It's a tough season for rookies all around. With no offseason workouts and a very limited training camp, rookies were at a serious disadvantage over rookies in years past.
Still, this is professional football and there's no crying in the NFL. The rookies sucked it up and got to the business of learning their playbooks, working to make some contributions.
Now it's midseason and, just as would usually be the case, the Bears 2011 rookie class has performed with various degrees of success.
There are a few rookies who have made significant impact or contributed notably. The Bears have a unusually high number of rookies on the roster with nine, and another on injured reserve.
Today we're going to hand out midseason grades to our rookie class. Follow me as we take a look at the performances of the 2011 class.
Greg Carimi made an immediate impact on the Bears offensive line before being felled in the second game to a knee injury.
ProFootballFocus has him rated as the Bears' top tackle overall as well as the top rated tackle in every category except run-blocking; interestingly enough, run-blocking is Carimi's specialty.
The highly touted first-round pick out of Wisconsin has allowed just one sack and two pressures in his 100 snaps of action, and the Bears will certainly be glad to get their young tackle back after their Week 8 bye.
A team with a second-team All-Pro and two-time Pro Bowler as its safety tandem wouldn't seem to be a good place for a rookie safety to shine, right?
Oh, how things change. Brandon Meriweather has stunk on ice and Chris Harris was released for poor play after returning from injury, leading to an opportunity for Chris Conte to show the world what he's got.
How did he respond? By being the top-rated safety, according to ProFootballFocus. In his first start, Conte did allow a touchdown to tight end Kellen Winslow, Jr. but also stripped away a spectacular interception and allowed only two receptions as Josh Freeman and the Bucs attempted to pick on the young safety making his first start.
Conte has two passes defended, an interception, and has allowed only an astounding 40.2 quarterback rating.
Conte still has a ton of room for improvement, but it looks like GM Jerry Angelo and his blind squirrel have finally found a safety in the draft. It had to happen eventually.
Stephen Paea took quite a while to finally make his debut; he was inactive for the Bears' first five games learning the playbook.
Also hindering Paea is Chicago's deep rotation at defensive tackle.
An injury to Matt Toeaina opened the door for Paea, however, and the rookie out of Oregon State didn't disappoint. Continuing the trend, Paea played his way to being the top-rated DT in Chicago, according to ProFootballFocus.
While he's not tops in any single category—Anthony Adams is by far the top-rated run defender, and Amobi Okoye has a slight advantage over Paea and Henry Melton in pass-rushing—he is the only Bears defensive tackle with a positive rating in both pass-rush and run-defense.
In his 71 snaps he has recorded one sack, one quarterback hit and three quarterback pressures. Paea is generating a pass rush one par with the Bears' starting defensive tackles and only seems a matter of time before Paea takes over one of their spots.
Dane Sanzenbacher came into Chicago as an undrafted free agent and has shown the Bears he belongs.
The former Ohio State Buckeye has become a go-to receiver for Jay Cutler despite the limited time to learn the complex Martz routing system. Currently second among receivers in receptions and first on the team in receiving touchdowns, that's a ton of production to come from an undrafted free agent.
Dane has his down side, as he leads the team in dropped passes with five. In fact, for all the complaints about the hands of Roy Williams and Devin Hester, Sanzenbacher has only dropped one less pass than the other four members of the receiving corps combined.
Once Sanzenbacher gets more comfortable in the system, and begins reacting more than thinking, those drops will likely become a thing of the past.
Overall, the Bears have to be very much pleased with their rookie wideout.
Dom DeCicco: DeCicco has recorded seven special teams tackles on the punt team. With Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs having their spots on lockdown, and Nick Roach playing the strong side snaps, DeCicco just doesn't have much opportunity to contribute on defense.
Kyle Adams: Adams has seen 11 snaps on offense, mostly as a blocker, with mixed results, and has been targeted once for a pass but it fell incomplete. He also covered up a short kick against the Vikings.
Anthony Walters: Walters has seen limited action on the return teams as a blocker, most notably seen running alongside Devin Hester when Hester scored on a kick return against thee Vikings.
Mario Addison: Addison has seen a total of 18 snaps on the D-line—17 of them coming against Minnesota—and his play left something to be desired, especially from a pass-rush perspective.
Nate Enderle: As the third quarterback, Enderie's opportunities to see action are between slim and none (but much closer to none behind a durable quarterback like Jay Cutler).
JT Thomas: Thomas was the recipient of the annual redshirt injured reserve slot.
And now it's your turn. ladies and gentlemen. Step up to the soapbox below and let your voice be heard.