Chicago Bears: Entirely-Too-Early Prediction of Final 53-Man Roster
Chicago Bears: Entirely-Too-Early Edition of Final 53 Man Roster Prediction
We are right in the middle of Organized Team Activities (OTA's) at the moment and most teams are at a point where they are beginning to learn the playbook and familiarize themselves with newer teammates. The Chicago Bears have a new coaching staff and a few brand new players that will immediately make an impact.
What does that mean for some of the veterans barely making the roster last season? How about some of the rookies signed after going un-drafted — do they have a shot at the final cut?
For the Bears, their big competition is going to come on the offensive line and linebacker positions. There will be a fight for a couple of final spots here and there, but as far as starting spots, those two areas are going to be the most fun to watch. But let's talk about those final spots for a moment.
Guys who spend most of their time on the practice squad such as quarterback Matt Blanchard or cornerback Isaiah Frey would love to earn a spot on the team, and in some eyes, they deserve to. But, head coach Marc Trestman only has 53 spots available. Give or take, Chicago would like to think that they have maybe 35-40 of those spots on lock-down between their starters and regular rotation guys.
Another interesting wrench thrown into things with the Bears has to be the move from wide receiver to return specialist for Devin Hester. This creates an opening for somebody to come in and earn a spot in the receiving corps. Who will that be? It may be too early at the moment to tell for sure, but it absolutely won't hurt to get excited and talk about these things.
With that said, here are my predictions — very early I might add — for what the final 53-man roster will look like in Chicago.
Who makes the cut: Jay Cutler, Josh McCown
While Matt Blanchard has impressed over the past two offseasons, the Bears will likely only keep two quarterbacks on the roster again this year. Blanchard could possibly make the practice squad in case of injury, but won’t make the final cut. Bears fans better pray Jay Cutler can play a full season so that this backup spot doesn’t come into question for a third year in a row.
Who makes the cut: Matt Forte, Michael Bush, Armando Allen, Evan Rodriguez (Tight End/Fullback)
Unless there is an injury to Matt Forte or Michael Bush – which has proven to be likely – Armando Allen will not see a lot of time. If he does, he is a very quick, smaller back with blazing speed in the open field.
The Bears didn’t use a true fullback last season, however now second-year pro Evan Rodriguez (naturally a tight end) will again assume that role when needed just as he did last year.
Rodriguez was utilized well and performed better than many draft experts would have thought as he ranked lower on the list of tight ends than other options at the time he was drafted. This year, he could be even more of a factor either out of the backfield or in pass protection at times.
Wide Receiver and Tight End
Who makes the cut (WR): Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffrey, Earl Bennett, Marquess Wilson, Eric Weems
With Deven Hester moving back to being solely a return specialist, that opens up a spot for somebody else to step up. I foresee rookie Marquess Wilson getting involved and taking the fourth spot on the depth chart eventually. For now, it is the Brandon Marshall show with a bit of Alshon Jeffrey and Earl Bennett sprinkled in here and there.
Who makes the cut (TE): Martellus Bennett, Steve Maneri, Kyle Adams
The signings of Martellus Bennett and Steve Maneri will prove large for Chicago in both the passing and protection aspects of their offense. Adams will see time every once and a while as mainly a pass-catcher, but Bennett will be the focus here.
Who makes the cut (Tackle): Jermon Bushrod, J’Marcus Webb, Jordan Mills (Rookie), Jonathan Scott
Who makes the cut (Guard): Kyle Long (Guard/Tackle), Matt Slauson, Edwin Williams (Guard/Center), Gabe Carimi (Guard/Tackle)
Who makes the cut (Center): Roberto Garza
The Bears are finally set at left tackle — yes, you read that right — and in signing another solid, young guard Matt Slauson, him and Jermon Bushrod will greatly improve this line. Drafting Kyle Long, a versatile offensive lineman able to play virtually anywhere, will also give this group a big boost.
Gabe Carimi isn’t doing himself any favors sitting out of OTA’s at the moment, and I don’t see him starting over J’Marcus Webb at the right tackle spot. He may make the roster as a reserve while other familiar backups Edwin Williams and Jonathan Scott stay in the conversation. Rookie Jordan Mills should also be given the shot to have a secured spot on the team.
Who makes the cut: Julius Peppers (End), Israel Idonije (End), Shea McClellin (End), Henry Melton (Tackle), Stephen Paea (Tackle) , Nate Collins (Tackle) , Corey Wooton (End), Cheta Ozougwu (End)
Hopefully the Bears can come to terms with Israel Idonije soon. He is a big part of what they do in pressuring the quarterback. Corey Wooton, Nate Collins and Cheta Ozougwu are also great rotation guys and should see time on the field.
Of course, both Julius Peppers and Henry Melton plan on causing all kinds of ruckus rushing the passer as usual, and second year pro Shea McClellin figures to continue his strong development in the same role. The Bears have an outstanding group on the defensive line and should excel yet again in this area.
Who makes the cut: Lance Briggs, D.J. Williams, James Anderson, Jon Bostic, Khaseem Greene, Blake Costanzo, J.T. Thomas
Linebacker is going to be a highly competitive position throughout the offseason workouts and training camp. Both rookies Jon Bostic and Khaseem Greene could eventually find themselves starting next to Lance Briggs, while special teams standout Blake Costanzo easily makes the team with reserve J.T. Thomas.
Since the Bears let go of Brian Urlacher and watched Nick Roach leave for the Oakland Raiders, Chicago has a fun training camp ahead of him.
Who makes the cut (Cornerback): Charles Tillman, Tim Jennings, Zack Bowman, Kelvin Hayden, Isaiah Frey
Not much needs to be said about the play of Pro Bowl studs Charles Tillman and Tim Jennings other than that they should again combine for over 10 interceptions and 10 forced fumbles in 2013. Defensive coordinator Mel Tucker would be elated for a repeat of 2012.
Re-signing Zack Bowman may prove huge for Chicago both on special teams, and he can come in every once in a while as a nickel along with Kelvin Hayden. Isaiah Frey has impressed on special teams coming off the practice squad and has done enough to earn a spot.
Who makes the cut (Safety): Major Wright, Chris Conte, Brandon Hardin, Craig Steltz, Tom Zbikowski
The big story here is second year pro Brandon Hardin coming back after a season-long injury during his rookie season. It will be fun to see if he can push for a starting spot, if he stays healthy. Hometown favorite Tom Zbikowski will also see a spot as the final safety on the team.
Who makes the cut: Robbie Gould (Kicker), Adam Podlesh (Punter), Patrick Mannelly (Long Snapper), and Devin Hester (Return Specialist)
Thankfully for Chicago, kicker Robbie Gould was cleared recently to start kicking. Having one of the most accurate kickers in the history of the league is quite the luxury. Devin Hester should see some more exciting games this year as he focuses on being the elite returner he is capable of being. If all goes according to plan, he will find the endzone more than once in 2013.