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Bears OTAs begin, here are players who could make impact

3 Bears who could make impact as OTAs begin originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

The Bears begin OTAs on Monday, so we’re about to get our first look at how the draft picks, free agent signings and holdovers from last year all come together on the practice field. There are still many questions heading into the summer program, like how the new-look offensive line will jell, or how much Justin Fields can develop with a new cast of characters around him.

There will also be surprises. It was halfway through OTAs when Braxton Jones took over the starting left tackle job. He never gave it up. With surprises like that in mind, here are three Bears players who may make a bigger impact in 2023 than fans expect.

CHASE CLAYPOOL - WIDE RECEIVER

The Bears made one of the biggest trades of the offseason when they shipped the No. 1 overall pick to the Panthers in exchange for DJ Moore and a bunch of other picks. They further added to the position by drafting Tyler Scott in the fourth round of this year’s draft. Add in the eventual return of Darnell Mooney and it’s easy to understand why some fans are already writing off Claypool as a bust. But there are reasons to be hopeful Claypool can not only improve in 2023. There were signs that Claypool and Justin Fields were finally starting to click in Week 13 last year, but Claypool got hurt partway through the game and it took him several weeks to return to the field. By the time Claypool was healthy, Fields was dealing with an injury of his own. The duo never got a chance to get back on track. Now, they’ll have an entire offseason to work together and build the chemistry they seemed to be on the precipice of developing last year. Claypool is also by far the biggest of all the Bears top WR options, so he is a unique target for Fields in the offense.

NOAH SEWELL - LINEBACKER

No unit improved more from the end of the 2022 season to the start of the 2023 summer program than the Bears linebacker corps. The Bears spent big to bring in Tremaine Edmunds in the middle of the defense, and dipped into free agency again to address the all-important weakside linebacker position with T.J. Edwards. So heading into the draft, linebacker wasn’t considered a huge priority. Yet the Bears decided to select Sewell in the fifth round. Sewell is a sound tackler who’s noted for having impressive pass rush chops. That’s something the Bears missed when Roquan Smith left for Baltimore, and something Sewell can bring back to the table. Sewell won’t just be a depth player, even though the two most important spots are set already. He can push Jack Sanborn for snaps as the strongside linebacker and could develop into a key special teams cog.

NATE DAVIS - RIGHT GUARD

It’s not necessarily sexy to think of an interior lineman as a player with the potential to make a big impact. In this case, Davis has a chance to play to one of the Bears’ strengths. The Bears are a run-first team and that’s unlikely to change significantly, even with DJ Moore in the fold. Consider this, as well: per PFF, last season Khalil Herbert averaged 6.6 yards per attempt when rushing behind the right guard and right tackle last year (where Teven Jenkins played), and just 2.4 YPA when rushing between the left guard and left tackle (where Cody Whitehair and Lucas Patrick played). Davis’ addition allows the Bears to move Jenkins to the left side, where they hope he’ll be equally effective and puts another strong run blocker on the right side. If things work out as expected, that means if an opposing defense dictates that the ball should go to one side or the other, the Bears can respond without worry.

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