Following yesterday's third and final rookie minicamp practice, Chicago Bears head coach Lovie Smith talked about the players that stood out over the weekend.
"Some undrafted players of course made their mark," Smith said. "The group of tryout guys that came here without a contract, always anxious to see what we have from those. A few of the guys really made us take notice. We'll end up signing a couple of those guys."
The Bears ended up signing seven of those camp rookies. Bear Report was front and center during the weekend's festivities. Here is what we saw from each of the newly signed rookies.
WR Joe Anderson, Texas Southern (6-1, 196)
Anderson stood during the first practice session. He has very good hands and is shifty for a taller wideout. The Bears used him in the slot as well as out wide. He can make the "wow" catches, which is what caught the eyes of his coaches early on. During 1-on-1 drills on the first day, Anderson made a nice cut back on a 15-yard sideline hitch. The pass was a bit out in front of him, yet Anderson was able to reach out and snag it, while keeping his feet in bounds. Receivers coach Darryl Drake gave him a lot of love after that play. Anderson also showed well on deep passes, using his body to shield defenders.
QB Matt Blanchard, Wisconsin-Whitewater (6-3, 2225)
Both Blanchard and Ronnie Fouch from Indiana State threw surprisingly well. Passes were generally on target with velocity. Blanchard really stood out for his touch on the long ball. He also appeared to grasp Mike Tice's offense early on. If he can get into training camp and continue throwing the way he did this weekend, he might have a shot to replace Nathan Enderle as the club's developmental quarterback.
TE Brandon Venson
TE Brandon Venson, Illinois State (6-3, 245)
Venson was a very pleasant surprise. He's bigger than fourth-round tight end Evan Rodriguez (6-2, 239) and is supposedly a quality blocker. He also showed very good hands and agility. He's not as fast as Rodriguez, and won't unseat him, but if Venson continues to impress, he could compel Bears brass to dump Matt Spaeth and his $2 million contract in 2012.
T Tyler Hendrickson , Concordia (6-8, 313)
Hendrickson has prototypical measurements for an offensive tackle. He's a former hockey player that showed quick feet. He's an experienced left tackle with size and athleticism. It's hard to gauge offensive linemen during the underwear Olympics, held without pads. We'll know more about him during OTAs.
G Nick Pieschel, Central Florida (6-6, 309)
Pieschel's biggest asset appears to be his strength. In the sled drills, he showed a lot of explosion. Like Hendrickson, we didn't get to see him block anyone.
P Ryan Quigley, Boston College & K David Teggart, Connecticut
Current starters, K Robbie Gould and P Adam Podlesh, aren't going anywhere. But the Bears like to have extra kickers on hand for practices during the offseason, so multiple drills can be run simultaneously.
To make way for these young signees, the Bears released three players:
T Levi Horn
Horn spent the majority of the last two seasons on the practice squad. He was called up in Week 11 last year but never saw the game field, despite the horrible play of the two starting offensive tackles in front of him.
TE Andre Smith
Smith was signed to the practice squad last year after spending the offseason in Bourbonnais. He was called up in Week 12 but was inactive in every contest.
G Reggie Stephens
Stephens was on the practice squad last year.
At this moment, the Bears have 89 players on the current roster. They can add one more before reaching the 90-player limit for training camp.
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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.