Chicago Bears: Devin Thomas

Sanzenbacher jumps at new opportunity

August, 5, 2012
8/05/12
6:20
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BOURBONNAIS, Ill. -- A strange turn of events Sunday moved second-year receiver Dane Sanzenbacher into the starting lineup for the Chicago Bears.

He’s not complaining, though.

[+] EnlargeDane Sanzenbacher
AP Photo/Nam Y. HuhDane Sanzenbacher continues to impress Bears coaches in camp.
“It’s great. I think as many reps as you can get with those guys, the better,” Sanzenbacher said. “Obviously you want to be out there getting that rhythm. It’s one thing to be on the field, but it’s different being with a different group of receivers, different quarterbacks. So the more you get with that first team and start to get that chemistry going, it helps.”

Sanzenbacher worked with the first team Sunday because starter Earl Bennett suffered a leg injury during an early portion of the workout. Earlier in the day, Bennett’s primary backup Devin Thomas announced he had decided to retire.

That meant more first-team repetitions for Sanzenbacher, while undrafted rookie Brittan Golden worked with the second team. Bears coach Lovie Smith said Sanzenbacher continues to impress the coaching staff.

“(He’s making a) big impression, the same type he made last year coming in as an undrafted free agent and earning a spot on the roster,” Smith said. He’s improved his play just in general. He picks up things pretty quickly. We’re pleased with him. He should have a good shot with our team.”

Sanzenbacher played in every game as a rookie in 2011 with one start and caught 27 passes for 276 yards and three touchdowns, becoming the first undrafted rookie since 1983 to post multiple TD catches. Sanzenbacher was also the franchise’s first undrafted rookie to catch touchdowns in back-to-back contests (Week 2 against New Orleans and Week 3 against Green Bay).

But despite the promising early-season showings, Sanzenbacher tied Roy Williams for the team lead in dropped passes (7).

“I have just as much to prove (as last year) I feel like,” Sanzenbacher said. “You go into the locker room on your family day and you still don’t have a guaranteed locker yet. It’s the same situation, just a year down the road.”

Devin Thomas retires from NFL

August, 5, 2012
8/05/12
2:12
PM ET


BOURBONNAIS, Ill. -- Chicago Bears receiver Devin Thomas announced his retirement Sunday via a message on Twitter, and the team confirmed he indeed has called it quits.

"I have decided to retire from the NFL," Thomas wrote Sunday morning on his Twitter page.

Thomas sent a subsequent message on Twitter in what appeared to be an explanation for his decision to retire.

"God has blessed me (with) achieving a childhood dream," Thomas wrote. "I want to give back to my hometown and coach/mentor kids so they can reach their own."

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In advance of Chicago Bears training camp, ESPNChicago.com's experts are taking a look at some of the key issues the team must confront in the coming weeks.

[+] EnlargeBrandon Marshall
Jerry Lai/US PresswireThe Bears' makeover at receiver began with the trade for Brandon Marshall.
Jeff Dickerson: Perhaps no single Bears position received more attention in the offseason than wide receiver, a group long believed to be one of the weakest in the NFL. The boldest move made by new Bears general manager Phil Emery to date was trading for Pro Bowler Brandon Marshall, who enjoyed great success with quarterback Jay Cutler when the two were in Denver. But the receiver makeover didn’t end with Marshall. The Bears used a second-round draft choice on South Carolina’s Alshon Jeffery, considered by many to have been one of the top collegiate receivers in 2010 before seeing his numbers dip during his last year with the Gamecocks. The Bears also added Eric Weems and Devin Thomas, primarily special teamers, to a mix that already included Earl Bennett, Devin Hester and Dane Sanzenbacher.

With receiver expectations at an all-time high, there are no excuses for the group not to produce.

Marshall needs to stay out of the trouble and put up his standard All-Pro-type numbers. Bennett, who figures to work extensively in the slot, needs to assume the role of Eddie Royal, who had a monster year when paired with Cutler and Marshall in Denver in 2008. Jeffery, another big target with great hands, must be able to push through the nagging injuries that kept him off the field for a chunk of the offseason program. And Hester needs to take advantage of whatever plays the Bears design for him throughout the season.

If all this happens with Cutler at the helm, this could end up being the best and most productive group of receivers in franchise history.

[+] EnlargeAlshon Jeffery
AP Photo/Nam Y. HuhSecond-round pick Alshon Jeffery gives Jay Cutler a big target.
Michael C. Wright: The addition of Marshall and Jeffery doesn’t suddenly make Chicago’s receivers a formidable group. Nobody wants to hear it, but it’s true. The group’s worth still has to be proven on the field.

But it’s difficult to predict the group’s production for 2012 because every receiver performed in a different scheme than the one the club will utilize this season.

Struggling with nagging injuries in 2011, Hester caught just 46 percent of his passes with five drops en route to his worst season in three years in terms of production (26 catches for 369 yards). Still, the coaches insist they’ve misused Hester and have put together some packages designed to get him the ball more effectively in 2012.

Bennett missed time with a significant injury in 2011, but returned to put up big numbers before Cutler suffered a thumb injury. Bennett’s chemistry with Cutler along with Marshall’s should go a long way toward the group starting fast.

Marshall has put up five straight 1,000-yard seasons. Last year, Marshall caught six passes in the red zone with four going for touchdowns. So it’s clear the Bears found a legitimate red zone target, but there still have to be concerns about his volatile past and how he’ll mesh with teammates, including Cutler, who worked with him in Denver.

A rookie, Jeffery seems to be the wild card. First, he hasn’t yet played an NFL down. Secondly, his production in college wasn’t consistent. Jeffery caught 67 percent of passes thrown his way in 2010 for 17.2 yards per catch, but those numbers fell in 2011 (he caught 56 percent of passes for a 15.6-yard average).

Bears to add WR Thomas

March, 28, 2012
3/28/12
9:13
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CHICAGO -- The Chicago Bears agreed to terms on a one-year deal with wide receiver Devin Thomas, the club announced on Wednesday.

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