Breaking Down All the News Faces on the 2014 Chicago Bears
The Chicago Bears' Phil Emery has been one of the league's busiest general managers this offseason.
Emery has overseen the team's aggressive approach in free agency, as it signed defensive lineman Lamarr Houston, Willie Young and Jared Allen earlier this offseason. He was also in charge of the team's decision to draft Kyle Fuller in the first round, and he played in integral part in the team being able to sign guys like Jordan Lynch and Christian Jones as undrafted free agents.
While many of the team's core players are still under contract for 2014, Emery made a plethora of additions to try and improve a team that went 8-8 in 2013 and failed to make the playoffs for the sixth time in the last seven years.
Here is our breakdown of all of the new faces on the 2014 Chicago Bears.
After saying just before the draft that he didn't believe in drafting late-round quarterbacks, general manager Phil Emery drafted David Fales in the sixth round of this past May's draft.
In two seasons as a starter for San Jose State, he completed 639 passes for 8,382 yards with 66 touchdowns, 22 interceptions and a quarterback rating of 161.7.
Little was expected of Fales coming out of the draft in his rookie season but he understands how important it is for him to get a firm grasp on the playbook.
"I'm just trying to grasp the offense and keep getting better," Fales told the media after an OTA practice, via ChicagoFootball.com's Jeff Arnold.
Fales understands that the speed of the game and the offense is going to be one of his biggest areas to concentrate on.
"It's a lot, but if you know the base reads and just stick to it, you'll be OK," Fales said, via Arnold. "It's just that repetition of hearing someone say the play quick, spitting it out, seeing the whole picture and then getting it out."
In all likelihood, the Bears will keep one veteran quarterback as the team's No. 2 and likely determine between Fales and fourth-year man Jerrod Johnson for the team's No.3/developmental quarterback.
Considering that Fales was a draft pick, it seems likely that he will earn a spot at least on the team's practice squad in 2014.
In a surprise move last week, the Bears signed veteran quarterback Jimmy Clausen to a one-year deal, via ESPN.com.
After being selected in the second round of the 2010 draft, Clausen failed to make an impression during his time with the Carolina Panthers and was waived due to injury prior to the start of the 2013 season.
Clausen had shoulder surgery last year and, according to reports, looked good in his workout with the team.
I'm told Clausen had good workout today. Team likes smarts, mechanics; believes he was tough mentally 2 deal w/struggles & drafting of Cam.— Michael C. Wright (@mikecwright) June 5, 2014
He will face stiff competition from Jordan Palmer, Fales and Jerrod Johnson to make the roster as the primary backup to Jay Cutler.
Clausen has admitted that he still has plenty to learn in Marc Trestman's offense, telling the media last week, via Michael C. Wright of ESPN.com:
Competition brings out the best in people, and I’m looking forward to competing. The only way I can compete is if I learn the offense. So I’ve just got to keep speeding that up. It’s definitely exciting. It’s a great opportunity.
While it appears that Palmer has a pretty firm hold on the No. 2 quarterback spot for now, a strong training camp and preseason from Clausen may force Trestman to have to take a look at keeping him around in 2014.
After releasing veteran Michael Bush this offseason, the Bears signed Shaun Draughn to a one-year deal this past April.
Draughn is entering his fourth year in the league in 2014 but has only amassed 235 rushing yards on 63 carries with two touchdowns in 20 career games.
He will face tough competition from second-year man Michael Ford and rookie Ka'Deem Carey to win a backup role behind Matt Forte, but he is the only other running back behind Forte on the roster to have a carry in the NFL.
If he can prove that he can quickly pick up Marc Trestman's offense and become a better pass blocker, he could wind up winning the third running back spot behind Forte and Carey.
After focusing much of his attention on the defensive side of the football in free agency and the first part of the NFL draft, general manager Phil Emery drafted Ka'Deem Carey in the fourth round of last month's draft.
During his final two seasons at Arizona, Carey rushed for 3,814 yards on 652 carries with 42 touchdowns.
Carey is expected to be the front-runner to backup Forte in his rookie season because of his ability to be a one-cut runner with good hands out of the backfield. He will still need to develop as a blocker but should get plenty of carries this season.
An undrafted free agent out of Louisville, Senorise Perry made the most of his tryout with the Bears last month and landed himself a contract out of rookie minicamp.
#Bears have signed Louisville RB Senorise Perry to a contract after rookie minicamp tryout.— Brad Biggs (@BradBiggs) May 18, 2014
According to NFL.com, Perry ran a sub 4.4 40-yard dash at his pro day and he displayed that speed on the field at Louisville.
Perry is a slashing, home-run threat runner, but he failed to establish himself as an every down back in college and will have a tough time make the roster out of training camp.
One of the more noteworthy undrafted free agent signings by the Bears after the draft, former Heisman trophy finalist Jordan Lynch has a huge uphill battle to make this roster.
While Lynch played quarterback at Northern Illinois, the team opted to move him to running back because of his abilities as a runner.
He rushed for 1,815 yards and 19 touchdowns in 2012 and 1,920 yards and 23 TDs in 2013. Lynch also holds the FBS record for rushing yards in a single game by a quarterback with 321.
The move from quarterback to running back will not be easy, but Lynch has displayed the right attitude and he knows that in order to make this team he will have to prove his worth as a special teams contributor.
"I’ve never played special teams before. It’s different,” Lynch said to the Chicago Sun-Times' Adam Jahns. “But I’m open-minded. I’m willing to do anything, and I’m having fun in there. It’s one of the three phases of the game, and it’s very important.”
If Lynch can progress during the final minicamp, training camp and during the preseason, he may end up being one of the surprise running backs on this year's roster.
Awarded to the Bears as a waiver claim from the Washington Redskins in April, Josh Bellamy will be competing for a spot in a very crowded wide receiver corps.
Bellamy appeared in five games for the Redskins last season but did not record a catch. He finished with two special teams tackles.
He is best suited at kick returner, but with guys such as Chris Williams and Eric Weems ahead of him on the depth chart, it seems unlikely he will make the 53-man roster heading into the 2014 season.
Despite being arrested this offseason and charged with assault, Josh Morgan says that the issue has "pretty much" been taken care of, according to Patrick Finley of the Chicago Sun-Times.
In four seasons with the San Francisco 49ers and two with the Washington Redskins, Morgan registered 199 catches for 2,488 yards and 11 touchdowns.
Morgan brings experience to the position and has the ability to fill the role left behind by Earl Bennett, who was released this offseason.
Morgan is not a game-changer, but he is a solid, steady contributor who can help move the chains when needed.
After going undrafted in 2009, Chris Williams jumped from practice squad to practice squad before moving on to the Canadian Football League.
In 2012, he set a CFL record with six return touchdowns to go along with 1,117 punt-return yards.
Williams signed with the Bears in late December and has already looked impressive during the team's OTAs.
Earlier this offseason, after watching Williams in practice ESPN Chicago's Michael C. Wright wrote, "He's easily the quickest among the team's receiving corps," and "At training camp, he's definitely a player folks should keep an eye on."
Williams appears to be the odds-on favorite to nab the kick returner job this offseason and could possibly push for some playing time in the slot.
The Bears were happy with the production they got out of Martellus Bennett at the tight end position last season, but the team added veteran Matthew Mulligan to give them more size and better blocking at the position.
Mulligan is a six-year veteran who has had stints with the New York Jets, St. Louis Rams and New England Patriots. He has played in 65 games with 24 starts, catching 16 passes for 160 yards and two touchdowns.
He is not much of a threat in the passing game, but he is considered a solid in-line blocker and his addition may alleviate the team's need to use backup offensive lineman Eben Britton as a blocking tight end.
Considering that the depth is very thin behind Bennett, Mulligan stands a good chance of making the roster heading into 2014.
Brian de la Puente
Despite re-signing veteran center Roberto Garza this offseason, the Bears jumped at the chance to sign veteran Brian de la Puente.
De la Puente started 44 games over the past three seasons for the New Orleans Saints and has a lot of familiarity with offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer in Chicago because of the time they spent together in New Orleans when Kromer was offensive line coach.
It appears that the Bears are set on keeping Garza at center in 2014, but de la Puente gives the team a great insurance policy at the position and he may be wind up being the team's center for the future.
Charles Leno Jr.
The Bears used their final pick of the 2014 NFL draft to select versatile Boise State offensive lineman Charles Leno Jr.
His long arms and quickness make him a solid candidate outside at tackle and the team has already been working him at the left tackle position this offseason.
7th rd pick Charles Leno Jr. continuing to play LT with the 2nd team. Former Alouette Michael Ola at RG w/ the 2's.— Brad Biggs (@BradBiggs) June 11, 2014
Leno may have a hard time making the team's 53-man roster because of the depth in front of him, but he appears to be a prime candidate to at least make the team's practice squad.
Wisconsin guard Ryan Groy went undrafted but was quickly signed by the Bears following the draft.
He has exceptional size and measured in at the combine at 6'5", 316 pounds and ran a 5.19 40-yard dash.
He started 27 games over the past two seasons for the Badgers and was a First Team All-Big Ten selection in 2013.
He showed versatility while at Wisconsin, making starts at left tackle, left guard, center and fullback and could be viewed as a project for offensive line coach Pat Meyer to develop.
In late May, the Bears claimed offensive lineman Michael Ola off of waivers from the Miami Dolphins, reuniting him with his former CFL head coach Marc Trestman.
Ola started five games for the Montreal Alouettes in 2012 with Trestman at the helm.
Ola understands how special it is to get another opportunity to play for Trestman.
"Just to have the opportunity twice to play for Trestman, let alone once, this is where I am supposed to be," Ola told Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune.
Ola has been getting reps at right guard this offseason and could be a surprise candidate to claim a roster spot in 2014.
General manager Phil Emery made it a point to improve his defensive line this offseason, and should the unit improve dramatically in 2014, the addition of Jared Allen may end up being why.
Allen has been one of the league's most consistent pass-rushers for the past decade. Since 2007 he has registered 101 sacks and has not had a season with fewer than 11 sacks since 2006.
The Bears made a big splash on the first day of free agency when they added veteran Lamarr Houston.
Despite registering only 16 sacks in four seasons with the Oakland Raiders, Houston has the ability to create pressure in the passing game and is a solid contributor against the run.
Playing alongside Allen should allow Houston more opportunities to get after the quarterback this season, and his versatility to play both defensive end and tackle should give the Bears plenty of options up front this season.
Not long after inking a deal with Lamarr Houston, the Bears signed former Detroit Lions defensive end Willie Young to a three-year deal.
After the signing of Young, many pegged him to start opposite Houston at defensive end, but the addition of Jared Allen means Young will probably be a key rotation player at the position.
Despite dropping down the depth chart, Young has been appreciative of what he's been learning from Allen this offseason.
“He’s like a coach sometimes because he has so much to offer,” Young said of Allen to Kevin Fishbain of ChicagoFootball.com. “I find myself afterwards writing a lot of it down so I can retain it a little better.”
Despite not having a defined role yet, Young says he is going to make the most of his opportunities:
I’m the type of guy, it doesn’t matter what scheme you put me in, I’m going to make the best of my opportunities. Before I got to Detroit a couple years ago, I wasn’t used to getting off read and react so fast, but I was able to adapt and overcome and make a living for myself doing it. Same thing applies here. A new beginning, adapt and overcome and the rest of it will take care of itself.
While he will likely end up being the team's No. 3 defensive end, Young will likely still play a major role in the team's defense this season.
One of the more underrated players in the league during his nine-year tenure in Chicago, Israel Idonije had one of his best seasons in 2012, racking up 7.5 sacks to go along with a forced fumble and 29 tackles.
Idonije moved on to the Detroit Lions in 2013 but struggled to get much playing time and finished with just a half sack.
The Bears brought him back this offseason on a one-year deal. He has the versatility to play both inside and outside, having seen time at both end and tackle.
While it seemed like he would stand a good shot of making the roster in 2014 prior to the draft, the additions of rookies Ego Ferguson and Will Sutton, combined with the additions of Allen, Houston and Young, will likely make it very difficult for Idonije to stick with the team.
Phil Emery thought a little outside of the box when he selected Ego Ferguson with the 51st overall pick in the second round of the 2014 NFL draft this past May.
He has the potential to develop into a solid player in the future, but it was believed that he would have been available later in the draft.
During his three-year career, Ferguson played in 38 games and registered 85 tackles, five tackles for loss, one sack, three quarterback pressures and five pass deflections.
According to Ferguson in his teleconference with the media after the draft, defensive line coach Paul Pasqualoni wants him to play the 2-technique defensive tackle position. "I feel like I can get after the quarterback," Ferguson said.
Lining Ferguson up as the 2-technique, which is directly over the guard, will allow him to utilize his strength as well as his quickness.
He could see time at both the nose tackle and 2-technique and should see extensive playing time in his rookie season.
Some may argue that Emery reached for Ferguson in the second round, but many would agree that he got tremendous value with Will Sutton in the third round.
In 2012, Sutton registered 63 tackles, 23.5 tackles for loss, 13 sacks, five pass deflections and three forced fumbles, but his weight jumped from 290 pounds to over 300 pounds in 2013. He was still productive in 2013, registering 48 tackles, 13.5 tackles for loss, four sacks and three pass deflections, but he clearly did not have the same type of impact as he did when he played around 290 pounds.
His weight was concern enough for many teams to pass on him, but he has the ability to develop into an impact type player for the Bears at the 3-technique position.
After falling off of draft boards for reportedly failing a drug test at the NFL combine in February, the Bears signed Florida State linebacker Christian Jones as an undrafted free agent.
Jones is an athletic and rangy linebacker who showed the ability to be productive both as an outside linebacker in 4-3 defense or a stand-up rush linebacker in a 3-4 defense while in Tallahassee.
Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune recently wrote about Jones:
He’s got good size at 6-3, 240 pounds, and he’s very athletic. If he’s going to make a big mark on the roster this season, or make the team period, it’s going to have to start on special teams. The good news for Jones is I know special teams coordinator Joe DeCamillis was high on him coming out of the draft. We’ll see how this shakes out.
While Jones may have a slight chance of beating out either Shea McClellin or Jon Bostic for a starting role in 2014, he appears more likely to a guy the team wants to keep on the roster as a developmental player and special teams contributor.
While the team was making big splashes with the signings of Lamarr Houston and Willie Young on the first day of free agency, their signing of Jordan Senn that day should help a special teams unit that struggled in 2014.
Senn has appeared in 83 NFL games with seven starts over six seasons with the Indianapolis Colts (2008-09) and Carolina Panthers (2009-13). He has recorded 88 tackles, one interception and three forced fumbles while adding 49 tackles on special teams and was the Panthers' special teams captain in 2012.
He is expected to take over the role on special teams previously held by Blake Costanzo during the last two seasons.
Much of the focus since the draft has been on how the Bears will use first-round pick Kyle Fuller in 2014.
He was initially viewed as a guy who would immediately step into the nickelback role this season, but he has been seeing playing time on the outside with Tim Jennings playing nickelback during the team's OTAs.
CB Tim Jennings on playing slot today with 1st-round CB Kyle Fuller outside. "We're going to try it out. Hopefully it's a full-time thing."— Rich Campbell (@Rich_Campbell) May 27, 2014
Defensive coordinator has been high on Fuller since he was drafted, telling Dan Wiederer of the Chicago Tribune:
He's a very intelligent player. He's got good size. He's got good speed. He's a willing and aggressive tackler and a high percentage tackler. He's got excellent ball skills and great awareness. He's a football guy. And he's a tough guy. That's what he brings.
With so many teams utilizing three-and four-wide receiver sets in the NFL, Fuller should see expansive playing time during his rookie season.
After attending rookie minicamp in May on a tryout basis, Al Louis-Jean officially signed a contract with the Bears earlier this month.
He played in 23 games over three years for Boston College and registered 36 tackles, an interception, two forced fumbles and four pass breakups.
He appears to be a candidate for the practice squad in 2014.
Instead of going after one of the big-name free agent safeties on the market, Phil Emery opted to go with Ryan Mundy instead.
Emery praised Mundy at his introductory press conference last week (per chicagobears.com):
When we were going through our process of evaluation and looking for safeties to enhance our roster, Ryan's name kept coming up. Here was a guy that showed good upside production when he had the opportunity, had excelled on [special] teams, had played high and low, and knew how to cover people. He had instincts and he could help others line up.
Mundy is likely the front-runner to be the team's starting strong safety in 2014.
Along with signing Mundy, Emery also signed former Green Bay Packers free safety M.D. Jennings during the first wave of free agency.
He started all 16 games last season for the Packers, finishing with 68 tackles, one sack and one fumble recovery.
Even though he started all 16 games, Jennings was a liability in coverage at times and the Packers were willing to let him walk.
Jennings has noted that the snub from the Packers has put a chip on his shoulder.
“It’s something that, it puts a chip on your shoulder,” Jennings told the media earlier this month after an OTAs practice, via Patrick Finley of the Chicago Sun-Times. “Something you’ll never forget. Just try to continue to get better and let that motivate you.”
Despite his struggles in Green Bay, Jennings helps provide the team with an experienced free safety who can also produce on special teams. With the emergence of rookie Brock Vereen and Chris Conte coming back from an injury, he will have to make the most of his opportunities in training camp if he wants to hold down a spot in 2014.
Considering how abysmal the safety play was in 2013 for the Bears, rookie Brock Vereen has as good of a shot as any to be a starter this season.
Despite being a rookie with limited experience in Mel Tucker's defense, Vereen has already had opportunities to run with the first-team defense in OTAs.
Looked like Ryan Mundy and rookie 4th rd pick Brock Vereen running exclusively with the starters at safety today. Vereen at FS.— Brad Biggs (@BradBiggs) June 11, 2014
While he has gotten his opportunties to run with the first team, he is also aware that mistakes will happen, but he wants the coaching staff to know he is always going at full speed.
“I would hope that effort is the thing that jumps out,” he said to media, via Stephanie Stremplewski of the Chicago Sun-Times. “I’m gonna work hard, and if I make a mistake, it’s gonna be at full speed.”
Considering how wide open the free safety position is heading into training camp, Vereen has a real shot of being the team's starter come Week 1 against the Buffalo Bills.
A special teams ace during his time with the Dallas Cowboys, safety Danny McCray signed a one-year deal with the Bears this offseason.
McCray started 10 games in 2012 and had 71 tackles and one INT, but he is mostly known as a special teams contributor and is familiar with special teams coach Joe DeCamillis from his time in Dallas.
Joe DeCamillis says new #Bears special teamer Danny McCray was his best player on his unit in Dallas.— Zach Zaidman (@ZachZaidman) May 17, 2014
He is likely not in the running for a starting spot, but McCray does have value on special teams and could help solidify a unit that struggle in 2013.
Pat O'Donnell (Punter)
After releasing punter Adam Podlesh earlier this season, Phil Emery knew that finding a new punter would be crucial to the team's success in 2014. Instead of looking to the free agent market, he decided to draft Miami's Pat O'Donnell in the sixth round of this past May's draft.
After punting for three years at Cincinnati, O'Donnell transferred to Miami as a fifth-year senior prior to the 2013 season.
During his three seasons at Cincinnati, O'Donnell punted 181 times for 7,670 yards. During his one season in Miami, he punted 53 times for 2,498 yards. During his four collegiate seasons, O'Donnell's career average was a terrific 43.45 yards per punt.
He marveled at the combine with his speed and strength. He ran a 4.64 40-yard dash and bench-pressed 225 pounds 23 times, more than No. 1 overall pick Jadeveon Clowney.
O'Donelll is set to compete with Tress Way in training camp for the punter position, but he appears to be the front-runner to hold down the job in 2014.
Micheal Spurlock (Returner)
After losing veteran Domenik Hixon to an ACL injury early in OTAs, the Bears signed veteran kick returners Micheal Spurlock and Armanti Ewards, via ChicagoFootball.com.
During that time he has returned 107 kicks with three touchdowns and average of 24.2 yards per return.
While Chris Williams appears to be a lock at kick returner, Spurlock will help provide a guy who can push him in training camp and could slide into the role if Williams struggles.
Armanti Edwards (Returner)
Signed the same day as Spurlock, Armanti Edwards, a former quarterback at Appalachian State, has 40 career punt returns (7.0-yard average) and 15 kickoff returns (19.7-yard average).
Much like Spurlock, Edwards will provide the team with someone who can push Williams in training camp and has the ability to take over the role if Williams or Spurlock struggle.