What We Learned: Rookie Minicamp

The Chicago Bears got a first-hand look at each of their nine draft choices this past weekend at rookie minicamp, although the real work won't begin until they get to Bourbonnais. What do we know about the first-year players now that we didn't a few days ago? Bear Report came to five conclusions ...

Bringing three QBs to training camp instead of four is a possibility
Head coach Lovie Smith made sure to praise the three quarterbacks who were on hand for rookie minicamp, although it's hard to believe one of them was impressive enough to warrant an invitation to Bourbonnais. Neither Chase Patton of Missouri nor Drew Weatherford of Florida State started as seniors last year, and C.J. Bacher of Northwestern was most likely invited for a tryout just to add some local color to the newspaper clippings – there's always a Wildcat, Saluki, or Illini among the unknowns. Smith said after Sunday's workout that both Jay Cutler and Caleb Hanie will need as many reps as they can get in training camp, with Cutler learning a new system and Hanie making quite a leap from undrafted free agent to immediate backup.

The Bears will have to pay attention all summer long just in case a reliable – and inexpensive – veteran is jettisoned by another team, but don't be surprised if it's only Cutler, Hanie, and Brett Basanez making the trip to Olivet Nazarene University.

WR Juaquin Iglesias
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Iglesias can compete right now for a starting job
General manager Jerry Angelo knew he needed to add some playmakers to his receiving corps, selecting three wideouts in the NFL Draft: Juaquin Iglesias in the third round, Johnny Knox in the fifth round, and Derek Kinder in the seventh round. Iglesias was one of the standouts of minicamp, running quality routes, catching the ball with pillow-soft hands, and simply looking like he belonged in a pro huddle. The former Sooner might make more sense in the starting lineup alongside Devin Hester than Earl Bennett because he's a little taller, more filled out, and better suited to take the inevitable punishment on those short and intermediate routes.

As far as Knox and Kinder are concerned, Knox was making a lot of plays both Saturday and Sunday and could be a more dangerous option out of the slot than Rashied Davis, but Kinder didn't do much to distinguish himself and appeared to be lazy at times during drills.

Comparisons between Freeman and Briggs are easy to make
Not many Bears fans knew much about Lance Briggs when he was selected in the third round out of Arizona back in 2003, but now he's a near-automatic Pro Bowler on a yearly basis and one of the best open-field tacklers in the league. Just like Briggs has performed in the long shadow cast by Brian Urlacher for most of his career, fifth-rounder Marcus Freeman played second fiddle to All-American James Laurinaitis during his four-year stint at Ohio State. While D.J. Moore, who slipped to Chicago in Round 4 despite a second-round grade, was disappointed by the draft process and seems to be taking it personally, Freeman isn't bothered by the fact that he went a round a two later than most of the experts figured he would.

Freeman will initially back up Briggs on the weak side, although he's big enough and strong enough to get a look over on the strong side – and might even be in the conversation to start if neither Nick Roach nor Hunter Hillenmeyer performs well in training camp.

DT Jarron Gilbert
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Gilbert should be in the D-line rotation right away
There has been some talk in the past about moving Alex Brown from end to tackle on passing downs in order to get another pass rusher on the field, but he probably wouldn't be very effective since he's just not big enough to bang inside. Third-round draft pick Jarron Gilbert, on the other hand, offers the flexibility to play both tackle and end and has the attributes necessary to make an impact at both spots. Even though it's difficult to get a read on defensive linemen at events like minicamp because nobody is wearing pads and there isn't any 11-on-11 action, Gilbert displayed a mean streak on the field and a charming personality off the field.

Not only are lesser heralded players like Matt Toeaina and Ervin Baldwin in jeopardy of losing their roster spots with the addition of Gilbert and fourth-rounder Henry Melton, but Dusty Dvoracek and Mark Anderson better step it up a notch, too.

Bears brass keeps making it harder for you to follow your favorite team
The decision makers at Halas Hall wouldn't be making all that money if it weren't for the fans buying season tickets and replica jerseys at a dizzying pace, but that hasn't stopped them from going out of their way to make the media's job of covering the team – and satisfying those very same fans' desire for wall-to-wall coverage – more difficult each and every day. Members of the press used to be able to roam the perimeter of the practice facility at Halas Hall during minicamp in order to get an up-close look at all the position groups, but this past weekend were restricted to the near sideline and could barely make out the jersey numbers of the defensive players on the far side of the field. Then it was announced that the organization will no longer provide free room and board to the print, radio, and TV people at training camp like they always did in the past, instead charging daily rates for dorm rooms and only providing lunch – breakfast, lunch, and dinner used to be a part of the deal in addition to complimentary rooms.

In trying economic times such as these, don't be shocked if the Chicago media is forced to scale back its coverage of the team in Bourbonnais because of the extra expense involved, as the best time of the year for access now comes with a hefty cover charge – in order for Bear Report to cover training camp like it has in the past, the publication will have to shell out about $1,000 from its own pocket.

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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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