By Wanda Wiedman // @WandaW63
Most teams, scout for players from all over to future contracts in hopes that a secret weapon will emerge from the pile. Last preseason, the Chicago Bears saw a taste of that in rookie wide receiver Tanner Gentry. The chemistry between quarterback Mitch Trubisky and Gentry lit a fire under most Bears fans as the next dynamic duo. But that was soon squelched as Gentry needed more training in blocking and separation skills.
He is maybe among the strong list of receivers the Bears have acquired this offseason that includes, Allen Robinson, Taylor Gabriel, Kevin White, Kendall Wright and hopefully Cameron Meredith. But what impact can the other nine players make on the team? There are a few on the Bears list that could make an immediate impact on the team if they make a splash during the preseason.
The Bears are in need of improving their offensive line and there are two that stand out: Center / Guard Travis Averill and Tight End Colin Thompson. Averill was a steady guard at Boise State earning first-team All-Mountain West honors in 2016. A capable athlete with fluid mobility as a blocker, he has a nice swivel in his head and lines up nicely to set up quickly at the snap. His fluidity across the line of scrimmage is pretty impressive. If he can polish up his stance by sinking his hips more in the rear, he may emerge a star under Matt Nagy’s offense. He could also be the one to compete with Hroniss Grasu for the center position.
Colin Thompson started at Temple. An undrafted free agent, he was taken by the New York Giants but was quickly released when he suffered an emergency appendectomy in training camp. At 6-4”, 260 pounds, he is a classic Y tight end who was the best blocker in both the run and pass game at Temple. A powerful blocker at the point of attack, he may emerge as a surprise to this unit.
Besides Gentry as the potential punt returner with his speed, Nelson Spruce could rise to the ranks as a slot guy. He has great hands and cuts really well on short routes. His speed is a subpar 4.69 and would not be ideal for deep passes, but enough for a short and out first down play.
— Chicago Bears (@ChicagoBears) March 20, 2018
The Bears have two cornerbacks in future reserve, Doran Grant, and Jonathon Mincy. Grant was a fourth-round pick by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 2015 NFL Draft. He had several opportunities on the practice squad including a pick-six for a touchdown against the Detroit Lions. He has been on the practice squads for the Buffalo Bills, New York Giants and the Jacksonville Jaguars.
But I like what I see in Jonathon Mincy. Undrafted out of Auburn, Mincy signed with the Atlanta Falcons in 2015 and released at the end of preseason. He decided to hone his skills by playing for the CFL and landed with the Montreal Alouettes and was named Montreal’s Most Outstanding Rookie in 2016.
In two seasons with the Alouettes, this 5-10”, 196-pound corner appeared in all 32 games, making 108 tackles with three interceptions and a forced fumble. A real press corner, however, he does struggle with elite speed receivers. He would be excellent in the nickel position or special teams. What stands out is his ability to jump high for the ball and his patience when reading the eyes of the quarterback. Mincy can undercut a receiver with the intent of catching the ball or batting it down. He is one to watch in preseason.
Training camp and preseason will be fun to watch just to see how these players emerge. The Bears have the tools. Let’s see who emerges as the possible gem of the future.
Talk Bears football with Wanda on Twitter // @WandaW63