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Upsets, Underdogs and Dark Horses: Can Defensive End Roy Robertson-Harris Find a Niche in 2017?

In this ongoing series, I’ll spotlight a few Chicago Bears’ players that could be flying under the radar, but could also make an impact in 2017.

Roy Robertson-Harris

In the sixth installment of the six-part series entitled: Upsets, Underdogs and Dark Horses, I am taking a look at fan favorite Roy Robertson-Harris and whether or not he can make an impact on the defensive line.

First off, let’s take a look back at a few of the college highlights that started Robertson-Harris on the path to cult hero status with Chicago Bears fans:

At the 3:58 mark of the video is the play that sealed the deal. The tackle made 89 yards downfield by the big man.

It is clear by watching this video that he is a very raw prospect. He often played “high”, lacked rush moves and hand-fighting skills. But what is undeniable is his athleticism for his size and that high motor. He seemingly never gives up on the play, as evidenced by another tackle well downfield at the 0:23 mark of the video.

Originally signed as an undrafted free agent, it appeared that the plan was to stand Robertson-Harris up as an outside linebacker. After spending the entire 2016 season on injured reserve, it appears that he is going to be battling Jonathan Bullard for not only a roster spot, but also a role on defense.

Apparently Robertson-Harris used that time off wisely, as he has been bulking-up to make the move from outside linebacker to defensive end. Here is one of the updates on his progress from earlier in the year. He has not been taking any shortcuts though, it certainly appears that he is working his tail off and definitely looks bigger than the 268 lbs that he was listed at in the spring.

Should he enter the season closer to 280-290 lbs, then he has a real opportunity to be more than just the last defensive end in the rotation. For the sake of argument, I am assuming that Mitch Unrein’s days are numbered with the Bears. He simply doesn’t offer enough of...well...anything.

I am also going out on a limb here and saying that Akiem Hicks and Jaye Howard are going to be the starters at defensive end. Jonathan Bullard is a third-round pick from 2016 who was a bit disappointing as a rookie. It appears that Bullard and Robertson-Harris are likely battling for the same spot in the rotation: the first defensive end off of the bench and the primary pass-rusher.

The pure athleticism is what makes him such an enticing prospect. If everything comes together and the work put in during the off-season pays off, Robertson-Harris could become what we all hoped that Cornelius Washington would be: an athletic freak who is a terror for opposing offenses.

Obviously, there is no NFL tape to go off of but if you look at what he is working on in these videos, they are the same weaknesses you saw in his college film. Added strength and mass without losing the that freakish athleticism will be the key for his ascent. He clearly has the work ethic to become a really good player, it is just a matter of things clicking for him technique-wise.

I have confidence that Robertson-Harris will make the roster. Even without seeing him on the field, I cannot imagine that he doesn’t bring at least as much as Unrein, but with a much higher upside. The real question for me is can he beat out the former third-rounder for a spot on the depth chart. If I were a betting man, I would say yes, he can and will.

What do you think, can Roy Robertson-Harris be the primary rotational and pass-rusher from the defensive end spot, while also holding off a player with a better pedigree?

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