Bears Rookie Mini-Camp Report

Brett SoleskyCorrespondent IMay 2, 2009

LAKE FOREST, IL - MAY 01: (L-R) Dave Peck #75, Marcus Freeman #58, Jarron Gilbert#73 and Al Afalava #46 of the Chicago Bears participate in a special teams drill during a rookie mini-camp practice on May 1, 2009 at Halas Hall in Lake Forest, Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

I gathered information from various sources yesterday on how the rookies looked on the first day of mini-camp today. Obviously it’s very exciting when you have some of your newly-minted, fresh-out-of-the-box studs out there and Lovie Smith covered as much after practice.

The players who stood out were the best of the first few picks. Jarron Gilbert is big and athletic, still some room to grow on his frame and if he gets with Israel Idonije and picks up his work out habits he could be an unstoppable force on the defensive line. Henry Melton looked good, showed his burst and speed off the edge and it’s where you would like for an NFL-level defensive end.

Lovie Smith was impressed with both of these players and said,  “It’s good to see your first pick Jarron Gilbert, a lot of athletic ability both he Henry Melton both moved well today.”

Coach Marinelli was also equally impressed with his class of rookie defensive lineman. Two the first four picks were used on the line and Marinelli is known for being able mold some of the game’s best defensive lineman. Marinelli stated in various reports that he was highly impressed with how athletic Gilbert is and how tall he is, but what makes a great lineman is their ability to bend and get low to the ground to generate power. Gilbert has that flexibility for a 6-foot-5 defensive tackle, that ability to get low and generate power from his hips.

Most defensive tackles you see in the league aren’t usually over the 6-foot-4 mark because they taller they are the more easier it is for them to get stood up. But because Gilbert is such a unique athlete for his size he’s able to play the under-tackle position and generate a lot of power and leverage to drive opposing blockers and make plays.

You can tell from the various reports on and the Tribune, where Marinelli gave the most time, that he’s excited with Gilbert.

“It’s kind of what we saw through the evaluation process,” Marinelli told  “For a guy that tall, he can bend, and that’s the key; you’ve got to be able to bend your knees. If you’re tall and stiff, you can’t bend down and you play tall and you have no power.”

Marinelli expanded on Gilbert, telling the Tribune about where the young tackle is at in his development.

“You like to see some position flexibility,” Marinelli said. “He’s an ‘under’ tackle right now. He’s got the movement, the power and the hands to be a left end. He can do some of that. But you don’t want to give him too much.”

“These guys are very talented athletes,” Marinelli said. “When I talk about talent, I mean short-space quickness. Then I look at them being tall and being able to bend. A guy like [Gilbert], if you can jump out of a pool, you’re in pretty good shape to bend.

“If you can bend and your feet are quick, that means you can play with a good base. They run extremely well. They’re coordinated. Now I have to coordinate them into a rush mode.”

While all eyes may have been on the first pick the Bears had last Sunday, most fans also want word on how wide receivers Juaquin Iglesias and Johnny Knox looked in his drills. The reports are positive regarding Iglesias as well.

He stood out for how well he’s put together at around 6-foot-2, 212 pounds and he showed good quickness coming out of his breaks in the route running he was doing, and showed great hands catching numerous balls in practice.

Knox is as fast as advertised and his hands are at a level that if he put it all together mentally he could be a good receiver for the Bears. Knox come in like former Bear Bernard Berrian, a mid round draft selection from a smaller school with a ton of raw athletic potential good hands, but just needs to be polished up some over the next couple of years.

“I liked what our receivers did, Juaquin Iglesias and Johnny Knox," Smith said. "Both have a lot of upside and can run well.”

Iglesias and Knox were excited to be out there for their first day of practice and spoke with the media afterward about how proud they are to be wearing a Chicago Bears uniform.

Iglesias talked about what his mind set was coming into practice.  

“No matter what they had (in the way of openings to play) I think I was going to come in here and work as hard as I can and try to play regardless of who is here," Iglesias said.  "I’m just trying to do the best I can and get as much as I can from Coach Drake.”

Knox also got his time with the media.  

“I’m really excited," Know said. "Just trying to get the feel for the field because it’s different up here than it is down there in Houston. Just trying to get used to it.”

Both Iglesias and Knox were a bit overwhelmed with the difference between the NFL playbook and their college playbook, but they mentioned to the media how they are doing their best to pick it up.  They hope to be able to digest it and then utilize what they’ve learned out on the field in practice this weekend.

The playbook is what hamstrung fellow rookie Edgar Bennett last year and both Knox and Iglesias seemed pretty determined to not let that happen to them. They realize that there is an opening that exists on the roster for a receiver with their skill set. Iglesias is a tough, physical, over the middle, first down machine with great hands. Knox is a speedy receiver with great burst, the hands to go deep, and is a threat to score on any given play.

It should be a very exciting weekend for the Chicago Bears as weekend rookie mini-camp rolls along, and as always you can count on some of the most in-depth coverage of camp, from any blog on the net right here at MMI.