Bears GM Phil Emery made a clear effort this offseason to make the Bears roster younger, faster and more athletic. Last season the Bears were the third oldest team in football and that didn’t bode well for the future of the franchise, so Emery made it a point to keep younger, high-upside players over established veterans during final cuts. Last year there were only an average of 8 rookies on my weekly report, but the Bears are starting this season with 12. They are still the 3rd oldest opening day roster, but have lowered the average age from 27 to 26. These guys below (& the 2nd-3rd year players on the roster) are the future of the Bears and I will be tracking the rookies development every week this season.
G Michael Ola – The most impressive of the Bears rookies last Sunday; Ola came in for the injured Matt Slausen in the 1st half and finished the game as the highest graded Bears player according to Pro Football Focus (4.8!). The Bears threw 40 passes with Ola on the field and he gave up a total of 1 QB hurry. It was a surprisingly effective performance and if Ola continues to play well he could push RT Jordan Mills for his job once Slausen is healthy.
CB Kyle Fuller – Was decent in coverage only giving up one 25 yard catch to fellow rookie Sammy Watkins in 36 defensive snaps (out of 58), but Fuller wasn’t great in run defense which was one of his strengths in college. Fuller missed two tackles and was maybe a little too aggressive against the run. That is an easily fixable issue and on the whole Fuller had a decent debut with 5 total tackles including one for a loss and just 1 catch allowed. I think Fuller is going to be an impact player by the 2nd half of the season.
DT Ego Ferguson – Starting NT Stephen Paea was awful on Sunday (-1.8) which could open the door for Ferguson to see significant snaps as soon as next week. He played 12 snaps in week 1 and didn’t embarrass himself. Ferguson didn’t crack the stat sheet in his 12 snaps, but did a better job than Paea holding the point of attack against the run.
DT Will Sutton – Got 11 snaps in his debut and looked pretty darn good. Sutton made a nice tackle near the line of scrimmage and generated some interior pressure on 2 of the 5 pass plays he was on the field for. Current starter at 3-tech DT, Jeremiah Ratliff, played pretty well so unlike his fellow rookie Ego Ferguson it will be tough for Sutton to earn more snaps, but I could see the Bears rotating Sutton in more often to keep Ratliff fresh if Sutton can continue to develop as an interior pass rusher.
RB/KR Senorise Perry – There was only one kick return chance Sunday and Perry didn’t do much with it, gaining only 21 yards and looking hesitant on his first NFL touch. I think it’s a sign of the coaches faith in Perry that he fielded the first kickoff of the game instead of recently released veteran Micheal Spurlock. Perry has the potential to lock down the kick returner job and he also excels in kick/punt coverage. One of the things that stood out to me when watching Louisville tape last year was how good Perry was on kick and punt coverage teams. Perry is the fastest player on the Bears active roster (4.37) and used his speed Sunday to make a coverage tackle and finish with the highest coverage grade on the team (1.4). Look for Perry’s role to expand as the season goes on.
P Pat O’Donnell – Last season Bears punter Adam Podlesh finished last in the NFL with a 40.6 yards per punt average. In O’Donnell’s first game he averaged less at 40 yards per punt. Not a great start, but O’Donnell did pin one inside the 20 and some debut jitters are understandable. It’s way too early to judge O’Donnell, but he sucked on Sunday.
RB Ka’Deem Carey – Played only 4 snaps, but got his first NFL carry and didn’t embarrass himself with a 4 yard run. For some reason the Bears only ran the ball 18 times, which I can’t imagine being a regular occurrence. I think Carey’s carries will increase every week as the season goes on.
LB Christian Jones – Was active but didn’t see the field on defense or surprisingly on special teams. Jones and Cornelius Washington were two of the Bears best special teams coverage guys in the preseason but neither played on Sunday? The Bears used Trevor Scott instead of Washington and Shea McClellin on coverage teams instead of Jones. Isn’t McClellin a starter? Jones is faster, stronger and more athletic than McClellin, give the rook a chance!
FS Brock Vereen – Active, but didn’t see any snaps. Can Vereen be any worse than Chris Conte and Danny McCray?
QB David Fales – If he plays this year, something went terribly wrong.
T Charles Leno Jr – The Bears only kept 8 O-lineman on the 53-man roster as opposed to their usual 9 or 10, which was a surprise. It was even more surprising that Leno wasn’t active, leaving only two backup O-lineman which the Bears needed both of before the end of the 1st half. Luckily no one else went down with injury, but Leno will certainly be on the active roster in week 2.
SS Ahmad Dixon – Just signed this week