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Keenan Allen impresses teammates, coaches with route running, work ethic | Quick Hits


In just two hours of practice during Tuesday's veteran minicamp practice at Halas Hall, receiver Keenan Allen stood out. Even without pads on and in the midst of transition after spending his entire 11-year career with the Chargers, Allen impressed his teammates and coaches, many of whom have been studying or scheming against him for years.

"He's fantastic," tight end Cole Kmet said. "I've been watching for 12 years now. It's pretty impressive for sure."

"All the NFL coaches have seen Keenan for a lot of years, and the first thing that comes to mind is that he's crafty," coach Matt Eberflus said. "He is so crafty with his route running. It seems like he's always open, even when I used to double cover him … He understands his body and understands his way. He's really friendly to the quarterback because he's a really big target and he's very good at what he does."

Allen, who has been lauded for his route-running ability since entering the NFL in 2013, takes pride in hearing his teammates and coaches describe his skillset as fantastic or crafty. The six-time Pro Bowler attributes those traits to his extensive experience in the league and the opportunities he's had "to see multiple things over and over again."

"I think it means your technique and the ways you're able to perform are an art," Allen said. "You're able to just make things look different. You're probably doing the same things, but it looks a little different. You're able to get to it different ways. And it's kind of special the way you draw it up."

Allen's natural talent and decade-plus of NFL experience allow him to lead by example for his younger teammates, including 25-year-old Kmet.

"Whenever you have a veteran like that, it's a great thing for younger guys to look to," Kmet said. "Even guys like myself. Just the way he works, comes in and takes care of his business, and the way he's survived and thrived in this league up to this point is really impressive.

"As he's aged he's still been able to produce. Those are the things you look at when you're a player in this league and you try to model some of the habits that he's brought in. He's obviously a very special player."

The veteran receiver will also play a pivotal role in helping rookie quarterback Caleb Williams transition into the NFL. While Allen believes the No. 1 overall pick has "tremendous talent," he also understands establishing chemistry and learning a new offense will be "a work in progress" for the entire unit. Having prior experience with rookie quarterbacks, Allen anticipates that process continuing into training camp as each player gets comfortable with new offensive coordinator Shane Waldron's system and each other.

As the process unfolds, Allen is excited to work alongside his new receivers, including veteran DJ Moore and No. 9 overall pick Rome Odunze, who Allen added "looks great" on the practice field.

"I think we have different skill sets, but we're all doing kind of the same thing," Allen said. "We're all going to run the same routes. We're all going to be in the same spots. So skill set really doesn't matter until you get the ball. And once you get the ball, you're able to see who can do what.

"Obviously DJ, he can through the roof his yards after catch. We'll have to see what Rome's going to do in the NFL. And I'm a guy who's going to play the middle like I play it. So I think we're all going to feed off each other and just build confidence with each other."

Teammates continuing to learn who Williams is

During the pre-draft process this offseason, Kmet was aware of the constant discourse surrounding Williams, given his status as the top NFL prospect. However, the tight end refrained from drawing any conclusions about the USC product until he was able to meet Williams himself.

Kmet was one of a handful of Bears players who had dinner with Williams following a pre-draft visit to Halas Hall. That meeting allowed Kmet to foster a relationship with the Williams that has continued to grow throughout the offseason program as he learns more about the quarterback as a player and a person.

One of Kmet's latest findings came when the tight end, Williams, backup quarterback Brett Rypien, some rookie receivers and a few other teammates found themselves in an intense game of Topgolf.

"You don't really know somebody until you meet them," Kmet said. "Getting to know him over the past couple months now has been pretty fun and you realize how competitive he is. We went to Topgolf the other night and they were going to close, but he had to finish the game. So we were there to about 1 in the morning finishing the game."

When asked who emerged victorious, Kmet added: "I did. That's why we were there all night."

As Kmet has created a bond with Williams in the past month, he has also been witness to the Chicago community embracing its new quarterback and vice versa. Born and raised in suburban Lake Barrington, Kmet knows firsthand how much passion and energy Bears fans put into their team, and as of late, Williams.

Kmet has enjoyed seeing the city embrace Williams and believes the rookie quarterback hasn't shied away from the spotlight, adding "you can tell that he wants to compete, and he wants to be remembered for a very long time."

"It's cool," Kmet said. "It's cool to see everyone as excited as they are for him. More importantly, he's super excited to be here. I think he's starting to get the understanding of what this means to the city and what he means to the city. He's definitely embracing all that."

Williams has learning experience during minicamp

In Tuesday's practice, Williams experienced the full scope of being a rookie quarterback. He showcased his continuous improvement this offseason during 11-on-11 and 7-on-7 drills by connecting with Moore for a couple completions, hitting tight end Gerald Everett with a jump-throw and finding Kmet over the middle for a chunk play.

Then during one of the team periods, Williams was late on a pass and was intercepted by veteran safety Kevin Byard III — a play Eberflus knows is still a positive part of the learning process for the rookie.

"Those are the experiences that he has to go through," Eberflus said. "He has to go through his progressions, which he did. He was right on his progressions. Then he took a hitch, and the ball should have came out, and he took two hitches, and it was late over the middle. That's always dangerous when you do that. But that's the learning experience in the process that a young quarterback has to go through — whenever his feet are timed up, when can he make those throws, and when can't he make those throws? That's just experimentation.

"We're just doing a really good job of getting experience. Get him exposure. Let him experiment with his arm talent and the receivers that he has. Eventually, player development happens, and the evolution of a quarterback happens."

Looking at the offseason program as a whole, Eberflus remains impressed with Williams' talent and ability to take in information quickly. Eberflus lauded his "highly competitive" and "high character" nature which has allowed him and Waldron to keep progressing with the offense at a fast pace.

"I would say the learning," Eberflus said when asked what has impressed him most about Williams. "I would really just say that. Really absorbing and learning and having a beginner's mindset to be able to learn, absorb, ask questions and just keep learning. That's what's been impressive to me. If he does that, he'll be just fine."

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