By Adam Hoge-
BOURBONNAIS (CBS) Only four padded practices into training camp, we’re starting to see some interesting developments at both offensive tackle positions.
The Bears have been rotating J’Marcus Webb’s and Chris Williams’ reps with the No. 1 line every other day, but that changed Wednesday. It was Williams’ day for No. 1 reps at left tackle, but instead he took No. 1 reps at right tackle.
That’s surprising for two reasons: 1) It indicates that Webb has a strong leg-up on the competition at left tackle and 2) It raises the question of Gabe Carimi’s job security at right tackle.
Carimi told me the coaches were just trying to give him a break Wednesday, but head coach Lovie Smith later said that time off is built into the schedule with the new CBA requiring a day off every five days. The Bears just had a day off Monday. Carimi is coming off a dislocated knee that cost him most of last season.
It’s entirely possible the Bears were giving Carimi a break earlier in practice, but the second-year tackle was clearly benched in the two-minute drill towards the end of Wednesday’s session. Israel Idonije got past Carimi on the outside and knocked the ball out of quarterback Jay Cutler’s hand as he reached back to throw. Henry Melton snatched the ball in the air and ran it back for a touchdown. Chris Williams immediately came in for Carimi and spent the rest of the series with the 1s. Carimi then took the reps with the No. 2s during their two-minute drill.
Ultimately, it would be surprising if Carimi did not start the season at right tackle, but Wednesday’s developments are an indication that the Bears are pushing him with some competition. Tuesday was not Carimi’s best day of practice, despite an otherwise solid camp.
Giving Williams reps at right tackle is also a result of what’s going on at left tackle too. Not only is Webb winning the competition so far, but the Bears also really like undrafted free agent James Brown from Troy. At 6-4, 306, Brown is nowhere near as big as Webb (6-7, 333), but he moves well and has impressed so far in camp. Brown took the No. 2 reps at left tackle Wednesday while Webb took all of the No. 1 reps.
After practice, both Webb and Lovie Smith said the competition at left tackle is not over, and Smith cautioned about making too much of Wednesday’s developments.
Williams could very well be back on the left side tomorrow. We need to see how it all plays out. And that’s exactly what we’ll do.
Here are some other notes from Wednesday’s practice:
Paea Pushing Toeaina
Defensive tackle Stephen Paea has received an increased amount of reps with the No. 1s the last two days, especially in the two-minute drill. Lovie Smith said he has seen a noticeable improvement in Paea since last season, something he said you should see from a guy entering his second year in the league.
Smith also likes what he’s seen from defensive end Corey Wootton, who clearly can contribute more if he can stay healthy.
Price Doesn’t Finish
A day after being manhandled by offensive linemen, new Bears defensive tackle Brian Price didn’t finish practice Wednesday. He was standing on the sideline with his pads off towards the end. Clearly, conditioning is an issue.
Play Of The Day
I referenced it before, but the play of the day goes to the defense. Idonije beat Carimi and swatted the ball out of Cutler’s hand. Melton showed good awareness by snatching it in the air, eliminating any issues about whether or not it was a fumble or an incomplete pass. The play came in the two-minute drill and resulted in a defensive touchdown.
Brian Urlacher missed Wednesday’s practice because the left knee he injured last season was sore. Not exactly a good sign, but also nothing serious. There’s not much for No. 54 to learn in training camp at this point of his career so the Bears are going to be cautious when they can. Wide receiver Eric Weems was also not on the field a day after being banged up with an ankle injury.
For more coverage from Bears training camp, follow Adam on Twitter at @AdamHogeCBS.