Bears training camp digest — 5 observations from Day 18Continue reading.
Bears training camp digest — 5 observations from Day 3
An overview of Day 3 from Bears training camp:
1. The defense is ahead of the offense — or maybe the offense is behind the defense.
Training camp is generally a zero-sum game. An interception is good play for the defense but a bad play for the offense. So take it for what it’s worth that the defense made some big plays again in practice. Charles Tillman intercepted Jay Cutler on the first play of 11-on-11 drills. And Cutler’s second pass was batted at the line of scrimmage. Tillman also had a strip for a fumble that the defense recovered.
‘‘I thought it was a really solid day by our defense, really good work,’’ coach Marc Trestman said. ‘‘We had some new blitzes in, some new installations. Lance [Briggs] handled it really well.’’
Sunday’s practice will be the first in pads — a step up in the competitiveness of training camp, but it’s still training camp. The first preseason game still is 11 days away — and even that doesn’t always tell the tale.
2. The new coaching staff is making an impact.
It’s difficult to quantify the sharpness of a team in the first couple of days in training camp, but from a cursory look, the Bears are making fewer unforced errors in all three phases — a sign that the players are transitioning well to the new coaching staff. Trestman made a big difference in Montreal his first season — from 8-10 before he arrived to 11-7 and the Grey Cup — and the early signs bode well for the Bears.
3. Matt Blanchard is earning a more serious look at quarterback.
After being shuttled on and off the roster as an undrafted rookie in 2012, Blanchard is the No. 3 quarterback in camp behind Jay Cutler and Josh McCown. His skillset is a good fit for a Trestman-run offense and he makes the most of the few opportunities he gets — as he did in third-team reps on Saturday. The big question is whether he’ll get enough of an opportunity in training camp to show he deserves stronger consideration. Trestman said he’s trying to give Blanchard and other third-string players as much of an opportunity as he can.
‘‘I told the guys after practices that I don’t know what goes on in the NFL other places but we give these guys as many reps as any team,’’ Trestman said after practice. ‘‘Based on talking to other players who have been around, and I did, these guys are getting almost 20 plays and that’s a lot of plays for a third group.
“I told the guys they’ve got to make the most of every opportunity, and the only way to do that is to know what to do and do it as hard as fast as we can. And that’s what we’re looking for on the tape.”
4. James Brown vs. Kyle Long will be the battle-to-watch through training camp.
The question isn’t who wins, but whether the winner will be any good. J’Marcus Webb and Chris Williams battled for the start at left tackle last season and Webb won by default. Brown is getting the majority of the first-team reps at right guard in practice, with Long getting one here and there. It won’t be until the preseason games that we know if either is up to the challenge.
“Kyle is not as far along as James is,’’ Trestman said, ‘‘but that’s just going to be an ongoing [competition] as we move through training camp and I can do a better job of doing an evaluation. I just don’t feel comfortable at this time.”
5. If Martellus Bennett is half as good on the field as he is off the field, the Bears will have their best tight end since Mike Ditka.
Bennett’s outgoing personality has been the biggest hit in camp. On a team where most of the ‘‘faces of the franchise’’ have a contentious or non-existent relationship with the media, Bennett stands out even more as a live wire. The first question to Trestman after his opening statement was how he felt about Bennett’s gregarious personality. On multiple levels, the Bears need more players like him.
“Absolutely love it because he knows how to be a pro,’’ Trestman said. ‘‘If you can see him in the meetings, he is up and front, he takes meticulous notes, he asks tremendous questions, he does everything right. That’s something you don’t see. He knows how to have fun with football. He’s got a great sense of humor and we enjoy it.’’