BOURBONNAIS, Ill. -- D.J. Moore cautions against making too much of the fact he’s taking some reps with the starters at nickelback.
Having spent all of camp working with the second team, Moore ran through plays Tuesday with the first team defense. But Moore didn’t consider the session to be a promotion or a breakthrough of any sort.
“No, it’s not that,” he said. “I guess it’s pretty much like a battle or whatever. So pretty much, we’re just switching in and out right now. I don’t know what’s going to happen. I’m just playing hard; just doing it.”
It’s a welcome change from what Moore experienced last year as a rookie fourth-round pick, a situation he jokingly described as “redshirt[ing] for the first time.”
The situation definitely wasn’t his choice. Moore didn’t step foot on the field until the second half of the season, making his debut in November at San Francisco. Moore contributed only one special-teams tackle last season in three games.
Moore admitted that an attitude problem may have played a role in his rookie inactivity.
“I had a bad attitude, pretty much. I just felt that I should’ve been playing,” said Moore, who skipped his senior season at Vanderbilt to enter the 2009 draft. “I knew I was good or whatnot, but I wasn’t playing on anything. And I sort of had to realize that sometimes you’ve got to just wait your time. You just have to work your way into it, or be a little nicer to the coaches and whatnot. Pretty much, I just had to grow up.
“In a sense, you just learn that if there’s someone in front of you, he’s just gonna be in front of you. You’ve got to realize sometimes that a coach has been with the guy [in front of you] for five or six years. So they know them, and know they can depend on them. So it takes time for you to get in there and get that coach to start depending on you; trusting you whenever you get out there. “
One component of Moore’s developing rapport with the staff came during the offseason in the form of intense film study with head coach Lovie Smith. Smith took a hands-on approach to working one-on-one with both Moore and Corey Graham -- who has taken the majority of the first-team reps at camp -- in teaching the duo the finer points of playing the nickel corner spot.
Graham appears to own the inside track for the starting nickel spot, based on experience (he started nine games in 2008) and the distribution of repetitions thus far at camp. But don’t count out Moore, because some within the organization say Smith has taken a liking to Moore, a diminutive corner (5-foot-9, 183 pounds) with impressive ball skills and eye-opening leaping ability.
“I’m just ready to play now because I don’t do anything else off the field. It’s just video games and football for me,” Moore said. “I didn’t get to play last year. So hopefully now, it’s time.”
Camp battle focus: nose tackle
Over three years have passed since the Bears released Tank Johnson, and there's still no clear-cut starter at nose tackle.
In the past few seasons, the Bears have used a combination of Anthony Adams, Dusty Dvoracek and Marcus Harrison to fill the void left by Johnson, who despite all his off-field baggage, was a terrific compliment to Tommie Harris along the interior of the defensive line.
The most consistent performer of the current group is Adams, who currently finds himself in the driver’s seat after being listed as the first-string nose tackle on the team’s first depth chart released Monday.
"Every year you're in a battle," Adams said Tuesday night. "You can never really get comfortable because nobody's position is really set in stone. You got to check in every day, bring your lunch pail every day, especially at the nose. Those double-teams and stuff are going to come, so you got to keep grinding."
Adams isn't flashy on the field, but remember, nose tackles do the dirty work and rarely get noticed. Since coming over from San Francisco in 2007, Adams has made 20 starts, eight coming in 2009 when the defensive tackle recorded career-highs in tackles-for-a-loss (7) and fumble recoveries (2).
The former second-round pick out of Penn State attributes much of his success to Bears defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli, who despite the title, still oversees all aspects of the defensive line.
"It's our second year under coach [Rod] Marinelli and I feel more comfortable," Adams said Tuesday night. "He's got a lot of confidence in what we're doing and our ability as a whole, and that's really showing up on film which is a great thing. We just got to carry it over into the games.
"He has this motto where he says 'one snap at a time' whether it's a good play, or whether it's a bad play. He always says it's tough for guys to get back-to-back sacks because after the first one, you're dancing and whooping and hollering and doing the latest dance craze. Then you line up for the next play and you don't know what the play is, because you got too excited. That's what we all do, we take it one snap at a time, one day at a time. That helps out a lot."
Most assumed Adams' chief rival for playing time would be Harrison, but fellow nose tackle Matt Toeaina is making a serious push to join the rotation. Once considered primarily a bull-rush type player, Toeaina appears to have expanded his game, and was even mentioned by Marinelli as a possibility at the under-tackle spot manned by Harris.
"He's a beast," Adams said of Toeaina. "I would want him on my team. He's a missile. Once he gets going one way, it's tough to stop him from going that way. Once he gets it set in mind he's going this way, it's tough to stop him."
Backup tight ends Kellen Davis and Richard Angulo made the most of their opportunities with Greg Olsen (veteran’s day off) and Brandon Manumaleuna (knee) sitting out of Tuesday’s workout. Davis hauled in a deep pass over the outstretched hands of linebacker Brian Urlacher, and Angulo made a diving catch near the sideline from Dan LeFevour.
Recently acquired defensive tackle Mick Williams appeared to succumb to the heat during the workout, and couldn’t continue. The Bears signed Williams on Monday.
Receiver Greg Mathews appeared to be shaken up on a diving attempt on a long pass from LeFevour.