As we edge ever closer to the start of the NFL season and Week 1 against Green Bay, the Bears are officially wrapping up 2018’s training camp with a pair of joint practices on August 15 and 16 with the Denver Broncos before the two meet at Mile High Stadium on Saturday.
These practices have come as a welcome change of pace for Matt Nagy and the Chicago Bears after practicing against themselves for the past several weeks in Bourbonnais.
While the Bears and Broncos played each other last preseason, there are a lot of new faces to watch out for on both sides, including recently signed Bears first-round pick Roquan Smith and Broncos OLB Bradley Chubb, who was drafted fifth overall.
The biggest news for Chicago had to be Smith partaking in his first public practice appearance, and that Allen Robinson will be getting his first preseason action in the upcoming game.
Also, it’s worth mentioning that fourth-round pick Joel “Iggy” Iyiegbuniwe practiced in full while linebacker Josh Woods and wideout Taylor Gabriel were held out.
With all that in mind, let’s look at how our Bears fared against the Denver Broncos during Wednesday’s practice.
The only one-on-ones that took place during camp today were wide receivers and defensive backs. During these drills, the offense dominated per usual. The two standouts during these drills were the Broncos’ Emmanuel Sanders and Bears’ rookie wideout Anthony Miller.
Sanders was matched up against Bears cornerback Kyle Fuller for these drills.
The first play was a fly route. Fuller had perfect positioning on him, but Sanders just made a better play, hauling in the pass for what would have been a touchdown. A couple snaps later, Fuller slipped coming out of his backpedal, crossed his feet, and flipped his hips too late. This resulted in Fuller ending up on his face and Sanders hauling in an easy catch.
Miller was matched up against multiple defensive backs during individual drills.
Early in it, Mitchell Trubisky was completing passes in very tight windows to Miller as well as other receivers. Miller consistently was able to plant his foot and create separation from the Broncos’ corners and even burned a couple of them for what would have been long run-after-catch touchdowns.
It wasn’t all pretty. Trubisky did overthrow Miller pretty badly on a deep ball and followed that up with an interception to Bradley Roby on a play that was flagged for offensive pass interference.
Team drills were very mixed for both the Bears and Broncos. On the first-team, Case Keenum had no issue completing slants, screens, and outs against the Bears’ secondary, but was unable to convert on any deep balls or posts.
Denver’s Von Miller and Bradley Chubb were held at bay for most of the day. There were no turnovers created by the unit. A victory for the Bears.
Trubisky consistently hit the deep ball, seam routes, dump offs, and slants. Tight end Trey Burton hauled in catch after catch, including an impressive touchdown on a post fade.
— Da Bears Brothers (@DaBearsBros) August 15, 2018
Danny Trevathan played incredibly well against the run and got in for what would have been two sacks. Leonard Floyd displayed explosiveness off the edge, drew a couple of holding penalties, and notched one sack. Jonathan Bullard took all of the first-team reps at the five-technique opposite Akiem Hicks, which puts to question on where Roy Robertson-Harris stands in this position battle.
For the second teams, new promoted backup Chad Kelly and the Broncos’ offense were unable to do anything against the Bears’ defense. The only turnover of the day came when Marcus Cooper stepped in front of a pass intended for the running back.
Bears rookie linebacker, Smith, did an excellent job of filling gaps, eating blockers, and covering the tight end. In addition to great play around the ball, Smith also showed an impressive ability to close on the ball carrier.
As the day wore on, he was also seen calling plays to the defense and adjusting at the line of scrimmage. Any worries Bears fans have had about him not getting up to speed fast enough should be hushed pretty quickly.
Some more notes on the Bears’ defense …
Kevin Tolliver and Michael Joseph were rotated in with the second string today. Both looked very solid, and Joseph, in particular, showed out. During red-zone drills, he came up with a couple of big pass breakups in the end zone on fade routes.
Now for the Bears second-string offense …
Chase Daniel dominated through the air against the Broncos’ second-string defense Wednesday. The day opened up with a long touchdown to Javon Wims. After that, Daniel consistently hit Daniel Brown, Adam Shaheen, and Ben Braunecker over the middle and down the seam. The Broncos let up several long plays due to busted coverages, and couldn’t seem to figure out who to cover.
No matter who the Bears put out on offense, the underneath route or the seam route was open every time.
Wims split time between the first and second team and showed that he belongs on this the final roster. He caught one deep touchdown and was able to use his size to muscle the ball away from defenders multiple times.
Daniel tried to hit him late in the day on a deep pass, and Wims made a fantastic adjustment to turn back towards the sideline and use his height to attack the ball. Unfortunately, the ball hit his hands and fell incomplete, but had he caught it the play would have been worthy of any top-10 highlight reel. The positive is that he beat his defender, turned, located that ball, and made the proper adjustment. With more practice, he could really develop into a promising target for this team.
While today was Allen Robinson’s first time out consistently with the first stringers, it was apparent that he has some work to do with the unit. His timing with Trubisky was definitely off, but this shouldn’t worry Bears fans. Timing from Trubisky to Miller, Burton, and Howard was consistent and looked like what it should. If Trubisky can catch on with the other guys as quickly as he has, Robinson should be up to speed in time for the regular season begins.
Prince Amukamara was sidelined with a hamstring injury today and it felt like the defense missed him. The turnovers we’d been seeing regularly in Bourbonnais were entirely absent in Dove Valley. Marcus Cooper started out filling in for Amukamara, but throughout practice, he was rotated out in favor of Doran Grant. Cooper struggled throughout practice, despite his interception. He was consistently beaten inside, outside, and over the top.
Cody Parkey missed several field goals today and also seemed like he was running out of gas on some of them. The holder for all of these kicks was Ryan Winslow, and it has been pointed out that all of Parkey’s misses this preseason have come with Winslow as the holder. It was especially strange to see some of these kicks running short at the end considering the thinner altitude in Denver, the ball should (in theory) fly a little better off his foot.
Wednesday was an excellent practice for the Bears. They showed out strong against a team that has experience winning football games, despite their record last season.
The offensive line held well against one of the game’s premier pass rushers and a unit that can get to the quarterback on what feels like any given play. Trubisky had some elite-level pinpoint passes against a very highly touted secondary. Plus, the Bears’ defense (without Amukamara) held strong against a very good wide receiver tandem.
There are a lot of positives to take away from today’s joint practice and Bears fans should be excited for a competitive game on Saturday. Expect to see a few flashes from this new offense, but it still feels like Matt Nagy is not tipping his hand too much before the games start to count.