We'd like to wish you all a happy return to Offseason Optimism, where everything's made up and reality doesn't matter, because everything's about going 19-0 en route to a victory in the Super Bowl.
Nevertheless, there are legitimate things to think about when it comes to being optimistic, so let's look at ESPN Chicago's thoughts on players who are improving their stock in the early going of minicamps, with three of the five listed being wide receivers.
Eddie Royal is listed at the top of the list, and Alshon Jeffery takes the number two spot for "arguably having the best offseason at his position" (...? Hey, their words, not mine...). At the number three spot on the list is Marquess Wilson, a guy who had a real opportunity last year but was derailed by his broken collarbone last year.
3. Marquess Wilson, wide receiver: Wilson is still in the mix, even though Chicago drafted Kevin White No. 7 overall. Because White missed the final week of practice, Wilson received increased reps with the first and second teams. Fox seems impressed by Wilson, who suffered a broken collarbone in training camp last year that derailed his sophomore season. With much less fanfare this offseason, White showed the coaching staff that he's an intriguing prospect worth monitoring in the preseason.
Christian Jones is listed fourth, the first and only defensive player on the list, as a potential core defensive player and a favorite to win a starting spot; the fifth and final player is Kyle Long, showcasing potential versatility at both tackle spots.
But looking at somebody else's list is kind of boring, so let's add a couple of potential folks to this list that there may be higher hopes for.
For instance, David Bass. The Raiders' draft pick and Bears' waiver target (and WCG Sunday Livestream favorite) has four sacks over his two years as a Bear at defensive end, and reports out of minicamps seem to indicate he may be making strides as a 3-4 linebacker. Per Larry Mayer from the Bears web site:
David Bass has performed well at outside linebacker in offseason workouts, showing the athleticism that you referred to. It will be interesting to monitor his progress when the pads come on in training camp and see whether he can earn a starting job or at least a role on defense. Here's what coach John Fox had to say during minicamp about Bass fitting in with the new defense: "I think he's worked very hard. Sometimes new is better and he's taken to it pretty well."
Let's add Ryan Mundy to that list. He dropped some interesting comments about the renewed emphasis on rushing the passer, and mentions the "Tampa 2" again (this should iron out that it's a secondary coverage philosophy, and not a full 4-3-dependent scheme).
"We're putting a lot more pressure on the quarterback, and not just from the defensive line, but from the secondary positions," Mundy said. "We're playing routes a lot tighter. The concept in the Tampa 2 defense is that everybody gets to a spot and then breaks on the quarterback, but in this defense everyone has a responsibility each and every play. If there is a guy running free, then something is wrong."
Who are some under-the-radar players that you've been keeping an eye on or that you have some high hopes for?