It was only three days of workouts, but the Chicago Bears now have a pretty good idea what they can expect from their 2008 NFL Draft class after rookie minicamp. Who looks like an immediate contributor offense? Who might need a year of seasoning on defense? Bear Report has the answers inside ...
Pick SixI have paid a lot of attention to the twosome of undrafted free agent quarterbacks, Caleb Hanie and Nick Hill, and just three days of minicamp has me convinced that general manager Jerry Angelo will have to make other arrangements for a No. 3 this season. Hanie definitely separated himself from Hill as the better prospect over the course of the weekend, although he did not throw the ball very well Sunday and kept leading his receivers too much. Hill simply doesn't have an NFL arm and has been wildly inaccurate, plus he fumbled yet another snap Sunday.
Cornerback Zack Bowman, who certainly looks to be fully recovered from all those knee problems he endured at Nebraska, had an up and down day Sunday. At the start of practice, he dropped what should have been an easy catch during positional drills. But then in 7-on-7 action toward the end of the day, he intercepted Hanie on a shallow pass over the middle and took it all the way to the house for what would have been an easy pick-six.
Hill's continuing inaccuracy actually helped receiver Marcus Monk shine on one particular play, as the seventh-rounder climbed the ladder to make a circus catch on a deep-in route during positional drills. Monk used his 6-4 frame and tremendous leaping ability to tip the ball to himself before securing it near the left sideline. It was probably the best catch made by anybody this weekend, and the former Razorback has made perhaps the most progress of any offensive player since Friday.
Fellow receiver Earl Bennett is a solid pass-catcher in every capacity, but he isn't a punt returner by any stretch of the imagination. He's been back there fielding punts all weekend long – from four different punters, mind you – because nobody in camp has ever been much of a return specialist, so Bennett was given the assignment even though he didn't do it very often at Vanderbilt. He'll make the catch every time because he has sure hands, but his instincts back there are borderline non-existent – not that All-Pro Devin Hester had anything to worry about anyway.
At last year's minicamp, receiver-turned-tight-end Fontel Mines caught everybody's attention despite the fact that he was just a non-roster invitee to camp, eventually earning a spot on the practice squad before being elevated to the 53-man roster late in the season. However, not even any of the 10 undrafted free agents have done anything to stand out this year, let alone the 28 non-roster players. The Bears will have a tough enough time holding on to all 12 of their draft picks because roster space is limited, so a defensive end like Ervin Baldwin and a linebacker like Joey LaRocque will have to play well in training camp.
The story of the day is obviously the Cedric Benson saga, as the incumbent at running back was arrested back in Texas late Saturday night for boating while intoxicated and apparently had to be pepper-sprayed by police in order to get him to cooperate. Benson's side of the story is much different, although it's especially noteworthy that he got into trouble in that part of the country because he's still considered a god in the Lone Star State. Head coach Lovie Smith expressed his obvious disappointment when asked about the episode after practice, and Benson could not have picked a worse time to cause a stink because second-round tailback Matt Forte was arguably the most impressive player on the field at minicamp.
G Chester Adams
Warren Wimmer Photography
The training staff didn't have too much to worry about Sunday, as all 49 players had full participation from start to finish.
Stud of the Day
Receivers coach Darryl Drake has to like what he sees so far in Monk, who could throw a serious monkey wrench into the mix at wideout down in Bourbonnais. The Midway Monsters don't really have a tall target that can be used on the fade pattern in the end zone, as evidenced by tight end Greg Olsen getting that assignment this past season. It's not out of the question that Monk makes the final roster at the end of the preseason, making questionable free-agent signee Brandon Lloyd expendable.
Dud of the Day
Even though he was nowhere near Halas Hall the last three days, Benson has proven once and for all that he is a colossal bust after being selected with the fourth-overall pick of the 2005 draft. Not only has his production on the field been lackluster way too often, but his decision-making off the field has been just as unimpressive. Cutting Benson would cost the Bears $5.15 million against the salary cap, although the organization has to seriously consider swallowing that bitter pill and just moving forward with Forte, Adrian Peterson, and Garrett Wolfe.
Quote to Note
"Very disappointed. You try to wait and get as much information before you make a lot of comments about it, and that's what I am going to do. We're always disappointed when we have someone that we're talking about being in trouble with the law." – Head coach Lovie Smith on Cedric Benson
To go back to JC's practice recap from Day 2, Click Here. For Day 1, Click Here.
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.