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Amukamara picks off two passes in practice


Prince Amukamara has consistently made plays on the ball since the Bears started training camp a week ago, and Thursday may have been his best practice to date.

The veteran cornerback intercepted two passes in a three-play span in a 7-on-7 drill, picking off an overthrown ball and another that was deflected by a receiver.

"The takeaways are big," said coach Matt Nagy. "I was just in a defensive meeting the other day and [defensive coordinator] Vic [Fangio] and [defensive backs] coach [Ed] Donatell were going through the takeaways and how we go about getting them, how important it is, how it changes the game, the technique of how you get the ball out."

The Bears increased their takeaways from a franchise-record low of 11 in 2016 to 22 last year, but that total included only eight interceptions for the third straight year.

Generating takeaways and reducing giveaways is a major emphasis for the Bears this season.

"It's a game-changer when you get the ball from the offense and vice versa," Nagy said. "We've got to preach ball security and how important it is not to have turnovers; ball security with the ball high and tight end you're carrying the football. It's a challenge when they get in the preseason how well they do it."

Two undrafted rookies combined to intercept three passes Thursday, two by cornerback Michael Joseph and one by linebacker Elijah Norris. Joseph is a Chicago area native who grew up in Oswego and played collegiately at Dubuque, while Norris attended Connecticut before transferring to Shepherd.

In the first live tackling period of training camp Thursday, undrafted rookie running back Ryan Nall scored multiple touchdowns, highlighted by a nifty 35-yarder.

After slipping an ankle tackle in the backfield, Nall picked up blocks by tight end Adam Shaheen and offensive lineman Dejon Allen, cut back to elude one defender and then outran another to the end zone.

"The nice thing with Ryan is that he's versatile in that he can run the ball, block, go out and run routes," Nagy said. "Being a rookie coming in here as an undrafted free agent, he's done really well. We were excited to get the pads on him and you saw in the live period that he was making plays."

Nall appeared in 32 games with 19 starts at Oregon State, rushing for 2,216 yards and 24 touchdowns and catching 56 passes for 563 yards and four TDs. He is the only player in school history with three rushes of at least 75 yards.

Shaheen produced an impressive touchdown reception Thursday, reaching high over a defender to pluck a pass out of the air in the corner of the end zone.

Receiver Tanner Gentry made an excellent catch on a deep pass down the middle, hauling in the ball in double coverage after it was deflected by a defender.

Nickel back Cre'Von LeBlanc dove to break up a long pass intended for running back Tarik Cohen.

Roster moves: The Bears on Thursday signed receiver Malachi Jones and waived receiver Matt Fleming. An Appalachian State product, Jones played for the Albany Empire in the National Arena League this spring, catching 77 passes for 1,156 yards and 29 touchdowns in 12 games.

After a day off, the Bears were back on the practice field Thursday in training camp.