Rookie minicamp means first look at Bears' 2015 draft class


Rookie minicamp means first look at Bears' 2015 draft class

The constant around-Chicago question of the past week - “So, whaddya think of the Bears’ draft?” – starts getting a meaningful answer on Friday with the advent of the rookie minicamp at Halas Hall. But with no pads and three of the Bears’ six picks being linemen, the truly meaningful answers will have to wait until July 29 when the Bears open training camp in Bourbonnais.

In the meantime, however, orientation for the draft picks and undrafted free agents is the real job of coaches as they introduce individuals who were college football players seven days ago into the ways of not only the NFL, but the coaching staff of John Fox.

“Our expectations are high for these guys,” said GM Ryan Pace coming out of one draft day. “There’s a lot of opportunities in front of them.”

[MORE BEARS: Bears agree to terms with draft picks Kevin White, Eddie Goldman]

More for some than others, and not just for the draft choices. Undrafted free agent quarterback Shane Carden from East Carolina will be taking his first NFL steps in a competition for a roster spot with David Fales, a sixth-rounder in Phil Emery’s final draft (2014) as Bears GM.

No. 1 pick Kevin White was drafted to replace traded-away Brandon Marshall at wide receiver. No. 2 Eddie Goldman is ticketed for nose tackle, where the Bears have no one at his size (6-4, 335 pounds) anywhere on the defensive line, nose or otherwise.

Center Hroniss Grasu at No. 3 begins his center career behind Will Montgomery, brought in from Denver where he played for Fox and offensive coordinator Adam Gase, albeit just for the 2014 Broncos season, plus his rookie season (2006) with Fox in Carolina. But Montgomery is 32 and has not sufficiently established himself as a linchpin of offensive lines with the Broncos, Washington Redskins and New York Jets.

After the top three, the expectation for the remaining picks as well as the undrafted free agents is for them to be factors on special teams as depth. Given the recent litany of injuries in all three phases, there will indeed be the opportunities of which Pace spoke.

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Running back Jeremy Langford (fourth round) rates as the favorite to secure the No. 2 running back job. Since Langford has played defensive back during his time at Michigan State, “there’s flexibility there positionally,” Fox said.

“He’s played on defense before. Sometimes that comes into a factor as far as fourth down or special teams. The guy’s tackled somebody before. He’s been in that kind of environment.”

Fifth-rounder Adrian Amos comes in behind veterans Ryan Mundy and Antrel Rolle at safety and into competition with Brock Vereen from the 2014 draft. Offensive lineman Tayo Fabuluje will be looked at as a guard and tackle, with a chance to unseat right tackle Jordan Mills.

It would not be the first time an unheralded late-round pick emerged as a first-year starter on the offensive line. J’Marcus Webb was a 2010 seventh-rounder and the starting right tackle by game five of that season. Webb in turn lost his job (and roster spot) to Mills, a fifth rounder in 2013.

“When [Fabuluje] is at the right weight, we feel really good about him,” Pace said, “and there’s a lot of upside potential as well.”

Ryan Pace finds silver lining in social distancing at Halas Hall

Ryan Pace finds silver lining in social distancing at Halas Hall

Bears general manager Ryan Pace, like everyone else in the United States right now, is doing his best to do his job in what's become a bizarre new normal of social distancing. Fortunately for him and the rest of the team's staff and players, Halas Hall is well-equipped to handle COVID-19's challenges.

The renovations at Halas Hall couldn't have come at a better time. The more expansive campus provides the Bears with the space needed to keep the players and coaches as safe as possible. For Pace, it offers a greater opportunity to appreciate the little things while catching a meal with Matt Nagy.

“So the last two nights, we discovered how nice it is,” Pace said, via MMQB. “You sit out there, and it forces you to take a different vantage point during the day. Beautiful view, and it’s pretty peaceful.”

As Albert Breer pointed out, Pace and Nagy's view includes four outdoor practice fields and a couple of ponds. Not too shabby.

The most important takeaway isn't the landscape. Instead, it's safety. 

NFL players have until Thursday to decide whether they'll opt-out of the 2020 season, and for teams that are lacking the facilities Chicago has, it's more likely high-risk players or those with families at high-risk will choose to sit out the season.

Bears nose tackle Eddie Goldman and safety Jordan Lucas have decided to opt out this year, and there's a chance more will do the same. 

Pace is confident in Chicago's COVID-19 plan. We'll see if the players are too.

For now, Pace is finding comfort in the little things. 

NFC North: Lions issue statement on Matthew Stafford, COVID-19 test

NFC North: Lions issue statement on Matthew Stafford, COVID-19 test

Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford was removed from the team's COVID-IR list on Tuesday, the team announced via Twitter, after the 12-year pro tested negative three times for the novel coronavirus.

Stafford can now report to training camp, take his physical and begin preparing for the 2020 season with his teammates. 

MMQB's Albert Breer reported Monday that Stafford tested positive for COVID-19 but was asymptomatic. The Lions insist Stafford never had the virus but instead had a false-positive result. 

This is obviously great news for the Lions but is also a stark reminder of how volatile the COVID-19 testing process will be during the 2020 season. It's also a warning for teams to have a plan in place in the event their starting quarterback contracts the virus. Detroit signed Chase Daniel this offseason to serve as Stafford's primary backup. He served in that capacity for the Bears over the last two seasons and was serviceable in his role.

Chicago has a full-blown quarterback battle underway in training camp between Nick Foles and Mitch Trubisky, which means there's no choice but to have both players in somewhat close-ish proximity to each other. As a result, the risk of quarterback-to-quarterback transmission of COVID-19 is high. The Bears may have no choice but to keep Tyler Bray, who's currently listed as the team's QB3, in bubble wrap, as our JJ Stankevitz suggested here.

Stafford won't be the last high-profile player to register a false-positive result this summer. The NFL must make sure their testing protocols are sound enough to get this right, otherwise, the 2020 season will implode.