustled the concessions industrial complex by escaping their overpriced temptations with a very reasonable three dollar breakfast burrito. If you follow my twitter, you already know that the trick to training camp on three dollars a day is to never buy a beverage. There’s free water in several locations, presumably to reduce the risk of children and elderly fans dying of heat stroke.
We got to see our first padded practices today. This still means no tackles—unless your an overeager third-stringer from the University of Dubuque—but it still gives us a better idea of how the lines are playing and how the running backs are finding their holes.
This section is dedicated to the Bears who have stood out among the sloth for two days in a row. The offensive award goes to Allen Robinson, who has looked every bit the 1400-yard true #1 receiver he was at his peak in Jacksonville and has genuine chemistry with Trubisky already. It may have happened some time when I was chasing after Staley’s attention, but I cannot recall a time this camp he was targeted and didn’t come down with the ball. I can think of two times I was sure that he wouldn’t when he did. Yesterday in one-on-ones against Kyle Fuller where he came back to a slightly under-thrown ball and fought off a solid breakup attempt to secure a deep catch and make the defense do push-ups. Today, he snatched a ball in double coverage that was well placed only if you trust your receiver to turn and high point the ball while running full-speed and land within bounds on the sideline. Obviously Trubisky does. I suspect Robinson will be rewarding that trust all year.
If there’s one observation that demonstrates how well Roquan Smith has looked in two days of camp, it’s probably that he’s been keeping up with Tarik Cohen in repeated coverage snaps. Cohen has gotten open on half of the snaps, but he’s never gotten away from Roquan. In coverage on every other back, Smith has consistently dominated. Today he batted down a ball in one-on-ones against Mike Davis—who ran a solid short post route—and forced the offense to do push-ups. His brightest moments were probably in the blitz drill against running backs, where he humiliated every running back except Mike Davis. Good Bear.
David Montgomery could just as easily been put in the Bear Down category for some embarrassing moments. He couldn’t get a paw on Roquan in the blitz drill. He fumbled an early snap in 11 on 11s. In one-on-one drills, Nick Kwiatkowski mauled him during his cut on an out route and threw him on the ground. Ken Mitchell was quick to defend Montgomery’s honor by noting that Kwit was 6 yards deep, making his contact illegal. I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt and say that he turned off “contact balance” mode knowing that he was deep enough to avoid legal shoves. But today was the first day with pads, and my first time seeing Montgomery negotiate the messy meatyard of an NFL linepile for multiple successful inside runs. His biggest cheer came when he beat coverage on a seam route and caught the ball about 15 yards deep with another 20 of green grass ahead of him, but my favorite moment was an inside run where he danced through the defense and finished with a graceful spin which let him burst out of the meatyard into the open field. Remember, this is without tackling, so we aren’t even seeing the benefits of his famed contact balance yet. I’m excited about his potential.
Ryan Nall looked good yesterday, but I was cautious after early promise last year didn’t translate to anything too impressive in games. Today, he looked too good to ignore. He’s always had top end speed, but his initial burst and quickness in noticeably better. This translates to an improved ability to find a hole to burst through, and he’s shown this with long touchdown runs every day. The Bears have a crowded running back room, but he’s definitely making a case for him to earn a roster spot.
Leonard Floyd has looked quick and confident after two days in camp. He snuck in for a sack yesterday, and today he and Mack had a terrific tag team where they swapped spots, Floyd deftly darted around Leno to force Mitch Trubisky to make a quick throw to his hot read, who was thoroughly covered by Mack. I’m not sure if you’d say they Mayd a great play or were just giving Trubisky Flack, but I like the looks of this duo moving into the season. I’m penciling Floyd for 11.5 sacks.
Mitch “Mitchell” Trubisky looked sharp for the beginning of team drills, but the defense took the momentum and didn’t give it back after a late pass to Miller caught a gust off wind and a hearty serving of Eddie Jackson interception. He didn’t play bad and he still didn’t have any wild misires, but compared to yesterday he made a few poor decisions. We’d love to see steady incremental growth from our blossoming franchise gunslinger, but progress is realistically cyclical. I’m optimistic this will be the one step back which precedes another two steps forward.
We’re gonna need more Bear
There’s several young bears I want to see more of this off-season, the first of which is Riley Ridley, who has been sidelined with a hamstring injury. He is literally on the sideline, so I at least got to see him and heckle him about how his brother wouldn’t be sitting out for a minor soft tissue injury but I guess that’s why he was a first round pick. Surprisingly, my heckle did not change his sidelined status, so we’ll have to wait to see him in action.
Duke Shelly has looked good playing almost exclusively with the twos. He a snap covering Allen Robinson, and backpedaled himself out of the play as Robinson curled in for an embarrassingly-wide open catch. I’ll forgive him for that, but I want to see him get more experience with the ones. He’s literally not in Kansas anymore and he needs to see what truly dominant NFL receivers look like.
So far, none of the backup edge rushers have stood out as a top candidate for the fourth spot. Mack, Floyd, and Lynch have looked good in their limited opportunities, but the next guy up is still anyone’s job. Kylie Fitts and Isiah Irving have both been adequate without standing out, and my favorite potential risers—Canadian UDFA Matt Betts—has struggled in coverage and not yet shown what he can do as a rusher.
The Kicker Battle is Afoot
Yesterday, I told Elliot Fry to send Alligator Rob back to Florida because he was poised to be the newest Chicago hero. Fry might want to call Rob back to wrangle Florida Gator Eddy Pineiro, who answered Fry’s series of beautiful boots with his own, showing off with a final 63 yard field goal that could have comfortably sailed through up rights 68 yards away. Eddy didn’t stop showing off there, and on kick off drills, he shoed everything out of the end zone and even a couple through the uprights. It looks to me like the Bears have too many talented kickers. Perhaps they should offer one up for trade?
Who’s that Bear?
Winner of today’s Who’s that Bear award goes to Josh Woods, who I now know is number 55 as confidently as I know Biscuit is 10 because I literally heard who’s 55 asked over 10 times watching practice today. He’s a second year linebacker out of Maryland who made multiple plays today at inside linebacker with second and third string reps. Behind Smith and Trevathan, that position remains unsettled, so he’s definitely one to keep an eye on as the preseason develops.