Making the playoffs usually means the stars playing like stars, but it also requires a big effort from unexpected sources. Who could that be for the Chicago Bears?
Marquess Wilson – WR
Alshon Jeffery was the breakout man of the year in Chicago last season, rampaging to over 1,400 yards and seven touchdowns and his first Pro Bowl. Could lightning actually strike twice for a Bears team that had been bereft of receivers not five years ago? That is the hope for Marquess Wilson, a 7th round pick back in 2013. Like Jeffery he exhibits tremendous size-speed potential. If not for a bad breakup with his coaches at Washington State, scouts believed he had first round talent. Since then the 21-year old has spent time quietly learning under Jeffery and Brandon Marshall. He’s reportedly stronger and smarter than last season and is a favorite to win the #3 receiving job. If he makes a leap anywhere close to Jeffery’s, the Chicago Bears offense will go from scary to terrifying.
Ka’Deem Carey – RB
Matt Forte was so good last season that he made Michael Bush, a solid running back in his own right, look useless. So the Bears dumped him in favor of adding some young talent to a position that demands it. What they got was 4th round pick Ka’Deem Carey. It may be early, but they got a possible steal. The Arizona product was the focal point for an Arizona team that won the AdvoCare Bowl but more impressively humiliated top ranked Oregon, knocking them from Rose Bowl contention. Carey was the star of that game, churning out 206 yards and four touchdowns on the ground. He is a great fit for the multifaceted offense Chicago runs given his ability receive and pass protect. Not only is he a good solution if Forte goes down, but Carey may find a way to get on the field and create some plays anyway.
Shea McClellin – OLB
Naturally after his two years of failure at defensive end, Chicago Bears fans are skeptical about Shea McClellin as a player. Already a “draft bust” label is floating around. Coaches and even GM Phil Emery have said such an idea is far too premature, since the organization has wanted to see if the former 1st round pick can make a switch to linebacker, where scouts initially pegged him two years ago. Indeed McClellin flashed the speed, lateral agility and size for the position. So is it too farfetched?
In truth McClellin is still only 24-years old. He has enough time to make the transition, and his college game film showed he can play it. Not only does he have the skill to track down ball carriers and play coverage, but it’s his pass rush ability, especially blitzing that will likely win him the strong side job. At that point he will be out to prove he is not the bust everyone thinks he is.
Brock Vereen – FS
The last time Phil Emery traded up in a draft for a player, he nabbed Alshon Jeffery in the 2nd round back in 2012. Safe to say that worked out. So does it bode well for the fact that Chicago made a considerable jump back in May to secure the services of Minnesota safety Brock Vereen. The young man has football in his blood. His brother is a New England Patriots running back. He’s clearly athletic enough to play free safety since he played both safety and corner in college. Another facet lauded by coaches is his intelligence, which is also exemplied by playing multiple positions.
Vereen may be a rookie but he hasn’t performed like one. Thus far in camp practices he has emerged to take every meaningful snap with the first team defense. That is over a veteran in M.D. Jennings who started every game last season. It’s a testament to his hard work and skill, which is a great sign since the Bears badly need help at safety. Expect Vereen to have his growing pains, but if he supplants Chris Conte it will be because he’s an upgrade.