Bears Day 3 Draft Picks Make OTA Statements
By Gene Chamberlain,2023-06-09
Normally Day 3 draft picks either need an obvious starting lineup hole to get onto the field immediately as rookies, or an injury.
Their most obvious route is special teams but the Bears are seeing real signs through OTAs of having three Day 3 rookies who could find aways to impact the offense or defense.
In fact, one has an obvious path to extensive playing time and another could.
The obvious path to playing extensively in the offense lies before fourth-round running back Roschon Johnson. Fifth-round linebacker Noah Sewell has been put into a good position to elevate quicky. They're also seeing positive signs from fourth-round wide receiver Tyler Scott.
RB Roschon Johnson
The need for an all-around back exists after David Montgomery's departure and the Bears would like to think starter Khalil Herbert can do this, that he can be a ball carrier, a receiver and a blocker. However, Herbert needs to pick it up as a blocker and receiver. The blocking aspect, especially, has been addressed this offseason.
Herbert began boxing.
"Punching, punching bags, boxing. I did boxing this offseason just to work on my punch time," Herbert said. "You know, different things like that. Everybody's different but that's what I tried working on to help me."
Without an established all-around threat among the veterans, the best chance for this could be Johnson.
Getting hands out and with power is key to holding off charging blitzers. It hasn't necessarily been natural for Herbert but he's working hard at it.
Johnson already seems to know what it's all about.
"Roschon's doing a nice job; he's got a good punch," running backs coach David Walker said.
"He can set and be in the right position on both interior and outside rushers, and we'll find out a little bit more when we can go live against people. But he's shown he's got a strike and puts his body in position.
"He understands leverage. When I say leverage, in interior rush, I want to square up a guy in the inside, but if I was blocking that edge guy, I want to be slightly inside leverage on a guy. He understands body position, leverage; he has a strike. He'll end up being fine."
Of course, working against Johnson is he hasn't been through any playing time within the offense like Herbert has.
Johnson's reputation at Texas was as an all-around back who didn't get the carries because he was behind Bijan Robinson. He was effective when he did get a chance. Johnson has an edge with the Bears because of this, because he knows how to compete for his playig time.
"He showed us something, or he showed me something, about who he is by staying at Texas, doing a great job at Texas, and then you see those same qualities here with us of just a good kid, works hard, takes good notes," Walker said. "If he has a question, he asks. He doesn't make the same mistake, so he's doing a nice job so far of learning our system, learning our culture and he fits it already. Who he is fits what we want to be about."
Both GM Ryan Poles and Walker have commented about how Johnson stayed at Texas and kept battling with Robinson for his playing time and this made a statement about his willingness to compete.
There's more to competition than just showing what you can do, though. A crowded backfield battle can lead to a bad mix, but Walker sees Johnson definitely willing to learn from experienced players.
"He's the same guy every day, which is nice," Walker said. "He's got a good group of veterans around him and he listens to those guys. He's a conscientious kid, and we knew that. Going into it, we knew it."
OTAs is no time to determine starters but Walker sees the mix with Johnson, Herbert, D'Onta Foreman, Trestan Ebner and Travis Homer as necessary.
"If you deserve to play, we're gonna find a role for you, so we know, us in this group know, through 17 games, and hopefully 18, 19 or 20 games this year, we're gonna need about four or five running backs to play consistently for us," Walker said. "It's not gonna be just one guy. We all know that.
"For us feeling comfortable with multiple guys, that's a luxury. That's a great thing to have. Not a problem. I've been on teams and coached places where I haven't had one. You know what I mean? If you feel you've got three or four guys that can go in there and the level doesn't drop off and we can be effective, then I'll sleep good at night, I promise you that."
LB Noah Sewell
Jack Sanborn's absence rehabbing from an ankle injury let Sewell step up immediately. Dylan Cole has had reps at strongside linebacker with starters, but so, too, has Sewell.
The fifth-rounder from Oregon displayed a wide assortment of skills as a cover player, an edge rusher, a blitzer up the middle and run stuffer. In practices, he's shown he can cover passes and this might have been the biggest question about him. Linebackers coach Dave Borgonzi said he has intercepted three passes.
"He's around the ball, he's got good instincts," linebackers coach Borgonzi said.
Because he's a bigger player and had better 40 speed than both Sanborn and Cole, it wouldn't be shocking to see a Day 3 player work his way in to playing a starting position—or at least a semi-starting position because the Bears are in nickel without a strongside linebacker on the field the for majority of plays.
"He's a bigger guy, so Noah's almost 250 pounds, so he's just a different type of body," Borgonzi said. "He's a bigger guy … strong. He's got strong hands. Good tackler.
"So I think he's got a lot of upside. And he's still trying to figure it out. He's a rookie. There's a lot of information coming at him pretty quickly here during these OTAs, but he's handled it well."
WR Tyler Scott
With the top three receivers set, Velus Jones Jr. returning and Equanimeous St. Brown and Dante Pettis well acquainted with the offense from last year, the odds will be against Scott doing much more initially than special teams.
However, he has shown a real knack for getting open when he has been working with PJ Walker at quarterback. In one two-minute drill at OTAs, Walker hit Scott on three straight plays.
He's been getting more time in the slot during full-squad and seven-on-seven than could be expected partly because Darnell Mooney has been recovering from ankle surgery. Coach Matt Eberflus said Mooney will be back by training camp, so Scott could continue getting increased reps at next week's minicamp.
"I'm excited for him," offensive coordinator Luke Getsy said. "The way that he came in, he's got some stuff to him that you like.
"His approach—he's got toughness. He's a smart guy. I've been really pleased with him. By no means is he where he needs to be, but where he's going and his approach and the way he attacks every single day, I'm really excited for him."
Receivers coach Tyke Tolbert saw the intelligence aspect and Scott's physical ability as apparent.
"His speed shows up, his suddenness shows up, and his moves and run after the catch show up," Tolbert said. "He can catch a ball, make a guy miss, turn around, get going really fast, like zero to 60. Obviously he has deep speed.
"And his knowledge, he doesn't make the same mistake twice. There are some things that we put in, everything's new to him, and we'll put in something that's new and he doesn't make the same mistake twice. That's always a good sign for any player, much less receiver."