Friday, May 11, 2012
Rookie minicamp: Observe cautiously
By Kevin Seifert
Rookie minicamps are a lot like college orientation: A chance to get new players acclimated to NFL life before the upperclassmen show up. So it's important to avoid seeking detailed answers or drawing deep conclusions over the next three days in Chicago, Detroit and Green Bay.
It is worth pointing out, however, that at least one significant personnel move resulted in part from the rookie minicamp the Minnesota Vikings held last weekend. The Vikings saw enough from place-kicker Blair Walsh, a sixth-round draft choice from Georgia, that they felt comfortable releasing incumbent Ryan Longwell earlier this week.
With all of that in mind, let's take a look at some of the reasonable answers we might find over the next few days. I won't be in attendance, but hopefully we can round up some information by Monday.
Chicago Bears: What is the conditioning level of receiver Alshon Jeffery?
We've spent some time discussing Jeffery's drop from nearly 240 pounds this winter to 216 pounds at the February scouting combine. Some personnel evaluators were concerned about his commitment to keeping in shape, but as we noted Thursday, Jeffery spent some time with Bears reserve quarterback Josh McCown last weekend and is skipping the NFLPA Rookie Premiere presented by Nike to continue working out.
Detroit Lions: How many positions is offensive lineman Riley Reiff playing? Also, how much work, if any, is receiver Ryan Broyles doing?
Reiff was a left tackle at Iowa. Some teams projected him as a right tackle in the NFL, a path followed by his predecessor, current Green Bay Packers right tackle Bryan Bulaga. Lions offensive line coach George Yarno told the Detroit Free Press that Reiff would see time at both left and right tackles this weekend. But you also wonder if the Lions would be tempted to work him a bit at guard to see if there could at some point be a competition with right guard Stephen Peterman.
Broyles, as you know, is recovering from a torn anterior cruciate ligament suffered last November. He was recovered enough to work out for scouts before the draft, but there is a big difference between running and participating in football activities. It's hard to imagine the Lions subjecting him to much, if anything, this weekend.
Green Bay Packers: How rough does Nick Perry look at outside linebacker? Also, are there any clues that B.J. Coleman will be able to challenge Graham Harrell for the No. 2 quarterback job?
These questions speak to the dangers of putting rookie minicamp observations into stone. Perry, for one, is making the transition from being a defensive end. It's no insult to him to suggest he's not going to look like a polished professional in his first three days at the new position. The important gauge, if it can be determined, is whether Perry makes significant progress over the weekend or if to looks like it's going to take him an extended period of time to grow comfortable with his role.
The same thing goes for Coleman, who as a rookie quarterback will be fortunate just to know all the plays this weekend. If he looks sharp from the start, it will be a miracle -- and again, that's no insult to him. But the Packers have a precedent for using a seventh-round draft pick as Aaron Rodgers' top backup -- with Matt Flynn in 2008 -- and so it's worth checking to see if Coleman has anything close to the aptitude required to challenge for that role.