The time is nigh for playbooks to be turned in and dreams to be shattered (shadooby). The Bears final preseason game is tonight against Cleveland, with a heavy dose of backups and UDFAs showcasing their skills in hopes of securing a spot on the final roster or possibly proving they deserve a shot on the practice squad. Final cuts for the 53 man roster must be complete by Saturday, so lets take a look at our final roster predictions and battles to watch for tonight. Hit the jump if you think Les still owns a Kris Kross cassette tape.
This is the third incarnation of the 53 man roster prediction I've compiled this preseason (my week two version is here if you're interested). So far, out of the guys I've listed as locks to make the team on any of my lists, Gholston's the only one to get the axe. The final spots that are up for grabs though are interesting, not only because of how we've treated certain positions historically - keeping only five wideouts, four running backs, or loading up on D-lineman - but also the schematic consequences (no need for true fullback, but could use additional tight end/h-back with a solid blocking background).
Below I've listed my final roster and followed it up with a few of the key roster spot battles to look for tonight. Also, a key factor to consider for the future is that veterans who are added to the roster after week one have non-guaranteed contracts; so while this is my week one roster for the Bears, the very next day could see some movement (Pisa, Clark, Brown, etc).
3 QB - Cutler, Hanie, Enderle
3 RB - Forte, Barber, Bell
6 WR - Knox, Bennett, Williams, Hurd, Hester, Sanzenbacher
3 TE - Spaeth, Davis, Clark
8 OL - C. Williams, Webb, Carimi, Garza, Spencer, Louis, Omiyale, E. Williams
10 DL - Peppers, Idonije, Wooton, Melton, Adams, Okoye, Paea, Toeaina, Addison, Reed
6 LB - Urlacher, Briggs, Iwuh, Roach, Thomas, DeCicco
11 DB - Tillman, DJ Moore, Bowman, Graham, Jennings, Wright, Harris, Conte, Steltz, Josh Moore, Venable
3 ST - Gould, Podlesh, Mannelly
With Unga on the reserve/left squad list, he's out, and Chester-gate will come to its natural conclusion on Saturday. Dez Clark's injury makes me wary to include him, since they could cut him now and bring him back once he's healthy. But, I'm going to go with my heart and say Clark earns the spot over Eddie Williams and Will Ta'ufo'ou, both more natural fullbacks, and UDFA h-back Kyle Adams. This roster spot is still wide open, I feel, and could be won by one of the young guys tonight.
Offensively, I think we roll with only eight offensive lineman and try and save a practice squad spot for one or two of the guys like Linnenkohl or Levi Horn. I'm actually hoping Horn makes it, but I see his spot going to the defensive side of the ball. Keeping ten defensive lineman is a lot, but with Wooton out in short-term I say both Mario Addison and Nick Reed get to prove they can be role players. Once Wooton's back, I say Reed gets the axe, but we'll see. I'd love to have Alex Brown back on a minimum deal, but that wouldn't happen until after week one. Harrison's a goner, as is half the budget for players' meal per diems.
With the linebackers and defensive backs, we're relying on rookies like Thomas, DeCicco, and Winston Venable to contribute on special teams and prove to be at least worth a roster spot at their respective positions. Venable's a late addition for me, but his name has been gettting more notice and I think he locks down a spot primarily for special team's contributions (which makes up for Sanzenbacher's lack of an identified s.t. role thus far). However, any of these guys could be gone for a veteran early in the regular season if we need some veteran depth like Pisa or other free agents for the back seven that don't survive final cuts.
If the roster plays out as I see it, we'll have nine rookies on the roster, which means if they step up and can lock down their roster spots, we're in good shape. But, this prediction also leaves us a bit thin depth-wise on the offensive line and at linebacker. Add your thoughts and predictions in the comments section.