All eyes on No. 10 pick Darnell Wright as Bears open rookie minicamp

He’s an essential piece of the Bears’ rebuild, and no matter how much he’d like to treat this like business as usual, the stakes are higher for him than almost anyone else on the roster.

SHARE All eyes on No. 10 pick Darnell Wright as Bears open rookie minicamp
A photo of Bears offensive tackle Darnell Wright in between drills at practice Friday.

The Bears traded down from No. 1 to 9 to 10 before drafting Wright last week.

AP Photos

Bears rookie offensive tackle Darnell Wright would like these to be ordinary practices, but that’s simply impossible.

No matter how good he was in college or how hyperattentive Tennessee fans are, Wright has never been in the spotlight like this. The Bears have 61 other players in for rookie minicamp this week, but none as important as him.

At one point during individual drills Friday, general manager Ryan Poles, assistant gen-eral manager Ian Cunningham and coach Matt Eberflus all were camped out in the offensive line’s area of the field at Halas Hall to get a look at their prized newcomer.

“I don’t really feel any different,” Wright said. “I’m trying to still make the team.”

Wright needs to do far more than that. Poles bet on him skyrocketing straight to stardom when he drafted him 10th overall last week. And it’s essential to the Bears’ rebuild that he lives up to expectations quickly.

Anyone surveying the Bears’ biggest problems after they went 3-14 last season would quickly point to their poor quarterback protection. Justin Fields has his own issues to straighten out, but it’s difficult to develop as a QB when he’s constantly scrambling.

Poles made the offensive line a priority when he took the job, and he’s tied to Wright like no other acquisition. The sequence began with Poles holding the rare asset of the No. 1 overall pick. He parlayed that into an extra second-rounder, a first-rounder in 2024 and wide receiver DJ Moore in a trade with the Panthers that moved him back to No. 9. That ultimately put him out of reach of several elite prospects, including top offensive lineman Paris Johnson from Ohio State. Poles then landed an extra fourth-round pick in a swap with the Eagles before choosing Wright.

That trade haul will be undercut if Wright doesn’t deliver. The stakes aren’t nearly as high for the other rookies.

The Bears, however, expect Wright to make a smooth transition, and their early impression is that it’ll be fairly easy to keep him on track.

“He’s in a good spot,” Eberflus said. “He retains information very well. His movement skills and athleticism are gonna be on point, but we’re gonna have to really harness him in there and [work on] how he uses his body.

“He’s got to learn the scheme, learn what works for him, and that’s a process. It takes time to be able to do that.”

The upside for the Bears is that, in the short term, they have all the time they need. The season is still more than four months away, and they have the recent experience of expediting fifth-round pick Braxton Jones to the starting left tackle job a year ago.

Speaking of Jones, there remains a question of where he and Wright ultimately will land. The Bears talked openly about the possibility of moving Jones to right tackle if they drafted someone more suited to take over at left. Wright started every game at left tackle as a junior but was the Volunteers’ full-time right tackle last season.

Poles has kept all options open since select-ing Wright, commenting on draft night, “Whatever that front five is, that’s what we’ll roll with,” and adding that while he’s confident in Jones, it’s a new year and Jones will have to defend his spot.

Wright worked at the familiar spot of right tackle Friday as he began his NFL career, and that would be the simplest course for the Bears. If Jones continues making strides on the left side and Wright thrives on the right, that sets the team up with young, affordable pillars of the line.

That’s huge for Fields’ future after he was sacked a league-high 55 times last season. Over his short career, he has been sacked an average of once every 7½ drop-backs — certainly the biggest of the many hindrances he has faced. All eyes are on Wright to help change that.

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