With the Chicago Bears set to start Day 1 of a three-day rookie minicamp on Friday let's take a look at a few things to keep an eye on before things get really interesting when the club opens its first workout on May 14 of organized team activities.
WHO'S THROWING THE BALL
Former St. Xavier quarterback Jimmy Coy gets an opportunity to become the 2013 version of Matt Blanchard. Blanchard earned a spot with the team after showcasing a surprisingly live arm at minicamp last year, when he participated on a tryout basis before receiving an invitation to return for training camp. That turned into Blanchard spending time in 2012 on the Bears' practice squad.
Even though Blanchard isn't technically a rookie, he's still eligible to participate in Friday's minicamp.
As for Coy, it should be interesting to see how he performs against his peers from programs of a higher pedigree. The 2012 NAIA national player of the year, Coy missed two games last season yet still managed to throw for 35 touchdowns with a 60.2 percent completion rate. Coy hit the 300-yard mark in eight games, and passed for a career-high 426 yards against Olivet Nazarene University. Coy threw at least two scoring strikes in all but one game last season.
Obviously, St. Xavier isn't a Georgia or LSU on the college football landscape. But if Coy performs well throughout the weekend, he could earn an opportunity to extend his football career.
Coy led the Cougars to a 24-2 record over the last two seasons and a 6-1 record in the NAIA playoffs, not to mention the school's first national title in 2011.
Coy first caught the eye of the scouts in Mar. at Northwestern's pro day.
THE NEW OFFENSIVE LINEMEN
Sorry folks, there won't be much to see from first-round offensive line pick Kyle Long and fifth-rounder Jordan Mills because offensive line can't truly be evaluated until the players put on the pads. Obviously, this weekend's minicamp won't be in full pads.
What we can glean is how quickly Long and Mills pick up all the information that will be thrown at them by the coaching staff. We can get a good look at how well they move, and whether they're in adequate physical condition. While you'd think the latter would be of little concern, it's worth mentioning that just last year former second-round pick Alshon Jeffery fought cramping issues during the first workout of rookie minicamp.
Long won't be able to participate in organized team activities, which start next week or the mandatory veteran minicamp in June because of NFL rules that prohibit incoming rookies from taking part in any team function other than rookie minicamp until his school finishes final exams. Oregon doesn't finish up finals until mid-June.
The rule, which isn't new, typically affects players from Pac-12 schools.
As for Mills, it will be interesting to see how quickly he assimilates to playing a pro-style game after spending college his career operating out of a two-point stance in Louisiana Tech's spread attack. The change from working out of a two-point stance to a three-point stance shouldn't be a major issue for Mills, who is often regarded as a highly-motivated player. But it's definitely worth watching.
More than anything, the athleticism of Long and Mills should be watched closely this weekend. The Bears seem committed to adding athletic and versatile offensive linemen to protect Jay Cutler in Marc Trestman's offensive scheme.
CORNELIUS WASHINGTON'S EXPLOSION
Projected by many as a second- or third-round pick, Washington fell to the Bears in the sixth rounds and could wind up being the steal of this year's draft. Washington runs a 4.56-second 40-yard dash, bench pressed 225 pounds 39 times at the NFL combine, and posted a vertical leap of 39 inches. So he's somewhat of an athletic freak to say the least. But he also comes to Chicago with some off-the-field baggage, which probably played a role in his fall during the draft.
Again, the Bears won't be in pads so we can't get a real feel for how Washington will perform on Sundays by watching him at minicamp. But one thing that always shows whether a player is in shoulder pads and helmets or not is speed. Washington's got plenty of that, and a couple of scouts think he's got the athleticism to be a Pro Bowl player.
THE NEW LINEBACKERS
Second-round pick Jonathan Bostic and fourth-rounder Khaseem Greene continue the team's tradition of bringing aboard athletic linebackers. With the team's additions in free agency and the draft, the Bears became significantly more athletic as a group at linebacker.
It'll be interesting to see where Bostic and Green fall into that. Neither are expected to be starters in 2013, but Bostic is expected to become the club's starter in the middle at some point. It's also worth mentioning that Lance Briggs' contract is up after 2014, while D.J. Williams and James Anderson are only signed through 2013. So for the rookie linebackers, this weekend is the chance to make a strong first impression that could shape their futures as Bears.
Another player who could turn out to be a steal for the Bears, Wilson knows he's lucky to have an opportunity to play in the NFL after one instance of immaturity ended his college career at Washington State while seriously hurting his draft stock.
A seventh-round pick, Wilson started his college career with consecutive 1,000-yard receiving seasons (1,006 yards and six touchdowns as a freshman and 1,388 yards and 12 touchdown as a sophomore), but underachieved during a tumultuous junior season in which he left the team after clashing with the new coaching staff led by Mike Leach.
Wilson's production early in his career proves he's capable of dominating against top-notch competition. We'd be shocked if Wilson doesn't absolutely dominate over the weekend against the undrafted rookie defensive backs and players brought in for minicamp tryouts.