Chicago Bears: Midway Through Bourbonnais, Some Bears Have Made a Stand

Gene ChamberlainCorrespondent IAugust 10, 2010

BOURBONNAIS, IL - JULY 30: Rashied Davis #81 of the Chicago Bears runs after catching a pass during a summer training camp practice at Olivet Nazarene University on July 30, 2010 in Bourbonnais, Illinois.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images


The Bears reached the halfway point of their Bourbonnais portion of training camp with plenty of surprises, considering the veteran status of their roster.

Some players who figured prominently into this year's plans have begun to slip. Others buried on the roster and seemingly clinging to a spot have dramatically risen to the top.

Here is first-person assessment of what's happened so far in Bourbonnais.

Turning heads

  • Guard Lance Louis hardly had his name mentioned in organized team activities, but offensive line coach Mike Tice put him in the starting lineup and moved six-year Bears starting right guard Roberto Garza to left guard just to make room. Louis has hit the weight room and beefed up to 305 pounds of muscle, while showing the agility to pull and block.
  • Wide receiver Devin Aromashodu has taken advantage of the groin injury suffered by Devin Hester and done everything asked of him. While it's unlikely he could dislodge Hester, who is thought of by coach Lovie Smith as a No. 1 receiver, Aromashodu makes the three-receiver sets formidable and has climbed well beyond others at his position.  Hester is back now, having returned Tuesday morning to practice, and Aromashodu's reps will be cut.
  • Wide receiver Rashied Davis. This one is a stunner, but Davis always enjoys proving people wrong. The special teamer/receiver is listed the backup to starting wide receiver Johnny Knox on the first depth chart. Davis rarely does anything wrong, and although he doesn't seem to have the blazing speed Mike Martz likes in his receivers, he does enough to get open while continuing to look strong on coverage units.  "I play special teams and I try to be whatever the team needs me to be in whatever moment it is," Davis said.
  • Safety Craig Steltz. Two seasons of mediocrity have given way to a training camp where Steltz is the only safety consistently picking off passes. If it's an overthrow, Steltz is there and doesn't drop it. If it's a well-thrown ball, he's usually in position to at least disrupt the receiver's attempt at the catch. It certainly hasn't hurt him that Major Wright, Danieal Manning, Chris Harris, and Josh Bullocks have all been injured at times during camp. With them out, Steltz is always getting second-team snaps at the very least, and much of the time first-team snaps. At least the Bears will have a deeper safety corps, and that's nothing to sniff at because they've always had a problem keeping safeties healthy.
  • Defensive end Jarron Gilbert. His face was on the milk carton last year and now it's looking like it could eventually be on the Wheaties box. Gilbert moved late in OTAs from tackle to end and the first depth chart listed him as backup to Julius Peppers, ahead of Corey Wootton. Coach Lovie Smith said as camp opened that Gilbert was an "in-between guy size-wise who can go inside or outside and just needs to whatever he can to be on the field and get reps." The plan is to use Gilbert as backup end or even try him inside in obvious pass rush situations.
  • Cornerback Tim Jennings. The former Colt is only 5'8" but it doesn't prevent him from getting in the grill of a receiver. He's a pretty fair one-on-one corner despite his size and ideal as the team's third corner.

Dropping stock

  • Wide receiver Earl Bennett. Bennett never caught a pass in 2008 as he struggled to grasp the offense. Whether he's struggling with this offense or is simply behind because he missed some of the off-season work due to arthroscopic knee surgery, there's no doubt he has made little impact. The depth chart lists him as a fourth-string receiver one year after he made 54 catches for 717 yards. If not for the quad injury that set back Juaquin Iglesias earlier in camp, Bennett might be far down the list. There is still question as to whether his style—a possession guy more than a speed receiver—fits into this offense.
  • Safety Al Afalava. This might be shocking if the Bears hadn't acquired safety help, but it is still somewhat surprising to see a player who started 13 games in 2009 listed as the fourth-string free safety. Afalava seems more suited to strong safety because of his hitting ability.
  • Linebacker Nick Roach. When camp started Roach took all the first-team snaps at strong side linebacker. Pisa Tinoisamoa started getting first-team snaps about five days into camp and hasn't come out of the spot. Roach is solid and can provide good backup help, so his roster spot doesn't seem to be in jeopardy. However, the more Tinoisamoa plays with the first team, the less likely he's going to give it up.
  • Guard Johan Asiata. The darling of OTAs is now providing backup help at guard. Whether or not he remains wit the team is uncertain because they have an experienced guard who is a backup center, as well, in Josh Beekman. It becomes a matter of how many offensive linemen they keep.
  • Guard/center Josh Beekman. He seemed in command early on in camp, but Louis' rise to prominence has left Beekman looking more like the team's center of the future than a possible starter at left guard.



Watch out for ...

  • In preseason games, some players stand out who hadn't done anything in scrimmages. Here's a list of players who've flashed some potential and could be making big plays in the charades known as preseason contests.Wide receiver Greg Mathews. The undrafted free agent out of Michigan got off to a slow start, but made the catch of camp on Monday with a diving, fingertip snare of Dan LeFevour's pass. The 6'2", 209-pounder put together three straight outstanding multi-catch scrimmages and likely will get a chance to show more against the Chargers in the second half Saturday.
  • Running back Kahlil Bell. He produced a 72-yard run on his first carry last year, and in camp has made sharp cuts while keeping a good, physical edge.  A running back spot on the roster may be between Bell and Garrett Wolfe. The passing game is Wolfe's forte, but Bell is definitely the tougher back.
  • Cornerback Woodny Turenne. He is possibly the team's fastest defensive player and usually surfaces during preseason games when his natural ability can give him an edge over some players who are on the fringe of opposing rosters.

He's back

Tackle Frank Omiyale hasn't had another false start penalty since his early skittish bout. Also, his pass blocking seems to have improved as it's rare when someone comes off the right end and has a shot at the passer.