Bears rookies given ample chances with starting reps


If you looked up at any point during Friday’s Bears training camp practice, there’s a good chance you would’ve noticed four rookies playing on the offensive line. With Riley Reiff still ramping up to the program, Braxton Jones played all of the team reps at left tackle. Cody Whitehair had a veteran’s rest day, so it was Zachary Thomas in at left guard. Since Lucas Patrick is out with a hand injury, Doug Kramer filled in at center. Finally, Ja’Tyre Carter has earned additional starting reps at right guard, over Sam Mustipher, while Michael Schofield ramps up, too.

On the surface, it’s a snapshot of an offensive line in flux. The Bears are still searching for answers throughout the position group, and have set no deadline by which to have everything set. Concern about the group is reasonable, but it’s also giving the rookies a rare chance to really display what they can do.

“Obviously, it’s a great opportunity,” said Kramer. “It’s still super early in camp so right now I’m just trying to stay locked in, learn as much as I can and try to go after that spot for sure.”

That should be the mindset for every rookie in Bears camp this year. There is competition up and down the roster, and few starting jobs have been penciled in yet. Guys like Kyler Gordon and Jaquan Brisker seem like shoo-ins to start Week 1, but there’s room for others to splash during camp, and earn a starting job too. It feels like an outside shot for guys like Jones and Carter to win a job over Reiff or Schofield, but it’s not just coach-talk when Eberflus says the door is open to competition. He knows, because he’s seen it before.


“Anthony Hitchens was player of mine back at the Dallas Cowboys and when Sean Lee got hurt, he stepped in and played and won a starting job,” Eberflus said. “He was a rookie. He started at Sam, then he ended up starting at Will and had a great career. He did it through hard work and preparation and he did a nice job for us that year.”

Looking back at the numbers, it seems Hitchens did more than a “nice job” that rookie season. Coming in as a fourth-round draft pick, he notched 75 tackles, defended four passes and got an interception in 11 starts. That kicked off a career which spanned 107 starts in eight seasons. That included a start一 and a win一 in Super Bowl LIV with the Chiefs. Who’s to say the next Anthony Hitchens couldn’t be a member of the 2022 Bears draft class?

“I tried to come into it with not a ton of expectations and just try to come in and just work every single day,” said Kramer. “That’s honestly what I’ve focused on since I’ve been at Illinois and since I got here and it’s been working pretty well so I’m trying to stick with that.”

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