The first week has passed. Some answers are becoming clearer, while some questions are developing. Let's take a look at who has stepped up, who has taken a step back, and who is fighting for a spot.
First off is the wide receiver situation. Devin Hester and Earl Bennett look pretty locked in as the starters. But after that, it's basically a free for all.
Rookie Juaquin Iglesias should make the 53-man roster. He has looked pretty good in drills and in the seven-on-seven scrimmages. Also making waves is Brandon Rideau, who has been growing and developing on the Bears practice squad for the past couple seasons. Both should be safe.
That, of course, leaves three players for what we will say is one spot left (assuming the Bears only keep five receivers). Those three are veteran Rashied Davis, rookie Johnny Knox, and practice squad star Devin Aromashodu.
Each one of them has a case to be made for that final roster spot.
Davis is the experienced veteran and the only receiver other than Hester to record a reception in a real game last year. Knox has blazing speed and pretty decent hands and should only improve with experience. Aromashodu has had arguably the best training camp of the three, drawing praise from new QB Jay Cutler.
But when it comes down to it, I believe that Davis will make the team based strictly on experience. Knox will get moved to the practice squad and Aromashodu will probably end up on the short end of the stick. If they keep six receivers, then Knox is in and Aromashodu is bound for the practice squad once again.
The next issue is the battle at cornerback. With Peanut Tillman out with injury, second-year player Zackary Bowman has not only stepped in to fill the void but has outperformed the other starting cornerback, Nathan Vasher.
It had gotten to the point where there was talk of having Tillman and Bowman as the starters with Vasher as the backup, once Peanut returned.
Then, of course, Bowman immediately strained a hamstring and missed practice (rookie D.J. Moore filled in for him and looked decent, picking off Cutler once).
So it looks like it will still be Vasher and Tillman as starting corners with Bowman as the third option. But here is where it gets a little crazy: Danieal Manning was supposed to be the nickel corner, but he is currently pegged to be the starting free safety, ahead of Corey Graham, Craig Steltz, and Josh Bullocks.
That would leave Moore and Trumaine McBride left to fight it out for the nickel spot. However, if Graham, Bullocks, or Steltz can jump ahead of Manning at the FS spot, then Manning would be the nickel corner and McBride and Moore would be fighting for playing time as the fourth option.
Of course, if Steltz or Bullocks win the job, then the other one would back up strong safety Kevin Payne and Graham would be in sole possession of the reserve spot for FS.
If Graham wins the FS battle, then I guess Manning would be starting nickel AND the backup free safety with Steltz backing up Payne and Bullocks sort of a back up to both?
OK, OK, OK. My head is hurting too. Next issue...
(The coaching staff certainly does not make things easy.)
The offensive line. And to be more specific, since there is really only one battle, Josh Beekman vs. Frank Omiyale.
Many had Omiyale pegged as the starting guard when the Bears signed him from the Carolina Panthers practice squad. But Beekman has not only held his own, he has been earning a majority of the reps with the first team.
While this has surprised some, don't look for Omiyale to back off. These next couple weeks and first two preseason games will be crucial so as to give the offensive line some time to jell before opening weekend in Green Bay.
The fourth battle is a little under the radar, but it is in the linebacker corps. Pisa Tinoisamoa is battling it out with Hunter Hillenmeyer for the strong side spot.
Honestly, I had predicted that Hunter would be cut early so as to allow him to sign with another team and slide Pisa in. The Bears must have missed my memo because while they did cut a veteran linebacker, it was Joey LaRoque, not Hillenmeyer.
This means that Hunter is still being considered as a possible starter. While I believe that Pisa will eventually win the spot, Hunter will press him to work harder for it than all of us thought.
The intriguing aspect to all of this is that there has been no mention of Nick Roach in any of the starter discussions. Considering he took Hunter's spot midway through last season, you think he would have at least made it somewhere in the debate.
But all we have heard is General Manager Jerry Angelo mentioning that Roach has looked "impressive" early in camp (Although that comment was made after he said the same thing about Jamar Williams and Pisa).
And finally, the battle at quarterback...Caleb Hanie vs. Brett Basanez vs. bringing in a veteran.
I know, I know, but if something happened to Jay Cutler, we need to know who would be coming in.
I am firmly in the Caleb Hanie corner. I think the kid has some real potential and if Jay should go down for an extended period of time, I do not think that Basanez or anyone of the half decent/half lousy veterans available will lead us to the Super Bowl.
Most people seem to feel that this contest is really Hanie vs. a veteran...Which could include, but is not limited to, anyone of the following:
- Gus Frerotte
- J.P. Losman
- Ken Dorsey
- Anthony Wright
- Do I really need to continue?
- How about Jeff George? He could still play right?
Unless someone is cut suddenly from another team, the Bears will keep these three (Basanez might get dropped down to the practice squad), and that's how it should be.
So all of these things are happening, plus some other interesting sidenotes:
- Apparently, Tommie Harris had his knee scoped in March and is just now getting around to telling us about it.
- Marcus Harrison showed up to camp 30 pounds overweight.
- Talks of having Henry Melton returning a kick off or two in a preseason game have begun.
- The Bears signed OL Donovan Raiola. He has been in the league since 2006, but spent all of his time on the practice squad. He is basically just another body to fill in on the line. The only reason I mention it is because he is the younger brother of Dominic Raiola, starting center for the Detroit Lions.