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Young Bears Who Meet the Eye Test at Training Camp

Chicago Bears training camp observations about several young players who've stepped up when they've had opportunities at practice

The Bears are shutting down practices to the media next week, except for the first few minutes when they going through warmups.

As a result, the opportunity to render eye-witness judgment on young players has passed.

Those watching practices can never really tell exactly how a player is fitting into the offense or defense beyond whether they're making plays on the ball, flashing speed or showing off some other instinctive quality.

If the Bears handed over their playbooks and provided film breakdown then it would be possible to go beyond casual observation.

However, it is possible to detect instinct and talent in general and in these cases at camp so far it appears general manager Ryan Pace made a few impressive picks and/or signings among younger players, while there are a few other younger players who are still hoping to make a big first step up.

Second-round cornerback Jaylon Johnson has played so sparingly while coming back from a shoulder surgery that he's had little chance to impress anyone.  He did make one interception late in the practice week of a Nick Foles pass and with more opportunities could show more.

Here is a checklist of one practice observer's most impressive rookie Bears to date at camp:

1. WR Darnell Mooney

The great speed talked about often preceded Mooney, and as a result defensive backs have cheated off him to avoid giving him the chance to beat them deep. He still has shown an ability to adjust his route running and has looked better than many Bears rookie receivers of recent years. Mooney also has had better hands than anticipated. Only one dropped pass stood out in the practices through Thursday. Facing up to defenders who are getting physical with him at the line is something yet to be explored. He doesn't appear to be just a receiver who is only going to beat a receiver deep in man-to-man coverage, and he said this much on draft day. He's backing up his comment.

2. TE Cole Kmet

The individual skills are more than apparent. They leap out at you. This hasn't always been as evident in full scrimmage but the 7-on-7 and one-on-one red zone drills at beating defenders have allowed Kmet to shine. The best way to describe his speed is deceiving. As a big guy who doesn't appear to be straining, he has been able to get a step or two on the coverage. The one aspect of his game tough to judge is where he's at as a blocker. Only a few days of their work involved extensive run-blocking duties and nothing stood out from his performance.

3. ILB Rashad Smith

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This guy has wheels, no doubt about it. The former Florida Atlantic linebacker signed on as an undrafted free agent and has displayed great speed patrolling inside in pass coverage. Whether he can hold up physically against a running attack or in trying to tackle tight ends at 220 pounds remains to be seen, but here's an example of his speed. The offense successfully matched him up on Cordarrelle Patterson running a deep sideline route during the past week and Smith came off the inside in coverage and went stride for stride all the way down the field with Patterson. He was actually in position to pick off the ball if he had realized teammates were hollering "ball." He did prevent the reception, but seeing an inside linebacker stick with Patterson 30 or 40 yards downfield without yielding a yard or 2 is beyond impressive. It's the kind of speed the Bears definitely could make use of on special teams.

4. RB Artavis Pierce

The undrafted Oregon State rookie running back hasn't had an abundance of opportunities to stand out, but will now with David Montgomery's injury. On some occasions he has shown he can pick holes forming in the zone blocking scheme and dart through well before they close, utilizing excellent first- and second-step quickness. He's not particularly big and could have trouble as a tackle breaker, but the first few steps are impressive. His hands have also been an asset and he's shown he can concentrate amid the clutter in the screen game. Lacking so far is any ability to block against the blitz, what so ever. He has been totally lit up during pass-blocking duties by on-rushing linebackers, particularly Roquan Smith. This is no scathing indictment on his talent, as Patterson is a veteran and also received the same rude treatment in pass-blocking drills from Roquan Smith.

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