I know the answer should be either McClellin or Jeffery, but the guy I want to have a big year is Hardin. I just hope he can prove me and others wrong.
They're all going to suck and Emery will be worse than Jerry Angelo.
McClellin: I honestly believe he will at least have an average year at DE. Marinelli will toughen him up enough to play well, and with Pepper's eating up most of the double-teams it gives McClellin plenty of opportunities to make his mark. Also, if Melton improves as well (Paea too), then that only adds to the opportunities for McClellin from the double teams both of them might eat up. Overall, I don't believe he'll make the biggest impact, especially with the FA signings that add depth and might take away his rotations if they prove great in camp.
Jeffery: I expect this kid to make a good transition into the game and add a talented element in the Bear's offensive packages. With that said, unless he puts up big points in the first couple of games, I don't expect him to be utilized as much as he shares spots with Devin and the other bagillion receivers they have.
Hardin: Unless he absolutely out-plays Wright for the SS spot during camp, then I'm not sure we're going to see much of him except on ST during games. Even then they already have a bunch of FA signings with the highest ST gradings to add immediate experience. Hardin's going to have to show everyone something special.
Rodriguez: If there's any rookie that might have the largest impact on the game, it's Rodriguez. He was specifically drafted as a hybrid player within the Bear's new offensive scheme and shows he was very reliable as both a catcher and a blocker. The only thing stopping him from becoming the obvious choice is the competition between Kyle Adams and Brandon Venson. So far he holds an edge thanks to his blocking skills.
Frey: I really like Frey's uncanny ability to time himself against receivers in man-coverage; however, in the Bear's system it's extremely important to get those interceptions and he only had 7 in his entire college career. That and transitioning into the speed of the NFL should be his main focus. Other than that he will not be playing much if at all this year.
McCoy: Didn't show particularly great CB skills so far, so I expect to see him--rarely--taking returns. He's pretty much a Devin Hester project to hopefully replace Devin in the years to come.
Jeffery. The Bears haven't had much from the WR corps in forever so if he has a halfway decent season he'll have made the most impact by default.
I don't think Hardin will have much impact early. He is still learning the safety position, and from what I've read is a bit raw still (to be expected). Also, he is learning the FS position first so I don't expect him to push conte anytime soon. I'm thinking this year we will see him mostly on ST and sparingly on D.
I think McClellin and Jeffery will both have nice rookie seasons, but nothing outstanding. I'm fine with that because they're not the only hope at their respective positions.
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Yeah, not only does he have to learn the safety position, but he was strictly a man coverage CB if I'm not mistaken, so he's having to absorb zone coverage as well.
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At 6 foot 3 and nearly 220 pounds, Brandon Hardin stands out.
He was a cornerback at Oregon State and in high school, but he will be a safety in the NFL.
That being the case, the third-round draft pick could have a more challenging transition to the pros than the average rookie.
"There is somewhat of a learning curve," Hardin said. "I'm thinking a lot more, playing a new position. I'm still thinking somewhat about the drops, trying to get quarterback reads, what the receivers are doing. The coaches tell me it will all come second nature eventually."
I asked secondary coach Jon Hoke what has been Hardin's most difficult transition so far.
"I would say having a feel for deep zones, knowing where he is back there," Hoke said. "Sometimes he'll get a little wide off a landmark. That and leverage angles, keeping the ball outside in or inside out. The more he does it at full speed, it will come."
Not only was Hardin a college cornerback, but he played mostly man-to-man. The whole zone concept is like a new language for him.
The position switch has worked well for his teammate Chris Conte. At California, Conte didn't become a safety until his senior season.
For the time being, Hardin is focusing strictly on free safety, which is the position that should be best for him. But once his head stops spinning, Hardin will learn strong safety as well.
Hardin, who was on the Pac-10 All-Academic team twice, should find his intelligence an asset.
"When you talk to him, he understands football," Hoke said. "He can talk the scheme to you. We do written tests in the offseason on formations, adjustments, those types of things. He has done a good job with it."
Even though Hardin is green, I'll be surprised if he does not factor into the Bears 2012 season.
Right now, he is competing for the third or fourth safety spot with Craig Steltz. Even if he ends up fourth on the depth chart, it is likely he will get a chance to play, given the team's history of changing safeties as frequently as you would change disposable contact lenses.
Given that he ran a 4.40 in the 40-yard dash, jumped vertically 351/2 inches, broad-jumped 10-4 and bench pressed 225 pounds 24 times, Hardin should be an immediate contributor on special teams.
The most intriguing way he could contribute quickly is as a package player.
In a league that is relying increasingly on big, athletic tight ends, defensive solutions are difficult to find. Hardin has the potential to be one.
He is that rare athlete who has strength, length and the ability to turn and run with a tight end such as the Packers' Jermichael Finley.
And even though safety is new to Hardin, he is experienced at covering tight ends.
"Throughout college I had to cover tight ends," he said. "That's fun. With a bigger body, I can use my athleticism and my size. Eventually if I come down and match up with a tight end, that's in my comfort zone, it's what I'm used to."
For Hardin to develop and contribute, he will have to stay on the field. He missed his senior season with a broken shoulder and a broken hand and sprained wrist affected him as a freshman.
During organized team activities, he was limited for a short spell because of a back issue.
In a perfect world, this season Hardin is a special teams player and defensive spectator.
"Hopefully we stay healthy and Major (Wright) and Chris keep improving and we can keep him in a special teams role as a backup and then start bringing him along," Hoke said. "If you keep bringing him along, you'll have something special."
That potential for something special is one of the few truths of minicamp.
Has to be Alshon Jeffery. Having him opposite Brandon Marshall with Hester/Bennett in the slot is going to be lethal. Not so much because of the individual skills he possesses but because that opens up the matchups a lot more.