Bears defensive coordinator Vic Fangio is pleased with how well first-round draft pick Roquan Smith—a speedy and tenacious inside linebacker—has digested the playbook.
"Right now he's just trying to learn everything and he's doing well at that, working hard at it," Fangio said. "[But] he's got to earn his stripes. He had a good enough college career both on and off the field to get drafted where he was, and now he's got to prove his worth. But he's doing well."
The Bears selected Smith with the eighth overall pick in the draft. Last year at Georgia, the 6-1, 236-pounder was voted first-team All-American, won the Butkus Award as the nation's best linebacker and was named SEC defensive player of the year.
Smith helped Georgia reach the CFP national championship game last season, starting all 15 games and leading the Bulldogs with 137 tackles, 6.5 sacks, 14.0 tackles-for-loss and 20 quarterback hits. He was named MVP of the SEC Championship Game and Defensive MVP of the Rose Bowl in the CFP semifinal after registering 11 tackles in a win over Oklahoma.
"He's fast, obviously," Fangio said. "He's smart and he's got good instincts. Hopefully he'll be able to transfer all of that to this level as well."
Getting better: Fangio understands that reporters want to learn more about Bears rookies such as Smith and sixth-round pick Kylie Fitts, an outside linebacker from Utah.
But Fangio informed them Wednesday that many of the team's veterans have improved, most notably inside linebacker Danny Trevathan. The seventh-year pro has excelled in practices this spring after being sidelined last offseason while recovering from a knee injury.
"Last year he didn't do any of this stuff," Fangio said. "He didn't do any OTAs, hardly did any training camp, didn't play in any preseason games. To me that set him back last year and he was injured the year before. This is the first time he's had a nice chunk of work and I see improvement with him."
Asked to specify where Trevathan has gotten better, Fangio said: "Just executing and being more efficient. Quicker. Play diagnosis. Understanding the little nuances. Not just in the classroom, [but] being able to take them to the field and show you that. He had a nice interception today in practice. I'm encouraged by his improvement."
Ascending player: Nose tackle Eddie Goldman is another veteran who has improved during offseason practices. The 6-4, 320-pounder is looking to build on last season, when he established career highs with 15 starts and 43 tackles after injuries limited him to six games in 2016.
"As he stacks up with nose tackles, he's up there," Fangio said. "He's another one that has gotten better and better through the whole process. Year 1 early this time and even more so in training camp, I didn't see a whole lot. That year he got better and better.
"Then Year 2 was lost. I think he played 15 percent of the plays and five percent of those he was playing hurt. And then last year I think he had a good season. He's a good, solid player, and if he's going to be considered more than a good, solid player, this would be the year to show it."
On the rebound: Coach Matt Nagy has liked what he's seen from receiver Kevin White, who is determined to rebound from injuries that have plagued him in each of his first three NFL seasons.
"He's working hard at it," Nagy said. "He's somebody that you'll see stay after practice and take those extra reps if it's a route he didn't have the correct footwork on. Maybe he was two steps off on a seven-step route and he took five steps, so he's going to go back out there and run the route with seven steps the right way. Or maybe he dropped the football.
"He's committed. He's dedicated. He wants to be a really good wide receiver. When you have somebody that has that want, we as coaches need to give him every opportunity to succeed."
The seventh overall pick in the 2015 draft, White has played in only five of 48 games. He has been productive when healthy, however. His 19 receptions in the first four weeks of the 2016 season are the most ever by a Bears player in his first four NFL games.