Predicting the Winner of the Chicago Bears' Biggest Training Camp Battles

Ross Read@@RossReadContributor IIIJuly 21, 2014

Predicting the Winner of the Chicago Bears' Biggest Training Camp Battles

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    Predictions in the NFL are about as common as a slightly funny yet annoying fantasy football team name. The days leading into training camp are the best time for predictions because it makes watching guys practice in shorts more exciting. 

    What are the key position battles for the Chicago Bears? Safety, as you can imagine, is on the list along with a starting linebacker role. We added three more battles in for good measure and can't wait to monitor them all. 

    Here are the players we predict to win the key position battles during Bears training camp. Don't forget to share your thoughts in the comments selection below. 

Backup Quarterback

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    The Bears couldn't compete financially with what Josh McCown got from Tampa Bay, so they let him walk. Phil Emery and Marc Trestman are going to roll the dice with either Jimmy Clausen or Jordan Palmer. 

    Palmer knows the offense, having spent last year with the Bears even though he has never started an NFL game. His regular-season experience comes into question, but he did play well in the preseason last year. 

    Clausen started 10 games in his rookie year, winning only one. He had a very poor 58.4 quarterback rating over the stretch with three touchdowns and nine interceptions. 

    Clausen and Palmer aren't exactly great options to choose from. Palmer, at 30 years old, is the older of the two, but Clausen could carry more upside if he's able to adapt to Trestman's coaching. 

    If the team was set on Palmer, then why bring in Clausen to begin with? Palmer struggled through some minor injuries during offseason workouts and his throwing was erratic. Clausen seems hungry to prove he's not a complete bust, and that could carry him a long way in training camp. 

    It will be a tight battle that will look painful at times, but in the end, it will likely be Clausen by a hair. You just can't put a value on having a decent amount of regular-season experience, even if it was as bad as Clausen's. 

Kick/Punt Returner

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    There's big shoes to fill now that Devin Hester is down in Atlanta. Eric Weems, Michael Ford, Chris Williams and Armanti Edwards will all battle it out. 

    Weems has the most experience out the bunch and has to be the favorite coming in. Ford had a few shots at it last year and has done it in college, while Williams was a CFL standout return man and Edwards has had some chances throughout his five years in the league. 

    Fans are going to be excited about what Williams brings to the table, but his receiving skills will hold him back. He's a smaller guy who just doesn't have the route-running ability or consistency to be an NFL wide receiver. 

    This really gives Weems the inside advantage. He knows how to block and run routes as a receiver, has been a successful gunner on kick coverage and can return kicks. His experience measures out in trust from the coaching staff, and that's huge with Marc Trestman. 

    The Bears let Hester go in part because of money, but also because he didn't provide any other value outside of returning kicks. They are looking for players who can contribute in all facets of the game, and that's why Ford will likely be the third running back and will share duties with Weems as the primary return man. 

Strong-Side Linebacker

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    The Bears have Lance Briggs and D.J. Williams locked in to the weak-side and middle linebacker spots. Youngsters Shea McClellin and Jon Bostic will battle for primary playing time at the other position. 

    It's been a tough two years for McClellin, and Bostic had a rough go at it last year. Both players are looking to avoid the bust label and prove they are solid defensive players in the NFL. 

    Bostic has a little more time to develop, but this is a make-or-break year for McClellin. He needs to show he was worthy of a first-round pick in this all-important third season. 

    Bostic will see some significant playing time on special teams and nickel roles, but McClellin really should take the majority of snaps. 

    The Bears can do so many different things with McClellin on the field, it would be a mistake not to have him out there as often. He can rush the quarterback, has the speed to keep up with tight ends and the versatility to drop back in coverage. 

    As long as McClellin can play the angles against the run, then he should be just fine. You just can't take the many things you can do with him on the field for granted, and it could be a nightmare for opposing offenses to game-plan against. 

Long Snapper

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    Get ready for the sexy battle at the glamorous long snapper position. OK, so it's not as exciting as quarterback, but it's still very important in the grand scheme of things. 

    The Bears are forced to replace Patrick Mannelly, who recently retired. He was the team's long snapper for 16 seasons and leaves atop the leaderboard in career games played in a Bears uniform. 

    The scene now shifts to former University of Houston product Brandon Hartson and former CFL player Chad Rempel. 

    This is an interesting battle. Hartson was a standout snapper at Houston, but Rempel has history with Marc Trestman, and coaches always love who they already know. 

    In the end, Hartson's size and mistake-free football should win out, but Rempel could make it closer than expected. 

Free Safety

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    It would take a miracle for Adrian Wilson or M.D. Jennings to unseat Ryan Mundy at strong safety. All the attention should be placed on the free safety battle between Chris Conte and Brock Vereen. 

    Conte is last year's much maligned starter, while Vereen is the mid-round rookie darling. Vereen has the inside edge right now in large part due to Conte's current injury situation and the fact we haven't seen him hit the field yet.

    Don't count Conte out just yet. He had a poor season last year but still is only 25 years old and wasn't bad at all in his first two seasons.

    Vereen has all the talent and intangibles to win this job right away. He comes from a strong football family and has proved to be wise beyond his years. 

    It would take an out-of-this-world training camp and preseason for Conte to win this job, and that's just highly unlikely. As long as Vereen doesn't fall apart, he should be the opening-day starter.