Chicago Bears Mini-Camp – Undrafted Rookies to Watch

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DT – When the Bears signed DT Brandon Dunn after the draft, I didn’t know much about him and couldn’t find much online either. I figured the fact that former Louisville and new Bears D-line coach Clint Hurtt  pushed for the signing of Dunn was a good sign, but that’s the only positive I could find. After doing some more digging and watching more tape I am pretty excited about the addition of Dunn. Defensive tackle was embarrassingly bad for the Bears last season, but Phil Emery has gone out of his way to not only fix the Bears depth but add more than they can conceivably use next season. I’m fine with that, they should never have to sign players off the street again at arguably the most important position in their defensive scheme. Drafting DTs in rounds 2 & 3 should round out the active roster depth chart at the position, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the Bears used a couple of practice squad spots on D-lineman. One of those spots should go to Brandon Dunn. His stats aren’t flashy, but Louisville had the #1 run defense in college football, allowing only 80 rushing yards per game and Dunn was a big part of that as their starting 1-tech DT. Dunn holds the point of attack very well and uses his hands to maintain separation from blockers and slide off to attack the ball carriers if they run through his gap. He has good size (6’3, 309), was never injured in college, has a good motor, and by all reports was a team leader with a great attitude. The Bears used one of their 9 remaining post-draft roster spots on Dunn despite there being close to 50 players available with draftable grades, so obviously the Bears saw something in Dunn and the more tape I watch on Dunn, the more I agree.

DE – The Bears did such a good job at adding defensive ends through free agency (Houston, Allen, Young, Idonije), that they pretty much ignored the position in the draft and post-draft process. They invited a few undrafted defensive ends to rookie mini-camp but none of them stand out to me as players that have an NFL future. The only player that intrigues me at all at the position is an OLB from UCLA, Keenan Graham. Ideally he would have played OLB in UCLA’s 3-4 scheme, but UCLA was loaded at LB with a couple of 1st round talents in Anthony Barr and Myles Jack as well as mid round pick Jordan Zumwalt. In order to get Graham on the field they played him at DE despite his small frame (6’2, 256) but he was blocked there as well by 4th round pick Cassius Marsh (SEA) and 5-star recruit Ellis McCarthy. Coaches were trying to get Graham on the field because he is a natural pass rusher and was dubbed the “sackmaster” by former Bruin and NFL RB  DeShaun Foster. Graham has good speed (4.66), excellent short area quickness, and uses his hands very well to establish leverage and shed blocks despite always being smaller than the man across from him.  Graham averaged a 9 yard loss per sack last season, so they weren’t cheap hustle sacks, he has a natural ability to get to the QB. His ideal position would be as a 3-4 OLB, but the Bears could use him as a designated pass rusher on 3rd down where he could use his speed and leverage to focus on getting to the QB.

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

OLB: Christain Jones was my #1 undrafted free agent, so I am pretty stoked that the Bears found a way to sign him after the draft. With so much talent available in this year’s draft, teams seemed to stay away from anyone with an off-field red flag which benefited the Bears in this case. Jones failed a drug test at the combine, but that is the only off-field incident I could find so it’s not like they have to worry about where Jones is after practice. This kid has legit NFL skill. He was anywhere from a 2nd-4th rounder depending on which analyst you trust (I had him going early in the 3rd), but either way the Bears got an excellent talent in the UDFA round. Jones played both OLB and DE for the Seminoles, but strong-side OLB is his best fit in the Bears scheme though he could play MLB as well. Jones has shown both natural pass rush and coverage skills in college. He has the speed to be a sideline-to-sideline run defender, cover TEs & RBs, and blitz the QB effectively. There really isn’t any limit athletically to Jones’ game, it’s just a matter of how the Bears want to use him.  I think his versatility worked against him in college with the Seminoles moving Jones all over the defense depending on what they needed. If the Bears can give Jones one position and let him grow into it, I think that they have a Pro Bowl talent on their hands.