Rookie minicamp for the Chicago Bears starts tomorrow. On Friday, Saturday and Sunday, the rookies will engage in practice from 12:30-2:30 p.m. Media will have access to players and coaches as they come off the field. Bear Report will be front and center.
Here are five things that we'll be watching closely on the practice fields outside of Halas Hall this weekend.
DE Shea McClellin
Otto Kitsinger III/Getty
Is McClellin the player the Bears believe him to be?
Rookie minicamp won't allow us to fully answer this question. We'll need to see him in training camp, facing veteran NFL players, before we can get a full grasp on his potential in the pros. But this weekend gives us our first glimpse at a player that elicited a wide range of strong opinions from fans and analysts alike after the club selected him 19th overall.
He's been tabbed as a pass-rush specialist. As such, McClellin should absolutely dominate this weekend. In rush drills against undrafted rookie offensive linemen, McClellin should be able to consistently work through and around the player across from him. He has a reported "all-day motor" so he'd better not be spotted with his hands on his knees at any point in the festivities.
Also, if he's to alleviate concerns about his ability to stop the run, then the level of competition he'll be facing this weekend should pose no problems. Getting blocked by a handful of players that will likely never see an NFL game field won't be a good sign.
Which of the two late-round cornerbacks will impress the most?
The Bears had five veteran cornerbacks on the roster before selecting Isaiah Frey and Greg McCoy in the sixth and seventh rounds respectively. The club kept just five last year, although GM Phil Emery said they could go up to six in 2012.
Either way, at least one of these two late rounders won't make the final 53-man roster. Now is the time for them to beginning making an impression, either on defense or special teams.
Can DT Ronnie Cameron make an impact?
The Bears still have not found a replacement for defensive tackle Amobi Okoye. In both veteran free agency and the draft, Chicago has foregone the position. The only defensive tackles on the current roster that played snaps with the defense last year are Henry Melton, Matt Toeaina and Stephen Paea. Last year, the club kept five DTs.
Jordan Miller was signed in Week 17 last year and might also be in attendance at camp. Yet he was given a shot to make the roster in camp last season and did not fare well.
Here's what Emery had to say immediately following the draft when asked if he'll add another defensive tackle in free agency:
"It depends on how college free agency goes. If we're successful in that, no. The problem with the defensive line position in college free agency and in the draft, it's very thin, so the numbers aren't there. You have 32 teams recruiting a variety of positions, but defensive linemen are always hard [to get] – just like college recruiting defensive linemen are hard to get and get enough quality depth. Yeah, that may be a part of the equation depending on how we finish tonight and tomorrow."
That night, Emery signed undrafted rookie Ronnie Cameron out of Old Dominion, and have not signed a veteran since. At 6-2, 304, and with good quickness off the line of scrimmage, Cameron is tailor made for the 3-technique position in Chicago's 4-3. If he can show he's good enough to play in the NFL, then he'll have a roster spot waiting for him.
How fast is Alshon Jeffery?
Jeffery shed 20 pounds from his playing weight in college – he's currently at 213 pounds, after playing around 230-235 at South Carolina. It appears to have improved his speed, yet since he chose not to run the 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine, and times varied greatly from scout to scout at his pro day, no one is really sure how fast he is. We'll soon be able to answer that question.
Also, how will his reduced weight affect his ability in jump ball situations? He was a physical presence on deep balls in college, using his big body to shield defenders. At 20 pounds lighter, it'll be interesting to see if he can still be a dominant force when the ball is in the air.
Which undrafted free agent will stand out?
The Bears started 2011 with five undrafted free agents on the roster. The club signed 11 undrafted rookies immediately following this year's draft, and each has the opportunity to be a part of this season's final squad. Yet if that's going to happen, they need to stand out now.
Besides Cameron, the player most likely to catch the eye of Chicago's coaches is offensive lineman James Brown (6-4, 304).
Brown started 38 collegiate games at left tackle but, due to his lack of ideal quickness and size, is projected as a guard in the NFL. He was arguably the best offensive lineman not drafted. ESPN's Mel Kiper had him ranked as the 54th best player in the draft. He's better blocking for the run than he is in pass protection.
The Bears have a number of options at guard but none of them are all that attractive. Brown will have every opportunity to make the roster this year. He'll need to begin proving he deserves it this weekend.
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Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of Bear Report magazine and BearReport.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. To read him every day, visit BearReport.com and become a Chicago Bears insider.