Second-year defensive tackle Stephen Paea continues to impress coaches enough to have earned extensive playing time ahead of veteran starting nose tackle Matt Toeaina. In Thursday's practice, Paea played almost exclusively with the first team. Only during a short-yardage scrimmage did Toeaina have the bulk of the first-team snaps.
Physically, Paea is a prototype nose tackle for the one-gap front line the Bears play because he has both great strength and quickness and decent size at 6-1, 300 pounds.
"He's done some good things rushing the passer," coach Lovie Smith said. "He can play the nose. "He has under-tackle ability at the three-technique. I think he's one of the strongest guys to come through the combine. He can do a lot of things."
The knee problems, which held Paea back as a rookie, are history now. "In his second year, a high draft pick (53rd overall, second round, 2011), he should be ready to make a move," Smith said.
Toeaina started 22 games over the last two seasons at the nose, usually competing for a spot with veteran Anthony Adams, who was not re-signed and remains a free agent.
Lining up: On Thursday, the left tackle spot looked even more cemented in J'Marcus Webb's favor than on Wednesday, despite coaches' claims to the contrary. Webb took all the first-team snaps at left tackle, and then some. He actually was left on the field against third- and fourth-team players during the full-contact, live scrimmage so he could get in extra snaps.
Right tackle wound up being the interesting battleground after left tackle challenger Chris Williams moved over to split time with Gabe Carimi on the first team, then took second-team snaps late in practice.
Absences: A day after missing practice with knee soreness, linebacker Brian Urlacher dressed and went through individual drills but then took off his helmet during a lengthy scrimmage period and did not participate. ... WR Devin Hester had an excused personal absence from camp. ... Injured WR Eric Weems continued to miss practice .. DE Julius Peppers was given some rest in the scrimmage portion of practice after taking part in individual work.
Looking good: On a scrimmage play, DE Corey Wootton came up with what would have been a sack of Jay Cutler in a game. He is attempting to beat out Shea McClellin for third D-end. ... Smith rarely gives much praise to undrafted rookies in camp, but WR Brittan Golden, a 5-11, 186-pounder from West Texas A&M continued making catches and doing it even in the full-contact part of scrimmage at the end of practice. ... RB Armando Allen and TE Brandon Venson both made good contact plays in the full-contact scrimmage. Allen lowered his shoulder and broke two tackles along the sidelines, and Venson did the same after a downfield catch.
On deck: The team practices at Soldier Field on Friday at 7 p.m. at Family Fest. Last year's practice there got canceled and moved to a late-night closed practice in Bourbonnais after the players arrived to find the field conditions unplayable, with seams in dried-out sod showing.
Follow Bears reporter Gene Chamberlain on Twitter @CBSSportsNFLCHI.