By Jeff Joniak
I’m pleased to see Michael Ford make the final 53. From his first practice in the rookie mini-camp, his speed and running style was attention-grabbing. He only left LSU a year early because the depth chart was loaded with talented backs. He was never going to be the lead back.
There is a lot of tread left on his tires, and he can return kicks. He needs to improve his blocking and his pass-catching, and he needs to learn how to become a factor in kick coverage if he wants to be active on game day. Ford asked for jersey number 32 because every team in the league including the Bears passed on him in the draft. He was driven from day one to prove everyone wrong. Now, the hard work begins. Sometimes making a roster is easier than staying on a roster.
Joe Anderson is a great story. No one ever heard of him when he signed a practice-squad contract last year with the Bears. He worked very hard to get himself active for the last three games of the season and immediately made big tackles on kick coverage.
With Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffrey missing big chunks of the off-season, Anderson took advantage of extra practice reps and turned heads. He continued to pile up the reps when Earl Bennett’s concussion knocked him out of practice ever since Aug. 2.
Anderson’s four-catch finale against the Browns made me think twice about what he is capable of doing for the Bears. His 37-yard pass reception came after a well-run route, soft hands to make the catch, and then outstanding run after the catch, shedding a tackle, and a stiff arm to shed another. He is a very explosive athlete who ran a 4.41 and 4.39 forty-yard dashes at his pro day workout two years ago with a 41-inch vertical jump and explosive broad jump. He’s got a chance to make some noise.
Devin Hester is not getting released or traded, although many people have wondered if he would make the roster as just a return specialist. His attitude and preparation throughout the off-season won over the coaching staff and GM Phil Emery.
The man is mentally in a great place, confident, and ready to let it rip against the Bengals on Sept. 8. For only the third in seven seasons, Hester did not score a return touchdown in 2012. He was shut out on 64 combined returns. He remains one return touchdown shy of catching Deion Sanders’ NFL record.
It’s my guess Hester will match and surpass the record. If he remains committed to more north-south paths instead of east-west, he is poised to have another impact season. He returned 11 regular-season kicks for touchdowns in his first two seasons, plus the stunner to start Super Bowl XLI. In his last five years, while trying to play receiver, he scored on six returns. He’s overdue for a couple of big ones in 2013.
Fourth and Short
There is nothing set in stone about the end of the Bears roster. As players become available throughout the league, the Bears, like most teams, will be on the lookout for upgrades at several positions.
Jeff Joniak is the play-by-play voice of the Chicago Bears on WBBM Newsradio 780 & 105.9 FM. You can follow Jeff on Twitter @JeffJoniak.