The Bears began Phase II of their offseason practices with their first OTA on Tuesday. For the first time, the team was able to do 11-on-11 drills, but without pads.
Here are some of the observations from our Chicago Football staff from the first of six practices open to the media before the team heads off to Bourbonnais:
• While all eyes were on Jay Cutler at the Bears first OTA of the 2014 season, Jordan Palmer made some very impressive throws in his reps with the second team, and appears to have the feel of a veteran settling into the backup role. Matt Forte with tongue firmly planted in cheek said of Palmer, "He's got a good arm and you know obviously he's a quarterback guru or something like that, he's been on ESPN coaching up Blake Bortles and stuff. " Forte did add, "He's got some good physical tools out there where he can make different types of throws that are required of him, so it'll be an exciting time for him to be able to step up into that role and it's on him to see how well he does."
• The Shea McClellin watch will continue non-stop through training camp and into the regular season but this much is clear already from just one OTA. By all outward appearances his attitude and mental approach to the game and the media haven't changed a bit. He looks like a different player thanks to his new offseason workout regimen, but he is still almost painfully shy, extremely frugal with his words and not about to make any grand proclamations.
• Lance Briggs was very gracious with his time with the media after practice and took on all questions, seeming energized by the defense's personnel makeover and ready to put 2013 behind him. But he did appear to bristle ever-so-slightly at the question of what changes he expects to be made to the defensive scheme this year.
• We got a glimpse of the new-look Bears defensive line in terms of personnel: Lamarr Houston and Jared Allen at ends, with Stephen Paea and Jeremiah Ratliff on the inside. That was the base defensive line, with M.D. Jennings and Ryan Mundy getting the nod as the No. 1 safeties.
• When the Bears had their No. 2 defense on the field, Shea McClellin not only got some experience at the middle linebacker spot, but he also was calling out the play.
• McClellin wasn’t the only one looking svelte and in great shape at his position — Khaseem Greene also appeared to have slimmed down from his rookie season.
• With D.J. Williams absent, undrafted rookie Christian Jones got to run a bit with the second-team defense, important reps for a player who looks the part but still has plenty of work to do in the next few months to make the roster.
• I’m always looking at special teams, and the “first-team” field goal unit had Chad Rempel snapping and Tress Way holding. Rookie punter Patrick O’Donnell was the holder and Brandon Hartson snapped for the second group.
• In D.J. Williams’ absence, Jon Bostic was playing "Mike" with the first team defense alongside Shea McClellin and Lance Briggs.
• Backup tight end is a position to watch this summer, and the play of the day came from one of the competitors, Zach Miller, who made a nice grab on a throw down the seam from Jay Cutler.
• Several receivers struggled with their footing early in positional drills. Martellus Bennett - not one to be shy about sharing his feelings - openly relayed his frustration with the grass on the practice field. Alshon Jeffery slipped twice early, and Domenik Hixon tore his ACL after running a route on the left sideline.
• Jerrod Johnson would seem to be the odd man out in a crowded QB room, and his play during 7-on-7's wasn't sharp, with several errant throws.
• The arrival of third-round RB Ka'Deem Carey largely overshadowed the free-agent signing of veteran Shaun Draughn — and Draughn practiced on Tuesday like a player who doesn't want to be ignored in the backup RB competition. He was running hard and turned upfield quickly after one catch in the scrimmage portion of practice.