Tonight, under the lights, the Chicago Bears conducted the team's first full-pads practice of the offseason. The session wasn't as hard hitting as most would have liked, especially the more than 12,000 fans that showed up for the event. The crowd was raucous, the players were lively and the coaches were vocal.
The Bears this afternoon waived kicker Dave Teggart and signed cornerback Jeremy Ware. The 5-10, 181-pound Ware appeared in eight games for the Raiders in 2010 after being selected by Oakland in the seventh round (215th overall) of the draft that year. He recorded one tackle, one interception and three passes defensed in those eight contests. He was waived by the Raiders after training camp in 2011.
Ware is really nothing more than another camp body.
Newly acquired DT Brian Price passed his physical and can begin practicing with the team on Wednesday of next week.
WR Devin Hester did not practice after suffering a minor ankle injury in yesterday's practice. Coach Lovie Smith said Hester should return tomorrow.
WR Brandon Marshall went down during positional drills with an apparent knee injury. He was looked at by trainers for about five minutes before returning to the field. He finished the practice and did not appear injured.
WR Joseph Anderson left the field about halfway through practice. I'm told he was not feeling well, possibly a cramp.
News and notes from Day 3
-Brandon Marshall put on a show for the enormous crowd. He made plays all over the field during every drill. In 1-on-1s, Marshall was dominating CB Charles Tillman. In the team portion of practice, Marshall was dangerous on underneath routes as well as downfield. He made a great catch and run for a touchdown during 11-on-11s, which sent the crowed into a frenzy. He also made a beautiful one-handed grab on a crossing route.
What you notice – and this shouldn't come as much of a surprise – is that Marshall is almost always QB Jay Cutler's first read. Their chemistry and timing truly stands out. Cutler looks much more comfortable having Marshall on the field. Those two are poised for a special season.
-Just as impressive today was WR Earl Bennett. His route running is off the charts. His cuts are crisp and clean, and he accelerates quickly out of his breaks. No defender could cover him in 1-on-1 drills and he was a weapon in the team portions as well.
That said, we did find out tonight that Bennett is human. During the two-minute drills, he ran a vertical route just outside the right hash. Cutler made a beautiful pass, threading the needle between defenders, and hit Bennett in stride. Yet, for possibly the first time all offseason, Bennett dropped the pass. It was a rare sight indeed.
-Rookie DE Shea McClellin – who has been working mainly with the third team up to this point – was inserted with the second team today. He rotated on both sides of the line, getting reps in place of both Chauncey Davis and Corey Wootton.
It only took three practices for McClellin to move up the depth chart. The move likely was made due to his efforts in 1-on-1 drills, which were a pleasure to watch now that the lineman have pads on. McClellin showed great burst and active hands.
We finally got a chance to see what he's made of and, for one practice at least, he was very impressive. During team drills, he was twice able to get a hand on a pass at the line of scrimmage, knocking the ball to the ground, demonstrating great awareness.
-The team ran a special teams drill today that I've never seen before. Two players lined up facing the same direction, one about five yards in front of the other. At the whistle, both players sprinted forward. After five yards, the player in front would turn around and block the player trailing. It was a punt return drill that gets players used to sprinting one direction, then having to quickly turn and make a block.
During those drills, the player that stood out was rookie S Brandon Hardin. He is solid as a rock and has a ton of strength. Every time he got his hands on the trailing player, it was over. He was consistently able to square up and make the block. Hardin is going to be a huge addition on special team and, whenever he finally learns the safety position, could be a long-term starter on the back end.
-During punt return drills, rookie Greg McCoy took reps as the first team returner. He showed great speed and field vision. He looks very comfortable in that role.
-WR Alshon Jeffery got the majority of the reps in place of Hester, although Eric Weems also saw plenty of action with the first team.
-For the third practice in a row, QB Matt Blanchard was awful. He made one nice throw that I saw but the rest were subpar. At this point, it appears his chances of making the team are very slim.
-TE Evan Rodriguez made a number of nice plays tonight, working intermediate routes and inside vertical patterns. His hands are super soft and he has surprising speed. He's a matchup nightmare for opposing linebackers and should be able to exploit those matchups on game day.
-During line drills, I paid close attention to Chris Williams and J'Marcus Webb, the two players battling for the starting left tackle gig. I was impressed with both, yet Williams gets the edge. He appears slightly quicker out of his stance and doesn't struggle with inside moves like Webb. In my mind, Williams is the preliminary frontrunner.
-DE Thaddeus Gibson looked good during 1-on-1s. He's quick off the edge and was repeatedly beating the team's backup offensive tackles. He's buried on the depth chart right now, so it's hard to gauge how well he can perform against starters. But if he continues to play at a high level, the club will be forced to see how he handles himself against the ones.
-DE Corey Wootton also was a force off the edge during 1-on-1s. He's very explosive. He looked great last year before the injuries, so this is a good sign.
-G Ricky Henry was awful during 1-on-1 drills. He just does not have the strength to anchor inside and was driven backward repeatedly.
-Two interesting play calls of note. The first was an empty backfield set – one of the first empty backfields I've seen all offseason – that ended up being a QB draw with Cutler.
The second was a naked bootleg that turned into a tight end screen with Rodriguez. Coordinator Mike Tice is really opening up the playbook, showing a lot of creativity.
-Lovie Smith was giving WR Eric Weems love all night. Weems runs good routes out of the slot and made some nice grabs. When the head coach is singling you out, you know you're doing something right.
**Programming note: I filmed almost every snap during the linemen 1-on-1 drills and will be cutting those up for videos in the next few days.**
Follow me on Twitter: @BearReport
Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of BearReport.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. To read him every day, visit BearReport.com and become a Chicago Bears insider.