One of the weak links of the Bears last season was red-zone offense.
So far in training camp, the Bears look much, much better. During practice Friday night at Soldier Field — with 27,352 fans in attendance — Jay Cutler looked sharp in the red zone. At one point, he was five-for-five on passes, including a perfect touchdown to receiver Brandon Marshall. He led Marshall, who was defended by safety Chris Conte and linebacker Lance Briggs, toward the goal post. The ball zipped just over Briggs’ arm.
The window was small, and Marshall had to make a tricky catch.
It’s hard to be critical of the way Conte and Briggs defended the play. It’s one of those plays where you just have to tip your hat to the quarterback for making a brilliant throw and the receiver for making a touch catch.
Cutler also completed passes to Matt Forte and Michael Bush.
Asked if there are more red-zone weapons, Smith said, “There are.
“You start off with our receivers. A lot of time it comes down to a jumpball down there. Alshon Jeffery, good height. Of course Brandon Marshall, Kellen Davis, we’ve got some good players that can make plays down there. And once you get down there you need to get touchdowns.
“That’s why we spent a lot of time down there [Friday night].”
Here are some other practice observations:
* Conte did well to break up a Cutler pass for Earl Bennett in the middle of the field.
* Undrafted rookie James Brown got most of the second-team snaps at left tackle and fared well against rookie defensive end Shea McClellin in one-on-one drills.
* Matt Toeaina got some first-team snaps at nose tackle, while newcomer Geno Hayes filled in at strongside linebacker with Nick Roach swinging over to middle linebacker. Brian Urlacher missed another day of practice because of knee soreness. Smith said he expects Urlacher back this week.
* Special teams looked outstanding, with Robbie Gould making field goals and Earl Bennett scoring on a punt return. Devin Thomas also appeared to score on a kickoff return.
* The field was in perfect condition. Remarkably, the sod hasn’t been changed since the end of the season.