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The Most Intriguing Rookie Storylines at Chicago Bears OTAs

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The Most Intriguing  Rookie Storylines at Chicago Bears OTAs
Brian Kersey/Getty Images
Can Will Sutton make an impact in 2014?

With the NFL draft and rookie minicamps in the rearview mirror, the Chicago Bears began their offseason training activities (OTAs) this past Tuesday.

The OTAs are a voluntary program that will stretch a three-week period from this past Tuesday until June 10. The team will then hold a mandatory veterans minicamp from June 17-19. 

During OTAs, the team will be allowed to participate in 7-on-7, 9-on-7 and 11-on-11 drills with helmets and no pads. Teams are not allowed to participate in 1-on-1 drills.

OTAs will help familiarize rookies with veterans and give the coaching staff a good idea of what the team is going to look like heading into training camp in late July.

While there will be plenty of veterans battling for roster spots and playing time this offseason, much focus will be put on general manager Phil Emery's latest draft class. 

Let's take a look at four of the most intriguing rookie storylines at Bears' OTAs. 

 

Kyle Fuller Expected to Play Cornerback with Tim Jennings at Nickelback in Passing Situations

Brian Kersey/Getty Images

Once the Bears' first OTA practice concluded on Tuesday, Twitter went abuzz with the news that first-round pick Kyle Fuller was playing outside at left cornerback, with Tim Jennings lined up at the nickelback position.

It was assumed that Fuller was likely going to be the team's nickelback heading into the season, but Jennings appears to like his new role.

“Hopefully, it’ll be a full-time thing," Jennings told the media after practice, via the Chicago Sun-Times. "It’s a little different for me. I’ve got to get back to acclimated to playing nickel and playing two positions on defense."

Jennings is still expected to maintain his starting spot on the outside in the team's base defense, but moving Jennings inside will give Fuller the opportunity to play a position that he will initially be more comfortable in.

Jennings later told the media that he understands that they need to get Fuller on the field, and they are both willing to do whatever it takes to improve their defense, saying:

We feel like we have to get Kyle on the field. We have to get him on the field running. So whether he has to play corner or I have to play nickel, we all have to take our jobs and do what they ask us to do and hopefully we can turn this thing around.

While it is still very early, giving Fuller a definitive role early in the offseason will allow him to focus more on one position instead of trying to learn a couple of positions from the start. 

 

Can Will Sutton Keep Off the Weight and Push for a Starting Job?

Nam Y. Huh/Associated Press

It was no secret that the Bears needed to improve the interior of their defensive line in the draft, and they did so by drafting Ego Ferguson and Will Sutton in the second and third rounds.

While Ferguson may be viewed as more of a project at the nose tackle position, Sutton has the potential to make an impact in his rookie season.

In 2012, Sutton registered 63 tackles, 23.5 tackles for loss, 13 sacks, five pass deflections and three forced fumbles, but his weight jumped from 290 pounds to over 300 pounds in 2013. He was still productive in 2013, registering 48 tackles, 13.5 tackles for loss, four sacks and three pass deflections, but he clearly did not have the same type of impact as he did when he played around 290 pounds.

Emery addressed the weight concerns with Sutton after the draft, noting he wanted Sutton to play closer to his 2012 weight.

"If he stays consistently in there he's going to be a very good football player," Emery told the media, via ChicagoBears.com, about the weight range the team wants Sutton to be in.

While the Bears have plenty of depth at the defensive tackle position this offseason compared to last season, Sutton has a real opportunity to become push for starter's reps in 2014 if he can prove throughout OTAs, minicamps and training camp that he can maintain his weight.

 

Brock Vereen Will Have as Good a Shot as Any to Grab a Starting Safety Spot

Nam Y. Huh/Associated Press

After watching Major Wright and Chris Conte struggle as starters throughout the 2013 season, it appeared that a major upgrade to the safety position was going to be high on Emery's to-do list this offseason.

Instead of targeting a big-name safety in free agency or the draft, Emery improved the front four by signing defensive ends Jared Allen, Lamarr Houston and Willie Young with the assumption that improved pressure up front will help lessen the load of the safeties. 

The team did sign veteran Ryan Mundy, and he appears to be the most likely candidate to be the team's starter at strong safety in 2014.

With the free safety position still in question with Conte recovering from offseason surgery, rookie fourth-round pick Brock Vereen has a shot to become a starter this season.

Defensive coordinator Mel Tucker made it clear that the safety position is wide-open this offseason.

Conte's injury, combined with Tucker stating that the position will be an open competition, should give Vereen at the least the opportunity to push for a starting spot.

 

Phil Emery Expects Christian Jones to Compete for a Roster Spot

Nam Y. Huh/Associated Press

It came as a surprise to some that Florida State linebacker Christian Jones fell completely out of the NFL draft after being touted as a possible second-round pick.

The likely reason for Jones falling off of teams' draft boards was due to reportedly failing a drug test at the NFL combine in February.

Jones said he is using the experience to fuel him as a player this season, telling the media after rookie minicamps, via ChicagoBears.com:

It's a lot of motivation. It's the competitive side. You see guys getting drafted above you ... everybody thinks they're better than somebody. But that's how it is. It's going to help fuel me, [but] I believe that things happen for a reason. I really feel like I belong here and I'm just making the best out of this opportunity.

Jones is extremely athletic and showed the ability to be productive both as an outside linebacker in 4-3 defense or a stand-up rush linebacker in a 3-4 defense. 

With a crowded linebacker corp, Jones will have to work hard this offseason to claim one of the open linebacker spots on this roster, but Emery believes Jones has what it takes.

"We see him challenging for one of those spots and that's a good a thing," Emery told Jim Miller on SiriusXM NFL Radio, via Scott Crinch of CSNChicago.com

He continued:

Competition is what makes us better. Christian showed us a lot of good things this weekend. Number one is his range as a football player. It was beyond his hustle, it was just his innate ability, his athleticism, his speed and he closed distance very well.

Other than having Lance Briggs start at the weak-side linebacker position, the Bears, per Emery, have made it clear that the other two linebacker spots are an open competition this offseason, per Zach Zaidman of Chicago Bears Radio Network. 

While Emery thinks Jones has a good chance of making the 53-man roster, he may end up having a good shot at competing for a starting job if he can continue to improve during OTAs. 

 

All stats courtesy of Sports-Reference.com.

Matt Eurich is an NFL/Chicago Bears Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report.

Follow @MattEurich.

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