By Chris Emma—
LAKE FOREST, Ill. (CBS) – Lined up in the nose of the center, Roy Robertson-Harris burst from his stance and showed his progression.
Off the snap of Titans center Ben Jones came Robertson-Harris, converted to the defensive line this offseason. He didn’t attempt to go around the would-be blocker. Instead, he ran right through him. Robertson-Harris drove the veteran Jones back seven yards and nearly knocked him into the grill of Tennessee quarterback Marcus Mariota.
Robertson-Harris is a player who gained enough weight not playing the last year to the extent the Bears believed a move to the line was best suited. He had a good college career primarily playing defensive end at UTEP, but the Bears signed him as an undrafted free agent to play outside linebacker.
Now, he looks every bit of a defensive lineman – bull rush and all.
“Keep grinding, keep working hard every day,” Robertson-Harris said. “Even though I’ve played this position before, it’s at a higher stage now – playing with bigger, stronger guys.
“I just want to continue to go up, work hard. I look forward to making some plays during the regular season.”
Bears general manager Ryan Pace prioritized Robertson-Harris after he went undrafted in 2016, making him the first phone call. The belief remains strong, and the confidence is only growing.
Robertson-Harris appears to be on his way not only to making the Bears’ 53-man roster this weekend but earning a key place in the defensive line rotation. This preseason has brought movement with the first-team defense, a place that Robertson-Harris has earned. He’s also working on special teams, blocking a punt in the third preseason game Sunday. In the second game, he recorded two sacks.
The growth of Robertson-Harris comes after missing his entire rookie season due to tough circumstances. An illness kept him from playing in 2016 and brought personal challenges.
“Last year was kind of a difficult time,” Robertson-Harris said. “My wife had just had our son, so I was a new dad. Being in the league for the first time, going through a bunch of changes; not being able to play your first year is kind of difficult. I kind of went through a deep depression.
“This year’s pretty exciting. I’ve been able to make some plays in practice and games.”
That’s the last he would talk of 2016, now in the past. Robertson-Harris arrived at 265 pounds and now stands at an athletic 290, showing the same burst off the snap and effectiveness with his speed. He watches teammate Akiem Hicks and sees the skills he can apply to beat an offensive lineman.
The Bears have recognized the progression of Robertson-Harris and continue to find him new challenges. They want to see how good he can be.
Robertson-Harris is making the most of his opportunity.
“Hard work pays off,” he said. “I want to continue to work and, eventually, the regular season comes around – hoping that I’m still here – I want to contribute any way I can.”