By Robert Zeglinski
BOURBONNAIS — A loosened practice schedule has the Bears beginning their first break of this year’s training camp. As the team ramps up the intensity later this week, here are noteworthy observations from a roller coaster initial week at Olivet Nazarene University.
What QB competition?
Rookie Mitch Trubisky is the Bears’ future. The investment made in his selection confirms that. Some have speculated that he could take over sooner rather than later for Mike Glennon – who was brought in as a placeholder. However, based on the start of camp, that’s not going to happen any time soon.
The current No. 3 quarterback, Trubisky possesses athleticism Glennon could only dream of. You see it in flick-of-the-wrist throws while pressured to Daniel Braverman and Ben Braunecker on Thursday and Monday. In controlled situations concerning tiny details such as snaps (three of his first five exchanges in full pads were fumbled on Saturday) and in progressions (staring down a receiver on a pass on Sunday that fellow rookie Eddie Jackson picked off), he still has a ways to go.
This isn’t to say that Glennon has lit it up in practice. He’s merely been fine, managing the offense, taking shots only when necessary. Quite frankly, that’s all he has to do to keep Trubisky at bay for the time being. We’ll know much more once the preseason gets rolling.
Floyd’s rise defines Bears defense
With the re-introduction of Pernell McPhee to the PUP list, the Bears’ practice pass rush has suffered. The team doesn’t have enough depth or talent on the edge to succeed defensively.
None of these issues have affected second-year outside linebacker Leonard Floyd though, who has routinely been the best Bear overall through five practices. He’s bigger, stronger, faster, and so much more proficient as a defender.
On day one of full pads, Floyd’s newfound counter moves and improved hand work were showcased in a one-on-one blocking drill with each of the three Bears’ top tight ends in Dion Sims, Adam Shaheen, and Zach Miller. His move on Sims – the best blocker of the bunch – was the nastiest in particular, as he displayed hand speed, power, and leverage that overwhelmed the stout Sims. The clean rip was so notable, it drew as large of a cheer from spectators that normally prefer offense as if it was a deep touchdown pass.
Later on Saturday, Floyd was virtually unblockable in every team drill, consistently converting speed to power against all blockers in front of him. If defensive players were allowed to hit quarterbacks, it would’ve been difficult to count the amount of pressures Floyd wracked up.
Flash forward to Monday and confidence in his versatility as a coverage linebacker, not just pass rusher, were shown. In a red zone drill, Floyd twice sniffed out tight ends attempting to slip out late behind him: the second attempt of which being an incredible display of athleticism on a would-be interception of Trubisky where Floyd barely landed out of bounds on the catch.
As his veteran mentors in Willie Young and Lamarr Houston have noted he’s become a much better “technician” and improved his tackling technique that resulted in two concussions last year: Floyd is ready to make the leap towards superstardom.
White off to slow start
The former No. 7 overall pick has had the gears slowly grinding in camp thus far. Amongst a receiving core packed with question marks and guys on prove-it deals, most of the time White has looked like an also-ran among them. When he does get open and isn’t targeted, it hasn’t offset the fact that he hasn’t flashed the big-play ability he was originally drafted for. He improved Monday, but it wasn’t enough.
White’s confidence has been lacking, which is understandable when considering the amount of injury recovery he’s gone through in the past two years. It’s why receivers coach Zach Azzanni has been working to boost the esteem of his third-year pupil.
“We’ve got to watch him (White) and be careful with him,” Azzanni said. “We don’t want to just throw him into the deep end right away.”
Not the most encouraging sentiment for a player like White that the Bears desperately need to become a playmaker.
This is a process that exemplifies the raw White not only having to do things like polish his route running, but get out of his own head. His development is going to take patience.
Meredith looking like No. 1
In contrast, former UDFA Cam Meredith, has arguably been the Bears’ best offensive player so far. Tailback Jordan Howard hasn’t received much churn, so Meredith instead has been the star.
Every time Meredith is targeted, if the ball touches his hands, he’s catching it. He and Glennon, in particular, have built quite the rapport when using excellent Bears’ play design.
The best descriptor of Meredith?
He wastes no energy. Each Meredith route is filled with purpose but ran with a ballerina’s grace. There’s a mix of toughness and balance that no Bears defender has an answer for. Last season, the third-year wideout led the team in receiving. In 2017, it looks like Meredith is poised to become elite.
Arguably the weakest point of the Bears’ roster, Chicago’s remade defensive backfield has swayed to extremes during camp.
At first, Glennon and the quarterbacks cut up the group led by newcomers Prince Amukamara and Quintin Demps with ease. Finally, on Sunday, they mugged Bears’ receivers with a newfound purpose and offered no space en route to forcing turnover after turnover.
Demps intercepted six passes in Houston last year that magnet for the ball is as advertised. He’s routinely in the right place at the right time. The Bears knew what they paid for. Jackson as noted above, made an excellent read on a Trubisky throw late Sunday, reading the play from the other side of the field and breaking for the interception.
Enter Kyle Fuller – a corner not in the Bears’ best graces – stepping stride for stride with every receiver, excelling physically. After a shaky open, the fourth-year Fuller looked like Chicago’s best defensive back towards week’s end.
Better talent here doesn’t bode well for 2016 starters such as Adrian Amos and Harold Jones-Quartey.
Robert is your guy for all things Bears and he’ll be with the team all through training camp. Find him on Twitter: @RobertZeglinski.