The Chicago Bears kicked off rookie minicamp today on the practice fields at Soldier Field. Fifty-one players took part in the session: six draft picks, 11 undrafted free agents and 34 workout players.
Here are our notes and observations from Day 1.
-The big news came roughly 20 minutes before practice ended, when Chicago's second-round pick, WR Alshon Jeffery, went down with what appeared to be a cramp in his left calf. Coach Lovie Smith confirmed as much after the session.
"He was cramping up," Smith said. "Guys do a lot of working out on their own but it's not like when you come here and work out."
Jeffery was running a deep pattern down the sideline when he pulled up limping. He hobbled to the sidelines where trainers gave him water, while rubbing and stretching his left calf. After about 10 minutes on the ground, Jeffery walked off the field under his own power and into the trainer's room.
Before that, Jeffery looked very good on the field. Up close, you realize that most of his 6-3 height is in his legs. It gives him a fluid, effortless stride. He's sneaky fast and was able to slip past defenders for most of the afternoon. He did not drop a pass that I saw.
-Defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli uses the same bag drills for his defensive linemen in every practice. One drill involves placing four dummies just a foot apart. His players then have to quickly weave through the bags before turning and tackling a final dummy.
DE Shea McClellin
Jerry Lai/US Presswire
This drill develops footwork and quickness. Most of the rookies struggled in this drill, tripping over the dummies clumsily, but not first-round pick Shea McClellin. The defensive end showed great quickness throughout the day and really stood out amongst his fellow rookies.
McClellin also was positioned at right guard during punt team drills, backing up GM Phil Emery's claim that he'll be a special teams contributor from the start.
-Mike Tice, who spent his time exclusively with the offensive line during practices last season, started off this session with the linemen, yet then began making the rounds to other positional drills. He also ran the offense on 7-on-7s.
"It's like he's always been [offensive coordinator] as far as I'm concerned," head coach Lovie Smith said after practice. "Mike's been in the league a while. He's been doing a super job, rallying and just organizing our offensive staff and getting them all on the same page. I think he'll like the look of our offense this year. It helps a lot when you get more weapons, which we've done, but I'm really pleased with what the staff has done."
-Fourth-round tight end Evan Rodriguez showed very good hands this afternoon, yet he slipped at least three times coming out of his breaks. His lack of ideal height relative to other tight ends – he's only 6-2 – stood out as well. Still, he flashed a lot of ability as a pass catcher.
-Third-round safety Brandon Hardin played mostly at free safety, which contradicts Emery's statements after the draft that Hardin would start at strong safety. That said, the defense played almost exclusively in Cover 2 during 7-on-7s, where the duties of both the strong and free safety are identical.
Late in the session, Rodriguez ran a fly route down the seam. Hardin broke on the pass and ripped the ball out of the air before Rodriguez could grab it. It showed good play recognition and athleticism out of Hardin. The shoulder injury that cost him his senior season at Oregon State appears to be a thing of the past.
Hardin also lined up on the punt team in the backfield.
-Defensive backs coach Jon Hoke spent a lot of time with seventh-round pick Greg McCoy, working on his footwork coming off the line and into his backpedal.
In 7-on-7s, McCoy made a great play on a deep pass for an interception. He's a very athletic kid.
-The tryout player that stood out most was WR Joseph Anderson from Texas Southern. He showed good balance in his route running and made a number of very good catches. Receivers coach Darryl Drake gave Anderson a lot of love during positional drills.
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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.