LAKE FOREST, Ill. — The Bears’ leader in passes defensed last season wasn’t on the team until September and isn’t guaranteed a starting job this year, constant reminders for Cre’Von LeBlanc of his draft status.
“I'm always the undrafted guy,” he said following Wednesday’s practice. “Nothing was given to me. No handouts. Never was fed with a silver spoon. Every time I come out on the field it's business.”
Claimed off waivers from the Patriots last year, LeBlanc wound up playing in 13 games with 9 starts and he had a team-high 10 passes defensed to go along with two interceptions. This offseason, LeBlanc is working to improve his footwork.
“[A focal point has been] being more efficient coming out of my breaks at the top of the route,” LeBlanc said. “I put a lot of emphasis on my breaks in the offseason. Another thing, too, is having the willing desire to compete on the outside and not give up too many plays. … I know [I’m an] undrafted free agent, back against the wall — gotta come out swinging.”
LeBlanc has taken reps both at nickel and on the outside during OTAs and minicamp, and it’s expected he will compete with another undrafted player, Bryce Callahan, for the starting nickel role with the versatility to bounce outside.
The two are battling against one another, but spend a lot of time together watching film, helping each other out.
"When both our games are elevated, we can do great things," he said. "When we're both on the field, it's amazing. We're just happy for one another.”
In minicamp, LeBlanc said the mental part of the game has been important to help the Bears improve upon its franchise-record-low in takeaways last season.
“Taking every rep seriously, diagnosing the play, diagnosing the formation, route concepts,” he said. “Looking back last year at some opposing teams and see what they're doing on film and their bread-and-butter plays and go-to plays on first and second down, just getting into the film room and watching it. So when you see it and it actually happens in a game, it's like, 'Oh, I know what's coming.' It's like first nature. That'll be big for us.”
LeBlanc believes he “shocked a lot of people” last season with his production as an undrafted player, and said his confidence has always been high.
“My confidence has always been through the roof,” he said. “… Last year, I put it all [on] the line. This year I'm going to put it all on the line. I'm never going to stop going hard. I'm never going to give up.”
Technological upgrades: The Bears had new robotic filming towers for practice Wednesday and a video board that could provide instant tape for the players and coaches to review.
"Those are just a couple things we've done this offseason to help our guys prepare to get better and help us win on Sunday," John Fox said.