6 Dark-Horse Candidates to Make the Chicago Bears Final 53-Man Roster
Training camp isn't for guys like Brandon Marshall, Jared Allen or Matt Forte. Those guys are focused and ready to go right away. They also know their role on this team and aren't concerned with anybody else behind them.
Now, when you think about camp and the preseason you think about the last five guys in and the last five out. Who are the guys fighting to make a spot on the roster? Who are the players still fighting during the fourth preseason game while the starters are chilling with their pads off and fitted hats on?
The Chicago Bears still have questions on special teams. Who is going to be the final receiver, third running back or last linebacker? Who are going to be the last depth players on the roster to contribute on special teams?
Here are the six dark-horse candidates to fill those roles—with one exception: Adrian Wilson isn't playing special teams for anybody. He's either a starter or he's retired. Click ahead to see the rest of the names.
Running Back Senorise Perry
For weeks now I have been telling people to look out for Senorise Perry. The former Louisville standout running back is fully recovered from a second torn ACL and is looking to make an impact.
Perry doesn't do anything great, but he does a ton of things good enough to make this roster. He runs hard, catches the ball out the backfield and contributes on special teams.
The third running back situation for the Bears is fluid. Michael Ford will be the favorite, but he can easily be eclipsed. Most will be looking to Jordan Lynch or Shaun Draughn, but Perry could leapfrog them all with an impressive training camp and preseason.
Linebacker Christian Jones
A failed drug test during the combine kept Christian Jones from being drafted, and for good reason. Look at what the Cleveland Browns are going through now with Josh Gordon and you see why people want to steer clear of guys like Jones.
When you focus on what he can do on the field, you realize Jones was an impact linebacker on a team who won the national championship.
Jones is freakishly athletic with a high motor and ability to get to the ball-carrier by any means necessary. He will likely make an impact on special teams and could push veteran Jerry Franklin out the door.
It will come down to how many linebackers the Bears want to keep on their roster. If they go with seven for the sake of special teams, then Jones is a guy who can easily be the last guy in.
Tight End Matthew Mulligan
Martellus Bennett may be one of the league's best tight ends, but the guys behind him are all mediocre at best.
Zach Miller will likely be the second tight end, but Dante Rosario is by no means a lock in the third spot. He does know the offense but still had only one reception last year.
Matthew Mulligan is a more versatile tight end who has spent some time with the New York Jets, St. Louis Rams and most recently the New England Patriots. He's not going to grab a lot more passes than Rosario, but he is a better athlete on special teams.
If Mulligan can prove to be a solid blocker and perform well on special teams, then the Bears will have no choice but to choose him for the final tight end spot over Rosario.
Cornerback C.J. Wilson
Think just because Isaiah Frey was the starting nickel corner last year he's a shoo-in to make this team? I would pull back on those thoughts if that's what you believe.
Frey wasn't terrible last year, but by no means was he good either. He, along with the rest of the secondary, struggled, and the Bears are looking for players with more attitude to be on the 2014 defense.
C.J. Wilson was a player we highlighted last year. He made his way onto the team as an undrafted free agent and will fight again to make a bigger surge this year.
The Bears have their starting corners already in Charles Tillman, Tim Jennings and first-round pick Kyle Fuller. Kelvin Hayden will be the first man up if any injuries pop up, but that means Wilson and Frey will be battling for a special teams spot. Sherrick McManis is a special teams ace and already takes one backup corner slot.
At this point, Wilson just seems to have more energy and attitude. Frey is a good kid, but it's going to be tough for him to fight off Wilson.
Wide Receiver Chris Williams
Chris Williams might be a name you have gotten to know already, but he still remains a dark horse because of the other veterans around him.
The former CFL star return man will have to fight off Micheal Spurlock, Armanti Edwards, Josh Bellamy and Terrence Toliver. They are not household names by any stretch but do have more NFL experience than Williams.
What Williams has over all of them is game-breaking ability and potential too irresistible to pass up. If Williams can prove he's just a marginally-decent receiver, then he can be the full-time return man and be the final receiver on the roster.
Training camp and preseason will prove whether Williams can line up in the right spot, run clean routes and catch the football consistently. If he does all of the above, then he will hold off the veterans and be on the final roster.
Strong Safety Adrian Wilson
It has to be all or nothing in order for Adrian Wilson to make this team. The Bears didn't bring in a former Pro Bowl safety with over 180 games of experience coming off a torn Achilles to run with the special teams.
Wilson is in camp to see if he can regain some of his old magic. Ryan Mundy is still the favorite to be the starter, and rookie Brock Vereen is looking good to start opposite him.
This means Chris Conte, M.D. Jennings and Craig Steltz are the backups. They all can start if needed but really fit better as special teams players. Wilson doesn't fit well as a backup or a special teams player.
At 34, Wilson doesn't have the speed or desire to fight it out with younger guys trying to keep a roster spot. He would sooner retire than come off the bench and chase down kick returners.
However, Wilson is also a very good instinctual safety who could still be a starter. If he has some explosion left coming off the injury, then he could push to be the starting strong safety. The Bears would be more than happy to have Mundy come off the bench to further strengthen the position.