John Fox is an old school coach. He’d prefer not to play rookies if he doesn’t have to. Reasons for that are obvious. Rookies tend to make mistakes. They aren’t used to the complexity or speed of the NFL. Those feelings won’t change with the Bears 2017 draft class either. The only reason the 2016 class got so much playing time was a rash of injuries across the roster and a general lack of overall talent.
It’s going to take some serious performance over the course of training camp and preseason to convince Fox and his staff that a rookie should not only play, but feature in some capacity. Remember he was comfortable going with Jeremy Langford over Jordan Howard last season. Hroniss Grasu was going to start over Cody Whitehair.
This isn’t a team that hands out gifts. If you want the job, either you need to be lucky or you have to earn it. At least through OTAs and minicamps, two names continue to come up among the rookie class. Players who are defying a lot of expectations made about them when they were drafted. At least early on.
Bears 2017 draft class feeding the offense
Many of the concerns regarding the Bears offense center around wide receiver. With the exit of Alshon Jeffery there really isn’t a proven target on that depth chart. At least none without questions. Victor Cruz, Markus Wheaton and Kevin White all have injury issues. Kendall Wright regressed badly during his time in Tennessee. Cameron Meredith is ascending but has never had to play the featured role before.
So it’s a good thing tight end Adam Shaheen and running back Tarik Cohen may be positioning themselves to supplement the passing game in other ways. The noise they’re making in camp is even getting the attention of longtime veterans as Adam Jahn of Chicago Sun-Times found out.
The Bears want rookie quarterback Mitch Trubisky to learn behind new starter Mike Glennon, but Shaheen and running back Tarik Cohen won’t wait. The Bears see those two as having immediate roles in coordinator Dowell Loggains’ offense.
Shaheen, the Bears’ second-round pick, and Cohen, a fourth-round selection, worked with the starters during the offseason program.
Having faced both players in various scenarios, Freeman knows what the Bears have brewing in their rookies.
‘‘The tight end is a big body,’’ Freeman said with wide eyes. ‘‘He gets a little aggressive out there. He’s just a big body, and he’s a worker. He’s going to keep working and continue to work. a great guy to have on offense.’’
‘‘No. 29, he’s like a human joystick out there,’’ Freeman said. ‘‘Just get him in the open field, and he’s dangerous — really dangerous.’’
Living up to the hype
Shaheen and Cohen drew some fascinating comparisons when they were drafted. Shaheen still holds the nickname of “Baby Gronk” in reference to his likeness to New England Patriots all-pro Rob Gronkowski. Cohen is almost universally seen as the second coming of Darren Sproles. Not surprising given their similarities in size, quickness and athleticism.
Of course it’s really not fair to them when making such comparisons. They are unique in their own right and would prefer to carve out their own careers. All Bears fans want is for them to excel. A major key to that is whether the coaching staff uses them right. The good news is Dowell Loggains has demonstrated such an ability.
We will know more when training camp kicks off in July.