The Chicago Bears signed 26 undrafted rookies on the first day of free agency. A handful have already been waived but the majority are still in Bourbonnais battling for a roster spot.
With almost three weeks of practice in the books, here are five undrafted free agents that have the best shot of making the 53-man roster:
WR Dane Sanzenbacher, Ohio State (5-11, 180)
Sanzenbacher was the first of the undrafted rookies to really stand out. From Day 1 he showed good route running, good hands and the ability to work the underneath routes. He's also a quality kick and punt returner. The coaching staff is enamored with him and inserted him in the starting lineup yesterday in place of Devin Hester, who sat out with "general soreness."
Sam Hurd is pushing Sanzenbacher for the team's fifth, and most likely final, wide receiver spot. Hurd has been very good in camp as well and is an experienced special-teams player. If the team chooses to keep six wideouts, Sanzenbacher is in. If they stay with five, he'll need to be outstanding the rest of the way and force the coaches to give him the position.
LB Dom DeCicco
LB Dom DeCicco, Pittsburgh (6-4, 230)
DeCicco is a former collegiate strong safety that has been moved to middle linebacker – a la Brian Urlacher. He's a good tackler, has good speed and is solid in coverage. He's still learning his position, which leads to a lot of missed assignments, but his athleticism is obvious. In his first live NFL action against the Bills, at a position he's not familiar with, he ended up second on the team in tackles.
The team usually keeps six linebackers. DeCicco is in line for that sixth and final spot. Additionally, he's been running with the first-team punt and kick return units, and special teams are how the vast majority of undrafted rookies make NFL rosters. The Bears did make a waiver claim yesterday for former San Francisco linebacker Thaddeus Gibson – he was awarded to Washington – and still may choose to bring back Pisa Tinoisamoa once his knee is fully healed. Yet as of right now, DeCicco is almost a lock.
DE Mario Addison, Troy (6-3, 252)
With most undrafted free agents, it's all about opportunity. In the NFL, opportunity usually comes in the form of injuries. Addison was playing with the third team up until last Saturday's preseason game. When DE Corey Wootton went down with a knee injury, Addison was promoted to the second team. Rod Marinelli has been all over him this week, which for a rookie is better than him ignoring you. Addison is inconsistent yet is decent coming off the edge. Too often he leans too much on his toes but the potential is there. If Wootton is out for an extended period of time – most assume it will be for at least a month – Addison could slide onto the roster as the Bears' fourth defensive end.
C Alex Linnenkohl, Oregon State(6-2, 303)
Like Addison, Linnenkohl may have an opportunity based on the shuffling of players in front of him. I firmly believe that by the end of camp, Chris Spencer will be the starting center and Roberto Garza will slide back to his right guard spot. When that happened in practice yesterday – due to a Lance Louis stomach illness that forced him off the field – Linnenkohl was inserted with the second team. He hasn't been outstanding in camp but if my scenario plays out, the team will need someone to be the backup center. Linnenkohl could be that guy.
P Spencer Lanning, South Carolina (5-11, 200)
Lanning was crushing the ball yesterday, which he's done for the better part of camp. Adam Podlesh hasn't been that impressive, which could potentially open the door for Lanning so sneak through. If he can demonstrate the ability to kick directionally, which Podlesh can do, then the coaches might be compelled to take the player with the bigger leg.
Follow me on Twitter: @BearReport
Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of BearReport.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. To read him every day, visit BearReport.com and become a Chicago Bears insider.