The Chicago Bears took the next step of their offseason program as they held their rookie minicamp this past weekend. Head coach Matt Nagy and his staff got to work with their draft picks for the first time, gave their undrafted rookies their first chance to prove themselves at the NFL level, and gave a handful of unsigned talent a chance to earn a contract. Here are some observations about the weekend workout at Halas Hall.
1. Anthony Miller created the most buzz out of all the rookies
The wide receiver out of Memphis – who was drafted 51st overall – caused a slight stir on social media when it was revealed that he’ll be wearing No. 17 this season. That was former Bears wideout Alshon Jeffery’s number from 2012-16, a player many Bears fans wish was still with the team. Nevertheless, Miller (despite limitations from a 2017 foot injury) impressed with his quickness, work ethic and the fact that he runs at full game speed with every rep even though these are non-contact drills.
2. The linebackers of the future have arrived
When you run a 3-4 defense you need plenty of linebackers on the roster. Heading into 2018 the Bears lacked depth at both inside and outside linebacker due to some offseason roster shuffling. Through the draft alone, Chicago has added Roquan Smith (first round), Joel Iyiegbuniwe (fourth), and Kyle Fitts (sixth). The team also signed undrafted linebackers Nyles Morgan, Andrew Trumbetti (both from Notre Dame), and Elijah Norris (Shephard). How the linebacker rotation ends up shaking out remains to be seen, but the Bears don’t lack for bodies at the position at this point.
3. The Big Ten and SEC made their presence felt
If conference ties mean anything, the Big Ten and SEC were represented in the Windy City this weekend with eight players from each taking part in in rookie minicamp. The following schools from the two conferences were represented: Alabama, Auburn, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, LSU, Maryland, Minnesota, Purdue and Texas A&M.
4. Matt Nagy is all about opportunity
As a player, Nagy played his college ball at Delaware (an FCS school) and professionally in the Arena Football League. So he can sympathize with the 43 unsigned players (34 rookies and nine young veterans) that were invited on a tryout basis. Seventeen of the rookies played below the FBS level, 12 went to Power 5 (Big Ten, Big 12, SEC, ACC, Pac-12) programs who got lost in the shuffle, while the remaining five came from Group of 5 conferences (American Athletic, Conference USA, MAC, Mountain West, Sun Belt). The most notable of the veteran invites were former Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray, and former Texas A&M signal-caller Trevor Knight.
— Gabe Salgado is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. He’s also written for NBC, Fox, The Sporting News, The Sports Journal, The Undefeated and Complex. He’s a co-host of The Rewind Sports: 60. Follow him on Twitter @GabeSalgado82.
(Photos courtesy of @ChicagoBears)