Everyone knows what to expect from star players. Julius Peppers will get his sacks. Matt Forte will collect his yards. Peanut Tillman will punch out fumbles. What every football fan loves is the out-of-nowhere player who rockets onto the scene to help his team win games ala Victor Cruz or Colin Kaepernick. The Chicago Bears hope they have someone like that on their ever-shifting roster. The question is who can it be this year?
The 2012 first round pick flashed his speed and agility last season playing as the situational pass rusher under Rod Marinelli. From there he collected 2.5 sacks and 14 pressures on the quarterback. His biggest goal heading into the offseason according experts was to build up his body to handle the wear and tear of life as a 4-3 defensive end. Early reports say he's already added between five and seven pounds of muscle to his frame. That should increase when OTAs and training camp start. If McClellin is able to stay healthy and gets a better grasp of the playbook, there is a good chance a number of those pressures will start turning into sacks.
The stigma of his fallout from Washington State will follow this kid everywhere until he starts producing. Quitting is one of the biggest unspoken red flags athletes must face. Wilson has his excuses for why it happen, but they won't change anything. Perhaps he more than any receiver on the roster has something to prove in 2013. The key is the talent is already there. Wilson boasts a 6'3" frame with 4.5 speed and great leaping ability. If he can take advantage of some chance early the coaching staff may start to give him more playing time.
Potential is a buzz word in sports circle. The Bears certainly have a lot of it, but potential doesn't win games. Still, it can't be ignored. Chicago spent a lot of money bringing in Martellus Bennett from New York. However, what could turn out to be their more savvy signing was getting Onobun away from the Rams. Like Bennett he is 6'6", but the similarities end when he ran a 4.4 40-yard dash at his pro day. A former basketball player he has the chops for becoming a force in the middle of the field, potentially giving the Bears a double tight end threat to further confuse defenses.
Little by little the kid from Montana State has turned heads. Like so many other athletes he has the cloud hanging over his head of playing against FCS competition, or Division II. Yet game tape doesn't lie. The young defensive tackle was a consistent, often dominant force for his team. At 301 pounds he runs a lightning fast 4.80 40-yard dash, which translates to the field. Throw in a relentless motor and good use of his hands and the Bears may have unearthed a gem provided he can continue to improve physically.
Why bring up a backup quarterback? Simple. Circumstances have changed. A lot of people felt really good about Blanchard last season despite being a division III quarterback coming out of undrafted free agency. He has the height (6'3") and speed (4.69) to compete already. Throw in a pro-ready arm and proven success (won back-to-back Division III national titles) and it's fair to wonder why this kid doesn't deserve another look. The key difference though is the presence of Marc Trestman. Blanchard now has a head coach in house who knows everything about teaching great quarterback play. If the Lake Zurich native doesn't take to the lessons of Trestman, he won't have a better shot somewhere else. On the other hand, if he shows serious improvement early on, fans could dare to wonder if plans for him might go beyond claiming the backup job.
So who do you see making the surprise impact for the Bears this season?