Being bigger and stronger with faster hands than he was a year ago is already paying dividends for Bears defensive end Roy Robertson-Harris.
The third-year pro ranks second in the NFL in the preseason with 3.5 sacks and is making a strong case to earn a spot in the defensive line's regular rotation.
"I did a lot of strength training, trying to get stronger and make sure I can take on double teams and things like that," said Robertson-Harris. "Last year I was at 285. Now I'm 295 and I don't want to be big and fat. I wanted to make sure 295 is also coming with strength, so I worked a lot of strength training in the summertime."
Robertson-Harris spent part of the offseason working with personal trainer Chuck Smith, a former Pro Bowl defensive end with the Falcons in the 1990s. The 6-7 lineman also did some boxing to help improve his hand speed.
"Conditioning-wise, it's a little bit tougher than people think," Robertson-Harris said. "But as time goes on, your body gets used to it. You get more comfortable and eventually it's another workout you enjoy."
On one occasion, Robertson-Harris got in the ring and spared with another one of his trainers.
"It's a lot harder than people think," said the Bears defensive end. "We did body shots, so no head shots. I've already taken enough hits to the head. Did one round; sparred for three minutes. It's pretty tough, but it gets your conditioning going."
Robertson-Harris joined the Bears in 2016 as an undrafted free agent from UTEP, but he missed his entire rookie season with an illness. After being switched from outside linebacker to defensive end, he appeared in 13 games last year—all as a reserve—and recorded 12 tackles and two sacks.
A year later, Robertson-Harris is competing with Jonathan Bullard for the starting end position opposite veteran Akiem Hicks. Regardless of who wins the starting job, both players likely will see playing time as part of the line rotation.
"I definitely feel more comfortable than I did a year ago," Robertson-Harris said. "OTAs a year ago, preseason, [I was] still trying to get used to the defense. I feel like being that I played a whole year in the defense, I know what I'm doing. At this point, [I'm] just working on technique stuff to be in the best position to make plays and be a part of a good defense."
One of the areas that he's improved is with his hand placement.
"I've got long arms," Robertson-Harris said. "I've got a tendency to bring my arms out. Little things like that I'm trying to get better at—hands and feet on the practice field—are translating to the games."
Robertson-Harris' performance this summer has caught the eye of Bears coach Matt Nagy.
"He's done well," Nagy said. "He has produced. He's had these sacks, and that jumps out to everybody when you have sacks. But he's a big, tall kid. He's somebody I think is growing as a player. He's receptive to coaching, and he works hard. When you put those things together you have success."