One More Day in Bourbonnais for Chicago Bears

Nick SheSenior Analyst IAugust 20, 2009

LAKE FOREST, IL - MAY 01: (L-R) Dave Peck #75, Marcus Freeman #58, Jarron Gilbert#73 and Al Afalava #46 of the Chicago Bears participate in a special teams drill during a rookie mini-camp practice on May 1, 2009 at Halas Hall in Lake Forest, Illinois.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

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And so it seems it's over as soon as it started for the Bears in Bourbonnais.

To me there are very few things in sports that seem to come and go as quickly as NFL training camp. Maybe because it never really has an off day because there are games on the off days of camp and it seems that news is made even during the off days.

Time flies by when you are an observer at an NFL training camp.

Here are my thoughts from the second-to-last day in Bourbonnais. I'm not going to necessarily say who looked great/poor today, but instead give more of a summary of training camp.

The players that impressed me the most at training camp this year were Earl Bennett, Matt Forte, Chris Williams, and Al Afalava.

By this, do I mean these were the best players? No. Instead these were players who I was not entirely sold on coming into camp who have done a good job making their sales pitch during the past couple of weeks.

Bennett will be among the Bears' starting receivers in Week One in Green Bay, barring any injury. He seems to have turned into a wideout who can be put on the field and actually make a play if need be, not only a guy you are hoping doesn't embarrass himself.

Quarterback Jay Cutler deserves some credit for being able to get the ball to Bennett better than Orton did, but credit must be given to Bennett for coming to camp on top of the playbook and understanding plays after that whole experience a season ago.

Forte turned some heads last season as he put up monster numbers as a rookie in the Bears' backfield. I knew he was going to look good in Bourbonnais, but after watching Bears running backs for a while now, I don't have any problems ranking Forte among the elite running backs in the NFL in 2009.

To me, it seems like his football speed got faster over the offseason and I expect big things from the Cajun this fall.

Williams entered camp under much scrutiny after having to have back surgery in camp a year ago. He entered camp healthy and in great shape this season and picked up where everyone only hoped he would be at right tackle.

He has room to grow, don't get me wrong, but I would be lying if I told you he didn't hold his own in one-on-one drills against the veteran defensive linemen the Chicago Bears have to offer. The road ahead seems to be a good one for Williams.

Afalava is the final Chicago Bear that really made me turn my head over the past few weeks. In this case, it was especially the last 10 days or so. There is no doubt he has a lot of room to grow, much to learn, and strength to gain but he has been the most impressive of any Bears rookie to me in camp.

Afalava is likely going to be a starting safety this year for the Bears and I fully expect there to be growing pains along the way, but from all signs in camp, he's going to make the secondary's losses from a year ago hurt a little less than we first expected.

The Bears will have plenty of questions and flaws as they enter the 2009 regular season.

Will the defensive line produce? How bad will the secondary be? Who will Cutler throw to besides his tight ends?

All of these are fair questions that we have had answered to some degree, but much time remains for them to be answered in full.

After seeing this team perform I am fully aware they don't look like a team that is going to be playing the first weekend of February in Miami but they are a far cry from the Bears teams from the mid-'90s that simply made your stomach hurt.

Outside of Cutler, what are you most looking forward to as a Bears fan in 2009?