Realistically, the Bears are expecting some sort of immediate production out of at least two – and maybe 3 or 4 – of their rookies. While Darnell Mooney, Trevis Gipson, and Kindle Vildor will all get their shots at contributing right out of the gate, there's inarguably more expected from their first two picks, Cole Kmet and Jaylon Johnson. The Adam Shaheen trade all but ensured that Kmet will be one of the Bears' starting tight ends, and Johnson certainly has more than a puncher's chance at taking the CB2 job from Kevin Tolliver. Given the fact that their first game action will be in Week 1, it's not inaccurate to say that the margin for error has never been more slim.
"I think with the rookies, they realize that," Matt Nagy said on Wednesday. "That the one thing that they heard from all of our guest speakers and people coming in who were giving them advice throughout the offseason is that if there’s one time and one season to know the playbook inside and out, it’s 2020. They don’t have preseason games to go out there and make plays and show us a play or two that we see. They don’t have that now and so now they’re going to have to do it in practice."
Nagy emphasized that the plan isn't necessarily to get the most of the rookies, per say, but to instead focus on the best of what they can offer. It'd be a failure on the coaches, he added, if players were "thinking on that field." Without all the benefits of a full-length training camp in their first year, the Bears' coach admitted that initially, it may be difficult to find rookies the opportunities they'd get in a normal year.
"Could be limited reps for some of them," Nagy said. "But we just need to be really good as a coaching staff when practice is over and we come in here to the facility and we start watching practice. It can't just be blowing by these plays and we'll notice it over time. No, every rep is gonna count."
Ultimately, putting the rookies into successful positions right away will test Nagy's (and Pace's) abilities as a talent evaluator. Not only that, but with original roster sizes being downsized from 90 to 80, both lamented that players who would normally make the team may still end up without a roster spot. For whatever it's worth, given all the curveballs they've already been thrown, the 2020 rookie class has apparently impressed those around Halas Hall.
"The one way to handle that is to understand that, again, if you try to do too much or if we paralyze them mentally because we’re giving them too much that they can’t think ... " Nagy said. "... I’ve come away pretty impressed with the way that they’ve taken our Zoom meetings and transferred them to the football field."