The Chicago Bears were open for business Friday. After taking 12 players in this past weekend's NFL Draft and signing 10 more undrafted free agents, head coach Lovie Smith finally got to see his new acquisitions up close at rookie minicamp. Here is what he witnessed at practice on Day 1 ...
Pick SixGeneral manager Jerry Angelo chose not to address the quarterback position with any of his 12 selections in this past weekend's NFL Draft, instead signing a pair of undrafted free agents after Mr. Irrelevant's name had been called: Caleb Hanie of Colorado State and Nick Hill of Southern Illinois. Neither of them looked very much like a professional signal-caller on Day 1 of minicamp, although Hanie does have a powerful-looking build – especially in his lower body – and showed a decent amount of arm strength. Hill, on the other hand, bounced a couple of passes on the deep-out patterns, and he even looked very Rex Grossman-like by fumbling the first snap he took from center.
It's hard to come up with an initial scouting report on offensive linemen at an event like rookie minicamp, so we won't know much about first-rounder Chris Williams until he starts knocking heads with the veterans down in Bourbonnais. Nevertheless, up close, he carries his 6-6, 315-pound frame quite well and looks to be relatively light on his feet. But today's workout was mostly about the skill-position players, and even head coach Lovie Smith admitted that after the final whistle.
I'm afraid all the stories you've been hearing out of Nashville about Earl Bennett catching everything in sight have been greatly exaggerated. While he was sharp with his route running and came in and out of his breaks pretty quickly, he did have some trouble squeezing a few passes and seemed to be a little nervous on his first day. In his defense, neither Hanie nor Hill was delivering the pigskin with any consistency, but Bennett was sure to point the finger squarely at himself when talking to reporters after practice.
The other two pass-catchers taken in the draft, fifth-round tight end Kellen Davis and seventh-round receiver Marcus Monk, both had their share of ups and downs on the day. Davis is a gigantic target and runs quite well for 6-6 1/2 and 262 pounds, although he'll have to become a much better blocker if he wants to carve out a role for himself on this team. Monk, 6-4 and 222, is enormous lining up wide and could be a tremendous red-zone target one day, but he is a step slow coming out of his breaks and was having a tough time getting any separation from defensive backs.
On the defensive side of the ball, both Marcus Harrison and Zack Bowman arrive in the Windy City riddled with question marks. Harrison certainly doesn't come off like Tank Johnson Version 2.0, even though it's too easy to make that comparison since they're both talented defensive tackles with checkered pasts. Bowman is finally 100 percent healthy after having surgical procedures done on each knee during his stint at Nebraska, and physically he looks like a faster – 4.39 seconds in the 40-yard dash in Indy – Charles Tillman because he's 6-1 and 197 pounds.
The difference between rookie minicamp and veteran minicamp is undeniable. Passes are fluttering, balls are bouncing, spikes are slipping, and the general pace of practice is noticeably slower than it is when the big boys are on display. More than half of the 50 players in attendance this weekend have absolutely no shot of making an NFL roster, so don't bother staying up all night long to scour the internet for insider reports on Josiah Sears, a stocky fullback from Indiana, or James Townsend, a wiry receiver from Rutgers.
WR Marcus Monk
Warren Wimmer Photography
Craig Steltz suffered a hairline fracture of his scapula in the national championship game victory over Ohio State, and he told the media via conference call after being drafted that he still hasn't recovered all of his strength. Consequently, he didn't do much at the NFL Scouting Combine this past February in Indianapolis. However, he took part in all drills Friday and lined up as the "starter" at free safety during 7-on-7 action toward the end of practice.
Stud of the Day
Whenever Cedric Benson runs a pass pattern or catches the ball out of the backfield, it doesn't seem very natural and the whole exercise just looks completely foreign to him. That's not the case for second-rounder Matt Forte, who showed some serious burst in the open field and ran his routes with the fluidity of a wide receiver. On one particular play, he juked a defender out of his jockstrap on an out-and-up down the middle of the field and then made the grab effortlessly.
Dud of the Day
Nick Watkins, a linebacker out of Clemson who is one of the non-roster free agents being given a chance to compete, did not have a good showing by any stretch of the imagination. He looked incredibly stiff through the hips dropping into covering during positional drills, and he also dropped just about every football that was thrown his direction. Linebackers coach Lloyd Lee was doing his best to give the former Tiger some sound instruction, but he simply appeared to be in over his head.
Quote to Note
"They want you to start and they want you to do all this and create controversy and all that. But I'm really just here to create competition in the backfield, because competition is going to make each and every one of the running backs better. We're here for the team, to make the whole team better." – RB Matt Forte
Be sure to visit BearReport.com again Saturday, as we'll have another full report from Day 2 of rookie minicamp at Halas Hall.
John Crist is the Publisher of Bear Report and a member of the Professional Football Writers of America. To read him every day, visit BearReport.com and become a Chicago Bears insider.