Today marks the beginning of offseason training activities (OTA) for the Chicago Bears. It will be the first of 10 full team practices conducted during the next three weeks.
During each of the next three Wednesday's, media will be allowed to watch practice and talk with the players. Practices will be without pads and coaches will not be available.
Tomorrow will be our first chance to get an up-close look at a club that has added numerous new pieces this offseason. Here are five questions we'll be looking to answer during the first Wednesday session.
Where is Chris Williams lined up?
Former first-round offensive lineman Chris Williams, originally drafted 14th overall in 2008 to be the long-term left tackle, has played guard the past two seasons. Yet with J'Marcus Webb struggling on the left edge, it has been reported that offensive coordinator Mike Tice is going to slide Williams back outside to compete with Webb.
OL Chris Williams
If Williams and Webb are rotating at left tackle, we'll be able to confirm the recent reports. The competition will then begin in earnest.
And if that happens, who will be the team's starting left guard. Edwin Williams started seven games at the position last season, yet the club also has Lance Louis, Chris Spencer and Chilo Rachal, all of whom have starting experience at guard.
Is Gabe Carimi healthy?
Last season's first-round pick, right tackle Gabe Carimi, missed all but six quarters in 2011 due to a dislocated right knee. Tice said Carimi is on track to play this year but it's unclear how far along he is in his rehabilitation.
If he's on the right edge during walkthroughs and participating in positional drills, it will signal significant recovery in his knee, making it likely he'll be ready to go once the pads go on in training camp.
If not, and he spends the day on the sidelines, everyone's concerns about whether or not he'll be ready to go by the start of the 2012 season will instantly be justified.
How does Jay Cutler look with his new receivers?
After three seasons in which he was surrounded by less-than-adequate parts, Bears QB Jay Cutler finally has a quality receiving corps. He has his old favorite target in Brandon Marshall, as well as his failsafe, Earl Bennett, and a big-bodied playmaking rookie in Alshon Jeffery.
We'll be paying attention to Cutler and Marshall to see if they still have the chemistry they built together in Denver; if Cutler will look Alshon Jeffery's way in 7-on-7s, or if he'll make the rookie earn his touches; if Jeffery will be starting at X, and if Bennett will be in the slot; how Devin Hester fits with all these new pieces; and if Devin Thomas or Dane Sanzenbacher has a head start in earning the team's final receiver position.
How is Urlacher moving?
Brian Urlacher suffered a knee sprain in the season finale last season. He said a month ago he wasn't 100 percent but should be ready to go for OTAs. The 33-year-old veteran is still playing at a high level – he earned his eighth trip to the Pro Bowl last season – yet any lingering knee issues could severely hinder his game, which is based on speed.
LB Brian Urlacher
Marilyn Indahl/US Presswire
If he's out running and working with his teammates during the next month, it will be a good sign that he's ready to be the leader of this defense for at least one more season.
Who stands out on the defensive line?
GM Phil Emery has not yet found a solid replacement for Okoye. Jordan Miller carries over from last season, and the team picked up journeymen Demario Pressley and John McCargo a few weeks ago. They also signed undrafted rookie Ronnie Cameron.
Will any of those four players – each of whom has a chance to be Okoye's replacement – be a presence on the interior and give himself a head start in this competition?
At defensive end, Corey Wootton, Chauncey Davis and recent signee Cheta Ozougwa will vie for the club's fourth end spot. Can any of those edge rushers outplay the competition during these underwear Olympics?
Bonus story lines
-Can Geno Hayes challenge Nick Roach for the starting SAM spot?
-Which of the four backup cornerbacks – veterans Kelvin Hayden and Jonathan Wilhite, or rookies Isaiah Frey and Greg McCoy – can impress defensive backs coach Jon Hoke?
-Is Chris Conte, who ended last year on injured reserve with a foot injury, healthy and ready to be the starter this year at free safety?
-How many two-tight-end sets will Tice install, now that he has two pass-catching big men – Kellen Davis and Evan Rodriguez – at his disposal.
-How will Tice deploy Rodriguez, whom he calls an "F back"?
-Does Michael Bush appear ready to carry a full load, in case Forte decides to hold out?
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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.