NFC North offseason analysis: Chicago

A look at the player that stood out in the offseason, rookie impressions, lineup concerns, injury issues and contracts watches in Chicago.

OFFSEASON STANDOUT: Defensive end Julius Peppers cost the Bears a small fortune in free agency, but no one is asking for a rebate. Peppers has shown the freakish athleticism that everyone knew he possessed, but he has also stepped up as a team leader almost immediately and has impressed teammates and coaches with his work ethic, which has been questioned in the past.

"He has done everything we've asked him to do," coach Lovie Smith said. "It's hard sometimes for a guy to move into a leadership role that quickly. But that's exactly what he's done. We can't wait to take this next step with him. He is really excited about being a Chicago Bear."

Smith believes that Peppers' pass-rush ability and his propensity for demanding double-team attention will enable the defense to do things it hasn't been able to the past couple years when it lacked a true impact player, a player that the opposing offense has to account for on every play.

"When you have a special player like that, we have a lot of things in store for him that we haven't done in the past," Smith said. "He's bought in completely, and I think the Chicago Bears fans will love what they're going to see from him."

LINEUP WATCH: The left guard position is up for grabs. Last year's left guard, Frank Omiyale, has been moved to his more natural right tackle spot. That leaves Josh Beekman, Johan Asiata, Lance Louis and maybe even Kevin Shaffer, last year's right tackle, fighting for the one available spot on the line.

ROOKIE IMPRESSIONS: Third-round safety Major Wright and fifth-round cornerback Joshua Moore will get long looks in training camp because the Bears are hoping to be better in the secondary this year than they were in 2009. But both players will be battling the numbers game and will have to step up quickly to avoid being lost in the shuffle and essentially being red-shirted as rookies. Fourth-round defensive end Corey Wootton has a chance to make the rotation and even push for a starting job across the line from Julius Peppers. Mark Anderson and Israel Idonije figure to start off in a platoon system at the other end spot, but if Wootton is all the way back from the knee injury that hindered is final season at Northwestern, he could move past both of them.

INJURY WATCH: Tight end Brandon Manumaleuna (offseason arthroscopic knee surgery) did not participate in minicamp or OTAs. But he played five seasons under Martz in St. Louis so he won't be behind the learning curve when training camp starts, when he is expected to be 100 percent. Center Olin Kreutz returned to the practice field at the end of OTAs, and no one doubts that he'll be more than ready for the season opener. Linebacker Pisa Tinoisamoa (knee) was not at full strength for the offseason program, but he will be by the start of camp.

CONTRACT TO WATCH: Danieal Manning was not happy with his $1.176 million tender offer, and he skipped some early workout sessions, but he was the No. 1 strong safety during offseason work.

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