Bears rookies being forced to prove they belong


Bears rookies being forced to prove they belong

Coach John Fox has a reputation for only grudgingly playing rookies. Not necessarily true. What is true is that even high draft picks are virtually never handed a starting job from day one, as wide receiver Kevin White is discovering.

Under Fox, Denver Broncos top picks Bradley Roby (2014, No. 31) and Sylvester Williams (2013, No. 28) each played 16 games as rookies but rarely started. Julius Thomas (2011, fourth round), who became a two-time Pro Bowl tight end, started just one game as a rookie.

The Bears invested the No. 7 pick of the 2015 draft in a wide receiver who has not cracked the starting lineup on a team with significant needs at the wideout position.

This is not a bad thing. Handing a starting job to a rookie based on draft investment is.

[SHOP: Buy a Kevin White jersey shirt!

When the Bears drafted Brian Urlacher No. 9 overall in 2000, he was announced as starting linebacker by coach Dick Jauron on draft day. Disaster. Halfway through the preseason, Urlacher was beaten out and didn’t return to the starting lineup until an injury at middle linebacker let him back on the field.

White hasn’t been handed a starting job, consigned to the No. 2 unit behind Alshon Jeffery (who did not wrest his starting job from Devin Hester until three games into 2012), Eddie Royal and Marquess Wilson. To his credit, White hasn’t expected to be handed a job just so the organization could justify his draft status.

“Oh yeah, yeah, I'm ready, I just have to get better, and everything will take care of itself,” White said during this week’s OTA’s. “I'm not looking too far ahead, though."

The only rookie who has spent appreciable time with the No. 1’s has been nose tackle Eddie Goldman, taken in the second round. And nothing definitive should really be taken from pad-less practices in June, regardless of position.

[ALSO: Bears to practice with Colts in August]

Goldman and White are expected to secure starting jobs before the end of the preseason. But as bad as the 2014 Bears were, they were perhaps not so bad that any highly regarded high-pick rookie can just show up and start. Predictably, the worse the team, the sooner the high draft pick starts.

After a 2-14 season with Tampa Bay, Lovie Smith has had No. 1-overall Jameis Winston working with both the 1’s and 2’s but is expected to lock in behind Winston at No. 1 for training camp, if not sooner. The 2-14 Tennessee Titans installed Marcus Mariota as the day one starter after selecting him No. 2.

Fox is not averse to starting rookies early. He put one at the top of the day one depth chart when he took over the Carolina Panthers, who were coming off a 1-15 season in 2001. Von Miller was an opening-day starter for Fox and the 2011 Denver Broncos.

“I can’t recall at the receiver position, right off the top of my head, but there’s been other positions,” Fox said. “When we drafted Julius Peppers [No. 2 overall at Carolina in 2002] early in my head coaching career, he was a starter from Day 1.”

Mitch Trubisky jersey sales trending in right direction

Mitch Trubisky jersey sales trending in right direction

Positive press about the Chicago Bears' offseason is having a strong impact on the jersey sales for the team's highest-profile player, Mitch Trubisky.

According to Dick's Sporting Goods, Trubisky's No. 10 is the fifth-most popular jersey among offensive players over the last 30 days. He's No. 6 among all players, regardless of position.

The Bears' offseason has been full of superlatives since their aggressive approach to free agency. The signings of Allen Robinson, Trey Burton and Taylor Gabriel put the spotlight on Trubisky and the potentially surging passing game. The second-round selection of Anthony Miller and word of Kevin White's offseason emergence has turned positive momentum into higher-than-anticipated expectations for Trubisky this season.

For Chicago to have any chance at meeting those expectations, Trubisky, who's entering his first full season as a starter with a new head coach and offensive system, has to thrive. Fans must be confident that he will, considering the investment they're making in his jersey.

Trubisky ended his rookie season with four wins in 12 starts, throwing for 2,193 yards with seven touchdowns and seven interceptions. He completed 59.4 percent of his passes. He should have a much more productive season in 2018 with his new arsenal of skill players and an innovative coaching staff, led by coach Matt Nagy and offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich.

These four Bears will be featured on 'Meet the Rookies' series

These four Bears will be featured on 'Meet the Rookies' series

The Chicago Bears will kick off the fourth season of "Meet the Rookies" on June 25, a series that profiles four of the team's 2018 draft picks for a behind-the-scenes look at their journey to the NFL.

The four-episode series will air on at 7:00 p.m from June 25 - 28 and will feature one rookie per night. 

Monday's episode will cover the Bears' first-round pick, Roquan Smith. Selected with the eighth-overall pick, Smith is expected to become an instant-impact player on defense. He's expected to make an impact off the field, too, as a high-character leader. Smith's linebacker-mate Joel Iyiegbuniwe is the focus of Tuesday's episode, with Anthony Miller (Wednesday) and James Daniels (Thursday) rounding out Season 4.

For a deeper dive into what's in store in "Meet the Rookies," check out this description.