BOURBONNAIS, Ill. – In a practice filled with defensive highlights, defensive end Shea McClellin authored the play of the day on Tuesday when he sniffed out a screen pass and intercepted a hard-thrown ball from quarterback Jay Cutler in the flat.
McClellin initially rushed up field on the play from his end spot before anticipating the throw by Cutler and coming down with a difficult catch. If the sequence had occurred in a real game, McClellin would have scored an easy defensive touchdown.
"I was just doing my job and reading my keys," McClellin said. "The ball was right there so I picked it off. I was just doing my job. I feel faster out there than I did in the spring after I lost eight pounds. I still feel like I get a little heavier, but I'll work on that after camp.
McClellin has been in a groove the last week, routinely winning one-on-one battles with offensive lineman in individual and team drills. The likely plan for the former first-round pick is to move him around the defensive front, lining him up in a two-point or three-point stance depending on the defensive call or the matchup, while sometimes requiring that he cover a tight end or guard the flat on passing downs.
The Bears asked McClellin to do some of that last year as a rookie, but expect to see more of it in 2013. That's because McClellin should receive a significant boost in play-time in the Bears' three-man starting defensive end rotation that also includes Julius Peppers and Corey Wootton.
On the topic of defensive lineman moving around, the Bears had several lineman stand up in a two-point stance and either rush the quarterback or run with a tight end in coverage, the most notable being Pro Bowl defensive tackle Henry Melton.
As the wide receiver bubble starts to take shape, Joe Anderson is doing whatever he can to earn a spot on the Bears' final 53-man roster. A standout on special teams in the final three regular season games of 2012, Anderson has made several impressive catches throughout camp.
On Tuesday, he beat safety Major Wright down the deep middle of the field and hauled in a touchdown bomb from Cutler.
"It was just a beautiful pass by Cut, man," Anderson said. "The safety sat and I just ran by him."
Anderson has the necessary physical skills (6-foot-1, 196 pounds), but admits that he still needs to work on the mental aspect of his game. Anderson was an undrafted rookie free agent last summer out of Texas Southern.
"I'm just as strong as Brandon Marshall or anyone else that is out here," Anderson said. "So it's not the physical part, it's more mental, like learning the fundamentals of the game. Just the little things that can get you open in tight coverages, and that starts in the film room, getting in your playbook and taking good notes in the meeting room. Then you need to come out on the field and apply it all."
It appears to be an open competition at wide receiver after the top three on the depth chart. Wideouts Anderson, Eric Weems, Devin Aromashodu, Terrence Toliver, Marquess Wilson, Josh Lenz, Marcus Rucker, Britton Golden and Jerrell Jackson all figure to get an extended look in the upcoming preseason games.
Wilson, the Bears seventh-round draft choice, is intriguing because although his 6-foot-4, 184 pound frame may not be ready to contribute much for the Bears on offense or special teams this season, would he clear waivers if the team cut him with the intent of bringing him back on the practice squad? The last thing the Bears want to do is completely cut ties with a 20-year old receiver, who if he stayed in school and continued producing at the same rate he had over his first three years at Washington State, would've been a first=round or second-round pick in 2014.
Wide receiver Earl Bennett (concussion symptoms), nickel back Kelvin Hayden (hamstring), linebacker D.J. Williams (calf), offensive tackle Jonathan Scott (knee) and Peppers (excused) were all sidelined on Tuesday.
Left tackle Jermon Bushrod participated in just individual drills for the second consecutive practice as he eases back from a right calf strain.
Defensive tackle Stephen Paea (hip) had full participation.
Team matriarch Virginia McCaskey watched the workout and later chatted with Bears general manager Phil Emery.