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Chicago training-camp notebook

Knox shines at Bears' practice

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Recent posts by Eric Edholm

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Posted Aug. 12, 2010 @ 5 p.m. ET
By Eric Edholm

BOURBONNAIS, Ill. — After the roughly 265-mile drive following Rams practice in the morning, I stepped out of my car yesterday afternoon and headed straight to Bears practice.

I got there a few minutes early, with enough time along the way to get gas, grab a bite to eat and pull over on the side of the road to do a phone interview with Cowboys CB Mike Jenkins. Good guy, by the way.

Didn't think it could be as hot here as it was in Missouri, but it was damned close. And though the crowd yesterday was reported to be one of the smaller ones at Olivet Nazarene since camp opened, it was much larger than what the Rams drew on a steamy morning.

The pace of Bears practice was a little slower than I expected, but it picked up. I paid close attention to Mike Martz and the wide receiver, working on perfecting their route depths and precision. He appeared to like what he saw from Johnny Knox, Devin Hester and Devin Aromashodu in receiver drills, although there were a few corrections along the way, as you can imagine.

They cut things just a little short, maybe by 15 minutes, because of the extreme heat. And I thank them for that.

Here were a few other things I spotted at camp:

  • Knox is quickly becoming a fan favorite and watching him early on Wednesday, I am becoming a fan, too. I think Martz also likes him. Knox runs clean, smooth routes and gets in and out of his breaks well. I was thinking of which former Martz receiver he reminds me most of, and the guys I came up with — Mike Furrey and Az Hakim — well, Knox is better than both, I believe. Plus, he might look like those guys, body-wise, or run similar patterns, but he's also a deep threat who can play on the outside. I think he's going to have a really nice season.
  • TE Richard Angulo, who at 6-foot-8 is one of nine Bears on the roster I counted who were 6-6 or taller (this has to be an NFL high), dropped a really nice touch pass over the middle from QB Caleb Hanie. Angulo has some NFL skills, but he's at a very crowded TE position and can't afford these kinds of mistakes. It was a ball he should have caught.
  • QB Jay Cutler's best pass of the afternoon (it was a subpar practice for him overall, I thought) was to RB Matt Forté on a gorgeous seam route. Cutler led Forté over his shoulder perfectly, hitting him in stride between the two safeties playing cover-2. it's right where the ball had to be in that spot. Seeing Cutler make throws like this reminds you he can be special, but I still get a little frustrated watching him struggle at times.
  • CB Joshua Moore got reamed out for not knowing down and distance when he played off coverage instead of press in situational team drills. The rookie looks athletic but still has some learning to do, apparently.
  • CB D.J. Moore, who is trying to crack the lineup in his second season, was beat by Knox on a corner route, but Moore responded (just as the whistle blew) by popping the ball loose. That will win you points here. The Bears' coaches, maybe as much as any team in the NFL, emphasize going for takeaways. You can see it in almost every drill they do with DBs and receivers, especially.
  • Strangest play of the day: Hanie underthrew WR Freddie Barnes (who had fallen down while running his route) on a deep out route, and the ball was tipped by a defender (couldn't see who). Barnes got his balance and made the catch, but only for a split second before S Josh Bullocks came in and swiped away the ball in one swift motion. Bullocks then ran it back for a would-be pick-six.
  • On the next play in practice, S Chris Harris made a sprawling, over-the-shoulder interception. His teammates mobbed him for the exceptional play. Harris, when he's healthy, is a good safety.
  • Hester made his best catch of the day, leaping to grab a high pass from Cutler in front of Harris, who was late to get over. Nice play by Hester.
  • S Craig Steltz sniffed out a throwback screen nicely and was in a position to make the tackle had there been tackling. That earned him a hearty "attaboy" from the coaches.

Sorry for not much focus on the defensive or offensive linemen. (Or the linebackers or tight ends, for that matter.) They were gathered on another part of the field away from me during individual drills, and there were few standout plays by these groups that I saw in the team stuff.

DE Julius Peppers compared OLT Chris Williams to his former Panthers teammate Jordan Gross but said Williams was a little stronger than Gross but maybe a tad less in terms of foot quickness at this point. It was interesting to hear because some people feel Williams is more of the athletic type and less of the bull-strong guy.

OK, that's it for now.

 

Check out Eric Edholm's "Around the NFL" blog, updated daily.

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