CHICAGO -- With the NFL draft completed, the Bears offseason program begins Friday at Halas Hall with the team's three-day rookie camp.
The Bears have their entire class in the fold after third-round defensive tackle Will Sutton and seventh-round offensive tackle Charles Leno signed Thursday. Sutton signed for four years potentially worth roughly $3.12 million with his signing bonus of $586,086 guaranteed. Leno received a signing bonus of $46,512 in a four-year contract potentially worth approximately $2.3 million.
With a new cast of characters on stage, we will have our eye on the following storylines.
What's the buzz on cornerback Kyle Fuller, the Bears' top pick?
Buzz? What buzz? The selection of Fuller at No. 14 last week came with very little hyper-reaction.
No outlandish hysteria classified Fuller as the next Deion Sanders. Few vehement complaints either.
Sure, some critics wondered why the Bears didn't use their first pick on one of the draft's top safeties (Calvin Pryor or Ha Ha Clinton-Dix) at a position that seems to have greater holes. But it's worth pointing out that longtime standout Charles Tillman is now 33, entering his 12th season and coming off a season in which he missed eight games to injury and countless practices in the weeks he was healthy enough to play. So cornerback stability might not be as sturdy as it appears.
Plus, even if Tillman returns to his 2012 All-Pro form, the addition of Fuller gives the Bears an opportunity to mix in an athletic and versatile rookie with Tillman and Tim Jennings in sub packages, utilizing a corner trio that should be as talented and well-rounded as any in the league.
Plus, Fuller now has a chance to adapt to the NFL at a less demanding pace.
Through the cacophony of pre-draft chatter, it was hard to find much skepticism about Fuller's pro potential. NFL Network draft guru Mike Mayock praised Fuller's toughness and feel for the game.
"He has it in his DNA," Mayock said.
ESPN analyst Todd McShay circled back after the draft with more admiration.
"There are just few holes you can poke in his game," McShay said. "His field vision and his awareness are outstanding. His cover skills are very good overall. ... You could just see he has good instincts, attacks the ball and has really good leaping ability."
What are the early expectations for Ego Ferguson and Will Sutton, the two defensive tackles selected on the draft's second day?
Both will be expected to contribute as rookies. And two or three years from now, general manager Phil Emery must hope at least one has developed into a reliable starter.
But the Bears now may have enough depth up front that they won't need Ferguson and Sutton to make major impacts as rookies. Emery remains bullish on 10th-year vet Jeremiah Ratliff as an active penetrator up front who can be effective either at nose tackle or under tackle. (Don't forget, Jared Allen singled out Ratliff more than once as a major draw in his arrival to Chicago.)
Stephen Paea and Nate Collins also will fight for roles in the rotation and high-profile free agent signee Lamarr Houston, an end by trade, has the flexibility to slide inside in pass rushing situations.
Translation: Ferguson and Sutton should be given time to grow and emerge under new defensive line coach Paul Pasqualoni.
Emery said he anticipates carrying 10 defensive linemen on the 53-man roster. Ferguson and Sutton figure to be part of that.
Sutton seemingly has more pass rushing potential as he had 171/2 sacks over his final two seasons at Arizona State. LSU's Ferguson arrives as far more of a run-stuffing anchor, a needed addition after the Bears run defense malfunctioned last fall.
"The things that kept coming up when you watched him against SEC tape," Emery said, "was that he controlled the front. People could not run the ball up inside when he was on the field. And that was a big attraction for us."
What does fourth-round pick Ka'Deem Carey bring to the backfield?
Asked to compare his own running style to a back in the NFL, Carey offered up 49ers standout Frank Gore.
"He runs hard. Doesn't have the fastest 40(-yard dash speed), but he makes big plays," Carey said. "He fights every down."
The Bears will celebrate if those comparisons ring true, especially with Gore about to top 10,000 career rushing yards early in his 10th season.
As for Carey, he will begin as a rugged backup to Matt Forte. Beyond that, coach Marc Trestman isn't sure how the development plan will crystallize.
"I don't know that we're that far along," Trestman said. "I just know that we have ourselves a heck of a football player. He loves football. He's passionate about it. He's tough. He has been extremely productive. He's all-purpose. We view him as a three-down back who can play in any situation and run routes out of the backfield and certainly run inside and outside."
Using a draft pick on punter Pat O'Donnell? Really? Why a punter?
This was a first for Emery, who in 16 drafts as a scout, director of college scouting and GM, never had been part of picking a punter before.
The Bears, in fact, had drafted a punter only four times before, most recently in 1995 when they scooped up Todd Sauerbrun in the second round.
So why now? For starters, the Bears released Adam Podlesh in March. And while O'Donnell is now one of three punters on the roster along with Drew Butler and Tress Way, he immediately slots as the favorite to win the job. Teams just don't arbitrarily spend draft picks on specialists, even in the late rounds, unless they have a favorable long-term projection.
O'Donnell averaged 47.1 yards per punt last season to rank second in the NCAA. He looks the part.
"When you first start scouting," Emery said, "all you're told is look for the big leg, look for the tall guys, look for the guys where the ball really comes off the foot. And that's what Patrick's all about.
This is a strapping (6-foot-4) athlete with a big leg who has not only kicked for yardage, but he has kicked for average, and he has kicked directionally, which is very important in the pro game."
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