All Eyes on Justin Fields for Rookie Minicamp

The Bears quarterback will gather all the attention at the weekend's rookie minicamp but there are plenty of other points of interest.
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Generally speaking, rookie minicamps are unusual endeavors.

Draft picks and undrafted players come together for workouts over several days and sometimes mix in with some of a team's practice squad players in order to fill out all the positions and make scrimmaging possible. 

Yet, it's non-contact so no pads, and there are players involved who are there only on a tryout basis. This year teams are allowed only five of these due to the pandemic so the numbers at Halas Hall will be down at Bears rookie minicamp Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

The focus for this camp is an easy call. Everyone wants to see Justin Fields as he makes his first throws in a Bears uniform at a practice.

What happens will have little impact on how this Bears season goes. A perfect example is Kerrith Whyte Jr. in 2019.

The running back from Florida Atlantic ran a pass pattern down the sidelines and made a lunging catch. It caused coach Matt Nagy to gush afterward.

"He is super fast," Nagy said. "We ran a go-route with him. He made a great catch and they came back and the quarterback says to me, 'That's a running back!' And I go, 'I know.'

"It's raw speed. Every NFL scout knew that."

The raw speed wasn't enough. This was a seventh-round draft pick who got everyone excited, and he wound up on the practice squad, then was claimed off it by Pittsburgh and last year was out of the league.

With no contact involved, it only resembles football in the slightest fashion. Tackles Teven Jenkins and Larry Borom will be there working but not much can be judged at their position when they're not in pads. Ditto for seventh-round nose tackle Khyiris Tonga.

Undrafted free agent Charles Snowden is a novelty as a 6-7, 240-pound pass rusher who is roughly the same size as Leonard Floyd. But the edge rusher suffered a broken ankle last November and it's unknown how much he'd be able to participate until training camp.

Here's what can be watched at this weekend's rookie camp.

Justin Fields' Arm and Reads

Some scouts complained about Fields being a bit mechanical going through his progressions and this is something to watch at a rookie camp. Also, his arm strength in college seemed a step above even the best passers and this will be on display. The Bears might use one of their five rookie camp tryouts for a quarterback because they have no one else on the roster besides Nick Foles and Andy Dalton, and they're not coming to rookie camp. It's either this or let Fields throw every pass of a three-day camp and that's highly unlikely if not dangerous.

Khalil Herbert's Hands

No one says the sixth-round running back from Virginia Tech can't catch passes. It's just, few have seen him do it. At Kansas, he was a backup. With the Hokies last year he ran for over 1,100 yards but made only eight receptions. Herbert says he can do it, now he can prove it.

Dazz Newsome's Route Running

There is no question about the North Carolina receiver's speed. That's because he's not fast. He ran a 4.59-second 40-yard dash. However, he plays the game at a faster speed and the scouting reports say he runs excellent pass patterns. If he's unable to get open at a camp like this weekend's then he could have problems adapting to the tougher competition at this level. Also, some questions have arisen over whether he actually got open in college so much because the Tar Heels offense had so many weapons defenses couldn't devote much attention to him. This wouldn't be the case with the Bears.

Deep Speed of Thomas Graham Jr.

Their sixth-round cornerback spent his career locking onto wide receivers and battling for passes. No one questions whether he can cover, but they do question whether he can defend the deepest pass patterns because of a perceived lack of straight-line speed. Scouting reports suggest he might be best used as a slot cornerback because he would need only short-range. This is no problem because the Bears need both types of cornerbacks. Which he is could begin to become apparent this weekend.

Potential Third Tight End

The Bears currently have Jesper Horsted as their third tight end. He's probably the favorite over former college basketball player Darion Clark and J.P. Holtz, who actually is their H-back. However, they did sign undrafted free agent Scooter Harrington from Stanford. Harrington rarely got to show off his receiving skills because Seattle's fourth-round draft pick Colby Parkinson got all the passes and attention. It's possible Harrington has skills which could become apparent if he gets more of a chance than he had at Stanford.

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