Chicago Bears: 5 Fringe Players Who Must Play Well vs. New York Giants
For a team considered to be a playoff contender, the Chicago Bears still have question marks at a few positions. Going into Week 3 of the preseason facing the New York Giants, there are a few guys who must play well to solidify themselves as starters, or begin the year with the second team.
The Bears have positional battles at WR, S, OT, OG, and DE. Some may appear to be locked up, but there are still a few weeks of practice to go, and one of the fringe players make push their way into the starting lineup.
The Bears still are poised to make a playoff run, and if they can, a Super Bowl run this season. Chicago has the best offense since Cutler arrived, and the defense has only improved with the addition of Shea McClellin, and the emergence of Stephen Paea and Henry Melton.
I expect every position to be locked up within the next two weeks, but the next five players must play well against the Giants in order to lock up their spot.
Bears left tackle, or is it right guard, no wait it's right tackle Chris Williams has been shuffled around the line every year since he was drafted in 2008. He struggled holding off the pass-rush at LT and had trouble staying healthy and on the field.
The 2012 season appears to be a new situation. Williams has shown some of the potential that caused the Bears to use a first-round pick on him.
The Bears are looking to pressure current penciled-in starter J'Marcus Webb and have been giving starter reps to Chris Williams.
A good performance against the Giants could be enough to push Williams permanently in with the first team. He has shown flashes this preseason, but if he can put together an all-around solid performance, it could be enough to lock him in.
Alshon Jeffery has made tremendous strides in camp, quickly working himself up the depth chart. As of the second preseason game against the Redskins, Jeffery was still listed as the No. 2 receiver behind Devin Hester.
It may be a formality, but Jeffery still must go out in the third preseason game and end the discussion of whether he or Hester should start.
Bears coach Lovie Smith and offensive coordinator Mike Tice seem to like the potential that Jeffery possesses. He has become a staple in the red zone and has gotten plenty of time with the first team.
Chicago expects Jeffery to be the clear-cut No. 2 but they want to give Hester his fair shot. A solid performance against New York and the starting role is all but his.
The Bears drafted Oregon State safety Brandon Hardin in the third round. He has performed well in camp and back in July, the Bears stated they want Hardin to fight for a future starter spot. However, the future may be here sooner than expected for both Hardin and the Bears.
Hardin was carted off the field against the Redskins after suffering an apparent neck injury, however, he has stated he feels well enough to play. But, as they should, the Bears are taking precautions with the rookie as to not risk re-injuring him.
If he is allowed to play against the Giants and turns in another solid showing, he could be moving into a starter role for a Bears team that seems to have a carousel of safeties every year.
Kelvin Hayden was a solidified starter over the first seven years of his career. He came to the Bears with his old teammate Tim Jennings in place as the Bears starter.
Hayden has put pressure on current nickel starter DJ Moore, however. As recently as Aug. 13, Hayden was taking first-team reps at the nickel position.
DJ Moore has had the position maintained for the last two seasons, but in an attempt to bring in more depth, the Bears signed Kelvin Hayden.
He is now finding himself in a position to start for, what has the potential to be, a tremendous Bears defense. Hayden is also currently listed as the No. 2 cornerback behind Tim Jennings, so it is now out of the question for a strong performance to boost Hayden up.
Keep an eye on him vs. the Giants, as this could be a position battle that has a big impact on the Bears defense.
A lot has been discussed of Shea McClellin, from whether he should be a DE or a LB, to whether he will start for the Bears.
Going into their third preseason game, the Bears have moved McClellin up to starter, but that doesn't mean he has it locked up yet. Veteran Israel Idonije is not going to go out without a fight. So McClellin better come with his best against the Giants.
Idonije put up 2.5 sacks and forced a fumble in the win against the Redskins, and another performance like that will have McClellin on edge.
The rookie needs to come out and show that he can be the starter opposite Julius Peppers. McClellin has flashed the speed and quickness of the line the Bears touted, now it's just a matter of putting the whole package together.