Chicago Bears: 47 Days Until Season Opener
Training Camp is finally coming up this week, meaning the NFL regular season is still a couple agonizingly close months away. Here at Bear Goggles On, we’ve been counting down the days until the regular season launches against the Green Bay Packers, and up next is a look at two relative unknown rookies on the Bears’ roster: Tight end Brian Vogler and linebacker Jonathan Anderson.
A pair of longshots to make the Chicago Bears roster, both Brian Vogler and Jonathan Anderson went undrafted in the 2015 NFL Draft and ended up signing with the Bears. Both are coming off less-than-stellar seasons in college and will be hard-pressed to earn spots on the Bears roster, as they are each playing positions rife with competition.
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A four-year tight end at the University of Alabama, Vogler caught a total of 17 passes for 125 yards and two touchdowns in his collegiate career. Even in his senior year, when the Crimson Tide shifted to an offense based more on throwing the ball, he still only collected six receptions and one touchdown.
Vogler also doesn’t bring much to the table as a blocker. Vogler — who at 6’7” has good height and catch radius but at 262 pounds is a little lean — has the ability to get to the second and third levels on running plays, but doesn’t show much push at the line of scrimmage. In its analysis of him, NFL.com noted that Vogler’s blocking balance is shaky and he can be “discarded,” and that he lacks the “footwork necessary to pass protect.”
Not surprisingly, given those flaws, Vogler went undrafted in 2015 and was picked up by the Bears when they were in the midst of signing every warm body at the position in the offseason to backup incumbent starter Martellus Bennett.
Dec 6, 2014; Fort Worth, TX, USA; TCU Horned Frogs linebacker Jonathan Anderson (41) during the game against the Iowa State Cyclones at Amon G. Carter Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
Anderson, meanwhile, was part of a defense at Texas Christian University that allowed only 19 points per game in 2014, good for eighth-best in the country.
Unfortunately, Anderson went from 66 tackles in 2013 to only 30 tackles in 2014, all while still playing in 13 games but starting only two as he dropped from the starting lineup in TCU’s 4-2-5 scheme.
At 6’1”, 231 pounds, Anderson has the size to play linebacker for the Bears, and with a 4.54 40-time at his Pro Day, appears to have the speed, too. He played both safety and linebacker at TCU, giving him some valuable versatility to a Bears defense currently in flux.
However, unless he can contribute on special teams, given the competition at linebacker and his decreased production in his final season at TCU, his time with the Bears seems to be counting down.
What to expect from Vogler and Anderson in 2015
Both are up against it to make the roster, and don’t look for either of them to remain with the team once the Bears kickoff against Green Bay in September, unless they’re participating on the scout team.
Vogler and Anderson are each facing the same problems: They’re mediocre players coming off middling, or in Anderson’s case, disappointing, seasons, and are both playing crowded positions on the Bears’ roster.
For Vogler, he’s got four tight ends that are clearly ahead of him in Martellus Bennett, Zach Miller, Bear Pascoe and Dante Rosario, plus two other relative unknowns in Chris Pantale and Blake Annen. Bennett will be the starter and primary pass catcher at the tight end position, while Miller, if he can stay healthy, is another pass catching option. Meanwhile, the Bears have two veteran blocking tight ends in Rosario and Pascoe.
Nov 16, 2013; Starkville, MS, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide tight end Brian Vogler (84) avoids a tackle by Mississippi State Bulldogs linebacker Zach Jackson (14) before taking the ball into the end zone for a touchdown during the game at Davis Wade Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Spruce Derden-USA TODAY Sports
That’s a lot of bodies for Vogler to wade through. Bennett is a lock to make the team, and if Miller stays healthy — a big if, given that injuries have kept him from playing in any regular season game since 2011 — he seems destined to land on the roster as another pass catching threat. There’s no fullback on the roster, so it seems likely the team will keep one blocking tight end on the roster, and Pascoe is the best bet there, but Rosario is an option, too.
Nov 2, 2013; Fort Worth, TX, USA; TCU Horned Frogs linebacker Jonathan Anderson (41) during the game against the West Virginia Mountaineers at Amon G. Carter Stadium. West Virginia won 30-27. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
Vogler simply isn’t enough of a receiving or blocking threat to stand out in that group, so look for him to be cut during the preseason.
For Anderson, he faces stiff competition whether he winds up being tried at inside linebacker (Mason Foster, Jonathan Bostic, Christian Jones, Shea McClellin, Dede Lattimore, John Timu) or outside linebacker (Pernell McPhee, Lamarr Houston, Jared Allen, Willie Young, David Bass, Sam Acho). Like the same situation facing Vogler, there are proven players and other new options at the position who will get the first – and likely the second and third – crack at earning playing time before Anderson gets a look.
Anderson has played both safety and linebacker, and that versatility could help him land a spot on special teams, like Senorise Perry did last year. He’s got good speed and is a proven tackler, something the special teams units have lacked the past two seasons. If he proves he can play special teams, look for Anderson to contribute there, but he’s still a longshot at best to make the roster.
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