This point in each of the last three offseasons has been marked by positives in the direction of Kevin White. Even the first one, in 2015, before White’s stress fracture had been diagnosed conclusively, saw the young wide receiver showing flashes, to the point of White starting both the 2016 and 2017 opening games. So having seen all of White’s pre-camp offseasons, and more than just White’s over the past couple decades, this humble and faithful narrator has learned to temper encouraging observations.
But Wednesday was different. On a couple levels.
White’s straight-ahead deep speed was flat-out startling, the first time this very graceful athlete looked like the one who ran 4.35 at the ’15 Combine. Not necessarily quickness (he’s 6-3, 216 pounds; “quick” is for another discussion). But just raw speed. Using one snap for illustration, White simply ran up to and by a cornerback (whose identity is being protected here) who’d started with a seven-yard cushion, White visibly accelerating with each stride and pulling away from deep-safety help.
This is potentially a very big deal, for a couple of reasons. For White personally, this was very, very nice to see. Coaches last year confided that White had to effectively re-learn how to run, to again trust his once-natural gait after consecutive season-ending leg injuries. To see White explode deep on Wednesday was something different from anything this reporter had seen from him.
Teammates of legendary Bears speed wideout Willie Gault described Gault as, “If he’s even, he’s leavin’.” That was White.
And you know who knows it? Mitchell Trubisky.
The second-year quarterback went into missile-launch mode with White more than once, interspersed with White driving hard into his break and creating separation on out and slants. The intriguing side element here is, that within all the run-pass-option stuff, the West Coast schematics and so forth, Matt Nagy and this staff appear to know what they might be sitting on. Hence the Trubisky air show on Wednesday.
“Right now, it’s ‘Let’s test it downfield a little bit,’” Nagy said. “If you’re going to make a mistake and make a poor throw, let’s do it with an aggressive mentality… .[Trubisky] made some throws today that we talked about last night that we now have put on tape.”
Nagy said that he’s noticed more from White through his part of the offseason which allows coach-player interaction. White has never gone prima-donna, and “he’s somebody that you’ll see stay after practice and take those extra reps, if it’s a route he didn’t have the correct footwork on,” Nagy said. “Maybe he was two steps off on a seven-step route and he took five steps so he’s going to go back out there and run the route with seven steps the right way…or maybe he dropped the football. So, he’s committed. He’s dedicated. He wants to be really good wide receiver. When you have somebody that has that want, we as coaches need to give him every opportunity to succeed.”
Succeeding in May is a long way from succeeding in September (or in White’s case, October, since White has only played one game in October in his three “seasons”). But something is happening in White, around White, whatever. And as a couple Bears DB’s learned the hard way, if he’s even….
Odds and tight ends…
Rookie James Daniels continues to get reps at guard with the No. 2 offense and at center with the 3’s. Hroniss Grasu is getting his shot at center in an offense coordinated by his old college coach, Mark Helfrich… . Right guard Kyle Long still not practicing is giving veteran Earl Watford (21 career starts) extensive work with the No. 1 offense, with Erik Kush at left guard… .
Mitchell Trubisky’s reads and decisions have drawn nods and compliments beyond the usual offseason palaver. Specifically, the “Pretty Boy Assassin” continues to practice ball security without forcing balls into tight places, and reacting on broken plays with some creative improv… .
Rookie linebacker Roquan Smith has been getting reps with the No. 1 defense, but he’s got a ways to go before a position change happens. “We roll those guys [between units] a pretty fair amount,” said defensive coordinator Vic Fangio, who likes Smith’s intangibles but doesn’t count intangibles until the tangibles are in place. “I think the sooner he becomes proficient at doing his own job, then that will come. You can’t be a so-called ‘leader’ or intangible- breeding type of guy if you’re not doing your own job as good as expected. So the sooner he gets to that, the sooner the intangibles can happen”… .
Danny Trevathan gave the defense a highlight on Wednesday in a team red-zone session, picking off a pass intended for Kevin White. It was one of the very few wayward throws by any of the three Bears QB’s.