Scouting the Bears
3:27 PM CDT, May 11, 2013
Rookie minicamp should be viewed as an introduction to the NFL for the Bears' top draft picks. It's a sampling of the pro-style practices under coach Marc Trestman that players might define as up-tempo and fast.
There are no pads, no contact and — more important — no veteran competition at Halas Hall this weekend.
First-round pick Kyle Long isn't competing against Henry Melton in team drills, and linebacker Jon Bostic isn't running the inside vertical seam in Cover-2 against Martellus Bennett or Brandon Marshall.
Instead, the focus of this three-day camp is on athleticism, technique and the conditioning levels of these draft picks who are transitioning after workouts, pro days and 40-yard dashes.
I wasn't surprised to see some rookies play like they were carrying pianos on their backs at the end of the first session Friday. That's when legs get heavy, hamstrings get tight and technique begins to suffer.
Every rookie has been there — hands on your hips, short of breath and realizing these pro practices are no joke. Throw in some extra special teams drills, and guys get winded quickly.
In watching Long and Bostic on the practice field, they looked the part because of their pure athletic ability. That should have been expected during this camp. And it meshes with the scouting style of general manager Phil Emery: draft athletes and draft speed.
Long lined up at right guard. His size is obvious, as are his movement skills. The No. 20 pick showed the ability to mirror (slide the feet, match lateral speed) in pass protection, get to the second level in the running game and play with a strong, athletic base.
There is plenty to work with here. I can see the draw from a pure scouting perspective to draft a player with Long's skill set. Play him on the inside as a rookie and look to develop him at tackle once he matures.
Bostic is a fit for this defense. He runs like an outside linebacker. This is a passing league in which linebackers are asked to play coverage, drive on the ball and match to speed in the open field.
Bostic showed clean footwork during drills, the ability to open his hips in coverage and a burst in pursuit when the ball got to the edge.
At Florida, Bostic played more Cover-1 (man-free) and Cover-3 (3-deep, 4-under zone) than the core Cover-2 the Bears lean on. Once the pads go on and Bostic has to compete in drills during camp, his run/pass keys will need to be quicker, as will his ability to read route stems in the middle of the field.
However, the foundation is there to work with a young linebacker I can see lining up in the middle or at the Sam (strong-side) and Will (weak-side) positions.
Now that the rookies have a taste of what the league will demand from a practice and conditioning standpoint, they can work to improve their functional strength and prepare for the real competition in Bourbonnais.
Because that's where these rookies ultimately will earn the respect of proven veterans.
Special contributor Matt Bowen, who played at Glenbard West and Iowa, spent seven seasons in the NFL as a strong safety.
Copyright © 2014 Chicago Tribune Company, LLC