Here are aspects Bears sophomores honed in their first pro offseason
BOURBONNAIS — Players typically make the biggest leap between Years 1 and 2, the thinking goes, because they know what to expect and what’s expected of them.
Here are specific aspects Bears sophomores honed in their first full offseason and have brought to training camp:
Leonard Floyd’s hands
Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio posed a question Saturday night that made his linebackers think: “Are you winning the first two seconds of every play?”
Floyd, the No. 9 overall pick in 2016, is working on it.
“My hand speed,” Floyd said. “Sometimes I would let the tackles get their hands on me. I’d already be there, and I’d still let their hands get there before me.”
Fellow outside linebacker Willie Young said hand speed is the crux of every pass-rush battle.
“You need to shed blocks,” Young said, “and you have the opportunity to make a play. So hand placement is crucial.”
Cody Whitehair’s feet
Coming off one of the league’s best seasons by a center, the 2016 second-rounder knew he needed to keep up his quickness during the five-week gap between mandatory minicamp and training camp.
He did squats and footwork drills almost daily.
“Obviously, if you don’t work your feet, as big guys, we tend to get a little bit slower,” he said.
Whitehair will benefit this preseason from certainty about his role. Last year, he was moved to center the week of the season opener — “Poor guy,” coach John Fox said — but eventually shined.
“He’s settled in now,” Fox said.
Jordan Howard’s acceleration
After finishing second in the NFL with 1,313 rushing yards as a rookie, Howard worked on keeping his acceleration at top speed when cutting.
One way the fifth-rounder got faster: cutting his body fat from 15 to 13 percent.
“Just being able to run longer and not getting as tired as fast as I used to get,” said Howard, who’s listed at 224 pounds. “I’m able to push myself a lot more than in the past.”
Jonathan Bullard’s weight gain
The Bears wanted the defensive end to gain almost 20 pounds this offseason. His fastest way to do it — eating chicken.
Bullard’s mother baked chicken for him. When the third-round pick was alone, he bought quartered chickens and prepared them himself. Then he walked to the Japanese restaurant by his house to order chicken and shrimp.
Bullard weighs almost 300 pounds but said he was relieved he didn’t lose his quickness.
Defensive line coach Jay Rodgers expects him to lose some weight during camp.
“You come in at a certain weight, and you get into practice and start dropping a little bit,” Rodgers said. “Then things slow down, and you bring it back up.”
Nick Kwiatkoski’s self-correction
The Bears’ inside linebackers define a dumb error as one that’s repeated.
The Bears’ fourth-round pick doesn’t make the same one twice.
“He’s real good at finding where he does make a mistake and not doing it again,” linebacker Danny Trevathan said. “And that’s what you want to see from a young player.”
The safeties’ studying
Deiondre’ Hall planned to devour the playbook even before the Bears switched him from cornerback to safety this offseason.
Being able to transfer his knowledge to the practice field is a pleasant change for Hall, who missed eight games last season because of a high ankle sprain.
“Getting a chance to see it in front of you and get a rep out of what you’re seeing out of the playbook,” he said, “are two totally different things.”
Deon Bush, who played in 11 games last year, can feel the difference.
“You know it, but you don’t really know it [as a rookie],” he said. “This year I know it a lot better.”
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