It was a beautiful Mother's Day afternoon on the Halas Hall practice fields for the final Chicago Bears rookie minicamp practice. Bear Report was roaming the sidelines throughout the session. Here are our observations.
-Second-round WR Alshon Jeffery was very impressive this afternoon. He was a little sluggish on the wet turf yesterday but looked like a different player today under the sunny skies.
The receivers and cornerbacks squared off in 1-on-1 drills about midway through practice. Against each of the defensive backs – including the Bears' sixth- and seventh-round picks, corners Isaiah Frey and Greg McCoy – Jeffery was dominant. On short outs, stop routes, slants and fly patterns, no DB stood a chance.
On one deep route, Jeffery snatched a jump ball out of the air in the end zone. He went right over the top of Frey to make the catch. After the play, receivers coach Darryl Drake ran up the sideline and did a flying chest bump with Jeffery.
WR Alshon Jefferys
To finish the drill, Jeffery squared off against McCoy wide right. He ran roughly 15 yards, threw a head fake inside and took off down the sideline. Jeffery was able to get a good three yards of separation and was open in the end zone, yet he dropped the pass. From what I saw, it was the only drop of the day for him.
Most impressive was his route running during this drill. On film, Jeffery tended to round off his cuts and appeared lazy getting in and out of his breaks. Today, he made sharper cuts and sunk his hips well in his breaks. If he can continue to improve that part of his game, he'll be a valuable contributor to Chicago's offense from Day 1.
-McCoy had a rough time in the 1-on-1 drills. He did not show good anticipation and was late reacting to the receiver. I don't think he was able to get a hand on a single pass. His value to this team will come as a return man.
-On the flipside, Frey was impressive during 1-on-1s. He took down two deep interceptions, showing good speed and balance in the process.
Earlier in the practice, the cornerbacks were put through technique drills. Notable was the fact that McCoy and the other two tryout corners all played out wide, yet Frey took every snap in this drill from the slot. It appears, at least for this practice, the club is looking at Frey as a potential nickelback. His quickness and change-of-direction ability will serve him well against slot receivers.
-During special teams walkthroughs, defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli again took the team's first-round pick, DE Shea McClellin, and worked with him individually. He donned the same arm pads, working on the rookie's hand usage. This was the second day in a row Marinelli spent one-on-one time with McClellin.
Notable here is the fact that these individual sessions took place during the special teams portion of practice, where McClellin apparently has no use.
During defensive walkthroughs, Marinelli kept switching McClellin back and forth from left to right defensive end, giving us a glimpse at how the coach plans to use his new toy.
-I confirmed with defensive backs coach John Hoke today that third-rounder Brandon Hardin has been lining up at free safety. GM Phil Emery said after the draft that Hardin would be a strong safety, yet so far in minicamp, he's played exclusively at free safety.
He is coming along slowly. In 7-on-7s, he was beat on a couple of occasions down the seam by fourth-round TE Evan Rodriguez. Yet on one snap, Hardin read the play and made a nice break on a pass down the hash marks. He high-pointed the ball and pulled in the interception.
It's going to take the kid a while to learn his new position – he played cornerback in college – yet you can tell Hardin has the athleticism and intelligence to grow into it. For now, he'll be a solid contributor on special teams.
-In 7-on-7s, Rodriguez really stood out. He was all over the field, catching balls on short, intermediate and deep routes. He has outstanding hands and will be a weapon in this offense.
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Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of Bear Report magazine and BearReport.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. To read him every day, visit BearReport.com and become a Chicago Bears insider.