What to Watch: Scouting Combine

Scout.com arrives for the 2010 Scouting Combine on Wednesday, so it's time to take a gander at the Chicago Bears and what kind of activity they may be up to during their stay in Indianapolis.

On-the-field and off-the-field announcements could be made
For the first time since the season-ending press conference at Halas Hall on Jan. 5, both coach Lovie Smith and general manager Jerry Angelo are scheduled to speak to the media at some point during the Scouting Combine.

This is usually a good time for the team to announce some of the decisions that have been made in preparation for 2010, both on and off the field. On the field, Smith will probably address whether or not left guard Frank Omiyale has been moved to right tackle, which could alter the team's approach to free agency and the NFL Draft. Off the field, Angelo may declare the hiring of former Seahawks president Tim Ruskell as the new director of player personnel, a story reported Tuesday by ESPN but yet to be confirmed by the organization.

While there was already a conference call with Mike Martz discussing his arrival as offensive coordinator, reporters are yet to have a chance to ask questions about the promotion of Rod Marinelli from defensive line coach to defensive coordinator.

Players of interest from the Senior Bowl can impress even more
Although neither Smith nor Angelo was present in Mobile because of the state of the two coordinator searches at the time, new offensive line coach Mike Tice was one of several Bears officials on hand for the Senior Bowl.

DT Lamarr Houston
Getty Images: Ronald Martinez

On the offensive side of the football, is Chicago a serious contender for a former Pro Bowler like LaDainian Tomlinson or Brian Westbrook as No. 2 to Matt Forte in the backfield, or will Joique Bell of Wayne State be impressive enough to warrant a selection in Round 3 or 4? Defensively, how closely are team scouts going to be paying attention to tackle prospects like Georgia's Geno Atkins and Texas' Lamarr Houston, and will that in any way be an indicator on the future of Tommie Harris in Chicago? Since there are rumors Julius Peppers could be entertained in free agency, does that mean pass rusher Austen Lane of Murray State is no longer worth a roll of the dice in April?

Among the offensive linemen singled out by Bears scouts, Vladimir Ducasse of UMass is another small school-type that can put himself in the conversation with strong workout numbers in Indy.

Look for NFL-ready talent – no projects, please – this time around
The entire league knows Smith has been given a win-or-else mandate for next season, so the last thing he wants is a few more draft picks that need the proverbial "redshirt" year before becoming contributors.

That was the case in 2009 with each of Chicago's top four selections: defensive tackle Jarron Gilbert (Round 3, No. 68 overall), wide receiver Juaquin Iglesias (3, 99), defensive end Henry Melton (4, 105) and cornerback D.J. Moore (4, 119). The Bears got absolutely nothing out of that quartet as rookies, and if not for fifth-round receiver Johnny Knox and sixth-round safety Al Afalava, the entire draft class would have been considered a monumental bust after Year 1. With no picks in the first or second round because of previous trades, Angelo has to consider players with a little less upside if there is a greater chance they can make some sort of impact right away.

That may eliminate the aforementioned Lane and Ducasse, but Atkins and Houston can likely be a part of the defensive tackle rotation immediately.

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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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