Overall, the Bears first training camp practice was a typical first day: sloppy! Its unacceptable for coaches and players, and frustrating for fans, but its to be expected. The players havent practiced together for over six weeks. Give it a few days and some initial sloppy play will start to clean up.
Simple things like quarterback-center exchange, offsides and dropped passes were the culprit Thursday. These letdowns typically result from players who are more focused on beating their assigned defender rather than accomplishing the totality of their assignment.
For example, yesterday there were three or four fumbled snaps. The center had a reach block, where he had to snap the ball and then wall off the defensive tackle who already out leveraged the center by defensive alignment in the A-gap (gap between center and guard). It is a very difficult block where most right-handed snappers tend to leave the snap short because they have to snap the ball then bust tail to get hand position with their right hand to the outside armpit of the defensive tackle. It is even harder if the defense tackle is slanting away at the snap of the ball.
Dropped passes normally are a lack of concentration, but yesterday you could physically see the receivers focusing on their route stems to set up the cornerbacks and safeties. Precision route-running is fundamental technique, but they have to finish their assignment by catching the ball coming out of their breaks. When the stem isnt correct, it throws off the timing of the route when the receiver expects the ball. Both Jay Cutler and Jason Campbell were communicating constantly with the wide receivers after every play in one-on-ones versus defensive backs and also during team period. It wasnt entirely the fault of the receivers; the quarterbacks were to blame also. Timing routes will take time to perfect.
Everyone knows the left tackle position is going to be a battle. JMarcus Webb quickly found that out when he jumped offside during practice that Chris Williams will be coming in the very next play. A little pressure never hurt anyone. If Webb cant handle competing for the job with no pads, then how is he going to handle the pressure of a meaningful game when its all on the line for the Bears? Every training camp snap matters for each of these two players and why the smallest mistake will get you replaced the very next play. The Bears coaches want perfection. Whichever player grades out higher will be the starting left tackle out of camp. In Webbs defense, he was flying off the ball to kick out block Julius Peppers, who had better position than Webb on the play called. Webbs eagerness is commended, but the penalty is not. The coaches will ride both Webb and Williams to get it right.
Saturdays practice will be the first practice in pads. Fans will enjoy the hitting, but the sloppiness will continue as the players adjust and settle back into what will be their normal working environment. The Bears must clean up this routine if they have hopes of playing in February.