Rookie Kyler Gordon's versatility has been evident in training camp, with the Bears' top draft pick impressing at both cornerback and nickel back.
"He's doing a good job so far," said coach Matt Eberflus. "He's really good with his assignments. He's getting better with his techniques. There's a lot of techniques that you play with inside that you don't play outside. So, there's a balance there. He's got to learn that, and he's doing really well with that."
Eberflus lauded the work that defensive backs coach James Rowe and assistant defensive backs coach David Overstreet II have done with Gordon to prepare him for practice.
Gordon excelled at both cornerback and nickel back the past two seasons at Washington. Last year the 6-foot, 200-pounder was named first-team All-Pac 12 after setting career highs with 46 tackles, nine pass breakups and two interceptions.
The decision when to move Gordon from cornerback to nickel back this season will depend on multiple factors, including who's available to play the other spots in the secondary, the opponent and the game situation.
"It's like a puzzle," Eberflus said. "You're trying to fit it together and put the best guys out there and [ask], 'Is this combination of corners better than this combination?' You also have to look at matchup, so that's a week-to-week thing. Sometimes it might look different week-to-week, where it's based on a matchup situation we like, and then by down-and-distance. You might like a certain matchup better on third down in two minute than you do on first and second down. So that's all encompassing."
Stretching the field: Another Bears player who has demonstrated excellent versatility in training camp is fullback Khari Blasingame. The fourth-year pro produced the play of the day in Monday's practice by hauling in a long pass from quarterback Justin Fields.
"That's great, to be able to stretch the field with a fullback, when you get into '21' (a formation with two running backs and one tight end) and you move him around and he's a viable option in the passing game deep," Eberflus said. "Typically those guys will line up there and they'll turn around and stand there. Well, not him. He's got the whole [route] tree available to him. We're excited about all our backs being able to do that. That creates a lot of pressure for the defense, for sure."
Blasingame, who spent the past three seasons as Derrick Henry's lead blocker with the Titans, is the first true fullback the Bears have had on their roster since Michael Burton in 2018.
"It creates more gaps in the running game when you have that lead back in there, and you certainly have to be mindful of that defensively," said Eberflus, who spent 13 seasons as an NFL defensive assistant before being hired as Bears coach. "Are you going to play nickel? Are you going to play base? What are you going to do? It's a big advantage for the offense to have that guy."
The Bears, along with the 31 other NFL teams, took to the practice fields on "Back Together Saturday," the annual celebration of football's return across the league.
Health news: When asked late last week about Teven Jenkins' absence from practice, Eberflus said the second-year tackle was "working through something with the trainers" and was day-to-day.
Eberflus revealed Monday that the status of Jenkins, who remains sidelined, has not changed.
The Bears coach also informed reporters that second-year cornerback Thomas Graham Jr. will be out longer than expected due to a hamstring injury.
"We got the news this morning that it's going to be a little bit longer for him," Eberflus said. "We thought it was less. They're saying it's not progressing the way it is, so it's going to be a little longer. I won't give you a timetable on it, but he'll be back when he's back."
Roquan update: Eberflus was asked for a progress report concerning a long-term extension for linebacker Roquan Smith. The two-time second-team All-Pro, who is entering the fifth and final year of his rookie contract, opened training camp on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list.
"I'm not in the middle of that, so I really can't say that there's progress/not progress," Eberflus said. "That's [general manager] Ryan [Poles] and him working together. So, I don't really have an update on my part. I just know that he's being a professional. He's in the meetings and he's doing a good job with helping the younger players."
It's unclear when Smith will begin practicing.
"When it happens, we'll make our adjustment and plug and play," Eberflus said. "The big thing is for him while he's on PUP is to do a good job of stay in it mentally, which he's doing, and to really get the mental reps. When we're doing the walkthroughs, he's standing behind getting the mental reps."