With the start of training camp closing , here's the final player in our a look at the three Chicago Bears rookies most poised to make an impact in 2014. It’s no surprise that every one of the rookies to watch are defensive players:
He took repetitions with the starters during organized team activities and minicamp, but at this point it’s unknown whether Brock Vereen is capable of consistently performing at the level required of a first teamer.
That’s why Bears coach Marc Trestman cautioned against heaping too much praise on Vereen, a fourth-round pick out of Minnesota.
“The simple fact we’ve rotated him with the 1’s is a clear indication we think he can compete, but we’re not going to anoint him yet,” Trestman said. “There’s no reason to think he can’t put himself in position to compete for one of those jobs, but it’s way, way too early.”
Besides that, Vereen needs to beat out some veterans to hold onto the starting job. The Bears signed M.D. Jennings and Danny McCray in free agency among others, but it appears Vereen’s chief competition for the starting gig will be Chris Conte, who has missed most of the team’s on-field work this offseason after undergoing offseason shoulder surgery.
While likely it’s unknown whether Conte will start training camp on the physically unable to perform list. If he does, Vereen needs to take full advantage of the veteran’s absence to secure the starting job.
“I told Chris I can’t wait to get him out there. He said he can’t wait to get out there, and that’s where we are,” said Bears defensive coordinator Mel Tucker. “Whenever he’s available, we’ll start working him in, get him up to speed and get him the reps.”
In the meantime, Vereen wants to pick up the concepts of Chicago’s defense as quickly as possible. The staff’s approach should help. The Bears plan to reinstall the defense at training camp, according to Tucker, while adding “some things as we go that we didn’t cover in OTAs and the coaching sessions.”
“One of the first things our coaches said is, ‘You’re gonna make a mistake, but make it fast,” Vereen said. “I’m just trying to show my speed, and hopefully, that I can pick up the concepts quick.”
If that happens, it should make for an interesting competition at the free-safety position.
“He’s smart, he plays fast,” Tucker said. “He does not make a lot of mistakes. We’ll see how it goes. We have competition there. There’s nothing set in stone. We’ll just continue to monitor him and the rest of the guys, and we’ll end up with a good group I think.”