Starting with organized team activities, the Bears’ coaching staff will learn more about their rookie class and how certain players fit in the coming weeks.
But solid opinions already have been formed about others.
Here are five things we gleaned from five Bears assistant coaches during rookie minicamp this past weekend:
Inside linebacker: Experience will make a difference.
Veterans Danny Trevathan and Jerrell Freeman still have to adjust to defensive coordinator Vic Fangio’s scheme, but their experience matters.
It’s invaluable considering the Bears leaned on unproven linebackers Shea McClellin, Christian Jones, John Timu and Jonathan Anderson last season.
Inside linebackers coach Glenn Pires said teaching is always involved, but neither Trevathan nor Freeman is learning on the job. There aren’t questions about their instincts. They are proven producers.
“A year ago, those guys are learning,” Pires said. “These guys have done it. They’ve been productive for four years. They’ve been in great programs for four years, and they’ve been leaders for four years at the linebacker position. That’s the big thing that they bring us.”
Running back: Don’t count out Ka’Deem Carey.
The selection of Jordan Howard in the fifth round was generally perceived as a sign that Carey is on the bubble. The Bears view Howard’s power as a strong complement to Jeremy Langford’s speed.
But running backs coach Stan Drayton believes in Carey, who ran for 159 yards and two touchdowns on 43 carries last season.
“Ka’Deem Carey is 20 pounds lighter than [Howard] but runs with power,” Drayton said.
Carey’s response to being a healthy inactive against the Vikings in Week 8 last season resonated with Drayton.
“[Carey] is an example of playing with a passion, carrying the flag of the culture of the organization, playing reckless, hard and never taking for granted the opportunity that he has on a daily basis. He’s that guy,” Drayton said.
“I tell you the light came on last year the moment he was inactive. That hurt him. His response was to go out there and be the best practice back that he can be.
“When his number was called and Matt [Forte] got hurt during the middle part of the season, he was ready. Just a prime example of not giving up, keeping the passion alive.”
Safety: Harold Jones-Quartey might start.
The arrivals of draft picks Deon Bush and DeAndre Houston-Carson meant the end for Antrel Rolle. But Harold Jones-Quartey’s strong finish to his rookie season also was a factor.
Similar to Bush and Houston-Carson, Jones-Quartey has a hard-hitting style that Fangio and secondary coach Ed Donatell want.
“He brings unusual toughness to the game,” Donatell said. “We like what we saw. He had a great finish to last season. For a rookie undrafted guy, it’s a real compliment to our personnel people that they can find a guy like that, that has those traits.”
Jones-Quartey made four starts last season after being a waiver-wire pick-up. He showed some playmaking promise in the Week 16 win against the Buccaneers, intercepting a pass, breaking up three and forcing a fumble. They were better numbers than Rolle had in seven starts.
“He’s very determined,” Donatell said. “I’m so excited to see him in Year 2 because those guys spike in Year 2. His biggest thing is he’s a determined guy [who] has very good toughness, and he’s built really good. He’s sturdy, tough and can take on punishment.”
Offensive line: The Bears’ belief in Charles Leno Jr. is unwavering.
The battles up front will come at left guard and center. The right side of the line is set with guard Kyle Long and tackle Bobby Massie.
And Leno is the starting left tackle.
There are doubts about Leno outside Halas Hall, but line coach Dave Magazu continues to talk about the promise he sees in the 2014 seventh-round pick who became a full-time starter last season.
“He plays much better on the left than right,” Magazu said. “A lot of that revolves around some of the things, technically, being more dominant on his right hand than his left.”
Second-round pick Cody Whitehair might be an emergency option at tackle, but he’s best-suited at guard, Magazu said.
Leno still has room to develop, too.
“He’s bigger and stronger,” Magazu said. “He’s gained some weight. If you look at him, you can just tell he’s thicker.”
Tight end: The Bears are ready to give Khari Lee more playing time.
The Bears’ belief in Lee was apparent when he was acquired from the Texans for a 2017 draft pick, even though he went undrafted last year.
Lee had only one catch for seven yards, but tight ends coach Frank Smith is eyeing a bigger role for him in his second season.
The Bears seem to be counting on him after Martellus Bennett was traded and a thin draft class deterred their attempts to replace him. Lee’s primary competition is Rob Housler and two undrafted rookies.
“Khari has done a good job from when we acquired him late in the preseason,” Smith said. “Primarily, he’s been able to show blocking, which came to him pretty quickly. But he’s really worked this offseason on route-running and receiving. He’s made some good development.”