Chicago Sun-Times

Undrafted rookies who are standing out at Bears camp

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There are more than 200 NFL veterans who are still looking for jobs.

And, a number of them can still provide quality starts.

But, as I've said often, it's a buyer's market, and the abbreviated offseason has actually hurt the veterans.

In a normal offseason, undrafted rookies are signed immediately after the NFL Draft, toward the end of April, and clubs have chances to watch them and work with them before training camp.

But this year, clubs now have to use the early portion of training camp to evaluate and unearth the potential diamonds in the rough.

The Bears have a couple they're eagerly watching.

In my opinion, the Bears are not done adding credible veterans. I still think they may add an offensive lineman, a linebacker or even a cornerback.

But as we enter the last few days of training camp here at Olivet Nazarene University, a handful of undrafted players have consistently distinguished themselves.

Let's take a closer look:

1) Dom DeCicco, linebacker, Pittsburgh -- Despite all the speculation about Lofa Tatupu, the Bears have been impressed with DeCicco, who is listed as Brian Urlacher's backup. A standout safety at Pittsburgh, he switched to linebacker, and he's stood out on defense and special teams, the latter which is crucial if he's going to make the final roster and claim the sixth linebacker spot. It's clear that DeCicco relishes contact, so he has the mentality to fit in on defense and special teams.

2) Mario Addison, defensive end, Troy -- A high school quarterback and running, Addison was switched to linebacker then defensive end during his collegiate career, which included a stint at Northeast Mississippi Community College. While he definitely stood out in Saturday's preseason opener against the Buffalo Bills, Addison has also made an impression in training camp, routinely beating linemen in drills. He's a good athlete, with a very nice first step. But, Pro Football Weekly write before the draft that he was not instinctive. "At times screams up the field and runs right past the ball," PFW said. "Marginal eyes and instincts... Very raw."

3) Dane Sanzenbacher, receiver, Ohio State -- The 5 foot 11 receiver has been the media darling of training camp. That's natural, given his position and the fact that he immediately got some quality reps because of minor injuries to Johnny Knox and Earl Bennett. Besides, he's a true slot receiver, which already makes him the backup to Bennett. New receiver Sam Hurd also shows an ability to play in that position, although he doesn't seem as ideal a fit. This could ultimately be a numbers game for Sanzenbacher. He's proven to be consistent and reliable. But, he needs to stand out on a game day, not just on the practice field.

4) Kris Adams, receiver, UTEP -- He's got a difficult battle, to make the final roster. But, Adams has made arguably more spectacular, highlight-reel catches than any other receiver on the roster. What I mean is, he's made a lot of acrobatic and deep catches. Fans at training camp have seen many of those. But, he also distinguished himself against the Bills, with a game-high three catches for 58 yards.

5) J.C. Brignone, center, Mississippi State -- Alex Linnekohl of Oregon State generated some pre-draft buzz. But Brignone stood out at the East-West Shrine game. Capable of playing center and guard, he's fierce and consistent, although he's not the most physically gifted athlete. Bears offensive line coach Mike Tice loves an unheralded project, and Brignone could be the one.

6) Spencer Lanning, punter, South Carolina -- He didn't get a chance to punt Saturday, against the Bills. But anyone who has attended training camp knows that Lanning has an NFL leg. And while the Bears have had him focus on punting, Lanning also has the capability to kickoff and even boot field goals. In my opinion, he would be an upgrade for at least four NFL teams, so I still think there's an outside chance the Bears might land a late-round pick to deal him.

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9 Comments

It is hard for Sansenbacher to stand out in a game when they don't through him the ball. At end of the game the Bears just kept running the ball and Dane had no chance to show his abilities.

Chicago is always in need for young offensive linemen to develop, and right now they need a young center to groom. Alex Linnekohl started 38 games for Oregon State, but I see another rookie free agent, JC Brignone, is listed ahead of him on the depth chart at center. Is Brignone the young prospect Mike Tice likes, you would think so because he's ahead of Linnekohl on the depth chart. It seems like Brignone is the young center prospect they like? GO BEARS!!

Lets see Mario Addison or Vernon Gholston, how to choose, how to choose?

Lot's of people like Alex Linnekohl, I doubt they can hide him on the practice squad. Tice is getting Matt Birk syndrome.

Sean you ever notice that when the defense has a good practice Lovie says the whole team had a good practice and is happy. But seems to ignore the fact that the Bears offense stank it up?

ahhhhh.... hey sean i looked at taht list ans all i see from theser ookies is a nother gourp of WORTHELESS LOOSER BUSTS!!!! why loosers? is simple......AGNELO brought them in ans that is why teh will FAIL!!!!!!

these LOOSER BUSTRS areant eveen in MAdden!! taht means they ar no good ans will ne ver be!!! i, teh great super awsome EXPERT o nALL thing D FOOTBALL NOW TAHT AS FACT!!

but you guys now me old ctrap-ton...just trying to be paostive

ps he sean did you evar notice taht lovie needs to be FIRED????? along wit angelo phillips mcasky pikachu ans omaba??? is time for ME to take over as KING of eveyhing... CRAP-TOB RISES!!!!! HEE HEE HEEE!!

This might be the first time in the Lovie-Angelo regime that a legitimate youth movement is taking place. They have watched this team get a lot older over the last 4 years, and have neglected to develop young talent behind them. It looks like these young guys are going to be on the roster come September, so there will finally be a stable of younger talent to build on.

Unfortunately, that usually comes with a slide in performance on game day. Hopefully, we won't slip too much given the level of play of some of the defense (Urlacher, Briggs, Peppers), and the offense in Cutler, Forte, and Davis at TE. We may have some serious ups and downs this season because of the inexperience that is going to have to play significant roles, but over the long term, we will be a much better team.

I didn't realize DiCicco was 6'4" Is he a legit 6'4", or is he just a press guide 6'4? If he has that kind of length, that could be a nice fit for a backup to Urlacher if he can run well. Covering that deep seam is easier when you are at the same height as most of the TEs in the league, and can use those long arms to get after passes or at least obscure the sight line of the receiver.

Assuming the Bears keep 6 receivers max, I don't know that any of the young guys will get to be active on game day. After Williams, Hester, Knox, Bennett, and Hurd, there's only one open spot, and likely they will be in sweatpants on game day instead of on the active roster. Still not a great group, but better than last year.

Does Wootton lose out by being injured to Gholston and the up and coming Addison? Gholston I thought played pretty well against the Bills, and Addison has been turning heads in camp. Wootton has been showing well so far, but he will be sitting the rest of the preseason. Does he get the normal rookie "vacation" on IR in his second year, or do they try and stash Addison on the P/S?

I am looking forward to the Giants game to see some more of the first team O, especially to see if they can keep Cutler alive against the Giants DL.

Sean don't encourage Crap-ton, that is it's imitation of me. If you give it attention it will posts more often. You see I don't spell check and generally speed type while doing two other things, so I have been known to miss a word or two. How do I explain this?

You ever see the Lord of the Rings? You see Crap-ton used to be another poster and he used to like to get in arguments with me. Well he kept losing, and well it really seemed to crush him, I think it's a him, I have never lifted the tail to check. Anyway he got really upset and one day Crap-ton showed up in his place and he was gone and he attacked the only thing he could, my spelling, if I misspelled anything he was all over the board screaming about it. I think at one point he was a semi normal person but in the end I crushed his soul and now you just have this crazy, evil little creature desperate to achieve me and sell my bones.

You know about nuts, Sean remember that crazy that kept sending emails, about punctuation? Or the nut who kept asking you about purple panties. I think we might have the same nut. Just saying.

Hey Joe is back.

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This page contains a single entry by Sean Jensen published on August 17, 2011 9:05 AM.

Caleb Hanie on his training camp: "It's not going well" was the previous entry in this blog.

Chris Spencer starts at center... but only for the day is the next entry in this blog.

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