Even before the NFL preseason begins it’s pretty easy to pinpoint who makes the roster. So here are some dark horse names the Chicago Bears fans can watch for.
Fendi Onobun – TE
Despite a journeyman career thus far in the pros, for basketball standout Fendi Onobun found a home in Chicago as a developmental tight end. Athletically he is as enticing as they get: 6’6″ height, 260 lbs, 4.45/40 speed. He is a matchup nightmare on paper, but his lack of football experience has hampered him thus far. Still, the Bears chose to keep him on their practice squad as a project. With help from teammate and former basketball buddy Martellus Bennett, he has committed to learning the game and what the team expects of him mentally and physically. He flashed in the preseason a year ago but struggled with consistency. Expectations are high that he will show improvement across the board in 2014.
Christian Jones – LB
A diluted drug test sample crippled the draft stock of Florida State linebacker Christian Jones. He went from a potential fourth round pick to an undrafted free agent. That is humiliating for him, but potentially highway robbery for the Chicago Bears. Jones was lauded by scouts for outstanding athleticism, sideline-to-sideline range and the ability to both play coverage and rush the passer. That kind of versatility is rare and is a big reason why Jones was considered the best undrafted signing the Bears made. If he can adapt to the playbook quickly, he has the talent to push for a roster spot in the short-term and a starting job down the road.
Jordan Lynch – RB
Ka’Deem Carey is the favorite to become the backup to star running back Matt Forte, but at the same time Chicago has a local fan favorite in their midst with loads of potential as well. Jordan Lynch put Northern Illinois on the map when he finished as a finalist for the Heisman. The one key? That was as a quarterback. Coming to the Bears they said his best chance to make the team was at running back. Lynch proved he could run at NIU, but the trick to his making the roster will be whether he can block or catch. If he can find a way onto the roster, his versatility as an offensive weapon given his quarterback background would give the Bears even more big play potential.
Marcus Trice – S
Why would a rookie tryout player draw much attention? They normally shouldn’t because they are typically no more than extra bodies for training camp. In the case of safety Marcus Trice though, it could be a different story. Coming out of North Texas, he is small in every well from his school down to his 5’8″ frame. At the same time he clearly had talent because he was originally recruited at Oklahoma.
Further view of the game tape shows a player with athleticism and speed who always seems to be around the football and also plays his best games against the best competition. He blocked a punt against 9th ranked Georgia, had two interceptions against Rice who went 10-3 and won the Conference USA championship and collected 14 tackles and a pick against 7-5 Ohio. The kid knows how to make plays. Initially it will be his special teams value that gets him on the roster, but there might be more there worth exploring.
Cornelius Washington – DE
The 2013 sixth round pick for the Chicago Bears was practically a redshirt last season. He barely played at all, even after the team suffered a ridiculous bout of injuries up front. Fellow rookie David Bass saw more action. Many wonder if Washington can properly harness his impressive physical skill and become a 4-3 end after spending his college career in a 3-4. The answer may not be long in coming too. Coaching additions Paul Pasqualoni and Clint Hurtt, renowned for their defensive line prowess, will get their hands on the former Georgia product. Washington will get coaching like a pro should with them in-house. Put simply if they can’t get it out of him, nobody can. One thing is for sure. With the end position getting crowded on that roster, Washington will be fighting for his job.