Here are a few notes from my second trip to Chicago Bears training camp:
Bears’ depth becoming crucial as injuries mount
Every NFL team has injuries in training camp, but for the Bears the mounting list of walking wounded is starting to get concerning. We already knew about Kyle Long’s calf issue, which could keep him out for the majority of camp, and Leonard Floyd’s illness isn’t anything to worry about either.
But now, Floyd is being limited in practice because of a shoulder injury, meaning that we still haven’t seen what our first-round pick can do against NFL competition.
When asked about this after practice, however, John Fox did not seem overly concerned. Ultimately, the Bears have good players in front of Floyd on the defense in Pernell McPhee, Willie Young, and Lamarr Houston, reducing the blow caused by his injury. Similarly, the signing of Ted Larsen in the offseason, aside from adding more competition to the offensive line, was for just such a time as this, even if he’s not a great fill-in for Long.
On the other hand, the Bears currently have big problems at tight end. Fox revealed that Zach Miller is currently undergoing concussion protocol, hence his absence from practice, and then undrafted Harvard rookie Ben Braunecker was seen in a walking boot after Monday’s session. This left Gannon Sinclair and Khari Lee (represent!!) receiving a significant number of targets during practice, something the Bears cannot be thrilled about.
Doubtless when the Bears moved on from Martellus Bennett and handed the starting tight end spot to Miller, this was every Bears fans’ greatest fear. Despite his obvious athleticism, the 31-year-old Miller’s inability to stay healthy has cost him many a game throughout his NFL career, including a trip to injured reserve two training camps ago with the Bears. One hopes that this latest setback is not a permanent one, or the Bears offseason gamble may backfire spectacularly.
Carey dishes on running game
The Bears running game did not an incredible dominant day Monday vs. the revamped front seven, but Ka’Deem Carey is as high on his offensive line as ever. “The offensive line are goons,” the third-year back said with a smile. “First-string, second-string, down to third-string, they’re all goons. You can’t argue with the holes they’re giving us.”
In particular, Carey lit up when talking about the prospect of running behind the right side of Long and Massie. “Nothing’s getting through those guys,” he laughed, adding that “you really can’t see the defense” when looking their direction: “Them two are huge.”
Carey certainly looked at home running to the right Monday, breaking a few nice runs outside of Larsen and Massie. And he will need to continue showing up in practice: Jordan Howard appears to swiftly be gaining favor with the Bears coaching staff, and the versatile Jacquizz Rodgers will likely stay in the running the back mix as well, making Carey’s status on the roster far from assured. That said, if he can continue to run with power and show a willingness to play special as he did last year, I wouldn’t count him out just yet.
Bush not backing down
Deon Bush is a fairly soft-spoken young man, but don’t mistake that for being timid. Among the multiple skirmishes that occurred at Monday’s practice, one included Bush and Deonte Thompson, who has quietly had a nice camp so far. Coming to the Bears from Miami, it’s not surprising that the rookie safety doesn’t back down on the field.
When I asked about his development from a player known as a hard hitter to a more complete defensive back, Bush acknowledged that it’s something “I know I definitely have to work at every day. Just doing ball drills everyday, listening to my coaches, and making a play on the ball when it’s there.”
Both Bush and DeAndre Houston-Carson were in the middle of things Monday, with the latter putting a big hit on Carey at one point. It’s still difficult to know where they fit in the safety rotation, but it’s safe to say they are being noticed.
I’m not the only one that’s noticed how good this new Bears linebacking corps is. Ask Carey, and he’ll tell you as much as you want about them. “It’s night and day from last year in terms of what they bring to the table. They’re coming for you every play.”
In fact, he even admitted that he watches film of Danny Trevathan and Jerrell Freeman after practice just to prepare for the daily grind of going against them. “I mean, you kind of have to as good as they are,” Carey said.
Watching Freeman chase down Jeremy Langford from behind on the stretch play made me think the exact same thing. This is what it’s like to have real linebackers again, Bears fans.