BOURBONNAIS, Ill. (AP) — First-round draft pick Mitchell Trubisky naturally commands attention in Bears training camp.
Yet, Trubisky is only one of several rookies to make positive impressions on coaches heading into their first preseason action against the Denver Broncos.
On almost a daily basis, tight end Adam Shaheen, running back Tarik Cohen and safety Eddie Jackson have come up with big plays. Now it’s on to prove they can do it before a big crowd at Soldier Field on Thursday night.
“This is a much bigger stage than anything ever at Ashland,” said Shaheen, a second-rounder from Division II football. “The most we had was 10-15,000 people.”
The Bears have effectively used Shaheen and Cohen as niche players in camp, and are eager to see how they hold up in a live game against other NFL players.
The 5-foot-6, 181-pound Cohen dazzles with moves in the open as a receiver or runner, and has been effective returning punts despite lacking experience at it.
“We really truly haven’t had a third-down back,” coach John Fox said. “So that’s kind of his skill set.”
Cohen’s size was no problem at North Carolina A&T, but in the NFL there was concern.
The Bears billed their fourth-round pick on draft day as their version of Darren Sproles, and he’s the same height and weight as the veteran Eagles back. They think he can stand up to the size of NFL defenders.
“He has played a lot of football, albeit at a smaller level,” Fox said of Cohen. “From what I’ve seen so far, he’s gifted enough to protect himself.”
The elusive Cohen challengers tacklers with sharp cuts, stops and starts.
“I feel like it’s from many years of backyard football,” Cohen said about his skills.
At 6-foot-6, 278 pounds, Shaheen is at the opposite end of the spectrum. His Division II experience was a concern, although his size and playing style earned comparisons to Rob Gronkowski with the nickname “Baby Gronk.”
“Coming from a smaller school we knew that the biggest adjustment would be in the run blocking and pass protection,” Bears offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains said. “He’s done a nice job to this point.”
Shaheen confirmed blocking is his greatest challenge.
“It’s definitely something that is a big-time jump from Division II,” Shaheen said. “That’s what we’re out here doing every day, so I’m pretty confident that I’ll get it down.”
Listed on the depth chart behind Dion Sims and Zach Miller, Shaheen has been used extensively as a red zone target with great success.
“He’s made a lot of plays already,” Miller said. “I think he’s going to be a great addition for us, a huge weapon, just a big guy out there who can run, has really good hands.”
Jackson had a slow start while rehabbing from a broken leg last fall playing for Alabama. He missed offseason work, but has made several interceptions after he started practicing on a regular basis.
On Tuesday, he was used extensively in scrimmages with the first string alongside veteran safety Quintin Demps.
Jackson came out of Alabama known more for being a center fielder type.
“He has good ball skills, that was a check in his corner there from the get-go,” Bears defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said.
Jackson is competing with Cohen for punt returner.
“We’ll just have to see him tackle,” Fangio said of Jackson. “We can’t afford to have anyone out there that can’t tackle, so tackling will be a determinant factor for him.”
Jackson made a big stop in the team’s full-contact scrimmage Saturday at Soldier Field, but still must prove himself.
“At first, coming out of college I heard that a lot,” Jackson said. “But now, that’s something I felt like I just needed to work on. I look at I just needed to be more physical, I need to put on more weight.
“I just take that and really just work on that every day.”
NOTES: Starting quarterback Mike Glennon will be followed by Mark Sanchez and then Trubisky against Denver. Fourth-stringer Connor Shaw is still recovering after he had screws removed from his leg last week, a result of surgery last summer to repair a fracture. . Reserve guard Eric Kush went on injured reserve with a torn hamstring and the Bears have looked closely at guard options. For several plays Monday and Tuesday, they had starting center Cody Whitehair at left guard and reserve center Hroniss Grasu snapping. Whitehair originally was a guard before converting to center last year when Grasu suffered a season-ending knee injury. . Left guard Kyle Long continues to work slowly into the lineup after ankle surgery, and was on the practice field Tuesday for 10 plays.
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