Initial Post-Draft Depth Chart for the Chicago Bears
The Chicago Bears used the 2013 draft to add depth and athleticism. Each of the players drafted will have a chance to make his mark on the roster. However, it's possible that none of the players selected this year will open the season in the starting lineup.
Kyle Long, Jonathan Bostic, Khaseem Greene and Jordan Mills all have veterans ahead of them on the depth chart. It's important to note that injuries are a major part of the NFL. This means that these rookies will see playing time even if they don't open the season as starters.
Starter: Jay Cutler
Backups: Josh McCown and Matt Blanchard
Despite the presence of Jay Cutler, the Chicago Bears have some issues at the quarterback position. Issues along the offensive line have resulted in a string of injuries for Cutler. At this point, Josh McCown is far from the answer in the backup role.
The Bears' offseason moves show that they hope Cutler can finally remain healthy for a full season.
Outside of some injury issues, Cutler has struggled to play with a ton of consistency. The Bears focused a lot of the offseason's resources towards improving the talent around Cutler. Adding Jermon Bushrod and Kyle Long promises to fix some of the problems along the offensive line.
Cutler may no longer have any excuses to not meet expectations.
Starter: Matt Forte
Backups: Michael Bush and Armando Allen
Marc Trestman and Aaron Kromer possess the offensive minds to make use of Matt Forte and Michael Bush. These are two very different running backs who can be in the lineup at the same time.
Forte is a dynamic pass-catcher and showed in the past that he has the ability to split out at wide receiver. Look for Forte to get more opportunities in the passing game this season. He could prove to be a real matchup problem for opposing defenses.
Depth is a little bit of a concern, as Forte has been forced out of the lineup the past few years with injuries. The versatility of this position virtually disappears with him off the field.
Starters: Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery
Backups: Earl Bennett, Marquess Wilson, Eric Weems, Joseph Anderson and Devin Hester
Chicago struck gold when it landed Brandon Marshall for two third-round picks last year. Marshall is the offense's top playmaker and most consistent presence. He has a great relationship with Jay Cutler that only figures to improve with another offseason.
The Bears brought in Alshon Jeffery to complement Marshall on the outside. His season development was slowed a bit by injuries, but Jeffery showed a ton of promise. He boasts the size and leaping ability to make plays down the field. Jeffery just needs to develop as a route runner in order to make a bigger impact.
This unit does lack speed and someone capable of working out of the slot. Earl Bennett continues his hot-and-cold play and can’t be counted on moving forward. This is why the Bears brought in Marquess Wilson via the draft.
Wilson has some off-the-field concerns but is a highly talented player with a ton of upside. There is a good chance that he makes a strong push for the slot-receiver job.
Starter: Martellus Bennett
Backups: Evan Rodriguez, Steve Maneri and Kyle Adams
The signing of Martellus Bennett allows the Bears to finally move on from the disappointing Kellen Davis. Bennett is a well-rounded tight end who does a good job opening running lanes and attacking the seam.
Steve Maneri and Kyle Adams are nice backup options who’ll be worked in from time to time.
It’ll be interesting to see how Trestman works Evan Rodriguez into the mix. He entered the league as a tight end but was transitioned to fullback. Rodriguez showed promise as both a blocker and pass-catcher at that position.
Starter: Jermon Bushrod
Backups: J’Marcus Webb, Kyle Long and Cory Brandon
Jermon Bushrod was paid a lot of money to help improve Chicago’s offensive line. He isn’t a flawless player but represents a major upgrade. It’ll be interesting to see how Jay Cutler responds with improved pass protection.
J’Marcus Webb will be given every opportunity to win the starting right tackle job. However, he will be the primary backup to Bushrod. Webb dealt with a lot of inconsistency but represents a solid backup option at this spot.
The Bears brought in Kyle Long with the idea of playing him at guard. However, he’s athletic enough to eventually shift outside to left tackle.
Starter: Matt Slauson
Backups: Kyle Long and James Brown
Kyle Long and Matt Slauson will enter camp in a heated battle for the left guard spot. Slauson’s experience combined with the rawness of Long could mean the rookie starts the year on the bench.
However, Slauson is really only an average player who will need to step up his game in order to keep the starting job.
James Brown is a nice rotational backup with upside. He saw some important playing time late last year and showed promise. He still needs time to clean up his technique and actually might have a better future at right tackle.
Starter: Roberto Garza
Backup: Edwin Williams
Roberto Garza has had a very good career but is starting to show signs of age. At this point, he’s nothing more than an average player whose best attribute is his leadership. Garza will remain the starter because the Bears don’t have another option.
Edwin Williams continues to be pegged as a developmental prospect. However, it might be time to come to grips that this is the height of his potential. He has a chance to stick on the roster because he serves as a backup at both center and guard.
Starter: Gabe Carimi
Backups: Eden Britton, Kyle Long and Edwin Williams
Chicago is hoping to salvage Gabe Carimi’s career by moving him inside to guard. However, he’ll need to earn the starting job and face some fierce competition. The Bears will allow Carimi, Matt Slauson, Kyle Long and Eden Britton to battle for the two starting guard spots.
Britton is an intriguing addition because he has flashed talent, but injuries have kept him from finding consistency. Obviously the Bears are hoping to find some lightning in a bottle.
The best-case scenario here is for Carimi to finally fulfill his potential.
Starter: J’Marcus Webb
Backups: Jonathan Scott, Gabe Carimi and Jordan Mills
The right tackle position will be one of the more closely monitored spots on the Bears’ roster. Chicago is hoping that J’Marcus Webb will be able to hold up better on the right side than he did at left tackle.
There’s no doubting Webb’s talent, but he must work on becoming a more consistent player. If he embraces this new role, he could develop into one of the better right tackles in the NFL.
Chicago did a good job adding some insurance by resigning Jonathan Scott. He saw some action late last year and proved to be a steady contributor.
The addition of Jordan Mills in the fifth round gives Chicago a young right tackle to develop. He has a lot of potential and could develop into a starter in the near future.
Keep an eye on Kyle Long, as he’s athletic enough to play offensive tackle in the league. His versatility is one of the things that made him such an attractive prospect.
Left Defensive End
Starter: Corey Wootton
Backups: Shea McClellin, Cornelius Washington and Turk McBride
Look for Corey Wootton and Shea McClellin to split playing time. Wootton is the more rounded player who can set the edge against the run and get after the quarterback. He showed last year that he has the potential to make plays behind the line of scrimmage.
McClellin flashed a ton of promise last season, but he must become a more consistent player. At this point in his career, he relies too heavily on his athleticism.
The Bears will likely use a similar rotation as last year. They’ll let Wootton work on early downs and bring in McClellin in passing situations.
Cornelius Washington gives the Bears a developmental player with a ton of upside because of his elite athleticism.
Defensive Tacke (Three-Technique)
Starter: Henry Melton
Backup: Nate Collins
Henry Melton might be the most important player on the defensive side of the ball. His ability to work his way into the backfield really disrupts the offense. He’s the type of player who’ll rush the passer, stop the run behind the line and laterally purse the ball.
The issue at this spot is that Chicago lacks depth behind Melton. Nate Collins is a solid contributor but isn’t capable of matching the explosive plays produced by Melton.
This lack of depth is something the Bears have to continue to monitor through the rest of the offseason.
Defensive Tackle (Nose Tackle)
Starter: Stephen Paea
Backup: Andre Fluellen
The nose tackle spot is in a similar situation as the other defensive tackle position. Outside of Stephen Paea, the Bears are counting on the unproven Andre Fluellen to play meaningful snaps. The depth of this position is a bigger concern because of Paea’s injury history.
This position is important on several levels. The nose tackle is asked to hold at the point of attack, occupy blockers and stuff the run. Chicago’s loss of Brian Urlacher will be even more noticeable if Paea and Fluellen struggle.
Right Defensive End
Starter: Julius Peppers
Backups: Shea McClellin, Corey Wootton and Kyle Moore
Despite showing signs of his age, Julius Peppers continues to play at an elite level. He’s the type of player opposing offenses need to account for at all times. His ability to both play the run and rush the passer makes him an all-around contributor.
In order to keep him fresh, the Bears will need to ensure they give Peppers rest throughout the game. Corey Wootton, Shea McClellin and Kyle Moore will all be worked into the rotation.
Of the three, Wootton possesses the skills that most resemble Peppers. He’d be the guy asked to step up if Peppers went down with an injury.
Starter: James Anderson
Backups: Khaseem Greene and JT Thomas
Everybody has focused on the loss of Brian Urlacher, but the Bears are also facing the task of replacing Nick Roach. Chicago is hoping that either James Anderson or Khaseem Greene can fill the void.
Greene is an intriguing player who features a ton of athleticism and quickness. He’s the type of linebacker who makes plays all over the field. Greene loves to both deliver big hits and generate turnovers.
The only reason Anderson has a slight edge is because of his experience. However, it won’t be long until the coaching staff notices what Greene can bring to the table.
Starter: DJ Williams
Backups: Jonathan Bostic, Blake Costanzo and Dom DeCicco
D.J. Williams and Jonathan Bostic will head into training camp fighting for the starting middle linebacker job. Williams has a slight advantage because of his experience in the league, but Chicago will give Bostic every chance to claim the job.
The fact that Williams has experience lining up at outside linebacker means both players could find themselves in the starting lineup.
Bostic brings quickness and athleticism to the unit. He was added in the draft mainly because Chicago needs to find a long-term replacement for Brian Urlacher. The Bears didn’t decide to bring Urlacher back mainly because he has lost a step over the past few years.
Starter: Lance Briggs
Backups: JT Thomas and Khaseem Greene
Lance Briggs is the only remaining starting linebacker for last year left on the roster. He’s now the unquestioned leader of the unit and arguably the defense’s top playmaker. Chicago is counting on him to not only continue his production but act as a mentor to the younger players on the roster.
Briggs will be backed up by young and unproved players. JT Thomas and Khaseem Greene are the top players who’ll be asked to step up should Briggs suffer an injury.
Thomas saw some playing time last year and is a high-upside player. He needs to focus on improving his consistency and using proper angles.
Starter: Charles Tillman
Backups: Kelvin Hayden, Zack Bowman and Sherrick McManis
Charles Tillman gained a lot of media attention last year for his strong play. However, he’s played that well for his entire career. Tillman is a difference maker who not only creates turnovers but can match up against a team’s top offensive weapon.
His durability is also an important factor to his success. Tillman has shown the willingness to play through injuries.
Depth at the cornerback position is a concern for Chicago. If one of the starters is forced out of the lineup, Kelvin Hayden will be asked to step up. Hayden is a solid veteran presence but offers little upside.
Starter: Tim Jennings
Backups: Kelvin Hayden and Zack Bowman
The Bears have done a great job working with Tim Jennings and fitting him into their system. Jennings is a ball hawk who excels at reading the quarterback and pulling down interceptions.
Despite his smaller stature, Jennings plays a physical brand of football and can hold his own against bigger targets.
Kelvin Hayden and Zack Bowman are the two main backup options at both cornerback spots. They are also the two who will enter camp fighting for the nickelback role. Again, these are solid veterans who bring little upside to the table.
Starters: Major Wright and Chris Conte
Backups: Tom Zbikowski and Craig Steltz
Chris Conte and Major Wright have a strangle hold on the starting safety spots. Both are good athletes who support the run and hold up in coverage. Wright is more of a big hitter but features the quickness to coverage sideline to sideline.
This is one of the positions where the Bears have good depth. Both Craig Steltz and Tom Zbikowski have starting experience. They have their deficiencies but are more than capable of filling in for a couple of games.
Depth is important here because Conte and Wright have both missed time over the past few years.