It's time to play the percentages. Who's in, who's out? If we look back at the last 3 years we can gauge what this coaching staff might do with respect to how many guys stick at each position. The last 3 seasons Bears' rosters coming out of camp are at these links: 2008, 2009, 2010.
Here we go...
Trevor Vittatoe: 0%
Running Backs (3 or 4):
Chester Taylor & Khalil Bell: 50%
The Bears kept 4 running backs & no fullbacks last year. Wolfe was a special teamer only though. He's gone, so will they keep 4 again, or maybe try and keep a fullback to play H-back instead of having a TE play that roll this season? Is Unga a running back, a fullback, or could he be an H-back? Will he finally play? With Barber's arrival, I think Chester Taylor is gone, because he doesn't play special teams. The preseason games will flesh a lot of this out. Keep an eye on who is playing a lot of special teams. Watch where the fullbacks & Unga are lining up and how they are being used to get an idea of what the coaches might be thinking: 4 RBs or 3 RBs + 1 FB/H-back.
Tight Ends (3):
Andre Smith, Kyle Adams: 5%
The top 3 are set. The Bears kept 4 tight ends last year, but Dez Clark was inactive most of the season. In Martz's offense, a TE is typically used as an H-back lining up on the line and in the back field. Without 4 good TE candidates on the roster, will the H-back roll go to Dez Clark or maybe the Bears keep a fullback instead to do those duties. We'll know more after a couple of preseason games. If Smith (an undrafted free agent out of Virginia Tech) or Adams (UFA Purdue) look good, then they are a definite practice squad candidates, but long shots at the 53-man roster.
Wide Receivers (6):
Dane Sanzenbacher: 80%
Travis Cobb: 0%
Since I believe the Bears will only keep 3 TEs, this gives them the ability to keep 6 wide receivers. Mike Martz, who obviously is wielding more power these days, grins widely at this. The top 5 seem set (barring injury of course) and Sanzenbacher is making a lot of news with his ability out of the slot & knowledge of the offense. If he impresses in preseason games & shows off some special teams chops, then he'll move to the 100% column. The rest of them really need to shine to make the team. Except for Fantuz, all 3 of the young receivers are practice squad candidates.
Offensive Line (8):
Chris Williams, Lance Louis: 95%
Edwin Williams: 90%
Webb, Garza, Spencer, & Carimi are locks. Spencer signed a 2 year deal, and even if he doesn't start; having a veteran full-time center on the roster seems obvious to me. As the entrenched swing tackle and having a modest salary and even some guard ability, Omiyale has got to be a lock. Williams & Louis are starters for now, but C-Will had a disastrous preseason and start to the season last year. If he looks just as bad in the 1st couple of preseason games I would not be shocked if he's a surprise cut. Remember Josh Beekman last year? Louis looked good enough last preseason to open the season as a starter. He couldn't play through minor injuries though. If he gets nicked up again and starts to sit out, then watch out.
Edwin Williams looks like the 8th lineman to me. The Bears have kept 8 offensive lineman the last 3 seasons, so he makes the most sense as a backup center & guard. Carimi, Webb, & Omiyale are the tackles, and Chris Williams in a real pinch could be the 4th, so I don't see the Bears keeping Horn as a backup tackle. Asiata is a guard but is behind the rest right now. The others are just camp bodies, and practice squad targets.
That's 23 or 24 players on offense. I would think they would definitely keep 24; the last 2 seasons they've kept 24 on offense & 26 on defense. Look for that to continue. Either they keep 4 running backs or 4 TEs or 7 receivers to get to 24. I'm betting on them going with 4 running backs, with the 4th being a fullback or Unga.
Spencer Lanning: 0%
Even though Lanning has looked great by all reports, the Bears didn't pay Podlesh all that money to just cut him.
Defensive Line (9):
Amobi Okoye: 95%
Vernon Gholston: 50%
Marcus Harrison: ZERO %
The Bears have kept 9 defensive lineman the past 3 seasons. With the amount of importance they put on the position, look for that to continue. The 7 100% guys are obvious. Okoye has impressed, so as long as he looks capable in the preseason, they'll keep him. Getting the 9th guy isn't so easy. The Bears would need another Defensive End if that is their top 8. Gholston would fit the bill, but he's been getting a lot of negative reports from camp. The rest of the guys have an opening. We'll have to watch closely to see if anyone steps up in the preseason. If no one does, then the Bears could scour the waiver wire for a veteran DE to fill out the roster. Marcus Harrison is a lazy, out-of-shape sloth. He's as good as gone.
J.T. Thomas: 95%
Top 4 are set, and all J.T. Thomas (assuming he stays healthy) has to do is show anything on special teams and he should make the team. I think the Bears will go out and sign another linebacker to get to 6. The rest of those names are camp bodies at worst, practice squad candidates at best. Who's the backup MLB? Hillenmeyer is gone. Roach was not capable at it, and he's a starter now. Is it Iwuh? Or maybe Totupu? Tinoisamoa? Or a vet cut later in the preseason?
The only drama is if the Bears change their mind on Hayden or go get someone else. Has Joshua Moore progressed enough to warrant another year on the roster? We'll find out in the preseason games. The Bears have kept 6 corners the last 2 seasons, so I expect them to do that again.
Craig Steltz: 95%
Steltz is what he is-Dane's favorite NFL player. He's got some experience & special teams ability. Conte has impressed so far. The Bears have kept 5 safeties the past 2 seasons (11 DBs total), so I'm a bit shocked they don't have another veteran in camp. Josh Bullocks is still out there! Venable & Walters have a shot at making the team looking at the numbers at the position.
That's 25 defensive players with the numbers I have above, and only 52 total. Is their room for a 10th defensive lineman? a 5th safety? a 7th corner? or a 7th linebacker? Or do the Bears go with 25 on defense and let Martz take another guy for offense to get to the full 53-man roster? We'll see.