BOURBONNAIS, Ill. -- The Bears typically reserved a roster spot in the past for a traditional blocking fullback.
But with the arrival of offensive coordinator Mike Martz, the club shifted its philosophy on how it viewed the position. Now, suddenly, the Bears wanted more than just blocking from the fullbacks.
After the release of long-time starter Jason McKie in March, the Bears now technically have two fullbacks on the roster -- Will Ta'ufo'ou and Eddie Williams. Yet both are listed on the preseason depth chart as H-backs behind veteran tight end Desmond Clark. On top of that, free agent acquisition Brandon Manumaleuna, known primarily for his blocking prowess, has lined up in the backfield for a few snaps on Monday.
The H-back spot usually gives clubs another way to classify the second or third tight end. But there's a chance the Bears keep only one at the position. Bottom line: the Bears could choose to keep just four tight ends and no fullbacks on the final 53-man roster.
Still, the long odds haven’t deterred Ta'ufo'ou and Williams from performing well at training camp, which undoubtedly will make the ultimate decision more difficult for the Bears. The two players seem to complement the other well, with Ta'ufo'ou displaying qualities as a strong blocker, while Williams has shown flashes as a solid receiver, who can make things happen in the open field.
"My blocking is coming along but it wasn't something I was accustomed to in college playing tight end and H-back," Williams said Tuesday. "I'm at my best when I have the ball in my hands, and I think I can make plays with the ball in my hands. The best thing I can do is break tackles, and play out in space.”
“I think what Martz does well is use what he's got, and let the system cater to the player. Whoever he's got, and whatever he can do with that specific guy, that's what he's going to do. If we have blocking fullbacks who are good pass protectors, he'll use those. But if we catch the ball, he'll let us run some routes."
Like every reserve role on the roster, special teams play an important role in deciding who survives the final cut. Williams did a respectable job playing on all four-phases in the Bears preseason opener against San Diego, making a tackle and finishing with a high grade.
"I really have no idea [how the whole thing will play out]," Williams said. "I think it'll come down to whoever performs well in the remaining preseason games. At practice, you can get good fits in and everything, but I think game action shows you who can really block, make plays, and be in the right position. Most of the guys lining up the backfield are already proven players. So it's up to the young guys like Will and [me] to show them we belong here.”
Camp battle focus: Strongside linebacker
If the preseason opener serves as an indicator, the battle for the starting strong side linebacker job should go down to the wire.
"First time back it was good to just get out there and get physical," Tinoisamoa said. "I felt like for not playing in a whole year, I thought my tackling was good. Usually your feet are kind of shaky, but I was able to get some tackles and didn't miss very many."
Tinoisamoa finished with three tackles, while Roach was credited with two tackles, a sack and a tackle for a loss.
Health remains a major issue for Tinoisamoa. Saturday’s game marked Tinoisamoa’s first live action since October 18, 2009, when the veteran linebacker reinjured his knee in Atlanta. Tinoisamoa spent the next five weeks inactive, before eventually being placed on injured reserve.
"I didn't really think about the knee too much," Tinoisamoa said. "Fortunately, I haven't thought about it much this whole camp other than the first couple of days, but the knee is holding up fine which is a plus."
Temperature: 72 degrees
Rookie cornerback Joshua Moore was on the receiving end of shot from veteran tight end Desmond Clark that sent Moore's mouthpiece flying in the air. Clark caught a screen pass during 11 on 11, turned the corner and smashed into Moore with a full head of steam. The collision prompted one fan to yell to Clark, "Good job, old man".
Earl Bennett (hamstring), Patrick Mannelly (shoulder), Chester Taylor (hamstring), Hunter Hillenmeyer (foot), Johnny Knox (hamstring), Jarron Gilbert (unknown), Josh Bullocks (quadriceps), Caleb Hanie (shoulder) and Major Wright (finger) didn’t participate in Tuesday’s practice.
Rookie quarterback Dan LeFevour stayed after the conclusion of the morning workout to take under-center snaps from Tim Walter, in addition to throwing extra passes to Eric Peterman and Zeke Markshausen.
For the second day in a row, Bears coach Lovie Smith made it a point to shower praise on Brian Iwuh. The linebacker returned to practice from a knee injury on Monday and made two interceptions in his first workout.
“Each day, it seems like someone is getting our attention a little bit,” Smith said. “Yesterday, he had a couple of interceptions. Tonight, he had a couple of big hits. He’s taking advantage of the situation.”
Wright returned from surgery on his left index finger on Tuesday to stand on the sidelines for the night workout. Smith still hasn’t ruled out Wright for the regular-season opener against Detroit.
“It went well,” Smith said of Wright’s surgery. “I don’t want to start being Dr. Smith or anything, but the surgery went well and we expect him back.”