We see it every year. The training camp breakout stars. The Chicago Bears have had plenty of them, including blasts from the past like Tanner Gentry and Dane Sanzenbacher.
This year’s training camp will be no different. Plenty of depth players will shine in practice and excel in preseason games in their effort to earn meaningful reps during the regular season.
Who will those players be? Here are seven candidates to be this year’s Chicago Bears training camp star.
Chase Allen (Tight End)
There won’t be many opportunities for wide receivers to steal headlines this summer, so the next-best choice is a pass-catching tight end with upside: Chase Allen.
Allen was a quality mid-level target during his college career at Iowa State, and he could carve out a role in the passing game if he has a strong summer.
No one expects him to leapfrog Cole Kmet or Robert Tonyan on the depth chart, but the NFL’s 17-game schedule is a grueling war of attrition. Third-string tight ends usually get a good chunk of reps at some point in the year, and Allen can cement that role if he makes plays in practice and the preseason.
Get ready for it. The Allen buzz is coming.
Lucas Patrick (Center)
Everyone loves the backup center in Chicago. Let’s face it: the starter has been a disaster the last few seasons. It’s why the Bears signed Lucas Patrick in free agency last year; he was supposed to be the answer in the middle of the offensive line.
Injuries derailed that plan, and now Patrick is viewed as a swing backup along the interior.
But it’s not guaranteed to stay that way. Patrick is being lauded as a leader in the locker room and has starter’s talent. If Cody Whitehair has a few botched snaps or struggles during his transition from guard to center, Patrick will become a popular name in the media.
There’s no doubt he’ll look good at practice. And if he does, the calls for Patrick to get starter’s reps will grow louder.
It’s a good problem for the Chicago Bears to have: two quality linemen competing for the center job. May the best man win.
Tyson Bagent (Quarterback)
A strong-armed quarterback from a small school who will get most of the reps late in preseason games? Yep, sounds like an excellent candidate to generate some buzz.
Tyson Bagent is a talented passer who showed well at the 2023 Senior Bowl. He was projected to be a late-round pick but ended up signing with the Bears as an undrafted rookie.
It may have been the best thing to happen to Bagent, who has a good chance to earn the QB3 job in Chicago. He’ll showcase his big arm and above-average athleticism at practice and in the preseason and should earn himself a practice squad gig at worst.
Travis Homer (Running Back)
Travis Homer won’t factor into the starting running back competition, but you can bet he’ll make enough noise during practice sessions to grab the attention of the Bears beat writers.
Homer is a flashy runner and a good pass protector who hustles on special teams.
August will be Homer’s time to shine before getting buried on the depth chart this fall.
Travis Bell (Defensive Line)
Travis Bell is another small-school star with a big personality who plays at a position on the Chicago Bears defense where reps are up for grabs.
General manager Ryan Poles gushed about Bell after the NFL Draft, which will cause Bears writers to pay closer attention to him once he’s on the field.
A disruptive penetrator with a worker’s mentality, Bell will make plays when given a chance. Those headlines are coming.
Noah Sewell (Linebacker)
Everyone assumes Jack Sanborn will start at linebacker alongside Tremaine Edmunds and TJ Edwards, but fifth-round pick Noah Sewell could throw a fun wrench into that plan.
Sewell was once viewed as a first-round prospect before flaming out at Oregon. Sometimes that happens to talented players; they mentally check out and are ready to move on. It feels like that was the case for Sewell with the Ducks in 2022.
The early offseason returns on Sewell have been overwhelmingly positive. Perhaps a starting job is legitimately up for grabs. We’ll know early in training camp by the rep split between Sanborn and Sewell.
Elijah Hicks (Safety)
The Chicago Bears’ secondary is like its wide receivers. There isn’t much of an opportunity to crack a starting job. But that doesn’t mean a player like Elijah Hicks will go unnoticed this summer.
Hicks, a seventh-round pick in 2022, has a chance to become the special teams safety that DeAndre Houston Carson was for so many years. And when DHC was given an opportunity to get starter’s reps on defense, he did well.
Hicks is cut from the same mold. He’ll be a surprise performer over the next month or so.