Earlier this week, prior to the start of various NFL teams reporting to training camp, NFL.com decided to rank the top 30 various position battles around the NFL. Predictably, the Bears had two entries on this list - at number 16, they put the battle for the second starting wide receiver (which they predict as Earl Bennett's spot for now, with Alshon Jeffery potentially taking over midseason). And at number 13, they put the (fairly obvious) left tackle battle between Chris Williams and J'Marcus Webb, of which they have Williams predicted to win.
That being said, there are a couple other position battles that could prove to have some fairly interesting results and ramifications on the 2012 Bears team. No arbitrary rankings here (the entirety of the Oakland Raiders at #3? Really?!), just hit the jump.
First, are position battles overrated? I don't think so. No, not every position battle means the team will be great or not based on the results of that position. And in some situations, the entire battle could be a sham - I'd bet somewhere Rex Grossman is nodding his head silently. But a team has to improve in some manner, and up and down the roster, there are more players at a position than there are available roster spots for that position. How's that figured out? Sometimes through contract status, sometimes through weighing off-the-field factors, sometimes injuries, and sometimes through actual competition.
I mean, would Lester do an entire series on something that doesn't matter? (Speaking of which, watch for Position Battles to drop some time in the near future...)
With that being said, there are a couple other position battles that could impact the team.
Let's start with Israel Idonije and Shea McClellin. Idonije didn't have the greatest of seasons last year from a pass-rushing standpoint, and the Bears did spend a first round pick on McClellin. But Idonije does play the run well enough to warrant seeing the field on first and second down, and until McClellin can develop the ability to shed an engaged tackle, as he struggled with yesterday, he'll probably be limited, particularly in the early going, to being the third-down rush specialist. That being said, for the most part, McClellin played pretty well yesterday.
Of course, second cornerback might be an interesting battle as well, with Tim Jennings being challenged by Kelvin Hayden, who didn't play too badly himself last night. And Pro Football Focus was all over the right guard battle last week.
The third and fourth tackles should be pretty interesting too - Henry Melton has the three-tech starting spot pretty much locked, but could Matt Toeaina be budged for Stephen Paea? And if Brian Price is healthy, how much playing time can he work himself into? (Well, I guess we'll find that one out starting on Tuesday...)
To something a little more down the depth chart, how about the sixth receiver. The Bears probably have five receivers set, barring injury, in Brandon Marshall, Jeffery, Bennett, Hester, and kick returner Eric Weems. The sixth could be up in the air, as that's essentially Devin Thomas versus Dane Sanzenbacher. But before you ridicule me for saying Sanzenbacher might be in play for that receiver spot, hear me out. Thomas was signed mostly to be a special teams player, particularly a gunner, which Corey Graham manned. The Bears have been trying Thomas there, along with Isaiah Frey, Greg McCoy, and even nickelback DJ Moore, who's been impressing Dave Toub. And if Thomas doesn't have a spot on special teams, would you believe me if I told you Sanzenbacher and Thomas have the same amount of career touchdowns (3)? It might be closer than we think.
What are some other position battles you're keeping an eye on? .