LAKE FOREST, Ill. – With eight-weeks of NFL offseason workouts in the books, here is a list of five Bears’ players who made noticeable strides during organized team activities and the mandatory three-day minicamp:
1. Eddie Royal, wide receiver: Royal is a rare breed. He is smart and talented enough to do the dirty work on the underneath routes, but fast enough to catch a slant and take it to the house. It’s hard to remember the last time Chicago had such a versatile receiver on the roster. Plus, Royal can return kicks. Royal still needs to prove he can stay healthy, but based on offseason workouts I’m beginning to understand why the Bears gave him $10 million in guarantees.
2. Alshon Jeffery, wide receiver: Jeffery is on a mission to prove he’s a legitimate No. 1 wide receiver. The fourth-year player had arguably the best offseason at his position and is expected to make a strong push for a new contract in the future. Both coach John Fox and quarterback Jay Cutler raved about Jeffery’s work ethic in OTAs and minicamp.
3. Marquess Wilson, wide receiver: Wilson is still in the mix, even though Chicago drafted Kevin White No. 7 overall. Because White missed the final week of practice, Wilson received increased reps with the first and second teams. Fox seems impressed by Wilson, who suffered a broken collarbone in training camp last year that derailed his sophomore season. With much less fanfare this offseason, White showed the coaching staff that he’s an intriguing prospect worth monitoring in the preseason.
4. Christian Jones, inside linebacker: Jones just looks like an inside linebacker. At 6-foot-3, 240 pounds, Jones dedicated the offseason to improving his body after bursting on the scene in 2014 as an undrafted rookie out of Florida State. Jones is a favorite to win a starting job in the preseason. Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio called Jones a potential building block on defense, and after OTAs and minicamp, the veteran coordinator appears to be spot on with his assessment.
5. Kyle Long, offensive line: Long is already a two-time Pro Bowl right guard, but the former first-round pick increased his value to the team by lining up at right and left tackle during the final week of OTAs and minicamp. Nothing is official, and Long may go back to guard next month in Bourbonnais, but the option does exist to make a permanent switch sometime in the future. The Bears do have to be mindful of moving Long to tackle before he’s ready. The last thing Fox wants is to weaken two positions if Long isn’t up to the challenge yet.