Beginning tomorrow, the Chicago Bears will begin the annual three-day practice session known as rookie minicamp. As its name suggests, only rookies, and a select few second-year players, are allowed to attend.
Chicago's six 2013 draft picks will be in attendance, as well as the 10 undrafted free agents the team signed following the draft. To round out the minicamp roster, Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune has compiled an unofficial list of the remaining invitees.
LB Tunde Bakare, Kansas
TE Kellen Bartlett, Utah State
QBJimmy Coy, St. Xavier
S Dalton Hilliard, UCLA
P Jay Karutz, Eastern Michigan
OT A.J. Lindeman, Toledo
LB Jon Major, Colorado
K Patrick Murray, Fordham
P Kyle Negrete, USC
LS Zak Pedersen, Illinois
WR Harry Peoples, Louisiana-Lafayette
S Chris Salvi, Notre Dame
FB Richard Samuel, Georgia
CB B.J. Scott, South Alabama
LB Andrew Starks, Princeton
DE Josh Williams, Kansas
DT Pat Williams, McNeese State
P Greg Wood, Valparaiso
The three-day rookie session will lead directly into the start of organized training activities (OTAs), which begin on Monday. Bear Report will be front and center for each practice. Here are the five most-pertinent questions we'll be looking to answer.
How much will Kyle Long stand out?
Typically during rookie minicamp the draft picks, particularly the high draft picks, tend to stand out like a sore thumb. Most of the guys on the practice field are fringe NFL players at best, guys giving it one last go at making a roster. In comparison, the first- and second-round selections are players expected to contribute right away, athletes whose talent levels far exceed those around them.
With that in mind, we will have our attention focused on first-round offensive linemen Kyle Long, whom GM Phil Emery called the most athletic offensive guard of the past 12 drafts. If that is truly the case, Long should easily be the best player on the field. He should be making everyone look bad with his amazing natural talent. If he doesn't, then the criticism of selecting Long in the first round will ratchet up another level.
Where do the linebackers fit?
Bostic is projected to play the MIKE position but there are some doubts he has the speed and agility to cover sideline to sideline, as well as the deep middle in Cover 2. He's a big hitter and he's explosive at the point of attack but in order to man the middle in Chicago, you also need field quickness and speed. We'll get our first chance to see if Bostic has those skills.
Greene is projected on the outside, ideally on the weak side, where Lance Briggs plays. If Greene wants playing time this year, he's going to have quickly learn how to play on the strong side. Or there's a chance his speed could make him a good fit at MIKE, if he's given an opportunity to play inside. Chicago's coaches will show us this weekend where they foresee him as the best fit on defense.
With both of these players, understanding of the defense will be crucial. The faster they can pick up their new assignments and reads, the quicker they'll enter the starter conversation.
How explosive is Cornelius Washington?
By most accounts, sixth-round defensive end Cornelius Washington was a steal for the Bears. Many experts had him slated as a potential second rounder, yet the Bears snagged him with the 188th overall pick in the draft. His draft stock dropped due to a less-than-stellar senior season, yet the prevailing belief is that Washington has the pass-rush ability to be a productive nickel pass rusher.
At the combine, Washington showed extreme athleticism. If he can translate that raw talent to the pro level and provide pressure off the edge, he'll provide a big boost to Chicago's pass rush. This weekend, we'll be paying close attention to the power and explosiveness Washington shows, to see if he has the early makings of an impact player.
Which wide receiver will step up?
The receiving corps is set in positions one through three with Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery and Earl Bennett. Beyond that, there are at least two spots up for grabs, and potentially three if the club chooses to keep six wideouts. The Bears drafted Marquess Wilson in the seventh round, signed three priority free agents (Mark Harrison, Josh Lenz and Marcus Rucker) and invited another pass catching rookie (Harry Peoples) as well. Now will be the time for one of those five receivers to catch the eye of the coaching staff. This will be the only weekend of the season where all of the attention will be focused on them. There will be no better chance for them to prove they deserve a roster spot.
The most intriguing player of this group is Harrison. He's a big-bodied wideout (6-4, 231) who ran a 4.37 and had a 38.5-inch vertical jump. That is some serious athleticism to put in a frame of that size. If those measurables translate to the field, he could quickly make a case for a spot on the final 53-man roster.
Is there a fourth DT here?
Following the draft, the Bears signed two defensive tackles with a lot of upside: Montana State's Zach Minter and Georgia Southern's Brent Russell. On film, Minter demonstrates good get off at the snap and the power to bull rush his way into the backfield. His strength will give him an opportunity to play both nose tackle and under tackle.
Yet Russell may have an even better shot at making the roster. He was dominant Georgia Southern, extremely productive and unblockable at times. Playing at a small school, as well as a disorderly conduct arrest last November, were the reasons he fell out of the draft but he appears to have a lot of potential. If he can catch the eye of defensive line coach Mike Phair, he'll set himself up for a strong training camp.
The Bears are in need of a fourth defensive tackle and there's no guarantee that Nate Collins, the number three DT, will make the team either. So roster spots are up for grabs along the interior of the defensive line.
Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of BearReport.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. Follow Bear Report on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Bear Report Web site or magazine, click here.