Chicago Bears: Which Bears Players Are Firmly on the Roster Bubble?
With a shortened camp this year, young players will have less time to prove themselves worthy of a roster spot, and some veterans will have less time to prove themselves still capable or as having taken the next step.
Every year, we say goodbye to a few players that fans were excited about or guys who were fan favorites in that underdog sort of way.
Guys like Brandon Rideau, Eric Peterman, Freddy Barnes and Woodney Turenne have been camp standouts whose bubbles burst when the Bears made final cuts.
So who is sitting on the bubble this year? What young players have a shot at making the team and what veterans need to proven they belong in order to remain on the roster?
Follow me and we'll take a look at some of the young talent that might have a shot of making the team and some of the members of last year's roster who might be fighting for their spot.
DT Marcus Harrison
Harrison is one of the veterans in trouble.
In his three years in the league, Marcus has seen his production drop every year since being drafted by the Bears in the third round of the 2008 NFL Draft.
And it's not like those numbers are dropping off of stellar beginnings. In his rookie year, he posted two sacks, two passes defended and 28 tackles as a rotational defensive tackle. His sophomore effort saw him start nine games, but his production drop off, recording just one sack and 24 tackles. And in his third season, he only suited for five games with no starts and posted just a batted ball and three tackles.
Marcus also has failed his physical for the second time in his career, showing up overweight to training camp.
The bears Drafted Stephen Paea in the second round this year and brought in Amobi Okoye in free agency. With Anthony Adams, Henry Melton and Matt Toeaina firmly cemented on the roster, Marcus Harrison could be the odd man out.
WR Dane Sanzenbacher
Dane is an undrafted free agent that Chicago Brought in to compete for a roster spot as a wide receiver.
Making the roster is tough for any undrafted rookie, and it will be no easier for Sanzenbacher. But he could very well be up to the challenge.
At 5'11 tall, Dane won't be the biggest guy out there, but fits into the size mold of most of the receivers on the team. And while he doesn't have the blazing speed of Hester or Knox. his 4.56 40 time isn't prohibitive of his joining the Bears.
He has good hands and was productive at Ohio State in their pro-style offense. And early word is that he's been doing pretty good in camp.
Can this kid convince the Bears to keep six receivers on the roster?
C Alex Linnenkohl
Some have called Alex Linnenkohl the steal of the undrafted free agents. In a position that has had some pretty good success in recent years from UDFAs, Alex looks to be a bargain.
The Bears lost Olin Kreutz, and the man they brought in via free agency to replace him may not be an upgrade at all.
Linnenkohl will certainly benefit from Spencer's absence from the opening of camp due to newly signed players not being allowed to practice until August 4. He will also benefit from the Bears getting a look at Chris Williams and Roberto Garza at center, neither of who inspired confidence as a backup should Chris Spencer fall to injury.
The Bears may not want to trust being able to stash Linnenkohl on the practice squad after losing QB Dan Lefevour last season after attempting to stash the 2010 sixth round draft selection on the practice squad.
Alex is on the bubble, and he might have a great chance of making the team if he performs as expected.
S Craig Steltz
If Craig Steltz had even average athletic ability for the NFL, he would be starting in Chicago.
Unfortunately, the heady fourth-year safety is lacking in that department. Still, he's made the club's roster in spite of being on the bubble virtually every year. Will this year be different?
Steltz hasn't exactly been productive, and outside of the beautiful interception you see above, hasn't done much outside of special teams.
But he is as smart as they come and has a fantastic football IQ. In limited playing time, he has managed to put his athletically inferior body in positions to succeed. And he has managed to outlast more gifted safeties on the Bears roster.
Every year, Steltz seems to be a leading candidate to get cut. And every year, he somehow squeaks through. I don't see this year being any different. The Bears didn't resign Josh Bullocks and lost Danieal Manning to Houston in free agency. They didn't bring in an veteran free agents to fill the holes, and only signed two UDFAs at the position.
Chicago generally keeps five or more safeties on the roster, and given Steltz's veteran underdog status, don't expect both undrafted rookies to surpass him.
RBs Chester Taylor, Harvey Unga and Kahlil Bell
The bears have one of the best all-purpose running backs in the league in Matt Forte and just signed power-back Marion Barber.
That leaves Chester Taylor, Harvey Unga and Kahlil bell in an awkward position. The Bears are not going to carry five running back into the regular season, and it's possible they don't carry even four backs past final cuts.
Taylor had a disappointing season in 2010, being misused as a short-yardage back. Bell was seldom used and hasn't really done much since his first rush in the NFL, a 72 yard rumble back in 2009. In fact, he recorded no statistics in 2010. And Harvey Unga spent 2010 on redshirt/injured reserve after the Bears spent their 2011 seventh round draft pick to grab him up in the 2010 Supplemental Draft.
So who stays and who goes?
Taylor has a skill set that allows him to spell Forte without a significant change in ability or specialty, But he's also going to turn 32 in September. How much does he have left in the tank? Taylor also doesn't provide much to the special teams unit, which is generally expected of a third or fourth string running back
Bell was a one-play wonder who doesn't do much on special teams, either.
Unga is a relative unknown. He's a larger back who has decent speed and surprising agility for a bigger rusher. How much of his college game that will transfer to the NFL is unknown.
All three of these players are at risk, and it could come down to special teams contribution as the determining factor.
Now it's your turn, ladies and gentlemen. Step up to the soapbox below, also known as the comment section, and tell us what you think. Who will make it? Who will be cut? Got someone else in mind? Let us know below!