Which individuals have impressed you most during OTA practices?
The first guys who come to mind are Earl Bennett, Kevin Payne, Rod Marinelli and Marcus Hamilton. Obviously it’s harder to evaluate the strong guys—the defensive linemen and linebackers—in non-contact drills just because it’s harder to see a demonstration of strength.
Earl Bennett is the first guy you mentioned. How has he impressed you?
You can tell that he’s a naturally-gifted innate receiver. He’s not learning the receiver position. Earl is a receiver who’s getting better at the position, especially in terms of his ability to get off the line of scrimmage and knowing what he wants to do when he’s confronted at the line of scrimmage.
How has Payne stood out?
A lot of it has to do with his athleticism in individual drills. You watch him doing basic drills compared to the guys in front and back of him, and he looks very athletic. He has all the traits they look for in evaluating defensive backs. He’s very smooth. Obviously we know he’s confident in his contact. He just has to make certain that he’s sure about his assignments, so that every adjustment that needs to be made can be made instinctively and not have to be thought about, and I think that’s where Kevin Payne is really making the most strides.
How confident are you that the Bears defense will revert to the form it displayed in 2005-06?
I think they’re going to be better. I think there’s going to be more pressure on some of the high impact players to play better. When they put more pressure on you, raise the expectations and have a hands-on approach like the coaches have on this team, they have a chance to be a better defense that they have been the last few years.
Thayer goes on to say that his biggest concern is the other safety position. I personally really like Craig Steltz, but we haven't heard much about him this offseason.
If I had to assign grades right now, I'd say:
QB/ RB/ TE: A+
DL/ LB: B+
I am hopeful that, with or without an upgrade to our WR corp, we will win the North, and contend with the big boys in the NFC.