Chicago Bears 2012 Preseason: An Overview of the Unofficial Depth Chart
The Chicago Bears released their unofficial preseason depth chart on Monday, giving fans and players a brief insight into who the starters and backups are for each position.
Though the Bears start their preseason this Thursday against the Denver Broncos, the main starting cast will not play a large role. Players who are currently listed as second- and third-team players will see the majority of the action, as they attempt to impress the Chicago coaching staff and earn a spot on the roster.
With few training camp battles this summer for Chicago, much of the depth chart won't come as a surprise to most fans, but is still worth breaking down to get to grips with some of the names you will be hearing throughout the preseason.
First String: Jay Cutler
Second String: Jason Campbell
Third String: Josh McCown
Fourth String: Matt Blanchard (R)
No surprises here, with Jay Cutler always being the clear-cut starter. Jason Campbell should see action action against Denver with last year's backup Josh McCown bringing a proven, stable veteran presence.
Rookie Matt Blanchard made the team as an undrafted free agent out of Wisconsin-Whitewater and will be looking to stake his claim mainly for a spot on the practice squad. Blanchard impressed in rookie mini-camps and will look to make the most of any snaps he gets in the preseason.
First Team: Matt Forte
Second String: Michael Bush
Third String: Kahlil Bell
Fourth String: Armando Allen, Lorenzo Booker
Goal-Line Back: Michael Bush
Third-Down Back: Matt Forte
Bears fans can all breathe a sigh of relief that Matt Forte is in camp. Though it is reported that he recently injured his thumb, indications are that it isn't anything to worry about.
The Bears brought in Michael Bush as a solid and capable backup for Forte, giving the Bears a very impressive rushing combination. Bush is expected to be used as a short yardage back and goal-line back, but don't underestimate his pass-catching abilities either.
Kahlil Bell is slated in for the third-string back, but will need to take care of the ball a lot better than he has in recent history. Bell has had a problem with fumbling and though a solid special-teams contributor, Bell could easily work his way onto the brink of losing his job should his fumbling problem persist.
First Team: Tyler Clutts
Second String: Harvey Unga
Third String: Draylen Ross
Tyler Clutts will continue as the starter from last year who not only helped lead the way for Matt Forte, but also was a valuable special-teams player.
Harvey Unga has yet to make an impact for the Bears after they used a seventh-round pick on him in the 2010 Supplemental Draft. Unga is the all-time leading rusher in BYU history but is in transition of moving to fullback.
Draylen Ross from North Texas was with the team during training camp as a tight end and is also in the process of moving to the fullback/H-back role for the team. Both should have opportunities to impress, but the job is clearly Tyler Clutts' to lose.
First Team: Brandon Marshall, Devin Hester
Second String: Earl Bennett, Alshon Jeffrey (R)
Third String: Dane Sanzenbacher, Eric Weems
Fourth String: Terrian Crump (R), Chris Summers (R), Joe Anderson (R), Brittan Golden (R), Johnny Knox, Rashied Davis
New acquisition Brandon Marshall will give the Bears their first legitimate No. 1 receiver since Marty Booker. Devin Hester will start alongside him but new offensive coordinator Mike Tice will limit the amount of snaps Hester has.
Second-stringers Earl Bennett and Alshon Jeffrey will still receive their fair amount of snaps and targets too, with Jeffrey's outstanding athleticism and Bennett's sure hands.
Dane Sanzenbacher has recently taken advantage of Devin Thomas' departure from the team and is suddenly back in contention for a roster spot. Eric Weems will most likely become the team's special-team stud, but can still make an impact on offense.
Out of the fourth-string players, players to keep an eye on during the preseason include Brittan Golden and Terrian Crump, both of whom have turned heads when given the opportunity.
Johnny Knox isn't expected to be activated from the PUP list any time soon and recently signed Rashied Davis will seemingly take the role of Devin Thomas in the special-teams department.
First Team: Kellen Davis
Second String: Matt Spaeth
Third String: Kyle Adams
Fourth String: Evan Rodriguez (R), Brandon Venson (R)
Kellen Davis starts the season on top of the depth chart as expected and figures to have a much greater role in the offense. Matt Spaeth keeps the second-string job as a primarily blocking tight end.
Surprisingly, Kyle Adams is ahead of fourth-round pick Evan Rodriguez, though don't read too much into this. The coaching staff will most likely make Rodriguez earn any game time despite his fine showings in training camp.
First Team: J'Marcus Webb
Second String: Chris Williams
Third String: James Brown (R)
J'Marcus Webb seemingly retains his job as starting left tackle but he hardly blew away Chris Williams in the competition. In fact, Mike Tice was disappointed that neither of the two contenders made it clear that they were the clear No. 1 left tackle and decided to stick with J'Marcus Webb to keep things status quo.
Though preseason action may help Chris Williams re-stake his claim, the likelihood is that he will be used as the swing tackle this year, which would be a significant upgrade from Frank Omiyale last year.
Undrafted free agent James Brown from Troy will serve as a backup for them both and should see plenty of action this preseason.
First Team: Chris Spencer
Second String: Chilo Rachal
Third String: A.J. Greene (R)
Chris Spencer moves into the official start role as expected for Chicago. The free agent acquisition from Seattle last year had to bide his time before seeing action but performed well once out in the game, becoming a very effective pulling guard and leading the way for Matt Forte.
Chilo Rachal was brought in from San Francisco in the offseason and though he clearly has potential, the former second-round pick from USC has yet to display it.
First Team: Roberto Garza
Second String: Edwin Williams
Third String: Chris Spencer
Fourth String: Nick Pieschel (R)
Roberto Garza took over the starting job last offseason when the team decided not to re-sign Olin Kruetz and filled in very well. So well in fact that he was an alternate for the NFC Pro Bowl team.
Edwin Williams will back up Garza this year. Williams started seven games last year as a guard and will find a home as second-string center with the hope that he can learn from the aging Roberto Garza.
Garza and Williams will be backed up by Chris Williams, whose original position in Seattle was at center and rookie guard Nick Pieschel from Central Florida, who was signed as an undrafted free agent.
First Team: Lance Louis
Second String: Ricky Henry
Third String: Nick Pieschel
The return of Gabe Carimi gives Lance Louis the chance to flourish in his original position of right guard. Louis has a lot of potential and will hope to build chemistry and solidify himself as a guard.
Though not listed, you can expect Chilo Rachal to be challenging for the spot of right guard, the position he occupied in San Francisco.
Backing Louis up will be second-year player Ricky Henry, who was with the team last year, and undrafted free agent Nick Pieschel
First Team: Gabe Carimi
Second String: Chris Williams
Third String: Cory Brandon
Fourth String: Tyler Hendrickson (R)
Gabe Carimi returns back into the starting lineup following his premature end to the 2011 season. Carimi lasted just one and a half games before injuring his knee, which ultimately required surgery. Last year's first-round pick and former Outland Trophy winner isn't being rushed snaps as coaches continue to monitor his knee, which may be something to look out for during the preseason.
Speaking of former first-round picks, Chris Williams will back up Carimi and has taken snaps with the first team at right tackle as Carimi has been rested.
Behind the two former first-round picks are first-year tackles Cory Brandon from Oklahoma and undrafted rookie free agent Tyler Hendrickson from Concordia.
Left Defensive End
First Team: Israel Idonije
Second String: Shea McClellin (R), Corey Wootton
Fourth String: Thaddeus Gibson
Israel Idonije keeps his starting spot from last year, as expected, with first-round pick Shea McClellin having to prove his worth to coach Rod Marinelli before seeing the field. Idonije will be used as more of a run stuffer as opposed to a pass rusher with McClellin and Wootton coming in on passing downs.
Many of the Bears Beat writers have agreed that Corey Wootton has had the better training camp than Shea McClellin, who has yet to shine with a troublesome transition to the NFL game. It will be interesting to see how he performs in the preseason and as his development continues.
Thaddeus Gibson, who has spent time at Pittsburgh, San Francisco, Washington, Houston and now Chicago in his two years in the league, will bring up the rear.
First Team: Henry Melton
Second String: Stephen Paea
Third String: Nate Collins, John McCargo
The Bears will hope for more consistency from Henry Melton at the five tech this year. Though he recorded seven sacks last year, Melton went off the radar during the month of October, recording just one tackle in the four games he started. The Bears will need Melton to maintain his play as an inside pass rusher to take attention off Julius Peppers and potentially Shea McClellin.
Backing up Melton will be Stephen Paea, though he will also be in the nose tackle rotation with Matt Toeaina. Paea came along nicely towards the end of the season, recording 11 tackles and a sack in the last five games. The Bears will be expecting a big jump in production from Paea who enters his second NFL season.
Seven-year vet John McCargo and Nate Collins, who will be suspended for the first game, will provide depth at defensive tackle, but it is Nate Collins who has been impressing during training camp.
First Team: Stephen Paea, Matt Toeaina
Second String: Nate Collins, Brian Price
Third String: Ronnie Cameron (R), DeMario Pressley
Fourth String: Jordan Miller
Stephen Paea and Matt Toeaina are expected to split time at nose tackle for Chicago this year, though the Bears' coaching staff must be hoping that Paea progresses enough to overtake Toeaina, which in itself in no mean feat.
Phil Emery acquired young defensive tackle Brian Price from Tampa Bay for a late-round pick who has an abundance of talent for Rod Marinelli to harness. Price will work his way into the defensive-line rotation and could be the heir apparent to Amobi Okoye's role last year; a role with garnered four sacks last year.
Rookie Ronnie Cameron is a player to keep an eye on during the preseason. A small-school prospect from Old Dominion looks impressive on tape, something which obviously caught the Bears scouting team's eye. Cameron will have to work his way up the depth chart but can easily earn himself a roster spot with a strong preseason showing.
You can get to know him better by checking out this Q+A he did with Bleacher Report.
Right Defensive End
First Team: Julius Peppers
Second String: Chauncey Davis, Shea McClellin
Fourth String: Cheta Ozougwu
Absolutely no competition here. In fact, not many people in the league could knock Peppers from this spot.
However, it is interesting to see that the Bears list Shea McClellin as the joint second-string defensive end on both sides of the line. The coaching staff are willing to give McClellin every opportunity to prove himself and earn himself some game time by giving him a shot on both sides of the line; something no other defensive end will have.
He will be competing with veteran Chauncey Davis, who was signed towards the end of last season. former Mr. Irrelevant Cheta Ozougwu will have to fight for a roster spot during the preseason games.
First Team: Nick Roach
Second Team: Blake Costanzo, Patrick Trahan
Roach will maintain his position as the Sam linebacker for the Bears, alongside Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs. Roach hasn't had much competition this year as he has in previous years, having to beat out both Hunter Hillenmayer and Pisa Tinoisamoa in the past.
Blake Costanzo will bring the Bears a very valuable special-teams player who was brought in from San Francisco after making a name for himself on the coverage teams.
First Team: Brian Urlacher
Second String: Dom DeCicco
Third String: Jabara Williams
Fourth String: Ronnie Thornton (R)
The Mike linebacker position has been Brian Urlacher's for a very long time. But could this be the last year he holds the position? With his contract up in the summer and the wear and tear of going into his 13th season, this may be the last year that we see Urlacher at the heart of the Bears' defense.
Behind Urlacher is second-year player Dom DeCicco, who is primarily a special-teams player. DeCicco made the transition from safety to linebacker after being undrafted from Pittsburgh.
However, contradictory to anything the depth chart shows, Nick Roach would likely be the starting Mike linebacker should Urlacher miss anytime with Geno Hayes taking over the Sam linebacker position.
Jabara Williams is another special-teams player brought in after a spell in St. Louis and rookie Ronnie Thornton takes the fourth-string role.
First Team: Lance Briggs
Second String: Geno Hayes
Third String: J.T. Thomas
Fourth String: Adrien Cole (R)
The seven-time Pro Bowler Lance Briggs locks down this position as expected. Briggs has missed a total of four games in his 10 year career so far, so opportunities are slim when you're behind Briggs on the depth chart.
Free agent acquisition Geno Hayes sits behind Briggs on the depth chart, though I expect Hayes to be the linebacker equivalent of what Chris Williams is at tackle. Hayes will fill in at both Will and Sam and should provide great depth behind the starters.
Last year's sixth-round pick J.T. Thomas will look to prove he is worth a spot on the team. Thomas was put on injured reserve during his rookie season so this will really be the first opportunity Bears fans will get to see him.
Louisiana Tech rookie Adrien Cole occupies the fourth-string job.
For those of you who keep hearing about Mike, Will and Sam linebackers but are never sure what they are, please check out this article, which should help shed some light from Bleacher Report's own Matt Miller.
First Team: Charles Tillman, Tim Jennings
Second String: Kelvin Hayden, Johnathan Wilhite
Third String: Greg McCoy (R), Isaiah Frey (R)
Fourth String: D.J. Moore, Cornelius Brown, Jeremy Ware
The two starting cornerbacks return from last year with Charles "Peanut" Tillman locking down one side of the field and Tim Jennings seemingly winning the cornerback battle with Kelvin Hayden.
Hayden and Jennings are still expected to compete for the starting role with the hopes that both bring out the best in each other. Either way, the second-string cornerbacks will have an abundance of experience, with Jennings, Hayden and Wilhite all having plenty of starting experience in their careers.
Rookies Greg McCoy and Isaiah Frey complete the third-string team and it will be interesting to watch them during the preseason. The Bears have drafted at least one cornerback in six of the last seven years; some successful like Corey Graham, some not so successful like Joshua Moore.
D.J. Moore may be listed as fourth string but that is because he will be the starting nickelback for the Bears. Moore has a knack for being in the right place at the right time and should continue his solid play this year. Free agent signings Cornelius Brown and Jeremy Ware will fight for any game time in this preseason.
First Team: Major Wright
Second String: Craig Steltz
Third String: Anthony Walters
Major Wright was one of the beneficiaries of the ending to the safety rotation last year. Coach Lovie Smith has shown faith in Wright since drafting him in the third round, making Chris Conte his safety partner towards the end of the season.
Wright has been injury prone since joining the Bears but his back up, Craig Steltz, is more than capable of filling in. In fact, some keen observers would argue that Steltz is the better player.
Anthony Walters, who was with the team last year before being cut, finishes off the depth chart at strong safety.
First Team: Chris Conte
Second String: Brandon Hardin (R)
Third String: Trevor Coston (R), Jeremy Jones (R)
Chris Conte has the athletic ability the Bears look for in a free safety. The Cal product is entering his second year in the NFL and has recovered from his foot injury which held him out towards the end of the season. But Conte did show plenty of promise when he saw the field and is one to watch this season.
Brandon Hardin, like Conte, was a college cornerback making the transition to safety. Hardin is athletically gifted and was also a stellar special teamer at Oregon State. As a rookie, expect Hardin to be used sparingly until the coaching staff are comfortable with where he is.
Rookies Trevor Coston and Jeremy Jones will compete for the third-string role and unless one has an outstanding preseason, their chances of making the roster are slim.
One area which Bears fans can feel concerned about is the lack of experience at the safety position. The starters Wright and Conte are 24 and 23 respectively, with backup Craig Steltz being the oldest member of the group at the age of 26.
Despite being surrounded by a veteran supporting cast in Brian Urlacher, Lance Briggs and Charles Tillman, the starting safeties will have to be mature, instinctive and wise in Lovie Smith's defense.
|Postion||First Team||Second String||Third String||Fourth String|
|Kicker||Robbie Gould||Ryan Quigley (R)|
|Kick Off||Robbie Gould||Ryan Quigley (R)|
|Punter||Adam Podlesh||Ryan Quigley (R)|
|Holder||Adam Podlesh||Ryan Quigley (R)|
|Long Snapper||Patrick Mannelly||Tyler Clutts|
|Kick Off Return||Devin Hester||Eric Weems||Greg McCoy (R)|
|Punt Return||Devin Hester||Earl Bennett, Eric Weems||Greg McCoy (R)|
The Kicker and Punter jobs were locked down from the word go with Robbie Gould and Adam Podlesh continuing their kicking duties. Ryan Quigley looks as though he will be this year's "camp leg."
Patrick Mannelly returns back from his season-ending knee injury as the Chicago long snapper. Mannelly holds the record for most career games played as a Bear.
Bears fans can rejoice at the sight of Devin Hester as both the starting kick off and punt returner. Much speculation regarding his increased role in the offense and the addition of Eric Weems brought doubt as to whether Hester would continue his returning duties.
They can now be put to bed.
Weems will relieve Hester from his duties when he needs a rest, however the special teams coordinator did refer to Hester as the 1A kick returner and Weems as 1B, opening the possibility for both of them to be on the field at the same time, returning kicks.
Rookie Greg McCoy, who was a return specialist at TCU, could help his claim for a roster spot if he develops into a dangerous return man.