Former Bears guard and longtime radio analyst Tom Thayer answers questions from ChicagoBears.com about what he's seen in training camp and the preseason:
What has impressed you most about the Bears in their first two preseason games?
"The lack of pre-snap penalties. When you have a false start, an offsides or another penalty on first down, it decreases your chances of picking up a first down and makes your offense supremely ineffective. So what I've been most impressed with in the first two games has been the little details of mistake-free football."
What has stood out to you about the way the Bears practice?
"The speed that's required out of the players in individual periods. Doing the drill at full speed, it's more game-like in the way you're going to use your body—plus there's an aspect of conditioning that goes along with it that gets in you better shape mentally and physically. For example, I was watching the defensive line go through individual drills a couple weeks ago. They had 144 reps. That's divided by the amount of guys they have. But every single one of those reps was full speed. It really pays dividends because it's more realistic. And when you do what your job requires at full speed in individual, it makes you more confident when you're doing them against another body in a team-type effort, whether it's in games or practices."
A couple months ago, you said during a radio interview that Teven Jenkins' best opportunity to succeed could be at right guard. How well do you think he's fared at that position in practice and with the starting unit last Saturday in Seattle?
"I like what I've seen out of him. He displays power. He's got good footwork. He knows how to work stunts along with the tackle and the center. He gets to the second level well. On the outside zone play, he's got enough athleticism to pull. And I do think the more inclusion you feel from the coaches and from your teammates, the more of a positive mental attitude you have going out every day to practice. Now you're high-fiving guys; you're not standing off by yourself. Now you're included in every aspect inside the huddle. Plus the more he plays right guard, the more it's going to benefit him to be a backup right tackle. So I think you're killing two birds with one stone by getting him important reps to allow him to compete as a starter at right guard."
Having played right guard throughout your NFL career, you're an expert on the position. Why did you think Jenkins could play there?
"You recognize traits of players, you see that they display enough athleticism where they belong at an NFL level competing. I never thought it was a foregone conclusion that he was going to come in here and take over the left tackle position. But I did think he could come in here and start at right tackle or right guard. Whenever you're under balance and you feel confidence in your stance, you feel confidence in your job requirements, and I think that's what he's displayed to me all along. And I think that [offensive line coach] Chris Morgan is the right man to [develop Jenkins]. He didn't necessarily think of this as a narrow-minded opportunity. He thought, 'let's explore his traits and see if they're developmental enough to move him around to another position outside of tackle.'"
What examples of the "HITS" principle that coach Matt Eberflus is infusing have you seen from the Bears defense this summer?
"First of all, hustling fast to put yourself in position to make the play, and then when you're in position to make the play, fundamentally doing what's required of you. Matt talks about the fundamental principle to tackling. After the first preseason game when [cornerback] Lamar Jackson missed a tackle on fullback Michael Burton on an out pattern, the next practice I saw Matt talking to Lamar about the tackling fundamentals that they want these guys to practice. It's about running as hard as you possibly can to get yourself in the fundamental tackling position they're requiring out of you."
Who's an under-the-radar player who has impressed you?
"I would say Dante Pettis. When you watch him in practice, he catches punts with such ease. He's never fighting the flight of the football. The punt is a big play because there can be a huge yardage difference, if you get a good punt return or you bobble the ball. If you look at Pettis as a receiver, I think he can come in and provide a little bit of depth and be part of the rotation."