Rookies Javon Wims, Kylie Fitts stepping up for Bears
BOURBONNAIS, Ill. (AP) — If training camp and the preseason opener have indicated anything positive to the Chicago Bears, it’s young talent at key positions could be deeper than anticipated.
Rookie outside linebacker Kylie Fitts and several other Bears outside pass rushers have stepped up at a need area, while seventh-round draft pick Javon Wims is giving an indication competition for jobs at wide receiver will be fierce.
“I think for all of us outside ‘backers it’s a young group, so we all have a lot to show out,” Fitts said.
Fitts made a sack and four tackles Thursday night in the Bears’ 17-16 Hall of Fame Game loss to the Baltimore Ravens.
It’s not the first time this summer the Bears’ sixth-round draft pick from Utah has been harassing quarterbacks. In training camp, he’s almost been too effective as he made contact or got too close to Mitchell Trubiski, Chase Daniel and Tyler Bray.
“We had to get on him the last couple weeks and even in OTAs on staying away from the quarterback,” Bears coach Matt Nagy said.
With the start of preseason games, Fitts can finally finish off sacks.
“He plays extremely hard,” Nagy said. “I have to sometimes remind him to make sure to stay away from the quarterback and the throwing motion and he actually came up to me and apologized to me for it. But you can’t fault a kid for trying to play hard trying to get to the quarterback. So I told him ‘when we get to the preseason, do it as much as you want.’ “
The Bears needed someone to complement outside linebacker Leonard Floyd, and signed former 49ers defensive end Aaron Lynch. Lynch hasn’t practiced due to a hamstring injury, and Nagy said he’ll likely miss another preseason game.
They also have veteran Sam Acho, who has been a reserve for three seasons in Chicago.
So when Fitts and second-year outside linebacker Isaiah Irving each came up with a sack Thursday, and the pass rush piled up eight sacks, the position seemed less of a problem.
“I feel really comfortable with that,” Nagy said. “And again, having Lynch out right now is a struggle, just because we want him out there. But we’ve got to be safe with him and make sure he’s 100 percent when he’s back.
“But once we get him back with Floyd and Acho and you have these other guys, these younger guys that are coming up, I feel like we’re in good shape at that spot and have depth there.”
Except for a minor arm injury, Fitts has been healthy through camp. He finds it refreshing after injuries kept him off the field his last two college seasons, and likely caused a slide in the draft.
“Last season it was tough sitting out all those plays, but I just ignore, don’t think about injuries. I just come out and think about performing really well,” Fitts said.
Like Fitts, Wims also fell in the draft. He went in the final round after a productive year at Georgia.
So Wims said he has something to prove, and Thursday did it with game-highs of seven catches for 89 yards.
“He did a good job using his size and he also did a good job using his release moves, so that was a positive,” Nagy said. “And then in regards to some details, he had some sloppy routes too.”
Wims is just another in a large group of receivers to excite Bears offensive coaches. Veterans Allen Robinson, Taylor Gabriel, Kevin White and Josh Bellamy, and rookie Anthony Miller have also been productive in practice.
At 6-foot-3, Wims not only lined up outside, but also in the slot.
“I think the great thing about this offense is all receivers have got to know all positions,” Wims said. “Everybody. You kind of have got to be position-less, and just be plugged in at spots.”
The next test for both young draft picks will be continuing their progress Thursday at Cincinnati
“Usually, the biggest thing that you see happen when a guy has a good game — whoever that is; any position — sometimes, those young guys then start to think, ‘OK, I did a lot to help myself out and now I can kind of coast into practice or coast into the next game,’ ” Nagy said. “And that’s not the case.
“So our message to them is that’s over with now. You did that, you played well. Now improve on that and build (on) those blocks.”
Safety Deon Busy (left hamstring) and cornerback Cre’Von LeBlanc (groin) were injured in Thursday’s game and did not practice Saturday. … Nagy said prior to the opener that talks were “stalemated” between the agent for first-round draft pick Roquan Smith and the team as the holdout continues. Nagy said Saturday there have been no new developments and the sides haven’t talked again.