Chicago Bears: 5 Players Who Will Surprise in Training Camp
In just a little over a week, the Chicago Bears will be reporting to Olivet Nazarene University on July 25 in Bourbonnais, Ill., to begin their 2013 training camp.
While many players seemingly have a lock on their position, there are still many spots that will be wide open. All throughout the league, there will be late-round and undrafted players trying to make a name for themselves in this year's training camp.
The Bears appear to have starters locked in at key positions (Jay Cutler at quarterback, Brandon Marshall at wide receiver, Lance Briggs at weak-side linebacker) but could have plenty of openings available at other positions. While many big-name players will be getting all of the recognition, there will be plenty of players who could step up before the regular season starts.
Here are five Chicago Bears who will surprise people in training camp.
Jon Bostic, Linebacker
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Following the departure and subsequent retirement of Brian Urlacher, the Bears bolstered their linebacker position with the addition of Jon Bostic in the second round of April's draft.
Despite the Bears signing veterans D.J. Williams and James Anderson, Bostic's ability to stop the run as well as drop back in coverage could help him push for the starting middle linebacker position.
Williams is believed to be the team's starting middle linebacker in the immediate future, but if Bostic shows the ability to transition well in defensive coordinator Mel Tucker's defense, he could force Williams to take over Anderson's spot on the strong side and become the team's middle linebacker.
Despite being a second-round pick, he may not be viewed by many as a potential camp surprise, but if he gets opportunities to work with the first-team defense, he will get a chance to steal the middle linebacker spot.
Michael Ford, Running Back
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In his limited carries (72), he was able to show off his great speed and ability to make tacklers miss. He doesn't break a lot of tackles but displays the willingness to lower his shoulder to pick up extra yardage.
He could hang on with the team as a kick returner, but with proven veterans Devin Hester and Eric Weems ahead of him on the depth chart, he will have to beat out third-string running back Armando Allen.
He was impressive in rookie minicamps and the first portion of organized team activities. Adam Jahns of the Chicago Sun-Times tweeted that he was impressed with big-play abilities of the free-agent RB/KR.
If Ford can show that he has the explosiveness and ability to catch the ball out of the backfield, he stands a shot at beating out Allen as the team's third-string running back in 2013.
Fendi Onobun, Tight End
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A relative unknown, Fendi Onobun has impressed through the team's OTAs and minicamps this offseason, according to the Chicago Tribune's Dan Pompei. Onobun is a former basketball player and has failed to stick with stops in St. Louis, Buffalo, Seattle, Jacksonville and Washington. His athleticism is a huge plus for a team with no real receiving options at the tight end position behind Martellus Bennett.
Pompei went on to say in his piece:
There is no question the tight end has been an offseason standout. And if he performs as well in training camp as he has in the offseason, he will have a significant role on the team. And he will be an offensive weapon.
A former college basketball player, Onobun transferred to Houston for his fifth and final year of eligibility and caught two passes for one touchdown, yet he was still taken in the sixth round of the 2010 draft by the St. Louis Rams.
Despite jumping around for the past three seasons, the Bears think his 6'6", 260-pound frame is the ideal size for the position. He ran a 4.48 40-yard dash at his pro day back in 2010, which would give him elite speed considering his size. Despite having bounced around during his three seasons, his potential is very high, yet he is very raw.
New tight end coach Andy Bischoff will be in charge of trying to get Onobun to become an effective player in this offense, and considering how wide open the tight end position is behind Martellus Bennett, he has a great shot of becoming the team's No. 2 tight end in 2013.
Isaiah Frey, Cornerback
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Selected in the sixth round of the 2012 draft, Isaiah Frey spent the majority of the season on the Bears' practice squad.
At 6'0" and 190 pounds, he has ideal size for the position but is still considered a raw prospect in the Bears' eyes. At Nevada he showed good quickness and athleticism but often struggled while playing press coverage up on the line of scrimmage.
Frey did see some time with the first-team defense during minicamps and could pose the only real threat to Kelvin Hayden for playing time at the nickelback position.
Frey will need to work on being more physical at the line of scrimmage and will also need to work on not giving up so much space off of the line of scrimmage, as he tends to drop back rather than engage. Getting another offseason to work with defensive backs coach Jon Hoke could help him push Hayden for more playing time.
Joe Anderson, Wide Receiver
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A few weeks ago, I touched on whether Joe Anderson could make an impact for the Bears in the 2013 season.
Anderson has benefited greatly this offseason from injuries to Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery that allowed him to gain first-team reps during parts of minicamp and OTAs.
Anderson went undrafted in 2012 after hauling in just 47 passes at FCS school Texas Southern. He was brought in as a tryout player during rookie minicamps. His performance in the three-day camp led to him signing a deal and participating in training camp.
He caught the attention of fans following his game-winning touchdown catch against the New York Giants in the third preseason game, but he was eventually cut and signed to the team's practice squad at the beginning of the season. He was activated for the final three games of the season, participating mostly on special teams.
With the top two receiver positions cemented with Marshall and Jeffery, Anderson will have to battle with Earl Bennett for playing time in the slot. In college, he showed his ability to catch the ball in stride and the toughness and willingness to fight for extra yards.
Out of all of the lesser known players at camp this year, Anderson likely has the best shot of making an impact in 2013.