Training camp and the preseason are about solidifying rosters and getting depth charts in order. One fun aspect for coaches and fans is waiting to see if any hidden gems pop up to stake a claim on a roster spot. Who are some prime options for the Chicago Bears heading into the 2013 NFL season?
Offense – Fendi Onobun
Tight end has been largely a wasteland for the Chicago Bears for decades. Aside from a few bright spots like Greg Olsen, Desmond Clark and Emery Moorehead the position hasn’t produced at elite levels since the immortal Mike Ditka. GM Phil Emery hoped to change that when he added Martellus Bennett in free agency. What nobody really too much notice of was another quiet signing he made around the same time. Fendi Onobun doesn’t draw attention because he’s spent two years with three different teams. Some might call that a camp body, but a number of players and coaches who watched say otherwise. In terms of measurable skills, Onobun mirrors Bennett almost exactly from size to hands. The two even played basketball together in college. The difference is speed. Bennett ran a 4.68, Onobun a 4.48. The big drawback everybody sees with him is lack of football experience, having barely played it in college. Under new head coach Marc Trestman and his staff, hopes are high they can unearth the raw potential of the 26-year old.
Defense – Sedrick Ellis
Aside from weapons on offense, one thing a team can never have enough of is pass rushers, especially interior ones. That is exactly what the Bears got when they brought in Sedrick Ellis. The former New Orleans Saints defensive tackle posted six sacks in 2010. However, as the talent level on the defense began to regress, so did Ellis’ production. He’s had a half sack in two seasons since. He isn’t hiding from that either, stating a big reason he fell off wasn’t because of injuries or declining skill but simple mismanagement by the Saints. He feels they never truly understood what to do with him, which makes sense considering New Orleans ran a 3-4 defense most of the time he was there. As a smaller, pass rushing defensive tackle Ellis makes a better fit in a 4-3 scheme. The same Chicago runs under new coordinator Mel Tucker. Considering he will play with Julius Peppers and Henry Melton, there is good reason to think he is due for a major rebound in 2013.
Special Teams – Michael Ford
The big hope for the Bears special teams is that Devin Hester can revert to his dominant form as a return man now that he doesn’t have wide receiver responsibilities weighing him down. That doesn’t mean the team is without options if he falters. One player drawing interest early in practices is running back Michael Ford. The LSU alum came to the team through undrafted free agency. His stats on offense weren’t overwhelming but showed a skill set that features agility and speed. That was never clearer than when Ford took over kickoff return duties as a junior for the Tigers. He ended up ranking second in the powerful SEC conference with 27.5 yards per return, including four of over 40 yards. Special teams coordinator Joe DeCamillis will like having that ace in his back pocket as he tries to continue the tradition left behind by Dave Toub. The Chicago Bears can only hope.