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Bears’ 2012 class looking to earn some credit

Bears Kyle Long walks line scrimmage prepare for next play during practice Bears Summer Training Camp Olivet Nazarene University Bourbonnais

Bears Kyle Long walks to the line of scrimmage to prepare for the next play during practice at Bears Summer Training Camp at Olivet Nazarene University in Bourbonnais, Ill., | Jessica Koscielniak ~ Sun - Times

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Updated: September 24, 2013 6:38AM



The Bears’ 2013 draft class already looks as if it will make an impact this season. Both first-round pick Kyle Long (right guard) and second-round pick Jon Bostic (middle linebacker) likely will start in the season opener against the Cincinnati Bengals on Sept. 8 at Soldier Field. Fifth-round pick Jordan Mills is currently starting at right tackle.

But the challenge for the Bears is maxing out on their 2012 class. It did not distinguish itself last season, and now, unlike the rookie class of 2013, it’s not playing for the coaching staff it was drafted to play for.

From defensive end Shea McClellin and wide receiver Alshon Jeffery to defensive back Isaiah Frey and wide receiver Joe Anderson, the Bears need to develop a couple of hits from general manager Phil Emery’s 2012 class to ease the transition for new coach Marc Trestman.

Here’s where they stand heading into Friday night’s preseason game against the Oakland Raiders:

Shea McClellin, DE (first-round, 19th overall). He has made big plays in practice and had a sack against the Carolina Panthers in the preseason opener. But he still needs to prove he’s an every-down defensive end. Defensive coordinator Mel Tucker acknowledged that run defense remains a hole in McClellin’s game but is encouraged by his progress.

‘‘I like what he’s doing in terms of his pad level and his hand placement, and that really helps him in the run game,’’ Tucker said. ‘‘I think he’s doing a solid job in there so far. I like what I see out of him so far in the run game.’’

Alshon Jeffery, WR (second-round, 50th overall). When Jay Cutler was asked Tuesday about the ‘‘trust factor’’ with receivers other than Brandon Marshall, he mentioned Jeffery first. Injuries limited Jeffery to 10 games last season, but he averaged 15.3 yards per catch (24-367) with three touchdowns.

‘‘Alshon has probably had the best camp out of everybody on offense,’’ Cutler said. ‘‘He’s done a great job this offseason of getting better, getting physically stronger and gaining my trust. I love throwing it to him.’’

Brandon Hardin, S (third round, 79th overall). The former cornerback at Oregon State still is finding his way at safety after missing the regular season last year with a neck injury. He’s running behind Anthony Walters, a 2011 undrafted free agent, among safeties backing up starters Chris Conte and Major Wright.

Isaiah Frey, CB (sixth round, 184th overall). He’s the starting nickel back because of Kelvin Hayden’s season-ending injury, but Frey earned the right to get that promotion with improved play from the start of training camp after spending last season on the practice squad. The only question is how well he’ll do when the bell rings Sept. 8.

Joe Anderson, WR (undrafted). The powerfully built (6-1, 196) Anderson has a documented 39-inch vertical and big-play potential and might be the team’s No. 3 receiver with Earl Bennett still out with a concussion. But the slow progress of the offense has yet to give Anderson a chance to show what he can do. Either way, he has shown enough that he’ll get every opportunity to be an impact player.

James Brown, G (undrafted). He started three games at left guard at the end of last season and was slated to be the starter at right guard before Long was promoted. His versatility is a plus, but he still has to win a spot on the 53-man roster.

Matt Blanchard, QB (undrafted). The Bears like the former Lake Zurich star, but he’s not ready to beat out Josh McCown for the No.  2 spot behind Cutler and now is out indefinitely because of a fractured knuckle on his left (non-throwing) hand.

Email: mpotash@suntimes.com

Twitter: @MarkPotash



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