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Quick Hits: Wilkinson auditioning for starting job


Elijah Wilkinson's first real audition for the Bears' starting left tackle position comes in Saturday's preseason opener against the Dolphins.

With the two other top contenders for the job—rookie draft picks Teven Jenkins and Larry Borom—sidelined with a back injury and concussion, respectively, Wilkinson has a golden opportunity to prove that he deserves the starting spot.

Asked what he hopes to accomplish Saturday at Soldier Field, Wilkinson said: "Don't make any errors. Block my guy. Give 110 percent. Take advantage of this opportunity that I have in front of me. I'm just here to compete and win a job."

Wilkinson signed with the Bears in March. He arrived after spending his first four NFL seasons with the Broncos, appearing in 45 games with 26 starts after entering the league with Denver in 2017 as an undrafted free agent out of Massachusetts.

Coach Matt Nagy said this week that the biggest challenge for Wilkinson in winning the starting left tackle position "would be just eliminating the big misses."

"He's a good football player, and then every now and then there will be one that just kind of might get him," Nagy said. "He's learning from that. Now's the time to do that. The greatest tackles in the world have those. [He's] just trying to reduce those and minimize them.

"He's a great kid. He really wants to do well. He's very coachable. That's all we can ask for. Now he's going to get an opportunity to see what he can do."

Another challenge for Wilkinson is learning to play on the left side of the line. All 26 of his NFL starts with the Broncos came on the right side. He opened the final seven games in 2018 at right guard before moving to right tackle, where he started 12 contests in 2019 and seven in 2020.

"It's getting that consistency down and getting comfortable with the position and training my eyes and training my feet to be left instead of right," Wilkinson said. "I've been right for the last few years. Being in camp and also preseason is a good time to hone that in and make sure I get that locked down.

"It's a difficult thing to do. If you think about it, it's all flipped around; the plays are backward, the call's on the other side, talking to somebody else on the other side. It's very different. It's challenging."

An instant connection

Quarterbacking the No. 1 offense in practice, veteran Andy Dalton has enjoyed working with starting receivers Allen Robinson II and Darnell Mooney.

An 11th-year pro, Dalton formed an instant connection with Robinson, who is entering his eighth NFL season and fourth with the Bears.

"It's been great," Dalton said. "I have obviously watched Allen throughout his career and to see what he's been able to do and now actually getting to firsthand see how he works, how he operates, to talk through how he likes to run routes, when he's expecting the ball to come out on certain timings on these routes, it's been great, just the communication that we've been able to have.

"That's what we've got to have this time of year, and it's nice for both of us. We've played a lot of football, so we can talk through different looks and I think we both understand what we're expecting to see."

Robinson is seeking to become the first receiver in Bears history with three straight 1,000-yard seasons. He caught 98 passes for 1,147 yards and seven touchdowns in 2019 and followed with 102 receptions for 1,250 yards and six TDs in 2020.

"Allen is such a good guy and he studies the game and he knows so much football and he cares," Dalton said. "He wants to be really good. That's all you can ask for a guy with his talent. You take that talent, you add that onto it, and you can see what he's been able to do since he's been in the league."

Mooney, meanwhile, has excelled in training camp, looking to build on a breakout first NFL season. The Bears traded up in the fifth round of last year's draft to select the Tulane product, who set a franchise record for most receptions by a rookie wide receiver with 61 while amassing 631 yards and four touchdowns.

"I was talking about Allen wanting to be really good; Darnell has that exact same mentality," Dalton said. "He wants to make sure he is doing everything the right way and everything he can to be the best player. [He's] a guy we have been able to use in so many different ways. He's a guy with speed, he's quick, he has it all. The best part about him is that he wants to be great. Everything that I've been doing with Allen and the communication, it's the exact same with Darnell, making sure we are on the same page with everything that we are doing."

Ogletree aging like a fine wine

Alec Ogletree was in Chicago earlier this month visiting his friend and former Rams teammate, Bears outside linebacker Robert Quinn, when the veteran linebacker received an urgent call from his agent.

"I was just going to be here for a couple days and go back to Georgia," Ogletree said. "My agent called me and asked me where I was at. I was like, 'I'm in Chicago.' He was like, 'Uh, don't leave, [the Bears] want to sign you.'"

Ogletree wasted little time making a positive impression, registering six interceptions in his first four practices with the Bears.

"It's been fun," he said. "The league's about production and if you don't produce, you can't stick around. That's just how it goes. I wanted to come in and make some plays, but I wasn't expecting to make some of the plays that I did, but God looked out for me and I was able to make the most of a couple opportunities with picks."

Ogletree has appeared in 95 NFL games with 94 starts over eight seasons with the Rams (2013-17), Giants (2018-19) and Jets (2020). He has recorded 679 tackles, 44 tackles-for-loss, 7.5 sacks, 12 interceptions—returning four for touchdowns—and 12 forced fumbles. Last year he spent the first month of the season with the Jets before being released Oct. 10.

"I'm like a good wine; I feel like I get better with age," Ogletree said. "The older you get, you have to learn to take care of your body a different type of way than you did when you were younger because you don't bounce back as quick as you once did.

"I played five games last year and then went home the rest of the year, so it gave me a chance to kind of re-think things and actually learn [from] some of the stuff that I did in the past—what was good for me and what wasn't good for me. I tried to take all that into account this offseason; just work hard to get an opportunity to come back out here and play and show that I can still make plays in this league."

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