Breaking Down Chicago Bears Two Deep Depth Chart at the Start of Training Camp
As the Chicago Bears enter training camp, the top of their depth chart is mostly set, but there are a few jobs still up for grabs.
The Bears biggest roster battles will come further down on the roster. It's hard to say who their third-string running back or center will be, but the starters and backups at those positions are set.
Still, they do have some starting jobs that will be contested. Most of the Bears' offensive line is far from settled and the infusion of youth has created some interesting competition at linebacker.
For this depth chart, I listed three wide receivers on the Bears' offense. My thinking is that they'll have three receivers on the field most of the time, given their lack of depth and talent at both fullback and tight end.
Here is how the top of the Bears' roster stacks up as they head into training camp, but some of these are certainly subject to change.
Cutler is as entrenched as any starter on the Bears or in the league. Cutler's arm strength and mobility make quarterback gurus like new head coach Marc Trestman salivate.
Trestman has made it known that he's eager to work with Cutler. If he can get the most out of him, it should be a great season for the Bears.
McCown is a veteran back up who hasn't had a lot of success in his career. Still it's hard to judge how valuable his experience is. Many fans are calling for Matt Blanchard to challenge McCown, but the veteran looked like a huge upgrade compared to the more talented—yet undrafted—Caleb Hanie two years ago when Cutler was injured. The Bears would probably rather not throw Blanchard to the wolves should Cutler suffer an injury again this year.
When healthy, Forte is among the best all-purpose running backs in the league. The Bears figure to use his receiving skills much more this year than last year when he caught a career-low 44 passes.
Bush is thought of as mostly a goal-line back, but he's capable of more. He doesn't have the speed or elusiveness of Forte, but he's a powerful runner and capable receiver out of the backfield.
With two guys capable of carrying a starting load in the running game and having an impact in the passing game, few teams are as deep as the Bears at this position.
Perhaps the weakest spot on the Bears roster. So weak, in fact, neither player may make the team.
Fiammetta was signed after the team decided to move on from Evan Rodriguez, due to his numerous legal issues. However, he has had a hard time sticking in the NFL since being a fourth-round pick of the Carolina Panthers.
Unga came into the league with an interesting skill set. He topped 1,000 yards rushing and 10 touchdowns in three seasons at BYU and caught over 40 passes twice. The Bears selected him in the seventh round of the 2010 supplemental draft, but he has yet to play a regular season game.
It's possible that neither Fiammetta nor Unga will be with the Bears at the end of August. There has been talk that they'll use an H-Back more, which could lead to Kyle Adams lining up in the backfield.
Marshall re-wrote the Bears' record books last year and is among the best players at his position in the entire league.
He enjoyed being reunited with Cutler last season, finishing with career bests in receptions (118), yards (1,508) and touchdowns (11). In three full seasons with Cutler as his starting quarterback, he's averaged 108 catches and 1,366 yards. In three years without Cutler, he averaged just over 89 catches for 1,116 yards.
When opponents took Marshall away last year, the Bears' offense was lost. They need someone else to step up.
As of now, it looks like Anderson will get the first crack at backing Marshall up. He made a good impression in the offseason. He'll be challenged by veteran Devin Aromashodu and a number of young receivers.
Jeffery struggled to get open consistently and stay healthy last season. The Bears need him to have a big year and there's reason to believe he'll come through for them.
He showed the ability to make big plays against lesser defensive backs, but good defenders seemed to lock him down. His inability to get open without pushing off may have cost the Bears their game against Green Bay as he left a few big plays on the field.
When Jeffery did go down last year, Bennett replaced him opposite Marshall. The Bears would likely prefer Anderson, Aromashodu or one of the younger receivers to step up so they can keep Bennett in the slot.
When he's been healthy, Bennett has been a very good slot receiver. He struggled to beat man coverage at times in 2012, but seems to be a good fit for Trestman's West Coast offense.
Not the biggest or the fastest, Bennett has very good hands and is very good after the catch. Mike Tice's offense seemed to make players rely on their physical abilities to get open, while Trestman's does so with scheme.
It will be interesting to see how the Bears would replace Bennett should he be injured again. Weems has the skill set of a slot receiver, but hasn't played much due mostly to his lack of height.
Seventh-round rookie Marquess Wilson is an interesting prospect. He may not yet be strong enough to play outside, but wouldn't have to worry as much about press coverage in the slot.
The Bears could also line Marshall and Forte up in the slot more this year to take advantage of mismatches.
Bennett was the Bears' best free agent signing because of a number of things he brings to the Bears' offense.
Many fans are excited about what Bennett brings to the team as a receiver as he caught 55 passes for 626 yards with the Giants last year. He's big and fast, making him a hard player for defenses to match up with. However, he'll never be confused for Jimmy Graham.
Where Bennett can really help the Bears is in the running game, as he's proven to be an excellent blocker.
Maneri is a former offensive tackle who the Bears are hoping can still block like one. He may not be quite what Matt Spaeth was as a second tight end, but if he can hold his ground, the Bears should be happy with what he brings to the team.
Bushrod isn't Orlando Pace in his prime or anything, but if he can play like he did two years ago, he should be a step up for the Bears.
He isn't necessarily a better pass-blocker than J'Marcus Webb is, but he's a good run-blocker and doesn't commit many penalties. According to STATS, he's committed six penalties each of the last three years, only three of which were holding calls.
Scott started seven games on the right side for the Bears last year, but can play both. He's started 35 games at both tackle spots in his career and was the starting left tackle for the 2010 AFC Champion Pittsburgh Steelers.
Slauson started all 48 games for a very good New York Jets offensive line over the last three years.
The veteran out of Nebraska was perhaps the Bears' most underrated free agent signing as he's been a solid player. He didn't give up a sack or commit a single holding penalty in 2012, according to STATS.
Williams has been solid when he's filled in at guard and he also figures to be the backup center. Because of inexperience of the players at the other guard spot, the Bears may keep Williams as a reserve to Slauson while James Brown and Kyle Long learn right guard.
Since switching to center from guard two years ago, Garza has struggled, but his experience is still valuable. In a division with three of the best interior defensive lines in the league, the Bears need a center who can hold up mentally and not get embarrassed physically.
However, Garza is now 34 years old and due to decline physically at any point. Williams should be a solid reserve and could push him if he shows he can read blitzes.
Undrafted rookie P.J. Lonergan has become a popular name amongst fans, but it's highly unlikely he'll be ready to play this year. Undrafted rookie centers don't typically play much and it's hard to see the Bears throwing him in against the likes of Ndamukong Suh, Nick Fairley, Kevin Williams and B.J. Raji.
This is almost certainly temporary, but it might be difficult for Long to overtake Brown before the start of the regular season.
Brown was good enough for the Bears to keep a close eye on him last year and he got into the starting lineup briefly due to injuries and Chilo Rachel leaving the team. As you would expect from an undrafted free agent, he struggled. The new coaching staff seems to like him, however, as he was singled out by Trestman during a minicamp.
Long has the talent to be a dominant guard in the league, but his inexperience could put him too far behind to catch up right away.
He didn't start at guard until the end of the year in his one season at Oregon. He was also forced to miss much of the Bears' offseason program, due to NFL rules that prevent any draft pick to take part in anything other than rookie minicamp until after the school he attended has completed final exams.
It will be an uphill battle, but he's a beast physically and is a hard enough worker to make it an interesting battle.
After playing left tackle the last two years, Webb will move to the right side. He was a much better left tackle than he got credit for and switching sides isn't always as easy as many think.
He still has a lot of talent and is just 23 years old, so he should be able to transition over and become a quality right tackle. Even if he's only as good as he was on the left side, the Bears will have a huge upgrade at right tackle.
Scott only gave up one sack and committed one penalty in the seven games he started on the right side last year. However, he struggled to hold his ground in the run game and was beaten more than the sack numbers indicate. The Bears would like for him not to play at all this year.
Peppers had a little bit of a down year in terms of total impact, but still led the Bears with 11.5 sacks. That number is the most he's had since signing with the Bears, but he didn't seem to be able to consistently pressure the passer as often as he did before.
A large part of the reason for that could have been because he was playing with plantar fasciitis. However, at 33 and with 11 years under his belt, it's fair to wonder how much Peppers has left.
After battling injuries for much of his first two season. Wootton broke out with seven sacks for the Bears. He'll battle for the starting job opposite Peppers and could rotate inside at defensive tackle.
The surprising and sudden retirement of Sedrick Ellis left some question marks for the Bears at this position.
Since moving inside from defensive end two years ago, Melton has continued to improve.
Although he's still raw and not as good at stopping the run as some of the other top defensive tackles, Melton brings elite quickness and athleticism to the interior of the Bears' line.
He'll be playing this year under the franchise tag and the Bears may wish they had been able to hammer out a long-term deal if he continues to improve.
As a former high second-round pick, Paea hasn't had quite the impact many hoped for. He's been a good player for the team, but many expected him to be a dominant run-stuffing tackle and he just hasn't been that.
It was widely expected that Ellis—a former first round pick—could push Paea or at least take some snaps from him. When Ellis decided not to show up to camp, the Bears were left without much depth at the position.
Collins is a little-known tackle who played for current Bears' defensive coordinator when he had the same job in Jacksonville. He showed flashes of pass-rush ability that make him a valuable reserve.
The team signed Jamaal Anderson to take Ellis' roster spot, but he's been a defensive end his entire career. That leaves the door open for undrafted free agents Zach Minter or Brent Russell to possibly make the team.
The Bears didn't spend a first-round pick on McClellin for him to sit on the bench again this year.
The pass rusher from Boise St. was a little better than he was given credit for last year, as he created pressure with his speed. However, the Bears need him to finish the job and finish with more than 2.5 sacks. They also need him to be stronger in the run game so he can stay on the field.
Wootton started last year and it wouldn't be a shock to see him beat out McClellin again this year. With Peppers' advanced age, the Bears need both players to show they can consistently get to the quarterback and stop the run.
Weak Side Linebacker
Briggs is among the best in the business and will be asked to take a bigger role with the Bears in 2013.
With Brian Urlacher's retirement, Briggs has been asked to call the plays for the Bears' defense, a task the 10-year veteran should be able to handle.
The Bears drafted Greene to contend with James Anderson on the strong side, but he also will likely be the long-term replacement for Briggs at weak side. Should something happen to Briggs, the Bears shouldn't hesitate to throw Greene in and see what he can do.
With two of the most physically talented inside linebackers in the league, the Bears competition for the starting job should be fun to watch.
Williams has had his share of legal issues, but he was a high first-round pick and has played reasonably well when he has been on the field. The Bears' Cover 2 defense is ideal for his physical traits.
Bostic was among the most athletic linebackers in the 2013 draft and could push Williams. He played on a great defense in college at Florida and the Bears are hoping he'll be the face of theirs going forward.
Strong Side Linebacker
Out of all the starters on the defense, Anderson's job might be the least secure.
Anderson was an average starter for Carolina. Signing him as a free agent gave the Bears' a reliable option if they weren't able to fill the position another way.
Then came the draft where they selected Bostic in the second round and Greene in the fourth. One would have to believe that the Bears didn't spend two of their first three draft picks on linebackers to have both of them sit on the bench.
If Anderson isn't the starter, the most likely scenario is that Bostic would start in the middle and Williams would move to the strong side.
Greene came into college as a safety, so he's still relatively raw. He made a lot of big plays at Rutgers, but the learning curve might be a little steep for him.
Tillman and Jennings are among the best duos in the league, but Hayden is a weak spot.
Tillman is arguably the best player at his position and he seems to be getting better with age. He returned all three of his interceptions for touchdowns last year and forced 10 fumbles, an incredible amount for a cornerback.
Jennings' biggest weakness prior to last year was his ball skills, but he showed major improvement by intercepting nine passes, two more than he had in his previous six years combined.
Hayden was the reserve to both of them last year and was the starting nickelback. He struggled in every role the team gave him in 2012, but they didn't bring in much competition.
Since the Bears took Conte in the third round in the 2011 draft, he's continued to improve.
He broke into the starting lineup as a rookie and has shown great range in coverage. Now, entering his third year, he may be poised for a breakout season.
Like Conte, Hardin was a third-round pick, being selected in 2012, but he has yet to play in the NFL. He's a little bigger and slightly more athletic than Conte, but he missed last season with an injury and also didn't play his senior season at Oregon State.
Even if he were to impress in camp this season, it's unlikely he'd beat out Conte. However, he could contend for a role in the Bears' nickel package.
Finally able to stay healthy, Wright has a breakout season for the Bears. He finished with career highs across the board and was one of the better safeties in the league.
Now in a contract year, the Bears need Wright to prove he can build off of his 2012 season and stay healthy for the second year in a row.
Steltz is a solid, dependable veteran who lacks ideal size and speed. He'll have to fight off free agent Tom Zbikowski in camp, but right now I give the edge to Steltz due to his knowledge of the scheme and leadership.
Since coming to Chicago, Gould has been automatic, but that may not be the case anymore.
The most accurate kicker in team history and one of the most accurate in the history of the league, Gould is in the final year of his contract, which would count for nearly $3 million against the cap this season.
Gould made headlines recently by going public with his desire for an extension and the fact that the Bears declined to give him one.
At 32 years old and coming off an injury, the Bears might want to see if Gould can still kick at a high level.
What's curious, however, is the fact that they signed Signor to a three-year deal. Signor is 26 years old and was an unknown before the Bears signed him after a tryout in minicamp.
The writing is quite clearly on the wall. It's Gould's job to lose, but if Signor is even close to him, the Bears will go with the younger and cheaper option.
Podlesh may be in the same shoes as Gould, but his contract is almost half the size and his competition may not be as good.
Podlesh struggled early last season, but improved as the year went on. He doesn't have a huge leg, but he's accurate and never out-kicks his coverage.
Way has the leg Podlesh lacks, but may not have the accuracy needed to kick for the Bears.
If the Bears' special teams unit runs the same way under Joe DeCamillis as they did under Dave Toub, they'll place a premium on accuracy from the punter position.
At his best, Hester was unquestionably the best kick returner in the history of the game. At his worst, he's barely employable. He'll likely have to be the former to keep his job this season.
Hester had a down year last year, but he's had down years in the past and rebounded. The difference now is that he's 30 years old and will be 31 before the end of the season. It's possible that he's past his prime as a return man.
The Bears signed Weems last season to a relatively rich contract for a special teams player. In addition to covering kicks, Weems is a more than serviceable return man as he made the Pro Bowl in 2010.
If the competition is close, I'd expect the Bears to go with Weems to save a little money and a roster spot.