Chicago Bears: 2013 training camp
Tucker dialed up pressure from the defensive backfield in the middle of the first quarter against the Raiders on Friday night when cornerback Charles Tillman fired off the edge, unblocked, to sack Oakland quarterback Matt Flynn for a seven-yard loss.
In the second half, safety Brandon Hardin came free up the middle on a blitz and forced and errant throw that resulted in Bears' interception.
Cornerback and safety blitzes weren't all that common under former head coach Lovie Smith, who seemed to prefer having his nickel backs rush the quarterback from time to time.
But all throughout training camp and the preseason games, the Bears have been experimenting with different blitzes from members of the secondary.
"We're going to mix it up, man," Bears cornerback Tim Jennings said. "Sometimes we are going to blitz and other times we are going to sit back and let our defensive line get after the quarterback. Coach Tucker is putting us in great positions. He's mixing it up, putting us in winnable one-on-one situations. He finds a way to bring one more than they can block.
"This is what the preseason is for. We're trying to figure out what works and what doesn't work."
Things went bad for Webb quickly after he entered the game. The former starter got called for holding on the Bears’ third offensive play of the third quarter, then later in the fourth quarter Webb committed a false start. Not exactly the kind of performance Webb needed two weeks after being demoted to the second-team and losing his right tackle job to rookie Jordan Mills.
Webb’s issues occurred a couple of hours after Scott worked out with the training staff on the field pregame, fueling speculation that he could return from a knee procedure sometime next week, and perhaps be healthy enough to play in the Bears’ preseason finale Thursday versus the Cleveland Browns.
“I’m encouraged,” Bears head coach Marc Trestman said. “I know he worked out tonight but I haven’t talked to the trainers about that. But we’re encouraged by what’s going on with the guys that have (had) medical attention.”
Scott, a seven-year veteran, started seven games for the Bears last year after joining the club in September. Scott, Webb, Eben Britton, Taylor Boggs and Edwin Williams are all fighting to earn a spot on the 53-man roster while James Brown is secure as the swing guard. It’s unclear how many offensive linemen the Bears plan to keep, but offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer said last week the number could be eight.
If that happens, Webb could be a casualty just one year after starting all 16 games for the Bears at left tackle.
"In the preseason those catches don't get you any extra checks," Bennett said with a smile. "In the regular season those catches do. We'll take it up a notch. We're not even showing our full hand right now. It's a poker game right now. We have the advantage not showing our hand so nobody knows what our offense is. We are just running basic plays."
Bennett proved during his one season with the New York Giants that he can be a reliable target; he had 55 receptions for 626 yards and five touchdowns. That 2012 success convinced the Bears to sign Bennett in free agency to a four-year, $20.4 million contract, a move that was necessary after the club struggled to get adequate production and consistency from its No. 1 tight end last season.
The Bears' first-team offense has run approximately 30 plays in the preseason, hardly a large enough sample size to panic over Bennett not getting the football thrown his way. But when the regular season rolls around, Bennett promises that quarterback Jay Cutler will know when he's open down the field.
"He sees me; I'm 6-foot-7, a big black guy running down the middle of the field. He sees me," Bennett said. "I wear white gloves so he can see the white gloves when I wave them like Mickey Mouse. I clap when I'm open. So I do enough to let him know that I'm open when I have to tell him.
"Even when I'm not open I tell him I was open."
With Williams sidelined since Jul. 31 with a calf injury, Bostic has wowed observers during workouts and two preseason outings with big hits and a penchant for making game-changing plays, such as the 51-yard interception returned for a touchdown in the preseason opener against the Carolina Panthers.
Asked whether he’s moved ahead of Williams, Bostic deadpanned: “Not really.”
“I kind of look at it as another opportunity to go out and compete,” he said. “I’m nowhere near where I want to be and nowhere near where I need to be. It’s about being able to go out there and put this uniform on opening day, and I’ve still got a lot of work to do. I’m learning from D.J. Even though D.J. is out right now, he’s getting a lot of mental reps, and he’s coaching me up as well. Lance (Briggs), James (Anderson), I’m learning from everybody.”
However, Melton and Bennett have still not passed the NFL concussion protocol to return to action, and therefore both continue to be off-limits to the media, per league rules.
While veteran Nate Collins has elevated his game filling in for Melton at defensive tackle, the picture at the No. 3 wide receiver spot is cloudier with Bennett out. Wideouts Joe Anderson, Marquess Wilson, Eric Weems, Terrence Toliver and Devin Aromashodu have all been given an opportunity to run with the first and second teams in recent weeks, but quarterback Jay Cutler said on Tuesday that he has no input on which specific player would fill the void left by Bennett if his absence continues to drag on.
"They don't give me an opinion so we'll see who they throw in there," Cutler said. "We'll see who Marc (Trestman), Phil (Emery) and those guys like. Whoever is out there I trust that they can get the job done."
In other injury news, quarterback Matt Blanchard (hand), fullback Harvey Unga (rib), defensive end Cheta Ozougwu (hamstring), linebacker D.J. Williams (calf), long snapper Patrick Mannelly (rib), offensive tackle Jonathan Scott (knee) and defensive tackle Corvey Irvin (ankle) were all held out of Tuesday's practice.
The news on Blanchard is encouraging. The second-year quarterback is expected to miss about a month, but could still have a role on the team in 2013 in some capacity. Blanchard also remains eligible for the practice squad.
"He was pretty close," Bears special teams coordinator Joe DeCamillis said. "The kicker made a nice play and then also the safety from the back side. It was just good to get him some action, some real action. It was good to see those guys blocking the way they did, too, because there was definitely some holes out there, which was nice to see."
Hester also was credited with a 23-yard kickoff return in the Bears' preseason opener in Carolina when he decided to run the ball out after fielding it in the back of the end zone. The Bears have given Hester the green light on kickoff returns in both exhibition games. That aggressive style doesn't just help Hester, it allows the rest of the return team members to practice setting up their blocks.
"Even when Devin was having those big years, Devin had some big holes to go through," DeCamillis said. "We just got to do a better job of getting some holes for him at the start, and then, you know, he's gotta go and play better also. So it's a combination of all of those. I've got to help him schematically with what we're doing. Guys gotta block better, and he's gotta return better. That's what we've been working on all camp, and hopefully it starts to show up."
DeCamillis also has taken notice of undrafted rookie Michael Ford, who is fighting to earn a roster spot at running back. With Armando Allen sidelined last week due to a hamstring injury, Ford helped his cause with a 100-yard kickoff return against the Chargers. He finished the game with three returns for 160 yards.
"It would be tough not to like what you saw in a Michael Ford," DeCamillis said. "He did a great job. On his long one, that wasn't one of the better blocked returns that we had all night. He made a guy miss right in the hole. So that was a great run by him, and he did a better job on coverage, too. So he's making it tough. He's doing a good job of what we need to see from him, that's for sure."
"This is a great opportunity," Jordan Palmer said of being named to split reps with Trent Edwards during the Bears preseason finale against the Browns on Aug. 29. "I'm at the point in my career where I just want to play football."
“The reason, obviously, why we got them both in is we worked them out, we liked them both,” Trestman said. “We’ll get them a chance to play and get on tape. I think they’ll be pretty familiar with the offense once they get out there, and we’ll do the best we can.
“If something would happen to Jordan as the third [QB on the depth chart], we still would have wanted to protect Josh. So that’s the reason why we’ve got two quarterbacks coming in.”
Palmer said on Monday he relishes the chance to showcase himself in the preseason after working in sports marketing as recently as late last week. Palmer appeared in four games for the Cincinnati Bengals from 2008 to 2010 and spent time last season with the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Blanchard broke a knuckle in his left hand in the third quarter of the Bears’ 33-28 preseason victory over the San Diego Chargers.
A broken knuckle has the roster status of Bears quarterback Matt Blanchard in jeopardy.
Blanchard could not put a timetable on a return.
“I really don’t know yet,” Blanchard said. "We’re still talking and I still have to see some doctors. I still have to talk to our trainers and figure that stuff out.”
Based on Trestman’s comments throughout training camp, Blanchard had performed well in the preseason and appeared to be a strong candidate to earn a spot on the final 53-man roster as the Bears’ No. 3 quarterback before the injury. Blanchard completed 15 of 18 passes for 194 yards in the Bears' opening preseason game against the Carolina Panthers.
“I feel good about my progress [in the offense],” Blanchard said. “I feel good about moving forward and a lot of the stuff’s out of my hands at this point.
“I just have to help the new quarterbacks coming in to get them ready for Oakland and get them ready for the last preseason game and be the best teammate possible.”
A seventh-year veteran, Edwards has started in 33 of 38 games with Buffalo (2007-10), Jacksonville (2010), Oakland, (2011) and Philadelphia, completing 60.6 percent of his passes for 26 touchdowns, 30 interceptions and a passer rating of 75.5.
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Long, the Bears' first-round draft pick in April, started at right guard next to fellow rookie Jordan Mills at right tackle. It was a chance to show the Bears they should start ahead of veterans James Brown and J'Marcus Webb.
"There were some nerves," Long said Friday on "The Carmen & Jurko Show" on ESPN Chicago 1000. "We're roommates in the hotel so there were some nerves in that hotel room last night but we just continue to do what we've done and we just stick to what we know in regards to technique and what (offensive coordinator and line coach Aaron) Kromer and the other vets have shown us what to do. We just try to go out there and kind of put one foot in front of the other and the rest takes care of itself. We take a lot of reps together in practice so that helps."
Long and Mills played 15 snaps in the first quarter as the Bears racked up 100 yards, including 74 yards rushing, converted 67 percent of their third downs and drew plenty of praise from analyst Trent Dilfer, who was calling the game for ESPN.
Bears coach Marc Trestman said after the game that he would reserve judgment on the play of the rookies until he has seen the game tape, but one play by Long was undeniably impressive. A pulling Long steamrolled a Chargers defensive lineman, lighting up Twitter with praise for the rookie, but on Friday he passed on celebrating the hit.
"It felt like I got my assignment down and I knew which way I was supposed to go," Long said. "You don't want to know what it feels like if you don't get your assignment done in that meeting with guys looking at you like 'What happened with that play, 75?'"
One week after returning an interception for a touchdown in the preseason opener against the Carolina Panthers, Bostic was at it again Thursday night in his Solider Field debut, delivering a vicious hit to San Diego Chargers wide receiver Mike Willie on a short pass on the third play of the second half. The force of the impact caused Willie to drop the ball, resulting in an incompletion.
"Obviously, it was a big hit," Bostic said. "We were trying to take the ball away, that's the main thing. I kind of read it kind of quick because of something we had on up front. It was a big hit. But we were trying to take the ball out, but we didn’t get it."
Bostic said he wasn't sure if it was the biggest hit of his career.
Bears coach Marc Trestman said on Tuesday he anticipated Peppers and wide receiver Brandon Marshall making their preseason debuts against the Chargers, but the veteran pass-rusher was a late scratch due to coaches' decision.
Peppers, who has been battling a minor hamstring injury the past week and a half, was on the field watching the rest of his teammates going through pregame warmups.
However, Marshall and defensive end Corey Wootton are in uniform and scheduled to see action with the Bears starters for at least one quarter.
Also sitting out for the Bears: running back Armando Allen (hamstring), linebacker D.J. Williams (calf), defensive tackle Henry Melton (concussion), wide receiver Earl Bennett (concussion), long snapper Patrick Mannelly (ribs), offensive tackle Jonathan Scott (knee), fullback Harvey Unga (ribs) and tight end Kyle Adams.
San Diego rookie linebacker Manti Te'o has previously been ruled out due to a sprained foot.
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Sidelined with knee swelling for a good portion of training camp, Scott is expected to return in the coming days after medical personnel recently drained fluid from the veteran's sore knee and after an exploratory examination found no structural damage.
"It looks like it's gotten better," Bears coach Marc Trestman said. "We should see some movement in the right direction in the next few days and the next week. He was actually with the doctors today. [Head athletic trainer] Chris [Hanks] came over to tell me that, said the results were very good. I didn't get specific with him, but he was positive about Jonathan getting back to us next week."
Scott, a seven-year veteran, has experienced swelling in his knees in the past and missed some time last season, his first with the Bears.
Scott's return will be welcomed considering the team is in the heat of a competition to find its starting right tackle. Incumbent J'Marcus Webb was moved to the second team, where he'll back up Jermon Bushrod at left tackle, and rookie Jordan Mills was elevated to the first team on the right side.