Bears top rookies make early strong impression

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Bears top rookies make early strong impression

Nothing will be official until the film is reviewed but the Bears got the kind of collective performance from some of their rookies that they have craved from the top end of their draft classes.

Defensive end Shea McClellin displayed the speed hed demonstrated through training camp but supplemented it with moves and ball awareness that a number of NFL experts had expected once the rookie pass rusher was in game situations.

McClellin collected a pursuit sack of backup quarterback Caleb Hanie and delivered two other quarterback hits with spin and reaction moves against a good Denver offensive line. He also was credited with a tackle for loss among his three tackles.

I thought Shea McClellin did some good things, said coach Lovie Smith. Anytime its your first time playing and you get a sack as a defensive lineman, youll remember that.

Not all of the evening will be remembered fondly.

McClellin was buried on the Broncos short TD run in the second quarter and needs to be stronger at the point of attack. But he was a factor and pursued one third-quarter running play the entire width of the field to make the tackle.

I wanted to showcase what kind of skills I really do have, McClellin said. But overall I have a lot to learn.

Alshon Jeffery may have vaulted himself into the discussion for a starting job at wide receiver, or certainly more playing time at the very least. Jeffery caught both passes thrown to him in the first half with the excellent hands that led the Bears to make him their No. 2 draft choice.

Jeffery continued to produce as quarterback Josh McCown went to him for two more completions in the third quarter. Jeffery had 35 yards on his four catches (out of five balls thrown to him) and worked different areas of the field well, winning matchups against defensive backs with strength and body positioning.

It felt good, Jeffery said. Just the speed of the game and adjusting to it, and getting to know and understand it. Everybodys got a little pre-game jitters so it was a matter of really getting a real feel for the game.

When Major Wright went down with a hamstring injury, Brandon Hardin was pressed into service early and performed generally well, moving to free safety in a pairing with Craig Steltz.

I would say I played like a rookie, said Hardin, who was credited with one tackle and a pass defense. Getting that first game under my belt was definitely good. From now on hopefully Ill calm down more when Im out there.

With Ben Zobrist sidelined by sore wrist, Cubs move Ian Happ to second base

With Ben Zobrist sidelined by sore wrist, Cubs move Ian Happ to second base

LOS ANGELES – The Cubs drafted and developed Ian Happ with the idea of turning him into a Ben Zobrist-type player who would move quickly through the farm system and surface as a versatile big-league contributor and/or legitimate trade chip.

With Zobrist sidelined because of a sore left wrist, the Cubs got their first look at Happ playing second base in The Show during Saturday’s 5-0 loss at Dodger Stadium. That kind of depth – plugging in a 2015 first-round pick while a World Series MVP rests – should ultimately propel the Cubs over the course of a 162-game season.

Even as the Cubs stutter-step through a 25-23 start, there are enough choices for the best defensive second baseman on the team and a National League Championship Series co-MVP (Javier Baez) to sit on the bench.

“We know that the talent’s there,” Zobrist said. “It’s not like having any one or two guys out of the lineup is a big drop-off for us because of the talent that’s there. And we know that just because we have a lot of young players doesn’t mean that they’re not extremely capable of doing the job as well.”

Zobrist – who’s reached base in 23 straight games and emerged as a new leadoff option with Kyle Schwarber struggling – felt something on an awkward swing in the first inning of Friday’s 4-0 loss to the Dodgers. Zobrist played through it that night and called it a “day-to-day thing” that didn’t require an MRI.

[MORE: Is Joe Maddon turning Kyle Schwarber into a platoon player?

Facing Clayton Kershaw on Sunday after back-to-back shutouts will be a game-time decision.

“It’s tough,” Zobrist said. “We just haven’t strung together enough quality at-bats to score runs the last two games. It’s not just because of us. They’ve pitched well. Their pitchers are pretty hot right now. They’ve spotted up. They’ve gotten early strikes where they needed to and then gone to work pretty well on us.

“The task doesn’t get any easier tomorrow with Kershaw. We just got to keep trying to chip away.”

Morning Update: White Sox officially announce signing of Luis Robert, split doubleheader

Morning Update: White Sox officially announce signing of Luis Robert, split doubleheader

Here are the top Chicago sports stories from Saturday: 

Preview: Cubs look to avoid getting swept by Dodgers today on CSN

Preview: Knights look to bounce back tonight on CSN

White Sox courting of Luis Robert leads to 'Christmas in May'

Cubs blanked again by Dodgers

Tyler Danish gets win in first big league start as White Sox beat Tigers in first game of doubleheader

After getting shut down by Buck Farmer, White Sox ninth-inning rally falls short

Scott Boras fires back at Jake Arrieta’s critics and makes another Max Scherzer comparison

Blackhawks sign defenseman Michal Kempny to extension

Luis Robert will start journey through White Sox organization in Dominican Summer League

With Ben Zobrist sidelined by sore wrist, Cubs move Ian Happ to second base