The Chicago Bears' Top Three Training Camp Battles to Watch

Bryan DietzlerSenior Analyst IJune 11, 2010

SAN FRANCISCO - NOVEMBER 12:  Johnny Knox #13 of the Chicago Bears runs for yards after the catch against Dre' Bly #31 of the San Francisco 49ers at Candlestick Park on November 12, 2009 in San Francisco, California.  (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)
Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

Watching the Bears over the past 26 years has led me to believe something. That when they lock in on a player they tab as a starter they really don’t allow anyone else to compete with that player for that starting spot. 

A perfect example of this is when the Bears went into training camp during the Rex Grossman era stating that Rex was their quarterback and no one would compete with him for the job. Look how far that got them. 

The same can be said for Cedric Benson (after the trade of Thomas Jones). If there is no pressure behind them, a player loses focus and doesn’t perform as well as he should.

There promises to be some battles in training camp this summer, especially at three critical positions on the team. As we have seen from stories in the past, the Bears have a glut of talent at the wide receiver position and at the linebacker position. Both of these positions will see a lot of competition during training camp this summer. 

But there is one more training camp battle that should be paid close attention to because it could really affect the outcome of the season for the Bears. 

Which training camp battle is it?  The battle in the secondary at both safety positions.  Let’s take a look at these training camp battles and see if we can’t gain a little perspective on who might win and why.

Wide receiver -Before the start of the 2009 season, fans and media alike were saying that the Bears would not be able to get anywhere with the receivers that they had on the roster. 

Many people felt that the Bears had no true number one wide receiver going into last season and while no “real” number one emerged, we found out that the Bears have a bevy of good talent at the position and can compete with most teams when it comes to the passing game. 

The problem with the receivers last year was their quarterback and some of the youthful inexperience that comes with wide receivers who haven’t started that many games at the position.

So who is going to win the battle for the number one wide receiver spot on the team in 2010?  Hands down, it’s going to be Hester.  The Bears have been grooming Hester for three plus years now and there is no way that this regime is going to let their experiment end (by taking him out of the number one spot).  So that spot is shored up.

Who will follow in behind Hester?  There are two good choices.  One is Earl Bennett, the guy that the Bears redshirted, so to speak in 2008 and started often in 2009.  Bennett is more of a possession receiver than a guy with speed and he has formed a good strong bond with quarterback Jay Cutler.  It’s hard to imagine that the Bears will take Bennett out of the lineup in 2010 so assume he will be the number two wide receiver.

Who will play in the third spot?  Devin Aromashodu had a strong finish to the season last year and the Bears really like what they have in him.  They also have Joaquin Iglesias, Rashied Davis, Johnny Knox, Freddie Barnes, Vic Hall, Eric Peterman and Antonio Robinson. 

You can pretty much figure that Barnes, Hall, Peterman and Robinson will be out of the mix so that leaves Iglesias, Davis, Aromashodu and Knox.  The problem with this is, it’s hard to keep Knox off the field because of his speed and his proven ability.  Still Aromashodu is the bigger target.  This one is a toss up between Knox and Aromashodu.

So who will remain?  You can bet that the Bears will keep Iglesias but will they keep Davis?  It was thought by many that Davis would be out last season but he stuck with the team thanks to his ability to play special teams.  If the feel that Davis is too valuable to let go because of that then he will be with the team again in 2010 in much more of a non-receiver role.

Linebacker -The second training camp battle to discuss is the battle between Nick Roach, Pisa Tinoisamoa and quite possibly Hunter Hillenmeyer.  Hillenmeyer may be a candidate for release but the Bears would be foolish to let him go because he knows the system so well and can fill in when there is an injury.  However, at this stage, it would be difficult to see Hillenmeyer beating out Tinoisamoa or Roach for the job.

Roach did a pretty decent job filling in last season after Tinoisamoa and Urlacher went out with season ending injuries and he’s got the youth and now the experience to be solid at the outside linebacker position. 

Tinoisamoa is an undersized linebacker who still has great speed and can make a difference at the outside linebacker position but for what it’s worth, it’s Roach’s turn to shine and he is the better option at that position.

Safety -Finally, the battle at both safety positions should be interesting throughout training camp.  The Bears traded for Chris Harris and brought him back to Chicago this offseason and it’s highly doubtful that he will sit on the bench.  So pencil in Chris Harris as the starter at the strong safety position.  That should be a pretty easy one to figure. 

The free safety position should be an interesting one as well.  You have guys like Daniel Manning, Craig Steltz and Major Wright vying for the job. 

It’s highly likely that the Bears make roll the dice and with a good training camp, put Wright in and see what he can do.  The Bears seem to be pretty high on him and feel that he could be a starter soon.

If it isn’t Wright then perhaps it could be someone line Danieal Manning or even Craig Steltz.  Manning has a decent shot at the position as well but Wright could be more stable.  This one will be one that may be a little too close to call.

In the end, the Bears will have a good bit of excitement happening in training camp this coming summer with a lot of these position battles.  It will be interesting when watching training camp to see who has the edge, who is falling behind and which positions look the most secure. 

You can bet that the coaching staff is going to foster a lot of competition this training camp knowing that they have to put a winner on the field or else they could all be out of work at the end of the 2010 season.

So keep a close eye on this year’s training camp.  It will be a make or break one for the Chicago Bears coaching staff, management and its players.


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