During the 2012 NFL Draft, I participated in a live chat with Bear Report subscribers. As the process neared its end, many fans were calling for the Chicago Bears to select Troy offensive tackle James Brown. Unfortunately for him, he went undrafted, yet he quickly got a phone call from the Bears, inviting him to training camp.
Brown was arguably the most-sought-after free agent once the draft had finished. Yet he saw a good opportunity in Chicago and accepted the team's invitation.
During rookie minicamp, Brown (6-4, 306) got reps at right tackle. Once training camp started, Brown was moved to the left side, his position in college, where he was named first-team All-Sun Belt Conference his senior season. After 38 collegiate starts, NFL scouts were tantalized by his natural athleticism and good range.
Yet he struggled during the Senior Bowl and didn't grade out well at the NFL Scouting Combine. As such, his stocked dropped, landing him right in Chicago's lap.
So far, it appears to be another wise move by GM Phil Emery. Brown has looked very solid during the first seven camp practices. He shows good balance and a strong punch. Coordinator Mike Tice has also taken notice. After working with the third team through the first five practices, Tice elevated Brown to the second team on Wednesday. It's a move that has given Brown confidence going forward.
"I didn't expect it all. It just happened yesterday before practice. As soon as practice was going that's when they told me," Brown told Bear Report, with a big smile on his face. "It's definitely exciting when you can get more reps to work on your craft. I feel like I did pretty good but as always, I've got to get better."
Throughout pass rush drills during camp, Brown has consistently dominated first-round defensive end Shea McClellin, burying his teammate into the ground on more than one occasion. He has also shown very well as a run blocker, getting off the ball quickly and with low pad level. Once he gains leverage, he's been able to use his strength and thick base to drive defenders out of the hole.
"At this point, right now it's really showing up that I'm a better run blocker than a pass blocker," he said. "But day by day, it's getting better."
Brown said his biggest challenge has been adjusting to the level of competition and speed of the pro game. It's just one of the many things he's currently working on to make himself a better player.
"When I was at Troy, we always had a two-point stance, so I've got to definitely work on coming out of a three-point stance. Working on footwork and hand placement."
Yet after watching him practice for a full week, one would never guess he's an inexperienced rookie. He has shown great poise under immense pressure.
The Bears will keep either eight or nine offensive linemen this year. As of right now, Brown is in the mix for that final roster spot. If he continues to improve every day, and build on the solid foundation he's already established, he'll be a contributing member of this club in 2012.
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.