Bears rookie minicamp: What to watch with OL, WRs and UDFAs

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3 stories to follow in Bears rookie minicamp originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

In the months leading up to the draft, and the week following, there’s a whole lot of talk. We debate what positions are most important for the Bears to address, which prospects we have our eyes on, and why. We make predictions and come up with crazy trade scenarios. We talk, and talk, and talk, because that’s really all we can do at this time of year.

But starting Friday, the Bears will hold their rookie minicamp at Halas Hall, and we’ll finally get a chance to make some real observations about the incoming rookie class. Here are three of the biggest things to look for this weekend.

WHERE ARE ALL THE LINEMEN GOING TO PLAY?

Since Ryan Poles and his assistant GM Ian Cunningham are each former offensive linemen, it was widely expected that they’d spend some draft capital in the trenches. However, no one could have predicted that the team would come away with four new O-linemen. Now the biggest unknown is where the Bears envision each of these men playing moving forward, and if any of them can win a starting job over the summer. Three of the players selectedー Braxton Jones, Zachary Thomas and Ja’Tyre Carterー all primarily played left tackle in college. The Bears have already said they view Carter as a guard, so he’ll probably kick inside, but between Jones and Thomas, who will take the first reps on the left side? Will either of them move inside for a bit, along with Carter? The word “versatility” came up with scouts when talking about both Jones and Thomas, so there’s a chance both of them join Carter in the interior at some point. Which begs another question: Is there a chance any of the incoming rookies could end up as the team’s starting right guard? The reps, especially the initial reps, will give us a big hint as to how the team views their incoming O-linemen.

FIRST LOOK AT VELUS JONES AND TRESTAN EBNER

It’s no secret that the Bears needed to inject their offense with some new playmakers this offseason. Darnell Mooney was the only wide receiver who played significant snaps last season to return this year, so it was clear that Justin Fields would be working with a lot of new players as he takes the next step in his development. Many expected the team to spend several picks on explosive targets to give the offense a jolt, but in the end Poles only selected Velus in the third round, and Ebner in the sixth round. Each are intriguing high-ceiling players that thrive when they have the ball in space. Ebner may edge Velus slightly in the “intrigue” department simply because he played all over the field at Baylor, even though he was simply listed as a running back in the draft. Poles specifically called out his ability to run in outside zone schemes too, which Luke Getsy is expected to deploy in the rushing attack. Meanwhile, Bears scout Sam Summerville said the Bears have a specific plan for Velus that’s “going to be exciting to watch.” The Bears certainly won’t show everything they have in mind for him this weekend, but we may get a glimpse at some of the new ideas they have for their new wide receiver.

CAN ANY UDFA POP IN PRACTICE

As expected, the Bears signed a whole lot of undrafted free agents directly after the draft wrapped. In addition to the UDFAs, other players will be at rookie minicamp on a tryout basis. In all, over 35 players were added in some capacity after the team made its 11 picks. Most of these players will not make the 53-man roster, but this is the first chance they’ll get to make a splash. By our count, six of those UDFAs are wide receivers. There’s still room in that position group for someone to come in and make an impact, whether it's on offense or special. It will be far too early to tell if the Bears have found the next Wes Welker or Adam Thielen, and no one is going to win a job this weekend, but an impressive performance at rookie minicamp is a good first step to earning more reps throughout the summer.

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