Chicago Bears training camp kicks off this week, and while optimism is king right now, there are a few players Bears fans are a little extra excited to watch.
You know the ones. Players who rise from anonymity to snag headlines after a week or two of practices. Maybe it’s a Bears player whose career has mostly been spent as a backup but who’s beginning to emerge as a potential starter. Or, maybe it’s a rookie selected early in the 2023 NFL Draft who’s proving his draft valuation was correct.
The other end of the spectrum is also true. Some players struggle more than any Bears fan or writer expected. Surprise cuts happen every year.
One thing all Chicago Bears fans can’t do is overreact to a big play, or a big practice, or even a big week of sessions. Don’t worry if your favorite Bear has a bad rep or a lousy practice either.
NFL training camps are long, grueling tests of willpower, health, and, of course, talent. Try not to get too excited if a surprise star is born (although that’s what makes fandom great).
We polled the Bears Talk staff about players who will shine or struggle during the Chicago Bears training camp. Here are the four names that came up. Check it out.
Zacch Pickens, DL
Zacch Pickens is being under-discussed right now. All of the attention in the 2023 rookie class has gone to Darnell Wright, Gervon Dexter, Tyrique Stevenson, and Roschon Johnson, which is understandable. But Pickens has a chance to push Justin Jones for the starting three-tech role during training camp. Even if he doesn’t unseat the established veteran, Pickens is too quick and bursty off the snap to keep on the bench. He’ll be a factor early in his rookie season and jumpstart his role during training camp. –Bryan Perez
Tyson Bagent (QB)
Here’s my hot take: Rookie QB Tyson Bagent makes the active roster as the Chicago Bears’ QB3.
As the self-appointed leader of the Tyson Bagent hype train leading up to the draft, I was over the moon when Ryan Poles signed him after the draft. He has a cannon arm and decent mobility and threw an NCAA-record 159 touchdown passes. The Bears need to develop quarterbacks, and Bagent is as good of an undrafted prospect as you’re going to find. –Pete Martuneac
Jack Sanborn (LB)
With the big splash signings of Edmunds and Edwards, the third linebacker spot was a bit of an unknown after the draft and free agency. Newcomer Noah Sewell has impressed the staff and players early with his size, speed, and ability to get after the QB. However, let’s not be too quick to forget last year’s standout rookie Jack Sanborn.
In just six games, Sanborn was able to register 48 tackles and be named to PFF All-Rookie team. He is the player embodiment of Flus’ HITS principle, and I think once he is healthy and rolling, he will have Bears fans falling in love with him all over again. –Samir Patel
Velus Jones Jr. (WR)
Heading into camp, it’s been said that Coach Eberflus has given Velus Jones Jr. a second chance at a starting role for the 2023 season. And after a borderline-abysmal rookie season in 2022, that’s more than a fair offer from Coach Flus.
While I hope Jones Jr. can make the most of this new opportunity, I don’t think he will. Botched punt returns and other ball security issues resulted in him being a healthy scratch for multiple games last year. Amidst his struggles, the rest of the Bears’ wide receiver room is growing in talent. The obvious leadership of DJ Moore and Darnell Mooney is more than sufficient to unlock more with the passing game. Chase Claypool appears healthy and ready to go, and let’s not forget about some of the explosive plays made by Equanimeous St. Brown and Dante Pettis last year – two great depth pieces.
On top of all of that, the addition of Tyler Scott (who should have a great camp) leaves me thinking that Velus is heading for the exit. He doesn’t rank anywhere near the potential abilities of the rest of the wide receiver squad.
While I wish I could feel differently about the situation, I don’t see the 26-year old turning things around by the end of camp. Expect Velus Jones Jr. to be cut. —Matt Fricks