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Three under-the-radar Bears who could make a big impact this season

During Monday night’s 20-17 win against the (hated) Packers, the Bears received some important minutes from three guys – a rookie, a 2nd-year ‘project,’ and an unassuming veteran – who didn’t figure much into the team’s immediate plans.

But when opportunities presented themselves, these 3 guys stepped in and stepped up, giving the coaches a few good reasons to keep them on the field for the rest of the year.

J’Marcus Webb

About the best compliment I could pay Webb is that I didn’t even notice he was in the game at tackle until I watched the replay. As is often the case with offensive linemen, when the TV broadcast crew doesn’t mention your name, it’s usually a good thing…even if you only play a series, as Webb did.

But the fact that O-line coach Mike Tice felt comfortable inserting the rookie seventh-round draft pick into a crucial, primetime game against your bitter rivals says a lot about the rookie.

He came in on the third series, and while the Pack recorded 2 sacks on that drive, neither was Webb’s fault. Physically, the guy definitely looks the part. Since the coaches made a point to get him some early playing time, look for #73 to continue to steal minutes from Schaffer at right tackle, especially if Chris Williams remains out of the lineup.

Tim Jennings

The guy who replaced Peanut Tillman as the team’s #1 corner in training camp was replaced by a ho-hum veteran pickup who wasn’t even a lock to make the team coming out of training camp.

After Zack Bowman missed an open-field tackle vs. James Jones early in the second quarter that nearly resulted in a first down for the Packers deep in their own territory, Jennings was called into duty on the third series…and he played opposite of Tillman the remainder of the game.

While he’ll be remembered for his impressive sideline recovery of an Urlacher and Briggs-forced fumble late in the game, Jennings also recorded some impressive open-field tackles against the Pack’s gifted receiving corps.

Look for Bowman to start this week against the Giants. But watch and see how short of a leash Lovie and Co. give him against NY’s impressive receiving trio of Hakeem Nicks, Mario Manningham and Steve Smith.

Henry Melton

With the surprise benching of Tommie Harris, Melton was another youngster who was called upon to make plays on the biggest stage. His most memorable play was a roughing-the-passer penalty deep in Bears territory that helped facilitate the touchdown drive that gave the Pack a short-lived 3-point lead.

But the fact that he was on the field in a late-game scenario means DC Rod Marinelli trusts him enough to spell his other bigger, slower, more experienced tackles.

Melton’s speed at the tackle position is obvious just watching him play, and it’s something that could come in handy, especially during obvious passing situations. Because let’s face it – Matt Toeaina, Anthony Adams and Marcus Harrison aren’t going to win any foot races.

Assuming Tommie responds with a good week of practice, it’s hard to imagine him sitting for another game. If he plays, it’ll likely mean Harrison or Melton will be inactive. My guess is Melton’s athleticism and special teams duties will keep him on the gameday roster.

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