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Chicago Bears: Rookie Progress Report Through First 4 Games

Ross ReadContributor IIIOctober 3, 2012

Chicago Bears: Rookie Progress Report Through First 4 Games

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    With one quarter of the season in the books, it is a good time to revisit the Chicago Bears' rookie players. It is a veteran team, but that doesn't mean there has not been any rookie impact. 

    Questions still remain around first-round draft pick Shea McClellin, while Alshon Jeffery looks to be an early steal in the second round. Here is the progress report for them as well as the other rookies on the Bears to this point. 

Shea McClellin

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    Shea McClellin was drafted 19th overall to help the pass rush.

    He has helped out being primarily a rotational player, but has he lived up to his draft status so far?

    Right now, McClellin has two sacks through four games. He has not had the field time because of the Bears' deep defensive line, but he has been on the field enough to make more plays than he has.

    The pass rush has been good. What doesn't show up in the stat sheet is the pressure he has brought allowing other players to get sacks or just forcing the quarterback to get rid of the football. Where he still needs to improve is in the running game and containment.

    McClellin relies too much on his speed, and that tends to get him in trouble. He often over-pursues, allowing running backs to run right by him and quarterbacks to scramble out of the pocket. As he gets more comfortable with his position and learns to become more than a pass-rusher, he should get better. 

    One thing that does not help McClellin right now is the play of fellow rookie Chandler Jones. Jones was drafted two picks later by the New England Patriots and has had a very good start to the season. Jones has three sacks, two forced fumbles and nine tackles overall. He has been a better all-around player than McClellin.

    Jones does get more playing time than McClellin, so that factors in, but he still needs to play better when he is on the field, because he will forever be linked to the guy that could have been a Bear.    

Alshon Jeffery

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    One of the toughest transitions is a wide receiver going from college to the NFL.

    Not only does Alshon Jeffery have to handle that, but he also has to do it while assuming a large role in the Bears offense. 

    Jeffery has had a nice start to his season. Through four games, he has 12 catches and a touchdown.

    Compare that to the two second-round receivers drafted right before him. Brian Quick was the first pick in the second round, and he has only one catch in two games. Stephen Hill was drafted 11th in the second round, and he has five catches through three games. 

    Jeffery was drafted 13th overall in the second round. He has more catches than the fifth overall pick Justin Blackmon, the 13th overall pick Michael Floyd and the 30th overall pick A.J. Jenkins. Kendall Wright, who was drafted 20th overall, has six more catches than Jeffery. 

    Going forward, Jeffery needs to get better separation from the defender. For a guy of 6'4'' and 230 pounds, he should be able to use his size better than he has to make plays and break away from contact. 

    The growth of Jeffery so far has been impressive. Coming out of college, he had some character issues, but he has been a model citizen for the Bears. He has been humble and receptive, and he should continue to grow as the season goes along.  

Brandon Hardin

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    The knock on the Bears' third-round pick Brandon Hardin was that he was injury-prone.

    Lo and behold, Hardin was knocked out for the season on a tackle in the third quarter of a preseason game against the Washington Redskins

    Due to the injury, it is really unfair to evaluate Hardin. He was placed on IR shortly after the injury and will miss the rest of the season. He is expected to make a full return next year.  

Evan Rodriguez

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    Evan Rodriguez was drafted in the fourth round to be a pass-catching tweener who can expose defenses. He has yet to make a catch this season. 

    When the Bears parted ways with fullback Tyler Clutts, they decided to use Rodriguez as the primary lead blocker. He was actually doing a nice job in the role until he suffered a knee injury against the Rams in Week 3. 

    Rodriguez is not expected to miss too many games, but he needs to get back on the field soon. You have to imagine it is tough for an undersized tight end to completely shift his role to a run blocking fullback. The Bears were most likely allowing Rodriguez to get acclimated in his new role before opening the playbook to him. 

    Many thought they would see a decent offensive impact by Rodriguez early on. Having no catches so far is a little disappointing, but it is possible his role will expand when he is healthy and becomes more comfortable within the offense. 

Isaiah Frey, Greg McCoy

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    The Bears went out and drafted two corners with their sixth- and seventh-round picks.

    During the preseason, Isaiah Frey and Greg McCoy just did not do enough to nudge out one of the veterans ahead of them. 

    Frey was able to stick around on the team's practice squad, but McCoy was released. There's a good chance both players will get another strong look next year during training camp. 

Undrafted Free Agents

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    The Bears had a lot of undrafted free agents in camp during the summer. Only a handful of them stuck around in some capacity. 

    Wide receiver Joe Anderson, quarterback Matt Blanchard, tackle James Brown and defensive end Aston Whiteside are currently on the practice squad. 

    Guard Nick Pieschel has been placed on injured reserve. 

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