Some of football’s best stories feature underdogs who come out of nowhere to out-perform their expectations. Often enough, those stories take root during training camp. And while we can point to any number of teams whose rises had humble beginnings, there are plenty of examples of this happening with individual players.
Perhaps Tre Roberson could be next.
In Larry Mayer’s mailbag, the ChicagoBears.com senior writer was asked if Roberson has a chance at earning the starting cornerback job opposite of Kyle Fuller. And his answer surprised me — in a good way. Mayer said he believed Roberson would have a chance to compete, and also win, the starting job. He even circled back to something Defensive Backs Coach Deshea Townsend said during recent Zoom press conference availability.
Check it out:
“The plays that (Roberson) was able to make in Canada, those are the things that are natural, those are the things that you can’t teach. For me, I’m excited to get a chance to see him move around, see his natural playmaking ability and see if I can help mold him.”
Hmmm. Well, that’s certainly an interesting bit of perspective from Roberson’s position coach. And it got me to thinking about the possibility of Roberson making the jump from Canadian Football League standout in 2019 to NFL starter in Week 1 of the 2020 season.
It’s going to be a challenge, to be sure. Because, yes, Roberson has become somewhat of a forgotten man since the Bears signed him as CFL free agent late in January. And that’s a bit odd, especially if you consider the team gave him the biggest free agent deal out of the CFL since Cameron Wake signed with the Dolphins 12 years ago. So it’s not as if he should’ve been put on the back burner. But after the team signed a bounce-back candidate with a first-round pedigree (Artie Burns) in free agency and drafted a first-round caliber talent (Jaylon Johnson) with one of its two second-round draft picks, the Roberson signing got a bit lost in the shuffle. However, I doubt that will be the case this summer.
Much like Deon Bush is getting a shot to start opposite of Eddie Jackson at safety, Roberson has a real chance to start the season as the CB1 opposite of Fuller. And, sure, some of it has to do with the money the Bears plopped down to bring him to Chicago. But the real reason the front office offered up a bunch of cash to secure Roberson is because of his skills and recent performance. Roberson intercepted seven passes in 2019, two of which were returned for touchdowns. He was an All-Star and played an integral role on Calgary’s Grey Cup championship-winning team. The combination of skills, experience, upside, and winning pedigree made Roberson an awfully interesting free agent — one the Bears felt they needed to sign this offseason (while beating out 10 other teams who reportedly offered contracts).
So let’s not look past Roberson when the summer competition for the right to start across from two-time Pro Bowl cornerback Kyle Fuller gets underway. Because even though the CFL and NFL are on two different planes of existence, Roberson’s athleticism and ball skills could go a long way toward him edging out the others in camp.