Rookie report: Analyzing performances in their first Bears camp

Here’s how they’re measuring up to expectations during training camp.

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Bears rookie linebacker Noah Sewell warms up Tuesday.

Bears rookie linebacker Noah Sewell warms up Tuesday.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

It’s the night before a Bears training-camp practice, and rookie wide receiver Tyler Scott is moving the furniture around his hotel room. He needs enough open space to play pretend.

“Gotta make a miniature football field,” he said.

Scott walks into the imaginary huddle and says the Bears’ play out loud. He breaks the huddle and runs to his spot on the field, puts one foot forward and glances to the pretend line judge. He even points to the ground to indicate that he’s on the line of scrimmage.

Before the snap, he imagines the defense in different coverages; it dictates which route to run.

“I’m a person that likes to hear it, and then really do it,” he said.

At Cincinnati, Scott got the plays from hand signals given from the Bearcats’ sideline.

“You come here, and everything’s all verbal,” he said. “You’re in the huddle listening for a play that’s 10 years long.”

It’s his full-time job, as opposed to last year. But he’s still learning.

“I never feel comfortable, honestly,” he said. “Especially being a rookie, you’ve got to earn your stripes.”

Bears rookies have spent the early part of training camp trying to do just that. Here’s how they’re measuring up to expectations:

• The first-rounder. Offensive coordinator Luke Getsy noticed the smile on Darnell Wright’s face when the Bears practiced in pads for the first time Tuesday.

“He was having a lot of fun running into people,” he said.

All eyes are on Wright, the right tackle whom the Bears took 10th overall. There’s nothing more important this season than protecting Justin Fields.

He’s passing the test thus far. Guard Teven Jenkins said his ability to recover when knocked back is “mind-blowing.”

“I haven’t seen in all my years of playing the way he’s able to get into football positions out of being all out of sorts somehow,” he said. “And then sitting down on the bull rush and stopping the dude before he gets to Justin.”

• The injury fill-in. Jack Sanborn, the projected starter at strong-side linebacker, missed offseason practices while recovering from an ankle injury. He ramped up to start training camp but missed practices Tuesday and Wednesday.

That has given Noah Sewell plenty of time to play with the starters.

The brother of Lions offensive tackle Penei Sewell was once a top-15 recruit but fell to the fifth round after three years at Oregon. His opportunity is reminiscent of Sanborn’s snaps last offseason when Roquan Smith refused to practice.

“I’m just the fill-in spot right now,” Sewell said. “I just have to step up and do what’s right for the team.”

• The defensive help. Tackles Gervon Dexter and Zacch Pickens were drafted in rounds 2 and 3, respectively, to try to boost a defensive line that was among the NFL’s worst last year.

Dexter is further along than Pickens thus far, but both figure to play — a lot.

“I think the biggest thing that impresses me for a young guy is how [Dexter] uses his hands and uses the offensive lineman’s weight and leverage against him,” center Cody Whitehair said. “Usually, it takes two to three years to get to that point.”

• The best battle. The most competitive battle for a starting job is between two rookie cornerbacks: second-round pick Tyrique Stevenson and fifth-round pick Terell Smith.

Smith has been better. He’s an unusual prospect — he wasn’t a full-time starter at Minnesota. He turned 24 two days into training camp, making him only three months younger than veteran cornerback Jaylon Johnson.

At 6 feet and 204 pounds, Smith has the size and physicality to play press coverage. The Bears, though, are primarily a cover-2 team.

“I take big pride in being a cover corner,” Smith said, “but also being able to tackle and show up in the run game.”

• The false start. Roschon Johnson is the most intriguing rookie. He was drafted in Round 4 but started only five games at Texas because of all-world running back Bijan Robinson.

Johnson has not participated in the Bears’ two padded practices because of an undisclosed injury. His college experience will help him stay patient when he’s ready to split carries with D’Onta Foreman and Khalil Herbert.

“With a limited amount of exposure to the ball, if you can make your way out of what you’re given, I would think that’d be enough to prove it,” he said. “To say there’s more that can be shown.”

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