With their seven training camp practice (fifth in pads), the Bears moved a day closer to their preseason opener next Thursday, which is about the only definitive thing you can say about any training camp practice at this point. Here are some highlights of Thursday’s practice:
1. Shea McClellin takes a step forward.
The rookie defensive end from Boise State had his most impressive practice yet, making a leaping interception of a Jason Campbell screen pass in 11-on-11 drills and winning his share of pass-rush battles. When the Bears put their second- and third-team players in a live-contact drill at the end of practice, they threw starter J’Marcus Webb at left tackle and McClellin clearly beat him for a virtual sack on Webb’s first play.
2. Marcus Webb looks like the winner.
It wasn’t a bad day for Webb. He took first-team reps at left tackle for the third consecutive day — an indication he is at least the clear leader in his battle with Chris Williams for the starting job at that position. Williams again rotated with Gabe Carimi at right tackle and then took second-team reps at right tackle as well. Allowing Webb to grow at right tackle while preparing Williams for a swing role as a backup tackle seems like the obvious plan for the Bears. As a handyman, Williams is an upgrade over Frank Omiyale.
3. Brian Urlacher, Devin Hester out.
Brian Urlacher, who missed Wednesday’s practice with soreness in the left knee he injured in Week 17 last season against the Vikings, missed most of practice Thursday. Coach Lovie Smith didn’t seem concerned, but it bears watching when Urlacher already is missing practices after one week of camp — especially considering the Bears had Monday off. Wide receiver Devin Hester ”was excused” from practice, which presumably means his absence was not because of an injury. Wide receiver Eric Weems missed his second consecutive practice with a leg injury.
4. Brandon Marshall, Lance Briggs make big plays.
Brandon Marshall made the offensive play of the day with a one-handed grab of a deep ball from Jay Cutler for an apparent touchdown near the front corner of the end zone. On the following play, Lance Briggs stepped in front of Marshall to intercept a Cutler pass, aggressively taking it “to the house” in the non-contact 11-on-11 drill.
5. Bits and pieces.
Among the other players who made plays Thursday were RB Armando Allen, who caught a deep pass from Jason Campbell on a wheel route. Allen continues to look good in his bid to beat out Kahlil Bell for the No. 3 running back spot. … WR Dane Sanzenbacher continued to show off his versatility with receptions on a variety of plays. … But undrafted rookie WR Brittan Golden, who has stood out among the “unknown” receivers in camp, made a couple of nice plays again Thursday, including a juggling catch vs. tight coverage. … With Urlacher out, Nick Roach played in the middle more often than not. Second-year MLB Dom DeCicco continues to work with the second unit. Brandon Venson, a rookie tight end from Illinois State and a longshot with Kellen Davis, Matt Spaeth, Evan Rodriguez and Kyle Adams ahead of him, made a nice catch, took a hit and bounced off for a big gain in the live-contact drill between reserves at the end of practice.