Chicago Bears: Grading the 53-Man Roster
Quarterbacks: A -
Jay Cutler: A -
Cutler is back and at full strength. He has more offensive weapons than he's had since coming to the Bears. The seven-step drops that were getting him killed last year are gone. He's ready to take his place among the NFL's elite quarterbacks.
There are still questions about the offensive line, but Cutler's skills are rock solid. If he can stay healthy, Cutler could pass for 4,000 yards.
Jason Campbell: B+
Campbell brings a veteran presence to the backup QB position. While he's not going to challenge Cutler for the starting position, Campbell is light years ahead of Caleb Hanie when it comes to managing the offense and leading the Bears to victory.
While Campbell hasn't had a great preseason, he's done well enough that the Bears felt comfortable going into the season with only two QBs on the roster. He's a good backup and should protect the Bears if Cutler is injured.
Running Backs: A
Matt Forte: A-
Forte hasn't done much this preseason. He skipped the spring and summer minicamps during his holdout, but at least he has been on hand for training camp and the preseason games.
He averaged fewer than four yards per carry in the preseason, but that is not a concern. Forte had almost 1,400 yards from scrimmage last year despite missing four games due to injury. Expect more of the same from him this year.
Michael Bush: B+
Bush was signed from Oakland this offseason, where he had more than 1,300 yards from scrimmage despite only starting nine games. He'll play 1B to Forte's 1A in this offense, but will make an impact.
In the preseason, Bush was the short-yardage back, rushing for 25 yards on just nine carries. But he had two goal-line TD runs as well. If the Bears get into the red zone, look for Bush to take them home.
Lorenzo Booker: B
Booker has been primarily a kick-return specialist for his three previous NFL teams. However, the Bears are looking at him as a change-of-pace back as well.
He had one of the most electric returns of the preseason, taking a ball back 105 yards for a TD to open the second half against the Washington Redskins. He also averaged more than five yards a carry against Cleveland in the final preseason game.
The Bears like him as their scat-back to complement the straight-ahead running of Forte and Bush.
Wide Receivers: B+
Marshall has proven to be everything that we wanted him to be. He blows up defenses and displays that ''my ball' mentality that we've lacked in Chicago. Cutler loves him and will work hard to get him involved in the offense. Perhaps the best thing about Marshall is that he takes the focus off the questions about the rest of the receivers.
Alshon Jeffery: B
Jeffery has great physical skills and the talent to be a solid wide receiver in the NFL. He's had a good summer, and with Marshall getting most of the attention, Jeffery has an opportunity to shine.
He will begin the season as a No. 3 or No. 4 receiver. But before the season is over, look for him to be starting opposite Marshall.
Devin Hester: C+
As a wide receiver, Hester isn't turning any heads. He's nowhere near the NFL elite, and he doesn't have a lot of the typical tools that elite receivers need.
He is fast as heck, though. He's dangerous when he has the ball in space, and he's a threat to go all the way every time he touches the ball.
The best thing about Hester is that with Marshall and Jeffery in the offense, he won't be asked to be the top guy. He'll be able to work the slot or line up in the backfield. As the No. 3 receiver, Hester's strengths can be exploited and his weaknesses concealed. For that reason, he's a better receiving option this season than he's been in the past.
Earl Bennett: B
Bears fans are hoping that Bennett can prove that he's worth the big contract he signed this offseason. Like Hester, as the No. 3 or No. 4 receiver, he won't be asked to carry the load. That will allow him to work the soft spots of the defense and keep defenders from crowding the line to stop the run.
Eric Weems: C+
Weems is a smaller, less flashy version of Hester. He is dangerous when he's returning kicks and punts, but he's too small to be a legitimate threat at wide receiver. Look for him to contribute occasionally on offense, or if there's a key injury to one of the guys in front of him.
His contribution to special teams can't be overstated, though. He gives Hester a break and keeps him fresh.
Dane Sanzenbacher: C+
Sanzenbacher survived the final preseason cut with that great one-handed catch against Cleveland. He was more of a possession receiver for the Bears last season, but dropped too many balls that should have been caught.
The word on Sanzenbacher is that he's had a great summer. If he can translate that into solid production, the Bears will have one of the deepest WR corps they've had in many years.
Johnny Knox: Incomplete
Knox is on the Bears' roster, but is on the Physically Unable to Perform list, so he doesn't count against the roster cap. The Bears want to give him every chance to come back from the terrible spinal injury that he sustained last season and will keep him eligible for the active roster as long as possible.
Realistically, though, Knox will be on the PUP until the Bears are forced to put him on Injured Reserve.
Tight Ends: C
Kellen Davis: D
Much was made about Davis re-signing with the Bears after Mike Martz moved on. Yet Davis has done absolutely nothing this preseason to make people think he will suddenly become a stud tight end. In fact, the Bears kept four tight ends, indicating that maybe Davis isn't as good as advertised.
Matt Spaeth: C
Yawn. Spaeth is more of a blocking tight end than someone who contributes on offense. He has done OK this preseason, and he'll help in trying to slow down the pass rush and open holes for Forte and Bush.
Kyle Adams: C+
Adams played himself onto the team this preseason. He provided solid blocking and came up with a couple key catches. He only had three receptions, but two were for more than 13 yards. He may be on the bubble once rookie Evan Rodriguez learns to block, but for now Adams remains on the active roster.
Evan Rodriguez: B-
Rookie Evan Rodriguez presents enough versatility that the Bears were able to keep only three true running backs. That's because Rodriguez is more of an H-Back than a TE. He has good receiving skills and showed that he can create some problems for defenses during the summer minicamps.
However, he has struggled with his blocking assignments and has been frequently overmatched in game situations. When his blocking skills improves, he'll see more time in the offense. However, for now, he's going to see limited playing time.
Offensive Line: C+
J'Marcus Webb: C+
Webb outlasted Chris Williams in the battle for the starting left tackle position. He seems to be a bit more focused than he was last year, but he's far from solid at protecting Jay Cutler's back.
Gabe Carimi: B
Carimi looks to be fully recovered from the knee injury that shortened his rookie season to five quarters. He's been brought along slowly and may not play a full 60 minutes right out of the gate. The Bears hope he can build on his successful preseason and become the strong anchor the teams need on its offensive line.
Chris Williams: C-
Williams was retained as the swing offensive tackle He spent time at right and left tackle in the preseason. The former first-round pick also filled in at guard, but he is clearly still just a backup lineman.
Roberto Garza: B
Garza is entering his 12th season in the NFL, his eighth with the Bears. He's a solid starter at guard and one of the few guys who isn't a question mark on the line. Garza signed a contract extension in November, keeping him with the team for the next two years.
Lance Louis: B
Louis, a seventh-round pick from San Diego State in 2009, has been a nice surprise. He's a versatile guy who can play both guard and tackle, and he's another guy that the Bears have come to count on. He's in a contract year and will be looking for a big payday next season, so expect him to give 100 percent effort every week.
Chilo Rachal: C
Rachal came over from the 49ers this offseason, signing a one-year deal with the Bears. He saw a lot of action in the final three preseason games but had mixed results. He managed to do enough for the Bears to keep him as a backup, but he's probably not going to challenge for the starting role.
Chris Spencer: C
Spencer came over from Seattle last season and was expected to replace former Chicago standout Olin Kreutz. However, he struggled in pass protection, so the Bears moved him to guard. Depending on hos the rest of the lines shakes out, he'll probably platoon at both guard positions.
Edwin Williams: B
Williams played well during the preseason and is a big key to the success of Chicago's offensive line. He has areas he needs to improve, but you can expect to see more of him this season as he continues to grow.
Defensive Line: B+
Julius Peppers: A
Peppers is fresh off a Pro Bowl season and he's been a beast in limited action for the Bears during the preseason. If he can stay healthy, Peppers is going to be one of the top defensive ends in the league this year.
Israel Idonije: A-
Despite the strong expectation that rookie first-round pick Shea McClellin would replace him as the starter, Idonije has retained his role opposite Peppers. Idonije also showed good versatility by moving in to defensive tackle when McClellin was at defensive end.
Idonije is a free agent at the end of the season, so he'll be motivated to produce this year.
Shea McClellin: C+
When the Bears passed on upgrading the offensive line to reach for McClellin in the first round of this year's draft, the expectation was that McClellin would be a starting defensive end.
However, it's becoming evident that McClellin will be more of a situational pass-rusher rather than an every-down DE. He can still be effective in that role, but he's a long way from becoming a complement to Peppers.
Henry Melton: B
The Bears have high hopes for Melton this season. He has good versatility and can play either DE or DT. Last season, Melton had seven sacks and 24 combined tackles, playing primarily from the DT position. He is a free agent at the end of this season, and both he and the Bears are looking to secure a long-term deal. He's had a good camp, but was fairly quiet in the pre-season.
Cheta Ozougwu: B
Ozougwu played his way onto the team this preseason by showing the ability to make plays and disrupt offenses. He's still raw as a pass-rusher, but he's shown a lot of promise and is a nice addition to a DL that is getting a little long in the tooth.
Corey Wooton: B-
Wooton is in his third season with the Bears but has not yet been able to earn a starting position. He's had a good camp and played well with the second- and third-stringers. However, he's a backup again this season.
Stephen Paea: Incomplete
Paea was showing great improvement in his second season. He had the inside track to become the starting nose tackle, but a foot injury has him sidelined for several weeks.
Matt Toeaina: B-
Toeaina was in danger of losing his starting job before Paea went down to injury. Toeaina stepped back in, but did not have a standout preseason. He'll start in the middle of the defensive line, but could be replaced when Paea returns from injury. For now, the job is Toeaina's to lose.
Nate Collins: B+
Collins was suspended for the first game of the season for violating the league's substance abuse policy. He has had a solid preseason and should be a solid contributor when he returns. He was signed to only a one-year deal, so he will be highly motivated this year.
Amboi Okoye: Incomplete
Okoye was released by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and re-signed with the Bears today. The Bears cut Brian Price to make room for him. Okoye had 27 combined tackles and four sacks for the Bears last season.
Lance Briggs: A-
Briggs is fresh off his Pro Bowl appearance, and the Bears are going to need him even more this season. He is great at stopping the run and dropping into pass coverage. He's had a good training camp and has performed well in a limited capacity.
Brian Urlacher: Incomplete
Urlacher has spent most of the preseason dealing with the knee injury that he sustained last season. He's had several procedures on the knee. In August, he had a scope to help clean up some of the problems and speed the healing process.
Urlacher and the Bears maintain that he will practice this week and be ready for the Colts, but everyone is a bit skeptical until they see him on the field.
Nick Roach: B
Roach has filled in for Urlacher while he has been injured and will be the starting middle linebacker if Urlacher isn't ready to go this weekend. His performance has been mixed so far, blowing up running plays one moment, then missing a tackle or being out of position on a passing play the next.
If Urlacher isn't ready, Roach will be the guy. If Urlacher plays, Roach will move back to the strong-side position where he is more comfortable.
Blake Costanzo: B
Costanzo was signed to provide depth on special teams and at linebacker. He has had a great preseason and will start on special teams right away.
Geno Hayes: B-
With Roach filling in for Urlacher, Hayes has been filling in for Roach. He hasn't had much success, but has shown enough to warrant a roster slot. He'll provide depth at linebacker and could be a spot starter if Urlacher can't go this week.
J.T. Thomas: B-
Thomas signed a four-year deal with the Bears in July and will provide depth at linebacker and on special teams. He's performed well this preseason. The Bears are looking for more ways to get him involved in the defense.
Patrick Trahan: C+
Trahan was a member of the practice squad last year, but the Bears promoted him before the end of the season. He didn't see much playing time but has shown solid improvement this preseason.
Defensive Backs: C
Charles Tillman: B
Tillman is coming off a Pro Bowl season and is easily the best cornerback on the team. However, he struggled at times during the preseason, especially against the New York Giants in the Bears' third preseason game. But unless he's injured, he'll still be the starter.
Tim Jennings: B
Jennings has had a good camp and probably will begin the season as the No. 2 corner opposite Charles Tillman. Jennings has struggled at times in previous seasons, but an improved pass rush could help take some of the pressure off him this year.
Sherrick McManis: Incomplete
McManis is a backup corner who came to Chicago at the end of last week in a trade for fullback Tyler Clutts. We'll learn more about how McManis fits into the thin Chicago secondary this week.
Kelvin Hayden: C
Hayden was competing with Jennings for the starting cornerback job. He struggled at points during the preseason, but he's still a solid DB when he is healthy. He'll probably see a lot of time this season, even though he's not a starter.
Anthony Walters: B
Walters is in his second season with the Bears, but he's still a raw talent that needs to develop. He played well during the preseason and will have additional opportunities with the injuries to Chris Conte and Brandin Hardin.
Walters has shown good promise in stopping the run and pass coverage. He's an aggressive kid who has some upside.
D.J. Moore: C
Despite beginning his fourth season with the Bears at a position of need, Moore is still not much more than a backup DB. He's shown some promise in camp this summer but has struggled at times in coverage. He'll begin the season as the No. 4 cornerback.
Chris Conte: Incomplete
Conte was about to secure the starting free safety position when he suffered a separated shoulder in the second preseason game. He has been listed as day-to-day ever since. He is expected to miss additional playing time. We will know more this week.
Craig Steltz: B
Steltz is in his fifth season with the Bears and is expected to see significant playing time after breaking out as a starter in 2011. He's had a good preseason, and with the injuries to Brandon Hardin and Chris Conte, he'll definitely be on the field a lot this week.
Major Wright: B-
Wright also emerged as a potential starter last season, but he had trouble staying healthy. He has shown some promise this preseason despite being banged up after the Week 1 game against Denver. The Bears also plan to use him as an extra blitzer.
Jeremy Jones: B
Jones played himself onto the team with a solid performance in the final preseason game. He finished with just four tackles, but his interception in the first quarter was the key to Chicago getting out to an early lead.
He's young and needs time to develop, but he has shown some signs of having a solid game. That's something the Bears desperately need from their secondary.
Special Teams: A
Robbie Gould: A
Gould was 9-for-9 on extra-point attempts during the preseason and hit his first six field goals before missing one against Cleveland in the final game. He's a rock-solid kicker who the Bears count on to put the exclamation point on all their scoring drives.
Adam Podlesh: Incomplete
Podlesh, the starting punter, had been averaging more than 43 yards per punt before sustaining a hip injury in the Washington game. He's a big part of the Chicago special teams, and the Bears fully expect him to return this season. But his injury could force to missing several games this month, so his grade is an incomplete.
Ryan Quigley: A
Quigley stepped in nicely for the injured Podlesh during the last two-and-a-half games and really showed that he deserved to make the team. He pinned the Browns deep three times in the final preseason game, and even recovered a fumble on the fourth return.
At this point, he would lose his spot to Podlesh if he returns from injury. But Quigley has at least a week or two before the Bears are faced with that decision. If he can't hang on with the Bears after that, he will have time to show people why he belongs with another team.
Patrick Mannelly: B
Mannelly, the long snapper, is entering his 15th season with the Bears. Chicago experimented with Tyler Clutts at long snapper in the preseason, but he was eventually traded for a defensive back, leaving Mannelly as their lone option.
Mannelly is solid and doesn't get enough credit for the success of the Chicago kicking game.
Team Grade: B
Being completely honest, even the most diehard Bears fans will agree that there are pretty big questions about this current team. The offensive line is average group and the defensive secondary has looked very vulnerable at times.
Are the upgrades on offense enough to make up the difference? They definitely are an improvement over last season. With the home opener on Sunday and a trip to Green Bay just four days later, we're going to find out pretty quickly just how high our expectations should be.
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