Well, two down, two to go. That's how it currently stand for the Bears this preseason. And after a poor showing against the Broncos, the big boys showed up and put on a much better display against Washington as they scraped by with the win. So after seeing these two games, and of course taking into account that it's 'only' preseason, who have been some of the pleasant surprises as the Bears head into this week's game against the New York Giants?
The first name that immediately jumps out for me is rookie wide receiver Alshon Jeffery. The reports coming out of training camp were positive, and so far he appears to have lived up to the hype of being a second round draft pick. Against Denver he lead the team with four receptions for 35 yards, and last Saturday against Washington he reeled in three passes for 62 yards. He is a big target opposite Brandon Marshall and possesses reliable hands and an ability to gain some yards after the catch.
Darryl Drake, the Bears receivers coach recently said:
"The stage is not too big for him. He's got a lot of confidence. A lot of size and outstanding hands. We like him. We like him as a football player. And we like him as a person. As he continues to grow and mature, I think he'll only get better."
High praise indeed. I think we all hoped Jeffery would show some ability, but I think it's fair to say that his performances are definitely raising expectations in Chicago. Here's hoping he only gets better.
The Bears number one draft pick this year, Shea McClellin has also given us reason to believe in the defensive end out of Boise State. He had three tackles and one sack against the Broncos, but was a little quieter against Washington. What impressed me was his speed. He's a little lighter than most defensive linemen, and although many feel he needs to bulk up, I think he gives the Bears more versatility in his current condition. He can drop back into pass coverage, and I could see him picking up some linebacker duties in the future, too.
Bears general manager Phil Emery recently commented on McClellin's progress:
"The most important thing when you look at Shea is he's a very instinctive, very good ballplayer. He's a baller. He makes plays on instincts. I see that. That was evident last Thursday [against Denver] in that he made plays. So I feel very good about where Shea's going. Are there things that Shea needs to work on? Absolutely. But I can say that about every player on our roster."
I think he'll see some rotation on the line this season and I can see him being productive. Yes, he's show a little immaturity this preseason, but he's basically learning on the job, and by all accounts, the Bears are happy with him and he looks to be someone who could do great things moving forward.
It's all rookies so far, and here's another one. Undrafted out of Liberty University the Bears have another big target in Chris Summers. Listed at 6'5 and 213 lbs he certainly stands out on the field. And he's had a couple of nice moments so far this preseason. He caught one pass for 28 yards against Denver, and two catches for 34 yards this past weekend.
The depth at the receiver position still remains deep and whether or not he makes the final cut will have to be determined. But it's nice to see some undrafted players get their chance on the big stage and be a name that people remember. For a little while, at least.
Other players who have stood out: Linebacker Blake Costanzo with six tackles against Washington. Rookie tight end Evan Rodriguez showed potential, as did second year LB J.T Thomas.
Let me just take a little time to mention some players that I expected/hoped to have made more of an impact than they have.
My main man Khalil Bell has disappointed me so far. Over the two games he has carried the ball 16 times for just 2.9 yards each time. He faces stiff competition for the third running back spot from Armando Allen and will hope to improve when he gets the chance.
Second year player Dane Sanzenbacher is another player who finds himself fighting for a spot on the team. Last year he had some good performances, but there are a lot more wideouts hoping to find some playing time this year. He's got to find a way to stand out when given the opportunity.
Oh yeah; the offensive line? Let's not go there this time.
So, who are some of the players that have stood out to you, and who are the ones who must do better? Let us know.