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Light bulb snaps on for Bears rookie Shea McClellin

Bears defensive end SheMcClelltackles Bronco running back Lance Ball second quarter Chicago Bears-Denver Broncos game Thursday August 9 2012 Soldier

Bears defensive end Shea McClellin tackles Bronco running back Lance Ball in the second quarter of the Chicago Bears-Denver Broncos game Thursday August 9, 2012 at Soldier Field in Chicago. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times

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Updated: September 14, 2012 6:19AM

BOURBONNAIS — Undaunted by scrutiny early in training camp, rookie defensive end Shea McClellin is moving closer and closer toward the situational-pass-rusher role many think will be his best chance to produce.

The games will determine whether he gets there. But he’s heading in the right direction. Coming off the preseason opener Thursday, when McClellin had a sack against the Denver Broncos’ second-team offense, he has been getting first-team reps in the Bears’ nickel defense in practice.

‘‘I’ve been impressed with him throughout camp,’’ coach Lovie Smith said after practice Sunday. ‘‘He had a lot to learn, and he’s doing that. He played well in the game, and once you [do that] and see that, ‘Hey, I can play this game,’ it gives you a lot of confidence.

‘‘He’s a guy with confidence right now. We like him. We’re
are getting him more reps with our [first-team defense]. He’s going to help us win games this year.’’

Paea out 1-2 weeks

Defensive tackle Stephen Paea, who seemed to have pulled even with Matt Toeaina for the starting job, suffered a ‘‘mid-high’’ ankle sprain in practice Saturday and expects to miss one to two weeks.

‘‘It is what it is — it’s football,’’ said Paea, a second-round draft pick in 2011. ‘‘I just have to get my mind right. I’ve worked too hard for this. I’ll just play it by ear and see how it feels.’’

Smith said he didn’t consider it a setback for Paea.

‘‘We’ve seen enough,’’ Smith said. ‘‘We like what he did at the end of the season last year. He’s going to play good ball for us this year.’’

Jeffery on target

Rookie wide receiver Alshon Jeffery keeps catching everything thrown his way in training camp. Producing in games is a big jump, but Jeffery looks up to the task.

‘‘I just need to work on the playbook more and watch a lot more film to see where I can get better,’’ said Jeffery, a second-round pick from South Carolina. ‘‘I don’t know what the progress is. I just know I’m . . . getting better.’’

Fighting for a job

Offensive tackle Cory Brandon is making progress — getting first-team reps at right tackle in place of Gabe Carimi on Sunday — and likely scoring points by showing a little spunk that seems to be lacking from other linemen.

The 6-7, 324-pound Brandon scrapped with safety Anthony Walters in practice Saturday. He tangled with linebacker Blake Costanzo on Sunday.

‘‘It’s just part of the game,’’ Brandon said. ‘‘When I’m out there, I play ball. But in the locker room, we’re all teammates. It’s just football.’’

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