I have already covered the Bears final cuts earlier today and now I’m going to focus on some players who made the roster that could be considered a surprise. The Bears were an old team last season (29th oldest roster) and they seem to be making an effort this year to get younger. They released some solid veteran depth players and kept 1st or 2nd year players as depth instead. It is a bit risky if the Bears suffer a bunch of injuries, but it is also a chance to develop some young players into starters which is the best method to achieve consistent success. They can’t splurge in free agency every off-season like they did this year. The Bears apparently trust these young players enough for them to be the primary backups at key positions and I am excited to see them improve.
This is a little premature since the Bears will probably make a few more roster moves before the season starts. I hear they are scanning the waiver wire for help on special teams and at safety. I will be going over some possible roster additions in my next post.
QB David Fales – His solid outing in the first half against Cleveland’s 1st string defense (11-17, 129 yards, 1 TD, 107.2 rating) made it difficult for the Bears to sneak Fales through waivers and stash him on the practice squad. Apparently they didn’t want to take the risk, which tells me they think Fales has a future in the NFL, possibly as Cutler’s primary back-up as soon as 2015.
RB Senorise Perry – He started out as a mini-camp invite and now is on the Bears final 53-man roster. That is a hell of a jump. I’ve been a Perry fan from the beginning and am pumped that he made the team. Perry impressed in every chance he was given and I still don’t think we’ve seen all that Perry can do. With the release of Chris Williams, Perry is probably the fastest man on the Bears roster and could surpass Spurlock as the Bears primary kick returner. He was also strong on coverage teams in college and his special teams ability may have earned him a spot on the final roster. Perry is a high upside player who could surprise should something happen to Matt Forte this year.
OL Charles Leno Jr – As of today the Bears only have 8 offensive lineman on their roster. They normally keep 9 and they may add a 9th at some point, but the fact that they kept 2 rookies as their 3 reserves says a lot for their trust level in Leno (& Ola). Leno has shown good hands and solid footwork but still needs to get a lot stronger before he can be an every-down lineman. He is versatile and can play either guard or tackle for the Bears. He has starter potential and could end up as the Bears starting RG next year if they slide Long over to right tackle.
DE Cornelius Washington – There isn’t a player that improved more from last season than Washington. He was a non-factor as a rookie, but couldn’t be stopped working against 2nd & 3rd string in preseason games. Washington has shown an impressive bull rush skill, blowing up multiple run plays in the backfield and also added two preseason sacks. He is an elite athlete (4.55 40, 39″ vert, 36 bench reps) and seems to have put it all together which is what the Bears hoped when they drafted him in the 6th round last year. Washington has also been a beast on special teams which I’m sure helped him make the roster. The Bears have even used him as a coverage gunner on a few occasions. At 6’4, 267 Washington might be the biggest gunner in NFL history!
DE David Bass – He wasn’t ready for NFL action as a rookie but was forced into the lineup due to all the injuries the Bears suffered. Bass was almost forced off the roster by the strong play of Washington and Austen Lane, but Bass turned it up in the last preseason game. With his job on the line, Bass was all over the field and had a sack and forced fumble on Johnny Manziel. Despite being over-matched physically last year, Bass showed good instincts and has the potential to develop into a solid DE.
LB Christian Jones – Perhaps the best example of the Bears trying to get younger, faster, and more athletic. Jones is raw, he still needs to figure out how to play LB in the NFL, but he has great size and is an elite athlete. Jones played well on special teams against the Browns and I think that sealed his roster spot.
CB Demontre Hurst - Was the Bears most aggressive corner during the preseason against both the run and pass. Hurst is an instinctive player which will lead to some big plays but also some mistakes. He clearly outplayed Kelvin Hayden during the preseason and I’m glad Phil Emery kept the best player and not the well-known name.