Improvement is better than steady, incremental for five Bears
Improvement doesn't always come steadily or incrementally.
It might come in one big rush or possibly not at all.
In Mitchell Trubisky's case, Bears coach Matt Nagy says it hasn't been entirely apparent to the untrained eye for several reasons.
Leaps of faith aside, there have been five Bears in training camp and the first preseason game whose improvement has been entirely obvious.
Some of it has been incremental, some of it has been very noticeable in a short period.
The second-year wide receiver dropped a pass while wide open crossing the middle in the next to last practice in Bourbonnais, and it was shocking.
He hadn't done much else wrong in camp as a receiver. His catch of a deep ball was one of the highlights of the Family Night scrimmage.
Wims also has made improvements in other areas, like special teams. That was critical because he moved into Josh Bellamy's old role of receiver/coverage ace.
"I think he’s gotten better in our area," special teams coordinator Chris Tabor said. "He's worked hard at that, from this time last year to right now. I'm excited for him to keep developing, and we;ll see how it plays out."
The injuries to Adam Shaheen and Trey Burton gave Braunecker a chance to show his versatility as a tight end, and he has.
"Ben's size and stature, he's really a 'U' tight end," Nagy said. "It's hard for him to be a 'Y.' But I think he’s done good job of doing that right now, filling in for those two guys."
The U is the movement tight end and the Y the in-line classical tight end. Braunecker isn't quite the size to be a Y, but is close enough.
"That's a position that we're trying to, with Trey being out and Adam being limited in reps, it gives us an opportunity to test these other guys, and it also gives us an opportunity to test some other personnel groupings with other receivers," Nagy said. "But Ben's done a great job and he’s been great on special teams as well. We’re lucky to have him."
Bush would h ave been an easy candidate to mope through camp after losing the chance to start when Ha Ha Clinton-Dix was signed. Yet, he excelled in Clinton-Dix's absence due to a knee sprain and even when Clinton-Dix returned he kept making plays.
And in the first preseason game, he made an interception and was a player who caught Nagy's attention afterward. It's had defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano's since Day 1.
"All he's done is make plays," Pagano said. "He's around the football all the time. That kid is doing a great job."
The Bears look loaded at safety, with Sherrick McManis, Bush and DeAndre Houston-Carson giving them experienced backups behind Pro Bowl-level starters.
The sack in the first preseason game showed off a strength of Smith's as a blitzer. It wasn't used extensively last year and could be featured more now under Pagano. Smith has been all over the field playing pass defense and making his presence felt.
"He’s playing faster right now," Nagy said. "We knew that. It’s what he did in college. You saw that on the sack that he had. But just big things — like our quarterback, Mitch (Trubisky) it's slowing down with the defense — it's the same thing with him. Those offenses, now, when those plays are getting called, they line up and get set and motion and shift and everything, he's able to react to that really well."
Matt Nagy had called him one of the best players he's ever coached, and they hadn't even started training camp.
Since it started, Robinson hasn't resembled the player they had last year, who hadn't been able to practice all offseason while rehabbing his knee. In fact, he hasn't resembled the player they had at the end of last season when he set a franchise postseason record with 10 catches and 143 yards against the Eagles.
He's been decisively better. He's been the go-to receiver Trubisky lacked last year when he was distributing the ball evenly throughout the receiver corps.
"I'm trying to continue to ascend each and every day until I'm done playing," Robinson said.