In the NFL, the last player selected in each draft is known as Mr. Irrelevant. Last season, Cheta Ozougwu held that title, as the 254th overall pick by the Houston Texans. He didn't catch on down south and was signed to a one-year deal by the Chicago Bears this offseason.
Chicago's roster already boasted veterans Julius Peppers, Israel Idonije, Corey Wootton and Chauncey Davis, as well as first-round rookie Shea McClellin, so it didn't appear there was much room for an inexperienced player like Ozougwu. To further his odds, he wasn't anything special during training camp.
Yet all that changed during the first preseason game, when Ozougwu transformed on the field. He was explosive off the ball and blew past the Denver offensive tackles, picking up a sack and two hurries. He earned another sack two weeks later against the Giants, and another last week against the Browns, to go along with two more hurries.
DE Cheta Ozougwu
His explosiveness off the edge on passing downs helped him stand out in the eyes of Chicago's coaches.
"Each time I'm out there, I just make sure that I'm giving 110 percent effort," Ozougwu told Bear Report. "I've been doing okay but I want to get better each day."
As a result of his performance this preseason, coupled with the lack of big plays by Davis, the team chose to keep Ozougwu on the final 53-man roster. His main contributions will be on special teams but he'll likely get a number of reps on passing downs, where he can utilize his ability to pressure the quarterback.
If Ozougwu can carry over to the regular season what he started this preseason, he could eventually begin taking reps from Wootton in the defensive line rotation. Wootton could use the competition, as he hasn't had a sack since ending Brett Favre's career in 2010.
In addition, Wootton has a history of injuries. If he were to miss time this year, Ozougwu would be in line for those snaps. The Bears kept two surprise defensive ends to start last season – Nick Reed and Mario Addison – yet neither panned out. We'll see if Ozougwu can buck that trend.
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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.