The Chicago Bears begin their final off-season preparations Tuesday when new head coach Marc Trestman convenes his squad for a mandatory mini-camp at Halas Hall. When the three-day (one practice Tuesday thru Thursday) practice sessions conclude, the Bears will be on their own until reporting to Bourbonnais for training camp in late July.
A lot has happened during an eventful off-season, but the mini-camp brings a set of interesting questions. In no particular order, here are some things to monitor:
1. How does WR Brandon Marshall look after an off-season hip procedure? Marshall proclaimed himself 100% and ready for full participation during the last week, but the Bears will probably limit his reps in preparation for training camp and the regular season.
2. Where does first-round pick Kyle Long fit on the Bears offensive line? He’s expected to line up initially at guard, but with the trade of Gabe Carimi and no sure starter at right tackle, he could see some time on the outside. One of Long’s perceived strengths is his versatility and athletic skills, so the Bears could groom him for his eventual starting position. Mini-camp workouts will give a first indication where he’ll play.
3. What effect does Marc Trestman’s new offense have on QB Jay Cutler? Entering the final year of his Bears deal, Cutler needs to display the consistency and leadership the team expected of him when they acquired him? Trestman is known for his knack of developing quarterbacks. He’ll seek to refine Cutler’s mechanics and ask him to get the ball out quicker via short drops. Thus far, the communication and rapport between the two has been good.
4. Who takes over the Bears defensive leadership role following Brian Urlacher’s absence and subsequent retirement? Veteran OLB Lance Briggs has assumed play-calling duties and has the pelts to be a respected leader. CB’s Charles Tillman and Tim Jennings, as well as DE Julius Peppers, will also be counted on to lead. The defense is rapidly aging in several spots, but needs to remain a force for the Bears to contend.
5. Is K Robbie Gould good to go and 100% following his rehab? Gould has become one of the NFL’s best kickers and a consistent scoring weapon for the Bears. They desperately need his leg and the points it delivers.
6. How are the Bears responding to Trestman’s coaching style? Both he and Lovie Smith are understated personalities, but Trestman is a much more analytical and serious type than Smith, whom the players adored. Trestman will be expected to smooth over any bad feelings and earn the players’ confidence, while also putting his own stamp on the club.
Paw Prints: The Bears cut loose troubled TE Evan Rodriguez, last year’s fourth-round draft choice. Rodriguez had been arrested twice this off-season, and had a history of off-field concerns since coming out of Temple. In other roster moves, signed WR Devin Aromashodu, WR Jerrell Jackson and FB Tony Fiammettta and waived WR Demetrius Fields, WR Dale Moss and FB Evan Rodriguez.
The 6-2, 201-pound Aromashodu has hauled in 78 receptions for 1,193 yards and five touchdowns in 61 games (11 starts) over five seasons with Indianapolis (2007), Chicago (2009-10) and Minnesota (2011-12) after being selected in the seventh round (233rd overall) in 2006 by the Miami Dolphins. In his two seasons with the Bears, Aromashodu had 34 receptions for 447 yards and four touchdowns in 24 contests (four starts).
The 6-0, 192-pound Jackson appeared in one contest with Jacksonville as a rookie in 2013 after entering the NFL with the Houston Texans as an undrafted free agent out of Missouri. While at Missouri, Jackson appeared in 49 games including 24 starts at wide receiver, gathering 113 receptions for 1,434 passes and six touchdowns.
Fiammetta has appeared in 34 games with 17 starts over three seasons with Carolina (2009-10) and Dallas (2011) after being selected by the Panthers in the fourth round (128th overall) of the 2009 NFL Draft. The 6-0, 250-pound Fiammetta has 11 carries for 26 yards and eight receptions for 73 yards during his NFL career. He also spent part of 2012 with New England.