What We Learned at Rookie Camp

The Chicago Bears got a good look at their dozen draft picks this past weekend, as Lovie Smith and Co. conducted their three-day rookie minicamp at Halas Hall. What do we know now that we didn't a week ago? Bear Report had a seat in the front row for all the action and came to five conclusions ...

It will be tough to truly evaluate Williams until we get to Bourbonnais
Everybody wants to know how first-round tackle Chris Williams performed during the three days of practice, but the reality of the matter is that it's almost impossible to give a scouting report on an offensive lineman at an event like rookie minicamp. Not once did the offense go head-to-head with the defense for 11-on-11 action, meaning all we got to observe of Williams was positional drills against his fellow freshmen blockers. Once we get to training camp toward the end of July, then we'll have the opportunity to see if the former Commodore is able to consistently manhandle the combination of Alex Brown and Mark Anderson coming off the left edge.

That being said, Williams looked to be technically sound and didn't need to exhibit near the effort that late-round picks like guard Chester Adams and tackle Kirk Barton did during linemen drills.

Benson was in trouble even before he got in trouble on Lake Travis


RB Matt Forte
Warren Wimmer Photography
General manager Jerry Angelo could have selected a speedy tailback like Jamaal Charles to complement Cedric Benson this year but instead took Matt Forte, who looks to be more of a replacement than a change of pace. Forte was arguably the most impressive player on the field this past weekend, showing good burst on the ground and catching the ball beautifully out of the backfield. He runs the 40-yard dash in 4.45 seconds at 6-2 and 217 pounds, so he looks like a taller, faster, and more well-rounded player than Benson has ever been on Sundays.

It remains to be seen what will happen to Benson with the long arm of the Texas law after his alleged drunken boating incident this past Saturday night, and Monday's signing of undrafted free agent Matt Lawrence is just another indication that the organization could be planning to move on without its former No. 4-overall draft pick.

The wide receiver draft picks don't look ready to contribute right away
The Bears lost two starting wideouts – Bernard Berrian and Muhsin Muhammad – this offseason, but don't look for third-round pick Earl Bennett or seventh-rounder Marcus Monk to emerge from training camp atop the depth chart. Bennett may be the leading receiver in SEC history, but he didn't catch the ball as well as he would have liked during minicamp and doesn't have a lot of explosion running routes. And while Monk caught more touchdown passes than any other Razorback, he's a little slow coming out of his breaks and doesn't get enough separation from defenders.

The leap from college ball to the NFL is especially rough on pass-catchers, so either Rex Grossman or Kyle Orton will probably be targeting Marty Booker, Mark Bradley, and Devin Hester with the majority of his passes in 2008 – when not checking down to his backs and tight ends, of course.

Neither Hanie nor Hill looks to be the answer for third-string duties


QB Caleb Hanie
Scott Boehm/Getty Images
The Midway Monsters were expected to take a passer at some point in the NFL Draft, but they couldn't settle on one they really liked and kept finding excuses to take value picks – both fifth-rounders, tight end Kellen Davis and cornerback Zack Bowman, have a lot of talent but slid for various reasons – on Day 2. The club signed a pair of undrafted free agents, Caleb Hanie and Nick Hill, with hopes that one of them could establish himself as a viable candidate for No. 3 duties behind Grossman and Orton this season. However, Hanie was wildly inconsistent despite a sturdy frame and strong arm, and Hill has sloppy mechanics and not a lot of zip on the football.

Hanie is clearly a better prospect than Hill as of right now, but Angelo may still be forced to scour the waiver wire for another quarterback before training camp.

Baldwin and LaRocque will have a tough time making the 53-man roster
There is nothing wrong with simply taking the best player available on the board once the seventh round of the draft rolls around, and the Bears did just that with a pair of defensive players in end Ervin Baldwin and linebacker Joey LaRocque, but both of them could be a victim of the numbers game. The Bears will likely break camp with four D-ends, with last year's second-round pick, Dan Bazuin, expected to be No. 4 behind Brown, Anderson, and Adewale Ogunleye. And in LaRocque's case, the defense already has a lot of good young `backers – remember that `07 third-rounder Michael Okwo will be coming back from injured reserve.

It's unreasonable to expect all 12 draft picks to stay in Chicago because there are only so many spots available, so Baldwin and LaRocque in particular will have to be impressive in Bourbonnais.

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.


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