Minicamp reflections

It’s hard to read too much into what takes place during a minicamp in late May, two moths before training camp.

But here are some of my thoughts after three days and five practices in shorts:

* Offensive players are excited about learning Mike Martz’s offense. Jay Cutler, Greg Olsen, Devin Hester, Matt Forte and Devin Aromashodu are among the players who expressed confidence in the new system, and their respective roles in them. That’s essential if the offense is going to make a significant jump from 23rd in the NFL.

* Julius Peppers jumps out on a field of oversized men. It’s always easy to spot the 6-foot-7, 283-pound defensive end. And he’s such a smooth athlete with great burst. I don’t see how he doesn’t dramatically improve any defense.

* Cutler is working hard at throwing to spots, but it’s evident he’s got the physical tools to do it. There was quite a bit of wind at times this weekend, and Cutler threw a lot of laser passes on the practice field. All things considered, he seemed to do a decent job, since he has to relay the play calls (which I’m told is a mouthful), oversee all the motions, make the read then make the throw.

* Johnny Knox could get yards by the dozen on hooks and comebacks, as my colleague Neil Hayes pointed out today. That was one of the more consistent plays, as Knox would sprint down the left side, with a cornerback shadowing him, then put on the brakes and turn and catch the ball.

* Martz has big plans for Devin Hester. It wouldn’t be fair to the Bears, to divulge the numerous ways in which he was used this weekend. But those of us who were here can attest that Hester will be like Waldo on a football field. The challenge for defenses will be to find him and account for him.

* Don’t sleep on Craig Steltz as a possible starting safety, as I pointed out in a Q&A late last month. He doesn’t get mentioned a lot, but he certainly didn’t hurt himself over the last three days. He fired up his defensive teammates by picking off a Caleb Hanie pass for Earl Bennett on a deep cross today. He also had a nice pass break-up earlier in the day. Didn’t help that Chris Harris flat dropped a Cutler pass for Hester a few plays earlier, drawing the wrath of coaches and teammates.

* Zackary Bowman doesn’t lack confidence or skills. The cornerback was one of the most vocal players this weekend, and he said he picked off three passes, one of them today.

* New offensive line coach Mike Tice did a lot of shuffling with his players this weekend. But I consistently saw Johan Asiata at left guard. Also, Lance Louis always seemed to be at right guard, and Josh Beekman was filling in for Olin Kreutz at center. I’m sure Tice will take a hard look at the film to see if Asiata has the athleticism and smarts for the job.

* This isn’t a reason to panic, but I don’t recall any rookies really turning any head this weekend. Third-round pick Major Wright was relatively quiet, and I saw cornerback Josh Moore give up a few pass plays but nothing too alarming. I don’t recall seeing Corey Wootton much, and Dan LeFevour got very few meaningful snaps. But, I do recall a few nice passes for him. He looks like he might be able to adapt to Martz’s offense — down the road.

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