Two Bears players who both entered the NFL as undrafted free agents displayed excellent ball skills during Tuesday’s practice in Bourbonnais.
Nickel back Cre’Von LeBlanc intercepted one pass and broke up another, while undrafted rookie receiver Tanner Gentry made several nice catches, including two for long touchdowns.
LeBlanc’s interception came on an underthrown Mitch Trubisky pass intended for Gentry early in practice. The second-year pro later batted away a Mike Glennon pass over the middle.
Second-year pro Cre’Von LeBlanc is battling Bryce Callahan for the top nickel back position.
LeBlanc entered the NFL last year as an undrafted rookie with the Patriots. He was claimed off waivers by the Bears before the start of the season and eventually won a starting job at cornerback midway through the year. The 5-11, 190-pounder appeared in 13 games with nine starts, recording 46 tackles, two interceptions and 13 pass breakups.
LeBlanc, who returned a Matthew Stafford interception 24 yards for a touchdown last Dec. 11 in Detroit, has continued to make plays on the play throughout training camp.
“He’s way more comfortable in our system,” said coach John Fox. “These guys aren’t thinking as much; it’s not paralysis by analysis. They can just cut loose and use their athletic ability because they’re not thinking as much. I think he’s much more comfortable and I believe he’d tell you the same thing.”
Gentry, meanwhile, hauled in long touchdown passes from Trubisky and Mark Sanchez and scored a third TD on a sliding catch on a throw by Sanchez.
Gentry had 180 receptions for 2,815 yards and 20 touchdowns in 42 games over four seasons at Wyoming. After catching 39, 32 and 37 passes his first three years, he had a breakout senior year with 72 receptions for 1,326 yards and 14 TDs.
“He was a highly productive guy out of Wyoming,” Fox said. “He’s got good deep speed. I think you saw [Monday] we hit him on a deep nine route in practice. As far as him working, I think he’s getting more comfortable with what we’re doing route-wise. He’s played a couple different positions, so he’s smart. So far we like what we see.”
Tuesday’s practice may have been the most entering since the Bears arrived in Bourbonnais nearly two weeks ago, highlighted by several impressive individual efforts.
Safety Quintin Demps intercepted an overthrown Glennon pass over the middle. Demps had six picks last season with the Texans, two fewer than the Bears mustered as a team.
Trubisky continued to excel while throwing on the move. The first-round draft pick rolled to his right and completed a pass to rookie tight end Adam Shaheen on a deep out. Trubisky and Shaheen, who both grew up in Ohio, have developed a bond on and off the field.
Tight end Zach Miller made a diving touchdown catch of a Glennon pass with linebacker Nick Kwiatkoski draped all over him. Miller is in the process of rebounding from a broken foot that forced him to miss the final six games last season.
“I’ve got one goal—be healthy,” Miller said. “That goal takes care of everything else. If I’m healthy and on the football field, I have full confidence in myself to play well.”
After Miller’s TD, Sanchez followed by lofting a perfect fade pass into the left corner of the end zone to receiver Deonte Thompson, who made a tumbling TD catch with cornerback B.W. Webb all over him.
Cornerback-turned-safety Deiondre’ Hall ended practice by intercepting a Trubisky pass over the middle that resulted from a miscommunication between the quarterback and a receiver.