- Michael C. Wright, ESPN Staff Writer
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With the start of training camp closing quickly, let’s take a look at the three Chicago Bears rookies most poised to make an impact in 2014. It’s no surprise that every one of the rookies to watch are defensive players.
In an effort to shore up the league’s worst rushing defense (161.4 yards per game) in 2013, the Bears used two draft picks to add youth to the interior, starting with second-round pick Ego Ferguson.
Behind starters Jeremiah Ratliff and Stephen Paea, the Bears aren’t teeming with proven depth at defensive tackle. That’s why there’s a good chance Ferguson -- and third-round pick Will Sutton -- could see just as many repetitions as the first-teamers throughout training camp and the preseason leading into the regular season.
“I feel like I’m a better athlete than people expect,” Ferguson said. “But I just have to show it. They just told me to get into the playbook and learn as much as I can.”
The expectation is Ferguson learns both defensive tackle positions.
“The benefit of that is if you get into the season and there is a reason why they have to play another technique, if the offense shifts the formation or if they scheme you and catch you on a play where now, they’ve got you left-handed,” defensive line coach Paul Pasqualoni said. “For us there won’t be such thing as left-handed. We’re going to be able to handle both and handle both effectively.”
Prior to selecting Ferguson, Bears general manager Phil Emery pulled tape of Ferguson in games against Alabama, Mississippi State, Mississippi and Georgia just to double check whether the rookie was worth taking with a second-round pick. The fact that “nobody could run the ball against him inside at all” on those tapes, according to Emery, only confirmed the general manager’s initial evaluation.
Now Ferguson has to prove his worth against NFL competition, and it’s not expected the rookie will be eased into the mix. At LSU, Ferguson played the 3-technique, a spot he’ll play in Chicago, while also contributing at the shade nose position.
“We’ve got an opportunity to be better because of the overall group of personnel that we’ve brought in,” Emery said after the draft. “We don’t know how this all looks yet. We feel good about the group we have, very confident in our coaching staff.”