One week after the draft, the Bears will begin their annual rookie minicamp Friday at Halas Hall in Lake Forest. For the first time, all their new draft picks will suit up in orange and blue.
Also suiting up will be a dozen or more undrafted free-agent signings, plus numerous rookie tryout players. These practices do not feature any of the team’s veteran players and they are not padded practices.
1. How good can the new DTs be?
Add Gervon Dexter, Zacch Pickens and Travis Bell to the mix at defensive tackle. The Bears used second-, third- and seventh-round picks on the defensive tackles, respectively. Dexter and Pickens might not start right away, but they should fit into the rotation along the defensive line. Bell is more of a wild card and might need a year on the practice squad.
It will be hard to draw any conclusions from either the offensive or defensive lines until players begin wearing pads during training camp. Even so, the Bears have a lot riding on Dexter and Pickens as their rebuild moves forward. Those two need to be key contributors in the coming years. At rookie minicamp, they should look the part.
2. How fast is Tyler Scott on the field?
Although it might be hard to get a read on the linemen in the spring, it’s not hard to get a read on the passing game. Fourth-round receiver Tyler Scott comes to Chicago with 4.4 speed and the ability to take the top off defenses. Scott himself said that speed is one thing, but route running is another skill entirely.
“It’s great to have speed, but at the end of the day you have to learn how to get in and out of your cuts efficiently,” Scott said. “You’ve got to learn how to read defenses. You’ve got to learn how to get to the blind spots, learn how to set up the DBs.”
Scott should be fun to watch this weekend, especially if he finds himself across from second-round pick Tyrique Stevenson at some point. Is Scott ready to harness that speed? It’s time to find out.
3. Who will be this year’s Jack Sanborn?
A year ago, linebacker Jack Sanborn was just an undrafted rookie out of Wisconsin hoping to make the team. By November, he was a starting linebacker for his hometown Bears.
Typically only a few – if any – undrafted rookies will make the 53-man roster out of training camp. Coming out of camp last year, the Bears kept three undrafted rookies. It might be a little harder for this year’s group because the Bears are trying to transition from teardown mode to rebuild mode. Sanborn wouldn’t have been a starter if they didn’t trade Roquan Smith.
Somebody from this year’s list of undrafted rookies probably will make the roster in August. It’s just a matter of who. Players who can help on special teams always are a good place to look: Cincinnati guard Lorenz Metz or Jackson State cornerback De’Jahn Warren. Local kicker Andre Szmyt is an interesting addition too.
4. Is Tyson Bagent for real?
One undrafted rookie who is an underdog as far as making the team is quarterback Tyson Bagent from Shepherd University, a Division II school in West Virginia. Bagent is a former winner of the Harlon Hill Trophy (essentially the D-II Heisman), and he turned down opportunities to transfer to Maryland and West Virginia before last season in order to keep playing for the hometown school where both of his parents went.
Bagent attended the Senior Bowl and the NFL Scouting Combine this year. It will be an uphill battle for him and a big jump in competition. But if the Bears like what they see this week and throughout the offseason program, they could consider keeping him around on the practice squad. He appears to have the size and arm strength to be an NFL quarterback, just not the experience.
This weekend will be a major test for him.