Monday, May 14, 2012
Rookie minicamps: Cautious observations
By Kevin Seifert
On Friday, we posted some basic but important questions about the trio of NFC North rookie minicamps held over the weekend. I thought they would help us keep focused amid discussion about dozens of players who probably won't make an NFL team, let alone make an impact on the 2012 season.
Below, I've addressed the questions with updated information culled from a variety of sources. Links are provided when appropriate. In one case, I offered a rarely-seen "bonus" section. Don't say I never do anything for you.
Chicago Bears: What is the conditioning level of receiver Alshon Jeffery?
By all accounts, Jeffery was having a nice opening practice Friday -- "picking peanuts off some guys' heads," according to offensive coordinator Mike Tice -- before leaving with leg cramps.
Cramps are not unusual at rookie camps, where nerves and a lack of familiarity often lead to inadequate hydration and/or eating. Jeffery's pre-draft questions about work ethic and conditioning add a level to this particular departure, but he returned for the weekend practices without incident.
"Most of the guys are a little sore right now, but we see a guy with great hands, a big target that will only get better," Bears coach Lovie Smith said. "He should be in the mix to help us win games this year."
The Bears' initial plan is for Jeffery to learn the "Z" slot position, but it's not out of the question that he could eventually pair with Brandon Marshall as an outside receiver with Devin Hester moving inside.
Bonus: Here's what Tice had to say about criticism of the Bears' depth at tackle, a position they did not draft to: "If we felt that tackle was a dire need for us, I'm sure they would have answered the bell on draft day. With the change in scheme, the change in personality and an offseason and getting some guys healthy, I think we'll make a big jump in the offensive line. It takes time for young guys to play good in all areas. And we have a couple young guys who have played good football in half the scheme, and they need to step it up in the other half. Plus, we have some guys who got hurt, and we need to get those guys back."
Detroit Lions: How many positions is offensive lineman Riley Reiff playing? Also, how much work, if any, is receiver Ryan Broyles doing?
The Lions rotated Reiff between left tackle and right tackle on a per-practice basis, but there were no reports of him seeing time at guard. That doesn't mean he won't eventually get some work there as a possible competitor for right guard Stephen Peterman, but on his first weekend the Lions limited him to the two positions he figured to be most familiar with.
Lions coach Jim Schwartz clearly subscribes to the "less is more" philosophy on drawing conclusions in rookie camp. But here were his early impressions of the Lions' first-round draft choice: "You can tell as much of what we did here today about him as we could outside [of practice.] I mean walkthroughs, meetings and things like that. You can tell that he's an experienced, smart, confident player and he’s going to do well for us."
Broyles, on the other hand, observed but did not participate in any of the practices as he continues to recover from a November knee injury. The question now becomes whether he will be cleared in time for training camp or whether he will open camp on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list.
Schwartz wouldn't commit to a timetable on when Broyles will be able to practice or play a game but said: "[H]e's on a good path. He's had a good rehab so far. He showed it in his pro day and he's shown it here. It depends on what happens between now and then."
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?
The biggest news on Perry is that the Packers started him off as the left outside linebacker, which is where Clay Matthews played the past two seasons. Coach Mike McCarthy wouldn't say whether that meant Matthews will move to the rights side or if Perry will initially be slotted as a backup. But as Pete Dougherty of the Green Bay Press-Gazette pointed out, most 3-4 teams prefer their biggest outside linebacker to work on the left side to stand up against opponents who are generally right-handed running teams.
Meanwhile, Coleman demonstrated notable arm strength in comparison to fellow quarterback Nick Hill, according to Rob Demovsky of the Press-Gazette. That's a good start. Whether he can challenge Harrell depends on how quickly he can learn the Packers' offense, and according to McCarthy, how long it takes him to adapt to an entirely new set of footwork techniques required at the professional level.