Five questions for Chicago Bears rookie minicamp this weekend
5 big questions heading into Bears rookie minicamp originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago
The 2023 NFL Draft is behind us. The players have been picked, some who didn’t hear their name called over the weekend have been signed as undrafted free agents, and others who weren’t drafted and weren’t signed have been invited to try out for a spot in training camp. Now, guys from each bucket will get together at team facilities across the country for rookie minicamps. Coaches will really get their hands on guys for the first time, and each player will have the opportunity to make a strong first impression on the practice field and in the classroom.
There’s a lot for the players to learn over the two-day camp, but we can learn a lot from what we observe, too. Here are five questions we have going into Friday and Saturday’s Bears rookie minicamp:
WHERE WILL THE DTs LINEUP?
One of the reasons why the Bears love second-round pick Gervon Dexter and third-round pick Zacch Pickens is that they believe each man can be a versatile interior defensive lineman. When asked if the team saw either player as more of a nose tackle or more of a three-technique, Ryan Poles reiterated that he believes both players can play both positions. In a vacuum that’s great. Every team wants guys who can fill multiple spots, because it allows coordinators to get creative with personnel groupings and it helps with depth when injuries inevitably strike. The Bears had no qualms teaching a rookie two positions last season, when they had Kyler Gordon playing both outside and slot corner, so they could go that route again this year. Or they may see that Gordon struggled in the early goings of the year bouncing between two spots and decide to have Dexter and Pickens focus on one spot once they determine where they fit best. Either way, it will be interesting to see where the rookie DTs line up for the majority of their reps over the weekend.
WILL THERE BE ANY TRICKS WITH NOAH SEWELL?
In a draft class filled with intriguing prospects, there’s a case to be made that Sewell might be the most intriguing. He had a phenomenal 2021 season, but took a step back in 2022 when the Ducks installed a new defense. Experts question whether he has the stuff to drop into pass coverage in the NFL, but there’s no doubt that he’s an electric blitzer. That’s something Alan Williams liked to do with Roquan Smith, and it worked well. When Smith was traded to the Ravens however, no linebacker was able to fill that void. Is there a world in which the Bears find a way to get Sewell on the field as an extra pass rusher? Or at 6’2”, 246 lbs., do the Bears ask Sewell to put on a little weight and see what he can do as a rotational defensive end? The last question seems crazy now, but so did the idea of Braxton Jones becoming the full time left tackle at this time last year.
WILL DARNELL WRIGHT GET ANY PLAY AT LEFT TACKLE?
Speaking of Jones, the assumption is that the Bears will roll into Week 1 with Jones retaining the left tackle job and Darnell Wright sliding into the right tackle spot, where he thrived at Tennessee last season. But there are surprises each and every year. Wright certainly has the athleticism and physical profile to succeed on the left side, and he played there in 2021. Will the Bears give him a few snaps over there just to see what it looks like, and maybe light a fire for Jones? If so, is there any chance Wright could beat Jones out for the job and force Jones over to the right side? Again, seems unlikely now, but there’s plenty of time for things to develop between now and September.
HOW WILL TYLER SCOTT PERFORM AGAINST HIS PEERS?
Tyler Scott has the speed and shiftiness to be a serious deep threat for Justin Fields. He’s still got lots to learn at wide receiver, however. Scott played running back in high school, and only started learning WR as a freshman at Cincinnati in 2020. It will be interesting to see the level of polish he brings to the field, and if he’s able to torch any of the incoming cornerbacks like Tyrique Stevenson who is known for sticky press-man coverage. If he looks a little raw, that’s fine. The Bears believe in their coaches as teachers and have one of the best in the biz at wide receiver in Tyke Tolbert. Scott can develop in 2023 behind DJ Moore, Darnell Mooney and Chase Claypool. If he looks more NFL ready than expected, then there’s a chance he could push for a real role in the offense.
WILL ANY UDFA / TRYOUT PLAYER POP?
Last year the Bears had a boat load of guys they didn’t draft at their rookie minicamp. The roster was bereft of talent and training camp spots were up for grabs. Ultimately, four rookies who weren’t drafted made it through the season and finished the year on the Bears roster: Chase Allen, Jaylon Jones, Jack Sanborn, Jake Tonges. Sanborn and Jones played significant snaps on defense. One year later, there is still plenty of opportunity for a guy who didn’t hear his name called over the weekend to win a job. Could QB Tyson Bagent impress enough to continue onto the summer program to compete with Nathan Peterman for the third QB job? Will Andre Szmyt kick his way into a competition with Cairo Santos, especially if Santos returns from the offseason and struggles with extra points again? Will any edge rusher emerge after the Bears didn’t use any draft picks to address the position? Only time will tell.
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