The Chicago Bears conducted the first practice session of rookie minicamp this afternoon. In all, 59 players worked out with the club's new coaching staff. Of those players, 11 of them are second- or third-year players who qualify for camp this year, due to their limited playing time last season(s):
The session, held indoors at the Walter Payton Center at Halas Hall, lasted just over an hour.
Day 1 Notes
-The tempo of today's practice really wore out most of the rookies. Marc Trestman, who debuted his up-tempo style during voluntary minicamp last month, did not take it easy on his youngsters.
"The tempo was real high. I wasn't ready for that," sixth-round defensive end Cornelius Washington told Bear Report after practice. "They don't run too many plays. We get it in, come in real fast, real speedy, get in and get out. It's a whole lot less time than I'm used but it's way up-tempo."
The practice began with warmups, then positional drills, then 11-on-11s, then 7-on-7s, the special teams, then 11-on-11s, then 7-on-7s, then special teams, then 11-on-11s. In fact, they might have snuck another special teams session in there as well. During every team drill, the first and second teams rotated every two plays, so that no player was on the field for three consecutive plays.
"It's something we've got to get used to," said second-round linebacker Jon Bostic. "It's kind of like playing a no huddle team but it's going to get us in shape. I didn't feel too bad out there. I had to get used to how they practiced and going from, with not so many guys as well, back from special teams to teams, special teams to teams. After a while, I'll get the hang of it."
-First rounder Kyle Long worked with the first team at right guard for the entire practice. Long played tackle at Saddleback Junior College and left guard for Oregon, so being slotted at right guard is something entirely new to him. That said, he didn't find the transition too difficult.
"My hand is still on the ground," Long said. "I'm still supposed to block somebody. So not really. It's just a different side."
We expected Long to stand out today as the club's first-round draft pick. He did not disappoint. Of note was his straight-line speed and agility. When plays were run away from him and he finished his initial block, Long got on his horse in a hurry and was down the field far faster than the rest of his line mates. During one play, after an interception, Long chased down the cornerback to save a touchdown.
He also showed a lot of nastiness; much more than I expected. On numerous plays, he drove the player he was blocking right to the ground, even though no one was wearing pads. After tossing third-year defensive tackle Corvey Irvin to the ground like a rag doll, Irvin took exception and pushed Long in the chest after the play. Long followed Irvin to the line of scrimmage but then just patted him on the shoulder.
When asked what he said to Irvin, Long replied, "Nothing. I said, ‘Good play.' He plays hard."
-Bostic worked as the starting middle linebacker, while fourth-round rookie Khaseem Greene played on the strong side with the first team. Neither player rotated at any other position, although Bostic said he'll have to learn all three linebacker spots.
"They told me I'm going to learn all of the positions," he said. "Right now, I may be at MIKE, tomorrow I may be at SAM. Really it's just about learning all the positions and improving every day."
From my film work, I assumed Greene would prove to be the faster, quicker player on the field. That was not the case. During positional and team drills, Bostic showed much better footwork and pace. That's not saying Greene was slow but Bostic definitely appeared to be the more athletic linebacker.
Working at weak side linebacker was Lawrence Wilson, a third-year defender who spent parts of last season with the Saints and Titans.
-Fifth-round offensive lineman Jordan Mills had an up and down first practice. He showed decent footwork working at right tackle with the first team but he lacked physicality. The linemen aren't using pads, so it's really tough to evaluate them but one play in particular stood out. At the snap, Mills was slow to get out of his stance and Washington, rushing off the edge, was on him in a hurry. Washington delivered a shot to Mills' chest that knocked the rookie right on his butt.
Welcome to the NFL son.
-Speaking of Washington, he was one of the players who struggled mightily with the speed of practice. From almost the first drill on, he was huffing and puffing with his hands on his hips. A lot of the players today were tired during the session, so it says something when Washington stands out for being out of shape.
-The starting offensive line today:
Of interest here is Brandon, who spent last year on Chicago's practice squad. Going back to 2012 training camp, Brandon actually took starter snaps at right tackle with the veterans for roughly half a practice. He's a physical specimen (6-7, 324) with good power but he looked very lost last year. Today, he looked much more comfortable, although he still appeared stiff and slow-footed.
-QB Matt Blanchard was in attendance today, working in his second rookie minicamp in as many seasons. It was at this time last year that Blanchard first caught the eye of Chicago's coaches, earning himself a spot on the practice squad. This afternoon, he was the elder statesman and looked the part. He looked comfortable under center and running the huddle, while his passes were accurate and on time.
On the other hand, local kid Jimmy Coy, a quarterback from nearby St. Xavier, had a rough first outing. He's short for the position (6-0) and looked tiny on the field. He also let fly a few passes that bounced to his receivers and was off target with most of his other attempts. If he's going to stand out like Blanchard did last year, Coy has to recover and play much better this weekend.
-The player who stood out more than any other was DE Aston Whiteside, who actually took reps at defensive tackle with the second team during voluntary minicamp. During positional bag drills, as the rest of the defensive linemen struggled to maintain speed and technique, Whiteside was flying through the stations. Given his versatility and developing quickness, he showed enough today for me to consider him an outside contender for a final spot in the defensive-line rotation.
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.