Will Corey Wootton Step Up His Game?

BOURBONNAIS IL - JULY 30: Corey Wootton #98 of the Chicago Bears works out during a summer training camp practice at Olivet Nazarene University on July 30 2010 in Bourbonnais Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Corey Wootton was a projected 1st/2nd round draft pick during his junior year (2008) at Northwestern when he was named All Big 10 First Team by the coaches. He tore his knee up in the Alamo Bowl to top his year off, but not before he collected 3 tackles, a sack, and an interception against Missouri. With the severe injury fresh in NFL scouts minds, he decided against turning pro.

He returned to Northwestern and clearly wasn't the same player, although he did get better as the season progressed. He fell to the 4th round of the 2010 NFL Draft, and was taken by the Bears as the 109th overall pick. Wooton has appeared in just 13 games in his two years as a professional. His rookie campaign had a slow start as it takes a couple years to fully recover from that knee injury, but his rookie year did see the sack that ended up being Brett Favre's final play in the NFL. Bears fans were excited for the future.

In his second year Wootton had a great camp, and expectations were high for him becoming the 3rd defensive end the Bears sorely lacked. But then in the 2011 preseason opener Wootton suffered a knee injury on the opening kickoff, and the subsequent minor surgery put a damper on the first part of his season. A hand injury followed once his knee healed up, and he wasn't able to crack the DE rotation the rest of the year.

But now we fast forward to this year, and so far it seems so good for the 3rd year player. From chicagobears.com;

"He’s a big physical talented guy, smart, and he’s got good movement," said defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli. "His problem is that he’s gotten nicked up here and there. It’s slowed him down.

"Right now I just like what I’m seeing. He’s having another strong camp. Now he’s just got to pound away every day and stay up and keep in the hunt. He’s playing strong right now. It’s his time."

And it's not just the usual coach-speak hyping up a player, Wootton has Bears beat reporters talking about his practices so far too.

"If anyone unexpected stood out in pass-rush drills, it was defensive end Corey Wootton, (he) looked quick and confident on the edge."

"end Corey Wootton, entering a critical camp, looked explosive coming off the left side"

DE Corey Wootton, getting snaps with first team when Julius Peppers rests, came up with what would have been a sack. Wootton needs big camp.

Back to back: McClellin slips against undrafted FA Tyler Hendrickson out of Concordia. Then Corey Wootton blows past Hendrickson

With Wootton it's never been about his skills on the field, it's about staying healthy. Maybe he'll finally put it all together in year three, and fulfill his potential. What do you guys think?

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