NEWS

Will Bears let rookies like Iglesias play this year?

Matt Trowbridge

General manager Jerry Angelo makes Juaquin Iglesias sound like the next Earl Bennett.

Both were third-round draft picks the last two years. Neither caught a pass as a rookie (so far), but Bennett has 605 yards this season, the highest total by a second-year Bear in more than a decade.

Could Iglesias do the same?

“If you were to see how he’s been practicing, he would come in and produce and be a good football player for us,” Angelo told chicagobears.com this week.

But that doesn’t mean the Bears (5-8) will give Iglesias a chance to prove it in his final three games as a rookie. Nor does quarterback Jay Cutler’s call to see more from Chicago’s young players.

“I’m talking about the young guys that are on the field playing with me,” Cutler said. “I’m not talking about just throwing random young guys in there.

“We’re not going to do that. We’re going to try to win football games. We’re not at the point where we are going to start building for next year. We’ve got three games left, and we’re going to put the best 11 offensive, defensive and special teams players that we can on the field.”

Iglesias isn’t the only Bears draft pick to be shut out. Chicago’s other three highest picks — third-round defensive tackle Jarron Gilbert, fourth-round defensive end Henry Melton (who is on injured reserve) and fourth-round cornerback D.J. Moore — don’t have a single tackle.

Angelo told chicagobears.com that young players learn best by playing.

“How a player adjusts to new things shown by an opponent or how that player performs in the clutch are the types of things that can only be seen on Sunday,” Angelo said. “So these games are critical, because we have such young or new players at a handful of positions.”

That doesn’t mean Iglesias, Gilbert and Co. need to play. Chicago already starts two rookies: fifth-round receiver Johnny Knox (41 catches, 498 yards) and sixth-round safety Al Afalava (67 tackles).

And while running back Matt Forte was the only rookie to play much last year, three fellow 2008 draft picks joined him in the starting lineup this year: left tackle Chris Williams, Bennett and cornerback Zack Bowman. Also, defensive tackle Marcus Harrison (23 tackles) and tight end Kellen Davis (nine catches, three touchdowns) have seen action.

This is Chicago’s biggest youth infusion in years. The Bears say they don’t need to see more young players play. They just need to see the ones they have play better.

They need to see everyone play better.

“I would like to get some wins here and finish strong,” Cutler said. “Just get the offense rolling and get us in a groove these last three games. ... It would be psychologically good for us if we can get something going these last three weeks.”

Matt Trowbridge can be reached at 815-987-1383 or mtrowbridge@rrstar.com.