Training Camp Tour: Kevin White adds major boost to Bears' receiving corps
One of today’s stops on the PFF training camp tour was Bourbonnais, Ill., home of the Chicago Bears for the next few weeks. What started off as a cloudy morning turned into a sticky 80 degrees as the team took the field for a two-hour morning practice. Obviously, with it being the first day of training camp, contact was limited, but there were still plenty of takeaways.
[More: Be sure to check out analyst John Breitenbach’s 2016 Bears season preview.]
Kevin White likely to boost Chicago’s receiving corps
All of the hype coming into training camp has been about wide receiver Kevin White, last year’s first-round draft pick out of West Virginia. Today was just one practice session, and it was with limited contact, but it was easy to see why there is so much excitement around the former Mountaineer. He didn’t drop a single pass in one-on-ones or as part of the nine-on-seven drill, although cornerback Brandon Boykin (free-agent acquisition) did have a nice pass break-up against him in a one-on-one meeting. He looked powerful and fast when he got the ball in his hands, and along with Alshon Jeffery, will give Jay Cutler as impressive a duo of wide receivers as you’ll find in the league—if he can live up to the hype.
— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) July 28, 2016
White dropped nine of the 118 catchable passes thrown his way in his final season at West Virginia, but also had 543 yards and nine touchdowns on passes traveling 20 yards or more downfield. With both him and Jeffery having some big plays this morning, any excitement Bears fans had is unlikely to be dampened any time soon. There’s only so much you can take from one practice, but White lined up both at outside wide receiver and in the slot, a place where he could cause some matchup nightmares in the NFL this season. The Bears have lacked a wide receiver to pair with Jeffery since Brandon Marshall was traded to the Jets, and the offense will be much more difficult for defenses to deal with if White can be that guy.
Leonard Floyd crucial to revamped Bears’ defense
One thing that had Bears fans holding their breath a bit, especially after Kevin White missed all of the 2015 season, was seeing Leonard Floyd (Georgia) leave the field after about an hour of practice. Though it’s obviously never good to not have your first-round draft pick out there, head coach John Fox described the exit’s cause after practice as an illness that Floyd has been dealing with for the last couple of days—something which should ease the minds of Bears fans this afternoon.
Floyd is crucial to a revamped Bears’ defense this year, and is expected to provide a strong pass-rush opposite last year’s prize free-agent signing, Pernell McPhee. McPhee opened camp on the PUP list, but there doesn’t appear to be any concern about his long-term status. He was fantastic for the Bears in 2015, racking up six sacks, 13 hits, and 48 hurries, and impressed against the run, too, seeing him finish the year as our 10th-highest-graded edge defender, at 87.6. Floyd was the second-highest-graded edge defender in this draft class, behind only Ohio State’s Joey Bosa (Chargers). An incredibly well-rounded defender, he excelled as a pass-rusher and against the run in his final season at Georgia, and was a big favorite of colleague Bobby Slowik‘s heading into the draft.
Seventh-rounder Daniel Braverman turning heads
As a seventh-round draft pick, former Western Michigan star Daniel Braverman will know he has a fight on his hands just to make the Bears’ roster this year. The expectation is that the top three receivers on the team will be Jeffery, White, and Eddie Royal, with competition for playing time behind them coming from Braverman, Josh Bellamy, Marc Mariani, Deonte Thompson, and Marquess Wilson (Wilson also began camp on the PUP list). With that in mind, Braverman had a really nice first practice at training camp, making several big plays.
One of those came against Boykin in one-on-ones, taking advantage of the player who has always graded well at PFF making a mistake in press-coverage to beat him downfield and haul in a big catch, drawing a roar from the crowd. He didn’t see time with the starters in the nine-on-seven drills, but made another two huge plays here. Braverman graded incredibly well for us last year, and we think he has the potential to be a huge steal for the Chicago in this draft class.
In his final season at Western Michigan, Braverman earned the third-highest receiving grade in the nation, and led the country with 1,370 yards from the slot. In order to make an impact for the Bears, he’s going to have to have more practices like he had today, and make his case on special teams (he caught punts during the special-teams portion of today’s practice), but he certainly got his training camp off to the best possible start.
[More: Bears rookie running back Jordan Howard joins PFF for Stat Chat, with a quiz on his 2015 season numbers at Indiana.]
– The Bears starting-safety tandem will be interesting to watch going forward. Today, Adrian Amos and Harold Jones-Quartey looked to get the most time with the starters.
– At tight end, Gannon Sinclair saw some time with the starters behind Zach Miller. A 6-foot-7, 258-pound target, Sinclair made a nice play as a receiver in the nine-on-seven drill.
– It wasn’t a great first practice for the Bears’ cornerbacks, with several big plays by multiple receivers, but they did have some bright spots themselves. Bryce Callahan had a nice pass breakup against White and Boykin had one against Jeffery, while Kyle Fuller had a pass breakup of his own, and Tracy Porter was unlucky to not come away with a would-be pick-six against Jay Cutler in nine-on-sevens.