Lovie Smith said 12 players that participated in last year’s rookie minicamp wound up making the team. There may not be half as many of the participants in the minicamp that wrapped up Sunday.
Let’s set the over-under at five because it’s a good bet all the draft picks will make it.
Expect Major Wright to be in the mix at free safety from the start of training camp.
It’s no secret that the Bears have been unable to come up with the right combination at two of the positions most important in coach Lovie Smith’s scheme. Last week’s acquisition of Chris Harris solves the puzzle at strong safety. Wright is a natural free safety who excelled at St. Thomas Aquinas in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., which is one of most talent-rich high school programs in the country. He excelled at Florida, one of the nation’s most dominant college programs, which bodes well for him making an immediate impact. Given his penchant for loud collisions, he and Harris have the potential to form one of the most hard-hitting tandems in the league.
Corey Wootton also has a chance to see the field as a rookie. Free-agent prize Julius Peppers will log the most snaps, to be sure, but it wouldn’t be a major surprise if the Northwestern defensive end took playing time away from Mark Anderson and Israel Idonije, who could still end up getting moved inside — again. He could even play a role similar to the one Anderson played his rookie season, when he came in on passing downs and finished with 12 sacks. If Wootton proves to be less of a sack artist and more of an all-around defensive end, Anderson might be more effective returning to a part-time role.
Josh Moore should be able to remain in the mix as a backup cornerback and special-teams contributor while he strengthens his upper body.
One mini-camp observer sympathized with quarterback Dan LeFevour, who will have to make a big adjustment to go from the spread offense he ran at Central Michigan to Martz’s precise passing game. Don’t feel sorry for the kid, though. He’s in a good spot. He’s virtually guaranteed a roster spot. It’s also unlikely that he will see the field this season with Jay Cutler, Caleb Hanie and Brett Basanez on the roster and the possibility of adding a veteran backup. He will be given time to learn and develop. If nothing else, he’s an excellent candidate for the practice squad.
Likewise for J’Marcus Webb. The seventh-round pick from West Texas A&M was easy to identify during the minicamp because he stands out on a field filled with huge men. The man is 6-foot-8, 338 pounds. He has 36-inch arms and wears size 19 shoes. He’s a project, but they knew that when they drafted him. He’ll probably redshirt like Jarron Gilbert, Earl Bennett and Juaquin Iglesias did as rookies. But they’ll give him time to develop.
“He’s been picking up things pretty well,” Bears coach Lovie Smith said of Webb. “You can’t get too high or too low with these types of practices but you don’t want to see a lineman come in who is a big-step guy who can’t move. You definitely won’t say that about him. He’s a big athlete.”
Rookie free agents have a better chance to make the roster at positions of need, obviously. That means an offensive lineman might have a chance. Offensive line coach Mike Tice said he was impressed by several of the rookie free agents who were not only big but quick on their feet.
A defensive lineman might also have a chance. The Bears were impressed enough with ex-USC defensive lineman Averell Spicer’s tryout that they signed him to a free-agent contract. Spicer will likely have to beat out Jarron Gilbert or Henry Melton to make the team, which is not out of the question. I’ve heard so many varying opinions on those two players that I’m not sure what to think.
There is room at cornerback. Smith said as much. In fact, he seemed to be more impressed with that position group at the minicamp than any other.
Then there’s wide receiver. Mike Martz gushed about the group, all-but dismissing speculation that the Bears would sign a veteran before training camp. That might provide an opportunity for Freddie Barnes, the Homewood-Flossmoor product who put up record-setting numbers at Bowling Green. He was the most impressive of an unimpressive group of receivers at the minicamp.
The position where the Bears are fully stocked is linebacker, which made me wonder Matt Mayberry didn’t tryout with another team. The former Hinsdale South and Indiana linebacker stood out, even intercepting a pass and returning it for a touchdown on the final day, but seemingly has no chance to stick with the Bears in the long run.