Chicago Bears: Brandon Venson
Here are a few observations from the opening day of the Chicago Bears' three-day minicamp, which kicked off on Tuesday at Halas Hall:
• Tight end Brandon Venson made arguably the most interesting play of one-on-one drills against the defense when he snagged a pass one-handed with safety Chris Conte seemingly in position to intercept the ball.
“It’s on target. It’s an easy ball to catch,” Marshall said. “In this league, separation could just be an inch. That's why you see that the great passing teams with the great quarterbacks, they know, they just know how to take advantage of that separation, even when it's just an inch, and Jay’s balls ARE SO tight, and he gets it there on time. It's hard for any DB in this league to break on those balls.”
• So much for talk of receiver Devin Hester potentially taking a break from special teams. Hester returned both punts and kickoff returns during Tuesday’s session.
• The Bears kicked off the team portion of Tuesday’s session with the following starting offensive line: C Roberto Garza, LG Chris Spencer, LT Chris Williams, RG Lance Louis and RT Gabe Carimi. Williams appeared to receive the bulk of the repetitions at left tackle, but he and J’Marcus Webb consistently alternated at the position. In fact, the club made sure that Webb and Williams took all of the first and second-team reps at left tackle.
• As Brian Urlacher continued to rehab his knee injury, Nick Roach worked at middle linebacker while Geno Hayes slid in at strong side linebacker with the first team defense. Tim Jennings got starter's reps at cornerback.
• Rookie wide receiver Alshon Jeffery sat out Tuesday with what Bears head coach Lovie Smith called a lower-leg injury. Smith is hopeful Jeffery will be able to participate before minicamp wraps up on Thursday.
• Nickel back D.J. Moore had a key interception in a full-team drill.
• Earl Bennett stretched the field numerous times from the slot and looks poised to be a dangerous weapon in the new offense under Mike Tice.
• Five players practiced with the team Tuesday on a tryout basis. Those players included Mike Holmes of Syracuse, Darcy Johnson of Central Florida, Embry Peeples of Georgia Tech, Eli Joseph of Temple and Cory Brandon of Oklahoma.
Lovie Smith hinted earlier Sunday the Bears would sign "a couple" tryout players who participated in the club's three-day rookie minicamp. So it came as no surprise when the team announced later in the day it had inked seven of the tryout players to three-year contracts.
The seven players are: Wisconsin-Whitewater quarterback Matt Blanchard, Texas Southern receiver Joseph Anderson, Illinois State tight end Brandon Venson, Concordia tackle Tyler Hendrickson, Central Florida guard Nick Pieschel, Boston College punter Ryan Quigley and Connecticut kicker David Teggart.
Blanchard is a native of the Chicagoland area. He was a prep star at Lake Zurich High School who originally attended Northern Michigan before transferring to Wisconsin-Whitewater where he won 25 games in two seasons, passing for 44 touchdowns to just six interceptions.