With the start of NFL training camps less than two weeks away, I thought I would go over some of the battles we'll see down in Bourbannais.
One battle during training camp will happen on defense between longtime starter Nick Roach and free-agent addition Geno Hayes. The two players will be vying for the starting strong-side linebacker position.
Nick Roach has been a solid if unspectacular starter for the Bears defense the last three seasons. He's started over 30 games in that time frame and has been a consistent performer.
Roach's biggest problem is, he's overshadowed by two players likely headed to the Hall of Fame in Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs. However, he knows the Bears defense and does his job without making a lot of mistakes.
He's underappreciated for his skill set, and his mistakes stand out more than the plays he makes. The Bears, however, want more out of Roach and have brought in Geno Hayes to push him to be better.
Geno Hayes has more career tackles than Roach, primarily because he's played Lance Briggs' role in the Tampa Bay defense. That weak-side linebacker role leaves that player open to make a lot of plays, and Hayes has done that.
In Chicago, however, his role will change up a bit and he'll be asked to take on blockers more often than he's used to. Hayes' addition may cause teams to focus more on him and give Lance Briggs the chance to step up and make even more tackles.
Hayes had a pretty dismal 2011 season after having competent 2010 and 2009 seasons. Hayes, of course, gets another chance to prove he can be a starter in the NFL.
One thing working in Hayes' favor is that he's only 24 years old, versus Roach, who is 27. That age difference may mean that Hayes has more potential to carve out of his career, whereas Roach may have peaked.
This battle will boil down to potential versus experience, with Roach holding the edge on experience. Hayes' best chance is to come in and win the position outright, while Roach could wind up being the starter at the middle linebacker position if Brian Urlacher misses time.
Either way, both players likely remain on the team because their experience is extremely valuable depth wise. There is no real starting experience behind these two on the depth chart.
Brett Solesky is editor and publisher of a MidwayIllustrated.com Chicago Bears blog. For more articles about the Bears, including a weekly podcast featuring weekly player interviews and other in-depth information visit my blog.