It’s difficult to quantify progress in training camp, but all you have to do is pay attention to know that unheralded cornerback De’Vante Bausby has made a big impression. He keeps showing up.
An undrafted free agent from Pittsburg (Kan.) State who was cut by the Chiefs last June and signed by the Bears in December, the rangy 6-2, 190-pound Bausby has been paired with 6-2, 201-pound rookie Deiondre Hall to give the Bears the length they’re looking for.
Hall and hard-hitting rookie Deon Bush are fourth-round draft picks. But Bausby is an intriguing prospect in defensive coordinator Vic Fangio’s defense with his size, length (31 1/4-inch arms), speed — he ran a wind-aided 4.22 40-yard dash as his pro day in 2015 — and man-to-man capabilities. He’s been showing up in practices on a regular basis and knows it has not gone unnoticed.
“The coaches, they’re on me a little bit more. They want me to succeed,” Bausby said. “My DB coach [Ed Donatell], he’s on me every play, every rep. He wants Vic [Fangio] to build some trust in em. Ed’s on me 24/7, but it’s for the good. I’m learning and trying to be perfect. Ed wants perfection. Nobody’s perfect, but I’m working on it.”
The preseason opener could be a valuable showcase for players like Bausby and the Bears’ other young defensive backs — Bush, Hall, DeAndre Houston-Carson, Kevin Peterson and Taveze Calhoun, an undrafted rookie from Mississippi State who also has been making an impact in camp.
Bausby knows he has a lot to learn, but feels he is making progress and appreciates the attention he’s gotten from Fangio and Donatell.
“They’re both drilling me about consistency,” Bausby said. “I’m a big, long guy, so they like me [using] press technique — getting my hands on the receiver at the line. I’m a new guy, but I learned the playbook quickly. Learning the plays and playing hard play-in and play-out, with good technique [is a point of emphasis]. They just want consistency instead of having plays off and stuff like that.”
With his size and speed, Bausby was a second-team Division-II All-American at Pittsburg State in 2014 — with 47 tackles, four interceptions, nine pass-breakups and 1 1/2 sacks. “I’m a D-II guy, but I always felt I had it in me [to play in the NFL],” Bausby said. “All the small-school stuff doesn’t even matter to me. Now I’m on the platform to showcase it. So I’ve got to take advantage of that opportunity.”
A big key for Bausby is that he is not leaning on his measureable skills and learning the finer points of playing cornerback. “I’m becoming more and more of a technician,” he said. “And my ball skills, my burst — burst to the ball; burst out of breaks — those little things tell me I can play at this level.”
Bausby, who grew up in Kansas City, Mo., was signed by the Chiefs as a priority free agent after the 2015 draft. But he suffered a shoulder injury in the June mini-camp and was cut. The Bears signed him to their practice squad in Week 16 last December. So this will be his first preseason game.
“Everybody’s watching. Everybody’s counting o nme – family, alumni, and of course the Bears coaching staff,” he said. “It’s a big opportunity. I’ve just got to study, be ready to go, play hard and get battle-tested. We’re already kind of battle-tested now, so I’ve just got to drill myself mentally and I’ll be ready. I’ll be cool, calm and collected and ready to go.”