Position Battles Bear Watching In '09

Ed LeiserCorrespondent IMay 13, 2009

HOUSTON - DECEMBER 28:  Head coach Lovie Smith of the Chicago Bears waits on the sidelines during a 31-24 loss to the Houston Texans ending any playoff hopes during the second half at the Reliant Stadium December 28, 2008 in Houston, Texas.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

Northwestern-product Brett Basanez, Caleb Hanie, and some kid named Cutler will battle for the coveted quarterback job in training camp. It should be a tightly-contested battle too.

Returning to reality, let's take a look at the position battles that figure to actually take place. 

First off, is the offensive line where major offseason action occurred. 

Free-agent Frank Omiyale was added, as was veteran tackle Kevin Shaffer. The biggest acquisition, of course, was Pro Bowl tackle Orlando Pace.

In Pace, the Bears figure to have their Week One left tackle, while Shaffer provides depth in case Pace gets dinged up.

With Omiyale (who signed a nifty contract might I add), the Bears figured him for a starting job, possibly at guard. 

Angelo pulled a curious move, considering Omiyale has one career start in the National Football League.  I know the Bears like him, but shouldn't the guy have some game experience to fall back on?

Josh Beekman, 25, started 16 games last year at left guard for the Bears. You would have figured it was Beekman's job to lose, considering his stability along the line on last year's 9-7 team. 

Don't forget Matt Forte, who had over 1,200 rushing yards as a rookie last year. Surely the presence of Beekman had at least a little to do with that.

But the Bears have feared that Beekman's size (6'2", 310 pounds) could limit him.  Picture a defensive lineman lining up over Beekman, towering over him.  Usually, the big hogs on the offensive line do that.

Prediction:Omiyale wins the job, if for no other reason than to justify his offseason contract. Both players are young (Omiyale is 26), but I have to believe Omiyale wins this in the closest call for the Bears' coaching staff.

Looking at another important position, that of safety, we find the Bears with numbers on their side.  The problem, however, appears to be that talent will not join those numbers.

Between Kevin Payne, Craig Steltz, Josh Bullocks, Glenn Earl, Al Afalava, and possibly Danieal Manning, the Bears must find two capable NFL safeties. 

Payne looks solid as a strong safety, so let's pencil him in for now. With 88 tackles last year, good for fourth on the team, it means he has a chance to be the man for another 16 starts in 2009.

But who can play the other safety out of the remaining group of players?

Bullocks and Earl were cast away from previous teams, Afalava is a rookie, and Manning has been in position limbo since his rookie days back in 2006.

Prediction:Look for Steltz to win the job, but, hopefully, lose some of that crazy hair.  Steltz is probably too small, too young, and too slow to be a play-making NFL safety, but the roster simply does not have a better option at this point.

Since Steltz is a former Jerry Angelo draft pick, he will be given the chance to win the job and succeed. 

A third position battle to keep an eye on is the competition at wide receiver, where every spot is on the line, except for the No. 1 role. 

While Devin Hester is certainly not a No. 1, he is the best on this team.  For every other spot on the depth chart, the Bears will have competition.

Rashied Davis has experience on his side, but Earl Bennett has Jay Cutler on his.  The former Vanderbilt mates could renew their quarterback-receiver relationship and spark a decent three-man rotation for the Bears.

Others in the hunt are rookies Juaquin Iglesias, Johnny Knox, and Derek Kinder. No one is certain what impact, if any, this group can make. 

Prediction: It is Greg Olsen and Matt Forte that team up with Hester as the three-man rotation the Bears crave while Davis becomes a steady option. Bennett is too raw at this point to be considered an impact player on next year's team.

The Bears always provide entertaining training camps, and this summer will be no different. 

Also, thank goodness we don't have to suffer through another QB-controversy like we seemingly do every year.  That is, unless Basanez or Hanie...well, never mind.


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