The rookies for the Chicago Bears will report to Halas Hall for training camp three weeks from today, with the veterans following them on July 25. The first of nine open-to-the-public practices will be on July 27, which is when we'll start getting some real buzz about our favorite team.
That buzz will surely include positive vibes about an unheralded player or two that seemingly come out of nowhere to make a case for the 53-man roster. You guys know the player I'm talking about. A guy that fans will fall in love with because we, as a fanbase, love our underdogs.
I asked a few of our teammates here at WCG to give me their responses to a series of questions while we're in the slower period of the offseason, and kicking off the roundtable is this one.
Which unheralded/underdog Bears player will be this year's training camp darling that fans fall in love with?
And here's what we had to say.
Erik Duerrwaechter - I think the hype and obsession from the fans has already begun with DE/LB Terrell Lewis. We all know the Chicago Bears need someone to emerge from the edges of their defensive line. So far, Terrell Lewis has sparked some intrigue following his impressive performances during OTAs. Interestingly enough, the official site has him listed as a linebacker. Yet, he's taken reps at DE and has plenty of size, length, and explosiveness to make things interesting. For what it's worth, he looked damn good at Alabama when featured as an OLB and tweener at DE within their defense.
Ken Mitchell - QB Tyson Bagent. Since teams can keep a third QB in "emergency mode" during games, chances are good that three quarterbacks will be at Halas Hall all season (whether all three are on the active roster or two active with one elevated weekly off the PS). Bagent is likely to get plenty of looks in the preseason and obviously at camp. He's actually a very good player. Fans love backup quarterbacks (at least those who are known for success, not butt-fumbles).
Jeff Berckes - This is usually at a position of need where fans try to talk themselves into an out-of-nowhere guy who they think will actually contribute. Many times this has been a WR, but this WR group is, dare I say, somewhat strong. The defensive ends, however, not so much. Enter Jalen Harris, the rookie UDFA pass rusher out of Arizona. Some of you may remember Sean Harris from the late 90s Bears - Jalen is his son. Yes, a Bears family connection! He's an older rookie with a good athletic profile and strong bloodlines to give himself a real shot at sticking with the organization. Make a play or two in the preseason, and fans will fall in love with the story.
Mason West - There isn't a plucky young WR or LB with grit and tenacity (if you catch my meaning), and the closest is the UDFA QB Tyson Bagent out of Shepard University, but Fields Mania should temper that. So instead, I am going to go with a player who could sneakily get elevated to the team mid to late season, Wide Receiver Thyrick Pitts, out of the University of Deleware. The 6'3" wideout caught 57 passes for 631 yards and a team-high 10 touchdowns during his final season at Delaware in 2022 and ran a 4.37 40-yard dash at his pro day. It could be fun.
Sam Householder - It's one of the few seasons I can remember where I'm convinced it won't be a wide receiver. The long history from Eddie Berlin to Brandon Rideau to Dane Sanzenbacher to Cameron Meredith, we've all had a July and August favorite. But with DJ Moore and Darnell Mooney returning from injury, I don't see much room for many others to get a lot of shine. However, I think Tyler Scott will get gassed up by fans who haven't listened to the scout and draft guys. My pick though is Roschon Johnson. I know he's already getting a lot of hype for a fourth-round pick, but I think he will get more fanbase-wide love once the preseason starts.
Taylor Doll - OH, I love this! I guess you consider Roschon Johnson an underdog, and that will be my pick for this. Rojo sat behind Bijan Robinson through college when he could have been the number one somewhere else, but everything I have heard about him on and off the field is absolutely incredible. He is a great football player, an even better human, and I think he is the spark the RB room needs after Monty.
Sam and Taylor may define "underdog" differently than some of us, but right now Johnson is probably down the depth chart, so I'll allow it!
Lester A. Wiltfong Jr. - With linebacker and wide receiver strong this year, I think the fan fave will come along the offensive line, and it'll be Roy Mbaeteka, their player that came courtesy of the International Player Pathway Program. Mbaeteka is a physical specimen at an athletic 6'8", 331 pounds, and with Chicago's o-line depth lacking, he'll need to flash a few times to get us believing he can win a spot. The good thing about Mbaeteka is after camp, the Bears will receive a practice squad exemption for the year.
Bill Zimmerman - I’m going to go with Travis Bell. Yes, I know this question is usually for an undrafted rookie, but Poles added a lot of quantity to the defensive line. Along the interior, Justin Jones, Andrew Billings, DeMarcus Walker (occasionally), Zacch Pickens and Gervon Dexter will all be seeing time before the 7th round rookie. That means Bell is going to see some time late in preseason games against weaker competition. He will flash a few big plays and that will begin several Bears’ fans pounding the table for playing time for Bell. Meanwhile in reality, Bell most likely ends up on the practice squad this year.
Now it's your turn, which player will be the training camp darling this year?
Chicago Bears roster for reference here.