Chicago Sun-Times

How many rookies will make Bears roster?

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Lovie Smith said 12 players that participated in last year's rookie minicamp wound up making the team. There may not be half as many of the participants in the minicamp that wrapped up Sunday.

Let's set the over-under at five because it's a good bet all the draft picks will make it.

Expect Major Wright to be in the mix at free safety from the start of training camp.

It's no secret that the Bears have been unable to come up with the right combination at two of the positions most important in coach Lovie Smith's scheme. Last week's acquisition of Chris Harris solves the puzzle at strong safety. Wright is a natural free safety who excelled at St. Thomas Aquinas in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., which is one of most talent-rich high school programs in the country. He excelled at Florida, one of the nation's most dominant college programs, which bodes well for him making an immediate impact. Given his penchant for loud collisions, he and Harris have the potential to form one of the most hard-hitting tandems in the league.

Corey Wootton also has a chance to see the field as a rookie. Free-agent prize Julius Peppers will log the most snaps, to be sure, but it wouldn't be a major surprise if the Northwestern defensive end took playing time away from Mark Anderson and Israel Idonije, who could still end up getting moved inside --- again. He could even play a role similar to the one Anderson played his rookie season, when he came in on passing downs and finished with 12 sacks. If Wootton proves to be less of a sack artist and more of an all-around defensive end, Anderson might be more effective returning to a part-time role.

Josh Moore should be able to remain in the mix as a backup cornerback and special-teams contributor while he strengthens his upper body.

One mini-camp observer sympathized with quarterback Dan LeFevour, who will have to make a big adjustment to go from the spread offense he ran at Central Michigan to Martz's precise passing game. Don't feel sorry for the kid, though. He's in a good spot. He's virtually guaranteed a roster spot. It's also unlikely that he will see the field this season with Jay Cutler, Caleb Hanie and Brett Basanez on the roster and the possibility of adding a veteran backup. He will be given time to learn and develop. If nothing else, he's an excellent candidate for the practice squad.

Likewise for J'Marcus Webb. The seventh-round pick from West Texas A&M was easy to identify during the minicamp because he stands out on a field filled with huge men. The man is 6-foot-8, 338 pounds. He has 36-inch arms and wears size 19 shoes. He's a project, but they knew that when they drafted him. He'll probably redshirt like Jarron Gilbert, Earl Bennett and Juaquin Iglesias did as rookies. But they'll give him time to develop.

"He's been picking up things pretty well," Bears coach Lovie Smith said of Webb. "You can't get too high or too low with these types of practices but you don't want to see a lineman come in who is a big-step guy who can't move. You definitely won't say that about him. He's a big athlete."

Rookie free agents have a better chance to make the roster at positions of need, obviously. That means an offensive lineman might have a chance. Offensive line coach Mike Tice said he was impressed by several of the rookie free agents who were not only big but quick on their feet.

A defensive lineman might also have a chance. The Bears were impressed enough with ex-USC defensive lineman Averell Spicer's tryout that they signed him to a free-agent contract. Spicer will likely have to beat out Jarron Gilbert or Henry Melton to make the team, which is not out of the question. I've heard so many varying opinions on those two players that I'm not sure what to think.

There is room at cornerback. Smith said as much. In fact, he seemed to be more impressed with that position group at the minicamp than any other.

Then there's wide receiver. Mike Martz gushed about the group, all-but dismissing speculation that the Bears would sign a veteran before training camp. That might provide an opportunity for Freddie Barnes, the Homewood-Flossmoor product who put up record-setting numbers at Bowling Green. He was the most impressive of an unimpressive group of receivers at the minicamp.

The position where the Bears are fully stocked is linebacker, which made me wonder Matt Mayberry didn't tryout with another team. The former Hinsdale South and Indiana linebacker stood out, even intercepting a pass and returning it for a touchdown on the final day, but seemingly has no chance to stick with the Bears in the long run.

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I like linebacker Matt Mayberry, he was a standout at Indiana in the Big-10 and is around the ball a lot. I thought Chicago was gonna draft him. The guy made a lot of plays in college and can cover. I think he will make the 53 man roster, especially with Jamar Williams gone. In fact, Mayberry may be a big reason Williams is gone, I think Chicago likes Mayberry that much. In the end, Mayberry will probably in up being Williams replacement on the 53-man roster.

And I agree, Major Wright will probably end up as the starter at free safety. Wright along with Chris Harris should give Chicago a hard hitting set of safeties if nothing else. This will also allow Danieal Manning to move back to his nickle position, his best position GO BEARS!!

Preseason is going to be fun, we just don't know how it will carry over to the regular season. Angelo has always said he wants to create competition. We don't know what else he has done, but he has certainly done that.

There are some players who are obviously going to be starters, but there are going to be some real battles for jobs in training camp. They have some good young prospects on the roster at both O-line and D-line and there is not room for all of them. Same with running back and linebacker. How about wide receiver and tight end?

At the end of preseason there are 53 jobs. With some of these positions all the players, even the veterans, had better show up in shape and ready to knock heads. Otherwise there is some hungry youngster who will have their job. It's going to happen, we just don't know who and where. That's the fun part.

Will that translate into a good team for the regular season? Hard to tell at this point but I'm feeling better about it.

I don't think if it matters that much if a guy like Mayberry ends up getting cut by the Bears. Word gets around either from coaches or watching preseason film and if Mayberry is playing well with the Bears then another team with LB need will sign him to their practice squad. Special teams is always an option too and really could be looked at as a set position on the Bears more than some other teams. I think that's why we kept so many running backs last year because of Peterson and Wolfe both contributing to special teams though they rarely lined up in offensive sets.

Being from the West Coast, I knew very little about Mayberry, so was interested in hearing Kevin's praise. Am concerned there are so many conflicting reports about Gilbert and Melton. I have a feeling that the negative ones will rule - Gilbert looks awfully sluggish. But Wooton looked terrific as a junior in the televised game I saw. Melton, I sense, has the tools but lacks application.

Dan LeFevour is a lock. They can't put him on the practice squad. He'll get picked up in a heartbeat! I think they should think about cutting some vets. Garrett Wolfe, Des Clark, Rasheed Davis, Corey Graham, and try to trade Danieal Manning.

Freddie Barnes was the most impressive of the wideouts? On the bears web site, he is shown falling down twice trying to break on a deep square-in (both times stumbling, not slipping from what it looked like)...Hopefully those were his only two gaffes, because if that is the most impressive we got, we should be thanking our lucky stars for Rashied Davis....

He has the record for success, but so did Haas, Ball, and a dozen other receivers that came out of college with high production, and none of them ever made an impact at the NFL level.

Neil here: Freddie was the most impressive of the wideouts at the minicamp, by far. I watched every minute of every practice. Davis wasn't there. Davis also makes more money, and is expected to move on. I'm not saying he'll make an impact. All I said was that he's got a chance to compete for a roster spot.

I'd like to know what the conflicting reports are on Melton and Gilbert. I had high hopes for Melton and I'd like to know what everyone is saying about these two guys.

Neil here: I've just had personnel guys say they really like those two and others say the opposite. That's what I mean by conflicting reports.

Hey Neil,

I appreciate your responses to comments. If you are still around in the near future, can you give a little more insight into how Turenne looked. I'm a big fan since he first signed last year. I'm assuming he has the speed, but how is his press and cover skills? Is he a physical or finesse CB? Thanks

Neil here: He looked good! Not surprisingly, Lovie said he was definitely in the mix for playing time at corner.

Glad to hear those two flops were not representative of his overall work. I know Davis wasn't there, but my point is if we have guys who not only can't separate, but can't break on routes, that is not a strong position group of rookies. And to make the team as a 6th wideout, Barnes will have to make an impact, either on special teams, or in the passing game, to move ahead of Davis. Hester, Knox, Bennett, Aromashodu, and Iglesias are probably the top 5 on the depth chart, and Martz will probably only get 5 dressed on game day, unless the 6th guy is a special teams beast. Maybe not an impact during the regular season, but he will have to make his presence felt on the field in camp and in preseason.

I would be thrilled if Davis was moved on, as I think we need to end these experiments where we keep these guys around because they can play special teams, but don't have any other place on the roster. Garrett Wolfe, Rashied Davis, maybe even Corey Graham, since he is even more in limbo than Manning is. Bringing back Darrell McClover instead of giving Malast a shot as your 7th LB last year. The downside is almost negligible, and the upside of signing a guy who has already been cut or keeping a guy that should be cut is that you go one more year into the future without getting any better at that roster spot.

Lovie seems to think CB is wide open. So that would tell me that Corey Graham and DJ Moore are both on the hot seat, and Josh Moore is just replacing Vasher's spot. I think we are going to have to make a decision on the position of Gilbert and Melton before we know what the DL looks like. There is talk of Izzy moving back inside now that we have drafted Wootton, so that would mean one or both of the young defenders would be on the hot seat. Gilbert is probably better suited to DE in a 3-4, or LE in a 4-3, but for some reason we played him at RE last year (all of 6 snaps). Nice to see that our draft class from last year is showing up so well. Gilbert and Melton may not make the team, DJ Moore is probably out as well, and Iglesias hasn't been mentioned in anything other than to say we don't know what he can do. Afalava is not a lock to make the team either, especially if his shoulder is still bad...

We have a long way to go until Detroit opening weekend, but we have a lot of work to do

I'm looking forward to training camp too. I just wish Lovie ran a little bit more of a physically demanding camp. Just can't help but think that the soft camps we run are, in part, a reason we seem to have a lot of early injuries when we hit the game speed of the regular season. Maybe I'm crazy.

LeFevour doesn't have to make the roster as a QB. Martz wants a vet and LeFevour could end up as a special team H-Back if they really like him at this point. If Martz gets his vet he will focus on Cutler and the vet, while LeFevour could see class room work with him, but he can still make the team as a utility man.

Webb is a poor mans Gaither, very simialr size and build. But is not as developed or athletic as Gaither. Gaither was a 5th round pick and lacked upper body endurance like Webb, but Gaither had great athletic ability for his size while Webb would be considered a very good athlete for his size. A lot Webb's problems are in his head, and effort, he recieved mixed reviews even while playing in Division 2. Tice believes he is a natural left tackle, I myself think he is similar to Loadholt and should be moved to RT. Tice also has stated he would like to develop him at LT and then move him to LG. That seems like a stretch to me sense he is not a natural bender and as Tice said he is a pass blocker by nature. It also seems strange to work a guy into tackle and then move him ot guard later as a plan. It not only seems backwards but if you think he is a LG then why not just get him started there to begin with. He is also as raw as it gets, he used his size and natural ability to get buy in DIV 2, but that was all he was doing. Again it all comes down to what he has going on above the neck.

Wright is tweener safety who not had to cover guys being dumped off sense Florida corners play man. He has nice speed but lacks instincts, he also likes getting in the box and mixing it up. Then you have the fact that he lost his starting job at Florida. The Florida pass rush and corners helped him out a lot. That doesn;t mean he can;t be developed but asking a 3rd round safety to come in and start at FS in a TS defense is not exactly easy. Even if he gets the nod it won't be long before film gets out on him and his production drops.

Two of the draft picks didn't make it last year if I remember, Melton was on IR for the year with a sprained hang nail(practice squad flu) and didn't Freeman get cut?

My guess is one guy will get cut or end up on IR and 2 FA's make the team. Some guys from last year are bound to get cut and they need a someone else at DT but currently have 6 ends which is a high number but three of them are swing men actually 4 if you count how Anderson was used last year. By the way I saw pictures of Marcus Harrison and there is no way that dude is 312 pounds. Not unless someone shoved a bicycle pump up his nose and pumped him up with air.

PFW has done a couple of reports on Melton and Gilbert, pointing out that people within the Bears don't think much of them, Gilbert being the lesser player of the two.

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This page contains a single entry by Neil Hayes published on May 4, 2010 9:38 AM.

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