Kamil Kraczynski/USA TODAY Sports

Chicago Bears 2017 Rookie Minicamp Primer

The Chicago Bears this weekend will conduct the team's rookie minicamp. Here are the top storylines I'll be watching with my front row seat during the next three days of live practice.

The Chicago Bears will conduct the first live practices of the 2017 NFL season this weekend during three days of rookie minicamp.

This weekend will be our first look at Chicago's incoming draft class, as well as the undrafted free agents and camp invites. 

Here are the players and positional groups I'll be watching during all three days of practice. 

The Franchise

Bears GM Ryan Pace invested heavily in first-round QB Mitch Trubisky, sending three picks to the San Francisco 49ers to move up one spot for the former North Carolina signal caller. 

Pace and the organization believe Trubisky is the club's long-term franchise quarterback, yet he carries a number of concerns heading into his rookie year. 

During his collegiate career, Trubisky played exclusively from shotgun, never taking a snap from under center. Transitioning from a pistol-based system, to one in which he will be required to execute three-, five- and seven-step drops, all while scanning the field and working through his progressions, could take some time. It's a steep learning curve which cannot be understated. 

So how uncomfortable will Trubisky look under center? We're about to find out. 

If he looks awkward coming out of the snap and if his drop-back mechanics are clearly at Stage 1, then it will give us a clearer picture of the substantial work ahead of him. Yet if he looks smooth under center and comfortable with his footwork, then it could indicate he'll be ready sooner than most think. 

I expect Trubisky to shine during rookie minicamp. Most of the players at Halas Hall this weekend will not be not NFL-caliber and will never see a snap at the next level. If Trubisky is truly a first-round talent, he needs to look like one against inferior competition. 

On the flip side, it won't be the end of the world if Trubisky struggles but if he fails to stand out this weekend, it will cast an early shadow of doubt as to his readiness to play as a rookie. 

Offensive Support

The Bears went heavy on the offensive side of the ball during this year's draft, selecting just one defender in five overall picks. While the defense needs repairs, it's clear Pace wanted to give his new franchise passer more weapons and protection. 

To than end, Pace signed TE Adam "Baby Gronk" Shaheen, who clocks in at 6-6, 278 pounds. Shaheen looked like a man among boys on collegiate film playing against DII competition. He'll face significantly tougher competition this weekend, before the veterans roll into town next week. Like Trubisky, the learning curve could be steep for Shaheen, so it would be a great sign if he dominated this weekend, particularly in the red zone. 

This will also be the first chance for Trubisky and Shaheen to play together and will be interesting to see how much initial chemistry they can develop in the passing game over the three-day practice period. 

Of the entire draft class, I'm most excited to watch RB Tarik Cohen, also known as the "Human Joystick." Cohen is diminutive but he's lightning quick and has breakaway speed. I expect him to be untouchable against the lesser competition at rookie minicamp, both as a ball carrier and receiver. 

Fifth-round OL Jordan Morgan played left tackle at Kutztown but he's expected to slide inside to guard for the Bears. The coaching staff might move him around to get a better feel for Morgan's best fit. Can he maul at the point of attack? Can he work down the line on zone runs, pulls and traps? Does he have any potential at offensive tackle? I'll be watching Morgan closely to answer those questions. 

Veteran Presence

Every year, a handful of eligible second-year players attend rookie minicamp and I expect that to continue this weekend. Typically these are players who experience a truncated rookie season, or spent quality time on the practice squad but could still benefit from a weekend's worth of work. 

These are also often players who dealt with injuries as a rookie, including OLB Roy Robertson-Harris, who spent last season on the team's Illness/Non-Football Injury list. It was basically a redshirt year for Robertson-Harris, who is a physical specimen at 6-7, 278. 

The Bears worked him out twice before the draft last year and considered him in the late rounds of the 2016 Draft before signing him as a UDFA. Yet his illness kept Robertson-Harris off the field for most of his rookie season, which is why three days working with the rookies could be of great benefit. 

Other candidates included DB Rashad Reynolds, OL Cornelius Edison, OL William Poehls and even a player like S Deandre Houston-Carson, who was only active for eight games in 2016. 

Diamonds in the Rough

The Bears signed a number of undrafted free agents following the draft. An official list of the UDFA signings was never released, yet here are the players we know will be in camp this weekend (whether as a UDFA or a rookie invite): 

WR Tanner Gentry, Wyoming
FB Freddie Stevenson, Florida State
OT Dieugot Joseph, Florida International
NT Rashaad Coward, Old Dominion
OL Mark Spelman, Illinois State
RB Joel Bouagnon, Northern Illinois
TE Franko House, Ball State
WR Jhajuan Seales, Oklahoma State
OL Mitchell Kirsch, James Madison
TE Desean Smith, LSU
K Andy Phillips, Utah
RB Josh Rounds, Tulane
WR Kermit Whitfield, Florida State
WR Lance Lenoir, Western Illinois

Notable from this list is the presence of four wide receivers and two tight ends, which should make the competition at both of those crowded positions fierce throughout the off-season. 

Tanner Gentry and Jhajuan Seales have flanker size and skill sets, while Kermit Whitfield is a 5-8 slot receiver who is dangerous with the ball in his hands. 

Franko House played forward for the Ball State basketball team and hasn't played football since high school. At 6-6, 248, it will be interesting if he can translate his size and athleticism back to the football field. 

The player with arguably the best shot at making the roster might be K Andy Phillips, who had an 84-percent career field goal percentage and went 4-for-4 from 50-plus yards last season.

Also worth watching is NT Rashaad Coward, who has great size at 6-6, 310. If he can anchor at the point of attack, he might be able to earn a rotational role at nose tackle. 


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