The Bears held their fifth organized training activity (OTA) on Tuesday, and the second open to the media. Here are the observations from our Chicago Football staff from Halas Hall:
• The Martellus Bennett-Lamarr Houston skirmish may not have been as spontaneous as everyone seemed to think on the sidelines. I saw it coming several snaps earlier. Bennett was working the drill at OTA pace and Houston seemed to be going at game speed. After a couple of reps of that, Houston put a little move on Bennett to try and slip inside and penetrate the play. He got by Bennett, and Bennett held on, obviously expecting Houston to let up and Houston tried to power through and take Bennett's arm with him. Bennett wasn't just a bit upset, he really lost it. After it was over, and two snaps later, Aaron Kromer finally had to go over and pull Bennett aside and get him completely calmed down. Coming off the field after practice Bennett appeared part embarrassed and part still a bit annoyed. I'm sure there won't be any lasting issues, but it was definitely more intense than you want at an OTA.
• Jay Cutler appeared to be making a serious attempt to find his tight ends more, and Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery a tad less, both before and after the Bennett skirmish. Dante Rosario and Zach Miller in particular had nice days catching the ball. Wide receiver Josh Bellamy made a few very nice grabs as well.
• Shea McClellin spent part of the day as the "Sam" with the first unit but also spent a big chunk of practice as the "Mike" with the second team. It's interesting because neither of those situations would have anything to do with Lance Briggs being absent. In fact with Jon Bostic seemingly the clear backup at the "Will" you would expect McClellin to get more reps at the "Sam," not less. Christian Jones has a lot to learn but he's a good early camp favorite to watch as an UDFA with a great shot to make the club. He saw significant time at the "Will" as well.
• Brock Vereen closes very aggressively from his safety spot, a trait that haunted Chris Conte and Major Wright more often than it helped. Of course part of the reason for that was their Tampa-2 responsibilities and we expect the Bears to spend a lot less time in that scheme so it's possible Vereen is doing exactly what he's being coached to do. That will be very interesting to watch as we move into training camp.
• Was it my imagination or did David Fales throw a few more knuckleballs than you'd like today?
• Austen Lane may have as impressive a set of dreadlocks as I've ever seen on a D-lineman.
• It was a good sign to see Nate Collins working with defensive linemen in position drills, eight months removed from a torn ACL. He did not participate in 11-on-11's, but should be a rotational piece as a three-technique after showing flashes last season.
• With Charles Tillman absent, veteran Kelvin Hayden got some work as the outside corner in the Bears' base defense, not rookie Kyle Fuller. Hayden is a player to watch coming off a hamstring injury that ended his 2013 season in training camp last summer. He had a solid campaign as the nickel back in 2012.
• Rookie Will Sutton got important reps today as the three-technique in Jeremiah Ratliff's absence. Sutton has the potential, based on what we saw from him during his junior season at Arizona State, to be an impact player as a rookie.
• Joining Sutton with the 1's was Brock Vereen, who got starter reps at safety next to Ryan Mundy, in what will be the top position competition to watch this summer.
• The play of the day went to Alshon Jeffery. During 7-on-7's near the goal line, Jeffery went up and plucked a touchdown catch in a play that looked very familiar. It was a catch we saw often last season, where Jeffery shows off his hand and forearm strength to keep a defender from knocking the pass away.
• One of the few unresolved spots on offense is backup tight end. Zach Miller appeared to have the best day last week at the first open OTA, but today it was Dante Rosario’s turn to shine. Rosario made a number of impressive catches, threatening the seam and in the red zone. But he wasn’t able to corral a Cutler throw in traffic with M.D. Jennings draped on top of him.
• Jordan Lynch had a couple of nice runs near the end of 11-on-11’s, showing the vision and instincts general manager Phil Emery praised him for last month while finding creases in between the tackles. Working at running back hasn’t helped Lynch’s accuracy as a thrower; after his second positive run, he fired the ball back to his position coach, but it instead clunked the left shoulder of Zach Miller.
• In Jeremiah Ratliff’s absence, rookie tackle Will Sutton worked with the first stringers. D.J. Williams returned after last week’s absence to play middle linebacker, nearly coming up with a red-zone interception of Jay Cutler, and helping get his younger ‘backer mates lined up during positional drills. Williams was also quick to provide an icebreaker after the first offseason dustup, between Lamarr Houston and Martellus Bennett.
• The quarterbacks, as a whole, were more accurate than they were a week ago in the first day of organized team activity workouts. Cutler seemed to have more zip on his throws while rookie David Fales continued his development. The biggest improvement, however, may have come from Jerrod Johnson, who was much more on target Tuesday than he was a week ago when many of his throws sailed on him or he just flat out-threw intended receivers. Johnson made an impressive throw down the middle of the field, threading it through a pair of defenders – only to have the pass dropped.
• Former Northern Illinois star Jordan Lynch continues, for the most part, to be an observer. Lynch only had a few carries – both of which came near the end of Tuesday's practice. After being in the middle of NIU's offensive plans for the past two years, Lynch has been relegated to a spectator, putting into doubt his chances of making the Bears 53-man roster unless he emerges as a special teams performer.
• D.J. Williams went through linebacker drills as the first-team "Mike" linebacker, working in the middle of Khaseem Greene and Jonathan Bostic. Slimmed-down Shea McClellin, who got more reps in Williams' absence last week, worked as the No. 2 "Mike" linebacker, paired in drills with Jerry Franklin and Christian Jones. McClellin, who is making the transition from defensive end to linebacker, appeared to be more comfortable in his new role on Tuesday.