BOURBONNAIS, Ill. The top of the 2012 Bears rookie class flashed on Thursday with the kinds of performances that made Shea McClellin and Alshon Jeffery Chicagos first two picks in the April draft.
McClellin, for the first time showing up repeatedly with impact plays, brought a roar from the crowd when he leaped and intercepted a Jason Campbell pass at the line. That was followed later by a sack in the full-team session, another near-sack on which he pulled up before impact, and several plays into the backfield that produced simulated tackles for loss.
The interception in particular was impressive, said coach Lovie Smith. But hes capable of making plays like that. When youre a first-round draft pick, theres a lot of pressure on you to be All-Pro right away. It takes time.
But he has great quickness and speed. He works hard. Good athletic ability. Nothing should stop him from being a real good football player.
Jeffery was elevated to the starting lineup opposite Brandon Marshall as coaches held out Devin Hester, who suffered an ankle strain last Saturday and has not rested it. He caught several mid-range throws from Jay Cutler and showed more of his ability to win strength battles against defensive backs for balls.
Hes got unbelievable hands, said receivers coach Darryl Drake. He has an unbelievable ability to catch the football. Thats one thing that he does have. He has size. His ability to catch the football. Hes a much better route runner than people realize. His route-running style is different so people dont see it. But he takes great angles.
Hes a little herky-jerky at times. Hes big. Hes long. His running style is a little different than some guys. But I really, really like what he does.
McClellins play was notable for reasons beyond just the playmaking. He was left on the field with second and third units and ended up taking more reps than any other defensive lineman.
But the more he was on the field, the more he was involved in plays. He beat tiring linemen with combination moves and clearly gaining confidence even as he works to change from a predominantly stand-up player to having his hand on the ground and engaging offensive tackles and tight ends right off the snap.
I would say Ive got pretty good stamina, Im a grinder and always try to go 100 percent, McClellin said. I think the heavy workload helps a little bit, yeah.