Projecting Potential Camp Surprises from Undrafted Bears

Analysis: Undrafted rookie types will find it difficult to make it to the 53-man Bears roster because of the higher talent level in Year 3 of the rebuild but some have flashed potential to make the jump.
There will be several young receivers in Bears training camp competing  but Rome Odunze (15) will be with the starting group.
There will be several young receivers in Bears training camp competing but Rome Odunze (15) will be with the starting group. / David Banks-USA TODAY Sports
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Bears coach Matt Eberflus has his methods for helping to develop rosters and for sharpening a team to reach the regular season at peak performance level.

The thing he stressed about training camp for this year is how he'll focus on getting the first team offense against the first team on defense.

"Yeah, well, again, we could do things differently where I say, 'Hey, we're going to have the ones go against the twos and the twos go against the ones,' " Eberflus admitted. "But I donโ€™t like that. I don't like it."

There have been times where second teamers faced first teamers since he took over as coach, but not on a regular basis the way they did it when Matt Nagy coached the team. Justin Fields was with the second-team offense preparing against the first-team defense then, except for a few drill sets where it was changed around.

Evidence of how well it works, Eberflus maintained, is in the roster.



"We've developed players through time on task and through experience and exposure," Eberflus said. "You can name a bunch of guys that have had that and are really raising their game and they've got to do that again.

"Players in their second year have gotta be better in their third and so forth and so on."

The end result of development this year is a roster looking deeper and more well balanced throughout the position groups than in the past. So fewer undrafted players are going to have chances to find their way onto the roster.

"The roster's never perfect and it's never finalized, but we'll be looking at that as we go," Eberflus said.

Every year at training camp there are players who completely take everyone by surprise. There are some who do it in preseason and then later in the regular season.

Doing it in preseason helps set the stage for games.

Jack Sanborn did it two years ago as an undrafted free agent as he made an interception in preseason and eventually got into a starting role after the trade of Roquan Smith.

With first team against first team and backups against backups at trianing camp, the chances are the reserve standouts could go virtually unnoticed until preseason games. Some have already made impressions.

Here are the undrafted or lightly regarded players most likely to catch coaches' eyes at training camp.

DT Keith Randolph

The undrafted rookie from Illinois couldn't really show much in rookie camp, OTAs and minicamp because lack of pads means lack of physicality. At 6-foot-5, 300 pounds, and with ability to play either the 3-technique or nose, he'll get every opportunity to work against the backup offensive line and make his presence known. The lack of quality veteran depth on the defensive line could even give him the chance to work with the starters at times.

DL Jamree Kromah

A 6-foot-4, 275-pound defensive lineman from James Madison, he had experience at a higher level before that though at Rutgers.ย  Kromah's 10 sacks and 19 1/2 tackles for loss with a forced fumble at James Madison made scouts sit up and take notice. His frame could mean adding a bit of weight but at 6-4 it shouldn't be hard. Taller players get preference from Eberflus. At his weight, he could be a player with pass rush ability off the edge or from 3-technique and this will give him more of a chance to impress.

WR Peter LeBlanc

The Louisiana wide receiver has good height and reach at 6-2, 189, but will be more of a slot receiver. His 140 college catches for 1,737 yards let him display dependable hands and route-running ability. There will be a cutoff for the starting receivers at five or six who work through reps with the first team. LeBlanc should get plenty of opportunities with the backup QBs against the backup defense. His college career showed that when he was presented with a knee situation, he adjusts quickly as he had 22 catches or more every one of his five seasons. LeBlanc might have made a bigger impression already but he sat out with what was presumed an injury during the end of offseason work. The Bears won't reveal the nature of those injuries unless they're serious.

LB Carl Jones

When they look at him, it's quite possible they decide he's more of an edge rusher and get him bulked up. He displayed a knack for rushing the passer and was used as a blitzer at times. At 6-2, 230, though, he's more the size of an off-ball linebacker than an edge. Look for his role to be a weakside linebacker type who challenges Noah Sewell, Micah Baskerville and other linebackers for a roster spot.

CB Leon Jones

He made an interception at rookie camp and had a pass breakup, as well as a few other plays on the ball during offseason work, indicating his willingness to compete. He has the size, at 6-1, 195, to be a cornerback who makes the team undrafted. He had 16 pass breakups and an interception in college. The big problem Jone faces is competition. The Bears secondary is loaded with starters and experienced backups.

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Gene Chamberlain

GENE CHAMBERLAIN publisher Gene Chamberlain has covered the Chicago Bears full time as a beat writer since 1994 and prior to this on a part-time basis for 10 years. He covered the Bears as a beat writer for Suburban Chicago Newspapers, the Daily Southtown, Copley News Service and has been a contributor for the Daily Herald, the Associated Press, Bear Report, CBS and The Sporting News. He also has worked a prep sports writer for Tribune Newspapers and Sun-Times newspapers.