LAKE FOREST, IL - MAY 18: Cornerback Kyle Fuller #23 of the Chicago Bears talks to reporters after rookie minicamp at Halas Hall on May 18, 2014 in Lake Forest, Illinois. (Photo by Brian Kersey/Getty Images)
The Chicago Bears may have just gotten to training camp in Bourbonnais, but after four high-intensity practices that are designed to get them used to the rigors of an NFL gameday, they are taking Tuesday off.
Without further adieu, here are four of the most important storylines to follow after the first four days of practice.
Fuller Showing Strength, Versatility Early On
The Bears drafted Kyle Fuller not only because of his skillset as a cornerback, but also because of his experience in playing at the nickel corner position and at safety during his collegiate career.
That versatility has been on full display during the opening days of training camp, as he’s played at both the nickel spot and played some serious first team snaps at the outside corner position with Tim Jennings missing three straight sessions with a quadriceps injury.
In both roles, Fuller has shown that he has the speed to keep up with quick guys like Chris Williams and Marquess Wilson, while also showing the strength to be able to jam guys like Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery at the line of scrimmage. He’s also made a few athletic interceptions in the early part of camp, and when you put the whole package together, he’s definitely one of the most impressive players on the field for the team.
Of course, the team has only been in pads for two days, and things get a lot tougher for defenses once the offenses add more wrinkles and reps to boost their execution, but Fuller has still shown that he’s able to hit the ground running, and that’s a good sign for the team.
Scuffles Stealing Headlines as Intensity Quickly Ratchets Up
Whether it was Saturday’s fracas between Jordan Mills and Lamarr Houston (which Marc Trestman said would have likely resulted in an ejection for both players if it had occurred during a game), or Monday’s shoving match between Cornelius Washington and Joe Long, there have been a lot of intense confrontations on the field during the first few practices, and it’s not showing any signs of slowing down.
On one hand, that kind of intensity is good, as it means that the defense is eager to prove that they aren’t going to back down from the challenge of improving on last season’s dismal performance. On the other, the scuffles could end up causing some friction among members of the team, and there’s always the potential for a player to get hurt if they fall awkwardly while they’re pushing and shoving.
In either case, Trestman has to be happy with the intensity his players are showing, but he has to keep it reined in a bit as camp continues.
Mills’ Struggles, Long’s Illness Raise Questions about Offensive Line
Mills broke his foot during the final game of the regular season against the Green Bay Packers, and after a long offseason of rehabbing the injury, he has looked a step slow in quite a few drills during the first few practices. Both Willie Young and Lamarr Houston have given Mills fits at the right tackle spot, and while not having Kyle Long alongside him certainly hasn’t helped, the second-year player looks like he’s struggling to get back in the swing of things.
Aside from contributing to Mills’ woes, Long’s ailment is something that Bears fans are growing concerned about. He has missed all four of the team’s practices so far in Bourbonnais, but after meeting with team doctors on Monday, it’s possible that he could be back on the practice field Wednesday. Another good sign is that he was participating in meetings with the team during his absence, meaning that the viral infection he’s dealing with isn’t something that is contagious.
Needless to say, the Bears do need Long to be at full strength if they are going to go anywhere this season, and they also have to hope that his return will help Mills out at the tackle spot. If all else fails, the team might need to explore the option of having Long jump out to right tackle and shift Mills inside, but that isn’t necessarily a recipe for success either.
No Clear Frontrunners in Battle for Wide Receiver Spot
The competition for the third wide receiver slot in the Bears’ lineup is a crucial one, with the Bears likely running some three and four receiver sets to create matchup problems for opposing defenses. Wilson is likely the frontrunner for the job, but Chris Williams and Eric Weems have both looked impressive in practice so far, so the competition is far from won by anybody.
Likely, the preseason games will go a long way toward determining the winner, but we will be keeping an eye on that battle as training camp resumes on Wednesday morning at Olivet Nazarene University.