BOURBONNAIS, Ill. -- Here are some observations from Sunday's practice, the first workout of training camp held in full pads.
Second-year wide receiver Alshon Jeffery continued his strong start to camp by catching a pair of long touchdown passes from quarterback Jay Cutler to the delight of the estimated crowd of 9,000 fans. Jeffery’s first touchdown reception came during a one-on-one drill when the former second-round pick managed to beat Pro Bowl cornerback Charles Tillman. The second deep completion came in 11-on-11 when Jeffery burned a couple defenders to haul in the pass in the back corner of the end zone.
“Alshon has showed the ability to run all the different routes we have given him,” Bears head coach Marc Trestman said. “He’s a very quiet person. He’s a very smart young man with a high football intelligence. He’s a guy that learns very quickly. It’s been three very good days for him and we just hope he’ll continue to progress and stay consistent in his effort and his productivity each day in practice.”
Staying with the theme of terrific catches, rookie seventh-round pick Marquess Wilson made an acrobatic touchdown grab over a defender on a deep ball in a one-on-one coverage drill. The play unfolded directly in front of Trestman, who gave Wilson a pat on the back after the wideout held onto the football.
“It was a good catch,” Trestman said. “This is a game of one-on-one contested throwing battles and we talk about it every day and we look at it hard to see who won the one-on-one contested throwing battles. That’s a point of emphasis on game days. That was evident that he has the ability to make those plays. It was a tough catch. It was good coverage, with both guys going up for the ball and one guy coming up with it."
With three new starters up front, the Bears offensive line predictably experienced its share of growing pains in the blitz pick-up department.
“The first day of pads is always tough because you’re on offense and you’re kind of sitting back and figuring out the best position for you to be in,” Bears left tackle Jermon Bushrod explained. “Sometimes it was on a blitz. Sometimes guys weren’t in the right place at the right time. It happened to me a couple of times today, when I get too anxious thinking I can get aggressive on guys but they’re quick inside or had blitzes inside. You just have to be patient and that comes with the more live reps we get.”
In the individual one-on-one pass rush drill Bushrod successfully kept defensive end Julius Peppers out of the backfield on two straight reps, but defensive tackle Henry Melton blew past the interior offensive linemen almost every time he lined up in the drill. However, defensive end Aston Whiteside had the best move of the day as he spun around the guard he was going up against so quick that the offensive lineman barely had enough time to get out of his stance before Whiteside was standing at the quarterback.
Bears players were forced to comply with the NFL’s new safety rule that requires them to play and practice with thigh and knee pads in their uniform pants. The rule specifically affects cornerbacks and wide receivers, two position groups that generally prefer not wear padding on their legs because it decreases on-field speed.
Trestman said the Bears are expected to remain in full pads for the rest of training camp unless an unforeseen circumstance forces him to alter the schedule. However, the number of on-field collisions were kept to a minimum on Sunday. That is expected to be the norm from here on out.