Chicago Bears: One Question for Every Player on the Roster
The Chicago Bears enter the preseason with questions just like every other franchise. While they have had a good camp and feature some promising talent right now nothing is certain.
Lovie Smith and his coaching staff will evaluate every player between now and when the time comes to make their final cuts. There will be some hard decisions to make and he and his staff will have to take the preseason to answer as many questions as possible.
The players locked in to starting roles have questions circulating them as well. Many things need to go right in order for a team to make a long playoff run. Do they have what it takes?
Take a look at what every player on the roster has to answer in camp and going into the season.
Is this the year Jay Cutler puts it all together? Can he finally take all his talents and skills to the next level?
Going into this season, Cutler has never had this many offensive weapons around him. He will also have an offense tailored toward his skills.
If the Bears want to compete in their division with the Packers and Lions as well as make a Super Bowl run then Cutler is going to have to take that next step. Many believe he can and will do just that but it all still remains to be seen.
Will Jason Campbell be ready if called upon?
Last year the Bears' season essentially ended when Cutler got hurt. That's why the went out this off-season and made it a point to get a guy like Jason Campbell. He has a solid career completion percentage at 60.8 percent and his career quarterback rating is 82.8. Still it's never easy to come off the bench into a starting role.
Should the Bears keep Josh McCown on the final roster?
Last year McCown gave the team some positive things but it was too little too late. With the money invested in Jason Campbell is it necessary to use a roster spot on McCown? There is a good chance if it ever comes to that point he will be available to sign again.
Now that Matt Forte is paid, will he keep up the same production?
The back and forth between Forte and the Bears was drawn out and played out in public. Finally the two sides came to a deal right up against the deadline for Forte to sign his franchise tender. Now focusing on football, will we see a player with the same effort?
Forte was having a fantastic season last year before a knee injury cut his season short. There is no doubt he is the focal point of the Bears' offense but can he continue to carry the load.
There are new options on the Bears' offense that will take the pressure off Forte. Still, the Bears will lean on him heavily. He has maintained a humble and hungry attitude even after signing the deal. His body and skills are going to need to hold up long term to match his heart.
Is Michael Bush just a goal line running back?
Forte has struggled in goal line situations but does that mean newcomer Michael Bush assumes that role? He is an accomplished runner with good pass catching skills but his size seems to have some typecasting him as a goal line guy early on.
He will be important in the red zone, but in order to get full value from him and Forte, Bush is going to have to be a force outside the red zone as well.
Does Kahlil Bell have a fumbling problem?
Last seaon Kahlil put the ball on the ground quite a bit when he was given his big chance. This year during camp he has had the same issue. Is this a problem and will it cost him a job if he does not fix it soon?
Bell is going to have to prove in the preseason he can be a reliable option and hang on to the football. If not then he is opening the door for Armando Allen.
Does Tyler Clutts still have a role on this roster?
It's not Clutts' fault. The NFL seems to be phasing out fullbacks. More elaborate blocking schemes and the need for more skill positions on the field have made the fullback position almost extinct.
Clutts is purely a blocking back. A throwback to the old school. The problem is the league is not played like that anymore. He did not have a rushing attempt last season and only had eight receptions.
It is going to be tough for Clutts to find his role on the Bears. Rookie Evan Rodriguez will be on the field a lot in various spots including the backfield. The Bears might look to keep another tight end, offensive lineman or even wide receiver who can play special teams over Clutts.
He is going to have to go out and prove his lead blocking skills for Matt Forte and Michael Bush are still needed.
Is Brandon Marshall ready for Chicago?
There is no questioning Brandon Marshall's skills or heart. Every time he steps on the field he gives it his all and his production throughout his career has proved that. He comes from two big markets but the spotlight has never been brighter on him than now.
Playing in Chicago offers a different kind of distraction. There's a tremendous amount of pressure playing for a storied franchise that has not won in quite some time and has been dreaming about a receiver of his caliber for years.
Marshall will have to focus week in and week out now more than ever. Jay Cutler and Lovie Smith will be instrumental in making sure he keeps it together mentally during a long season.
Can Devin Hester take pressure off of Brandon Marshall?
The experiment of trying to make Devin Hester a number one receiver is over thankfully. Brandon Marshall will command most of the attention and double teams leaving a lot of one on one coverage for Hester.
There is no questioning Hester's speed but does he have the focus and ability to make big plays to take the pressure off of Marshall? With Johnny Knox out the Bears are going to need Hester to have over 50 receptions this season. Last year he only had 26.
What to expect from Alshon Jeffery this year?
He's big, strong and has the ability to make big plays. People are excited about Alshon Jeffery for good reason, but realistically what can people expect?
There are various thoughts and reasons on why Jeffery slipped to the second round. Erratic quarterback play, attitude issues and poor conditioning are just a few. He was able to get his deal signed and get into camp right away. He is in shape and has not been an issue at all thus far.
It's very tough to put a projection on Jeffery's rookie season. He can come out and big a big time force in the red zone or struggle to pick up the much faster NFL and fall behind in the early going.
Will Earl Bennett continue to be a Jay Cutler guy?
Hopefully Earl Bennett does not get lost in the Cutler/Marshall love fest. The team is still going to need his big catches on third down to succeed. Cutler can not lose sight of his buddy from Vanderbilt.
Is Eric Weems strictly a special teams player?
Eric Weems will make a significant contribution on special teams but does it stop there? Will he be able to get on the field on offense and make some key catches? His play early on in camp suggests he can be a solid wide receiver and not just a special teams guy.
Will we see Johnny Knox this season?
All signs point to no. With the injury Knox had it might be a good idea to let him sit out the season and come back completely healthy next year.
Can Kellen Davis emerge as a go to tight end?
Under Mike Martz's system Kellen Davis did not get too many chances. Still, he had five touchdowns last year but only 18 receptions.
Expect the Bears to use the tight end more this season under Mike Tice. Davis should see a huge jump in targets and is going to have to deliver in big spots. The pressure will be on him to make plays when some of the receivers are being targeted by defenses.
Will Matt Spaeth's production go up?
His high in receptions in his career is 17 in 2008 in Pittsburgh. Matt Spaeth is not necessarily as pass catching tight end but he could be a guy who catches more passes.
Mike Tice loves to use the tight end and play action. With teams targeting in on other players this might be Spaeth's year get over 20 receptions.
Where will Evan Rodriguez primarily lineup?
Evan Rodriguez is listed as a tight end but will he lineup there? He is undersized and could get pushed off the line of scrimmage leading to believe Rodriguez might be more of a backfield guy. He could even split out forcing smaller defensive backs to try and guard him.
Can a team with Super Bowl aspirations trust J'Marcus Webb?
Left tackle continues to be the team's biggest question mark. J'Marcus Webb has taken the majority of the reps at left tackle but can he be trusted? Your franchise quarterback needs time and protection to get the ball down field. Webb could be the most important player heading into the season.
Can Gabe Carimi stay healthy for a season?
There is no doubt the promise of last year's first round pick. Gabe Carimi has an important role in solidifying the right side of the offensive line but he needs to stay healthy. Something he struggled with last year and at times in Wisconsin.
Is the Chris Williams era coming to an end?
Early on it might have been premature to label Chris Williams a bust but what about now? He has struggled with injuries, not been able to prove himself at any tackle or guard position and now he is losing reps.
There is as strong possibility Williams does not even make the team in the Phil Emery era. He could be a casualty of a new GM looking to send a message.
Will James Brown start this season?
The hot name right now is James Brown. The undrafted rookie has impressed early on and seems to be making Chris Williams expendable. Barring any crazy injuries or dip in play he seems poised to make the team.
Can he ride that wave all the way to a starting position? With Carimi's injury history and Webb's inconsistency you might just see it.
Is Chris Spencer the team's best guard?
Much was made of Chris Spencer coming in last year to replace Olin Kreutz. He never got there but ended up having a solid season at guard. Now going forward is he the team's best guard? It may not be saying much but his overall play at the position should still be recognized.
Will the real Lance Louis please show up?
Sometimes he looks terrible. Other times he can go an a run where he looks close to dominant. Nobody is quite sure who the real Lance Louis is but if he shows up somewhere in between what he has shown then the Bears will be in good shape.
Will Chilo Rachal end up being a starter?
The veteran guard was brought in from San Francisco to provide depth. He has been a starter in the league but shown a lot of inconsistencies while with the 49ers. Still, this is the Bears and you can't rule him out as a starter going forward.
Is Roberto Garza a Pro Bowl caliber center?
Lost in shuffle last year was the outstanding play of Roberto Garza at center. This year he has come into camp looking even better. There is no doubt he is the leader and the rock on that offensive line.
If he is able to keep that group together while still playing well he could get some Pro Bowl votes this year.
Is Henry Melton ready to become a star?
Last season Henry Melton emerged as the three technique tackle the Bears have been looking for since Tommie Harris broke down. In just his second season he was able to put up seven sacks. He is going to have to keep up that effort this year but his growth and maturity suggests the Bears could have a future star on their hands.
Is this a breakout year for Stephen Paea?
Henry Melton might not be the only up and coming star among the defensive tackles. Stephen Paea has impressed in camp and has already jumped Matt Toeaina on the depth chart. He has the size and power to be a run stopping force and could be a major driving force on an above average defense.
What to expect now out of Matt Toeaina?
Matt Toeaina has been a solid contributor for the Bears since 2007 but what should we expect now? It looks like he will be bumped down by Paea but he is still an important piece on the line. Let's hope the demotion will not cause him to be bitter because the team will need him to rotate in and still make plays.
Should the Bears give Brian Price a year off?
Brian Price has been through a lot. The injuries have really slowed him down as well as the tragic events in his life. Price has lost two of his brothers to gang violence and a sister to a car accident. He is a very talented player who might need some time mentally and physically to get it together.
The Bears only gave up a seventh round pick for a player chosen in the second round just a couple years ago. They might be able to afford him time off to get his self together and come back focused for next season.
Can Nate Collins find a role on the Bears?
Nate Collins is only 24 years old so he is still a young man. Last year with Jacksonville he had 10 tackles in 12 games. He is going to need all of the preseason to prove to the coaching staff he belongs on this roster and can provide the Bears some decent depth.
Will Julius Peppers finally get the help he needs?
Even last season where there was little production from the other defensive ends Julius Peppers found a way to get 11 sacks. Still, he needs help from whoever is on the other side to force the offenses to pay attention to somebody other than Peppers.
In his two seasons in Chicago he has been at times dominant and extremely productive but in order for the Bears to get full value on Peppers they are going to need somebody to step up.
Are people writing off Israel Idonije too soon?
People were down on Israel Idonije last season with good reason. His pass rushing ability just was not there when the Bears needed it. Was it a down year or did he overachieve in 2010?
Idonije has always been a quality player who has something to prove this season. With a rookie over his shoulder he might show he has a lot more in the tank.
Is Shea McClellin putting too much pressure on himself early on?
No matter who you are or where you were drafted being a rookie in the NFL is tough. The game is faster, more intricate and the learning curve sure is deeper.
Shea McClellin has had his good moments and he fair share of not so good during camp thus far. McClellin has come out and said he has not been happy with certain parts of camp but it is still early. He has time and the pressure to perform right away may not be the best for him at this point.
When will Corey Wootton's potential finally pay off?
For years now we have been hearing about the potential of Corey Wootton. For years we have been waiting for it to translate on the field but to no avail This is probably Wootton's last chance to show something but will it happen? He needs to prove he can play on this level and needs to do it soon.
What do you do with Chauncey Davis?
Chauncey Davis is a solid veteran who has played in this league for quite some time now. Last season he appeared in six games for the Bears racking up nine tackles and one sack. He knows the system and a team can always use veteran help, but is he needed?
He's not a flashy player who stands out on film but he's a player who provides depth. A lot of times those are the guys who are the toughest to cut.
Should we start to worry about Brian Urlacher not practicing?
Brian Urlacher is coming off that knee injury from the end of last season and there are a lot of miles on that body. He has had a recent string of not practicing due to soreness and it might be caused for some concern. He continues to wear a brace on that knee and you have to wonder whether he will be ready for the start of the season.
Can Dom DeCicco have a bigger role on defense?
Dom DeCicco is a second year player who is mostly known as the guy who backs up Brian Urlacher and provides help on special teams. He is however going into his second year of Lovie Smith's defense and should have a good grasp on it now.
With Urlacher's nagging injuries could DeCicco be called upon to take on a bigger role on defense? Is he ready to spell Urlacher if needed and make plays at the middle linebacker position. He will get his shot early in the preseason as not many expect Urlacher to play a great deal.
Is Lance Briggs the best linebacker on the roster?
Since he has showed up in Chicago Lance Briggs has been a star linebacker. He has also been in the shadow of Brian Urlacher but is it possible he's the better player? You will get a fair share of arguments either way but Briggs might put all that to rest if he continues to play at least 15 games a year and continues to average 100 tackles—two things he has done his entire nine year career.
Is Nick Roach underrated or just the guy opposite Briggs and Urlacher?
Nick Roach has been a productive linebacker who can play at any of the three positions on the field. He has been a quality starter but is that because he plays next to two of the game's best? It's an answer hopefully Bears fans will never have to see play out, but it's always fun to wonder what his true value is.
Could Geno Hayes do Nick Roach's job better?
Here's the play on the last question. Could you just stick any guy in that spot or is Roach really that good? In terms of stats Geno Hayes was more productive than Roach in Tampa Bay, but that could be because Roach loses a lot of tackles to two stud linebackers next to him.
It is not expected for Hayes to beat out Roach for a starting position but one can always wonder if it's possible to plug somebody else in to do the job.
Is J.T. Thomas ready to be a special teams standout?
When you play on a team with a linebacker core as good as the Bears your main focus as a backup should be special teams. J.T. Thomas is going to have to impress the coaches in the third phase if he wants to stick around long term. Some players embrace the role while some can't. We will see this preseason where Thomas falls in at.
Has Charles Tillman found the fountain of youth?
What a great season for Charles Tillman last year that resulted in his first Pro Bowl appearance. Early on that has not seemed to slow him down as he has had a very good camp thus far.
For a player entering his 10th season you would think he would begin to slow down, but not Tillman. He seems to be getting better with age but how long can he keep this up?
Can Tim Jennings finally start forcing some turnovers?
Lovie Smith's defense has always been predicated on forcing turnovers. The starters are expected to make game changing plays yet Tim Jennings has struggled to do so with the Bears. In the last two seasons he has had only three interceptions and two forced fumbles.
With an influx of corners in camp Jennings is going to have to start forcing some turnovers or he could find himself out of the rotation.
Is D.J. Moore stuck in the nickel role?
His size does not help. At 5'9'' D.J. Moore is not the kind of guy you look toward when looking for a starting corner. Yet when he is on the field he is a part of those big turnovers the team depends on. It will be tough for him to get a shot as a starter but he could force the issue with his big plays.
Was Kelvin Hayden brought in to be the eventual starter?
Kelvin Hayden is a veteran with good size who came to the Bears already knowing the defense. He also has a knack for getting turnovers which is always a plus. Lovie Smith has had his eye on Hayden for quite some time now and don't be surprised if he rewards him with a starting role at some point in the season.
What does Jonathan Wilhite need to show in the preseason?
Jonathan Wilhite is there to provide depth but does he need to show more? The Bears have a couple rookies who are gunning to move up on the depth chart and that could mean Wilhite has to have a good preseason to hold them off.
Is Isaiah Frey the new gunner?
When there are so many veterans in front of you all you can do is focus on special teams to make an impact. That's what is facing Isaiah Frey right now. His best bet is to prove he can book it down the field and make tackles in the return game in camp and preseason.
Is Greg McCoy the new gunner?
Everything that is said about Isaiah Frey applies to Greg McCoy. The two rookies are battling each other to stand out. The biggest way they can do that right now is on special teams. Both still have an uphill battle because D.J. Moore will figure to get a look at the gunner position as well.
Is Major Wright running out of time?
He has struggled to stay healthy and when he has Major Wright has struggled to make plays. Overall Wright has been a disappointment thus far and he may be running out of time. A starting role is no where near a lock for him and he may be on his way out if he gets hurt again or has more erratic play.
Will Chris Conte finally be the guy to provide some stability?
For the Bears it has been a revolving door at the safety position for quite some time now. It looks like they have finally found a stabilizing force at at least one of the spots. Chris Conte is an athletic enough guy who usually finds himself in the right spot. Right about now that goes a long way for the Bears.
Is Craig Steltz the other starter?
When Craig Steltz got his chance last year he took advantage. The safety out of LSU was originally drafted in 2008 to be a starter but it did not work out that way. Last season injuries catapulted him to a starting role where he performed well. With the shakiness of Wright, Steltz could use this camp and preseason to take the starting job from him.
How long before we see the impact of Brandon Hardin?
People must be patient with Brandon Hardin but he could be something special. His size and playmaking ability were what drew the Bears to him despite missing all of last season due to an injury at Oregon State. When he played in college it was at cornerback so it is going to take time for him to learn the nuisances of the safety position.
It is going to be interesting on how his development plays out throughout camp, the preseason and regular season.
Anything to worry about with Robbie Gould?
Nope, Robbie is still the man and as good as Gould.
What is the magic number for Adam Podlesh's punt attempts to stay under this year?
Hopefully the Bears offense can keep Adam Podlesh off the field this year and keep him under 65 punts. That will be a huge improvement over the 89 he kicked last season.
Can Dane Sanzenbacher make the team?
He will be in a dog fight with Rashied Davis who is back on the team after the abrupt retirement of Devin Thomas. Dane Sanzenbacher is no doubt a fan favorite but the Bears really don't need him on offense as much as they did last year. Special Teams will be a major factor and Davis has always been a standout there with the Bears.
Can Armando Allen force Khalil Bell out?
It will be close but Armando Allen is going to have to have one heck of a preseason if he wants to knock out Khalil Bell. He has had a good start in camp but still needs to prove a lot more.
What about Chris Summers?
The undrafted rookie Chris Summers looks good and has the size needed to play wide receiver but he will most likely be on the outside looking in. The Bears wouldn't have brought back Davis if they thought they had what they needed in Summers. He can't play special teams and that is a huge blow because even then he wouldn't jump Sanzenbacher.
Are too many people not paying attention to Brittan Golden?
Absolutely. Too many are focused on Sanzenbacher and Summers and the real player forcing the coaches to think about their roster cuts is Brittan Golden. Right now he seems to be a guy reserved for the practice squad but if he plays well in the preseason the team might be forced to put him on the roster so another team does not pick him up.