BOURBONNAIS, Ill. — Ten things you need to know from Sunday’s Bears practice at Olivet Nazarene University:
1. David Bass still looks like he belongs in a 3-4 defense. The former 4-3 defensive end had a good offseason transitioning to a 3-4 linebacker, but looks can be deceiving when the pads aren’t on. The Bears have only been in pads for two days in Bourbonnais, but Bass still looks promising as an outside backer in Vic Fangio’s 3-4 defense.
“I’m still getting adjusted,” he said Sunday. “It’s my first time playing outside linebacker. But just getting back into pads, we haven’t in pads since last year vs. the Vikings so that’s good to finally hit and compete and get used to moving back around with the pads on.”
Bass looked especially impressive in Sunday’s 1-on-1 drills, blowing by right tackle Jordan Mills on back-to-back snaps. Once the pads go on, 1-on-1s between the offensive line and defensive line are one of the more valuable drills of training camp, but they have a different vibe this year now that 3-4 edge rushers are involved.
“I’m just in a two-point stance,” Bass said. “We’re still getting off, we’re still trying to get to the quarterback. So same goal, we just alter our stance a little bit, and depending on if it’s nickel or not I still have the ability to get down in a three-point stance.”
2. The biggest test for all the players converting to linebacker will be coverage responsibilities. That’s another area where Bass has stood out. In fact, even when he was a 4-3 defensive end, he had a knack for getting into passing lanes.
“Just getting used to knowing where I’m at, who I’ve got when I’m back there in coverage,” Bass said. “Like I said, it’s my first time at outside backer so I’m just trying to make everything second nature.”
That’s why practice reps are so important right now for guys like Bass, Jared Allen and Willie Young, three former defensive ends who have never played outside linebacker. And that’s a big reason why Allen showed up for the Bears’ voluntary minicamp earlier this spring, something he admitted he probably would have skipped in the past. As for Young? He still hasn’t been able to participate in team drills coming off his torn Achilles.
3. There’s a good chance a big name linebacker is going to get cut. There’s simply more names than there are spots. At most, Vic Fangio could keep 10 linebackers, but eight or nine seems more likely. So let’s say Christian Jones, Mason Foster, Shea McClellin and Jon Bostic all make the team as inside linebackers. Even if the Bears keep five outside guys, one of these names has to go: Pernell McPhee, Lamarr Houston, Jared Allen, Sam Acho, Willie Young or David Bass. McPhee and Houston aren’t going anywhere and it’s unlikely Allen would be let go given his contract. Meanwhile, Acho is on a one-year deal, but he also has extensive 3-4 experience.
Frankly, it’s way too early to sort this mess out, but I’m going to be keeping a close eye on Bostic and Young, two players still limited with injuries.
4. And then there’s Kyle Woestman, an undrafted linebacker out of Vanderbilt. Not only has Woestmann received some top-line reps in training camp so far, but he also has extensive 3-4 experience and could be a valuable special teamer. Every year a couple undrafted rookies separate themselves in camp, and he’s off to a decent start.
5. Alshon Jeffery briefly left practice Sunday with a shoulder sprain. Head coach John Fox said it was a “slight” sprain and Jeffery quickly returned to practice.
6. Defensive end Jarvis Jenkins also left practice briefly Sunday after dislocating his finger. He was carted back to the locker room where they popped it back in and then brought him back out to practice.
7. Kyle Fuller and Jeffery had a great battle on Sunday. Early in team drills, Fuller had a really nice breakup on Jeffery on a pass down the left sideline. Jay Cutler put up a good ball and Jeffery high-pointed it, but on the way down Fuller got his hand in there and ripped it out. Later, during red zone work, Jeffery got revenge, beating Fuller on a dig route for a touchdown.
8. Left tackle Jermon Bushrod was full-go after sitting out Saturday’s practice. He’s a veteran who dealt with a back issue during the offseason so don’t be surprised if he’s limited here and there throughout the preseason.
9. Fox didn’t have much of an update on David Fales’ unknown illness. Fales is on the non-football illness list with something the Bears say isn’t serious.
“It’s an illness where the doctors don’t want him moving around a whole bunch until he heals. I can’t predict exactly when he is going to be out there but he’s progressing as expected,” Fox said.
The quarterback play, outside of Cutler, has been very underwhelming so far in camp and there could be somewhat of an opportunity for Fales to push for the backup job. The sooner he gets back, the better.
10. It was a family affair in Bourbonnais Sunday. John Fox had his family attend practice, while Cutler spent some time with wife Kristin Cavallari and their two boys on the field after practice.