With so much attention being paid to the Bears' roster churning this offseason, now seems like the perfect time to check on the current Chicago Bears depth charts to see what Phil Emery and Marc Trestman have, at present, to work with. The bulk of significant roster additions is over for the offseason, and while plenty of Turk visits will be occurring at Halas Hall over the next few months, let's get a jump on the process of roster evaluations and how confident we are with each position. Call it a prelude to Wiltfong's excellent "position battle" series that runs around training camp.
The "Confidence Check" series will look at our (the fans) confidence level with the overall depth chart at each of the positions. The main point is to determine that if no other significant roster additions are made at that particular position, do you have confidence that that group of players can get the "job" done. Job gets quotes because you determine the specifics of what the "job" entails within the confines of their specific position on the depth chart.
For example, a backup quarterback - in the Bears case Josh McCown - is unlikely to produce at a level of play equal to or exceeding the starting quarterback - one Jayzeus Danger Cutler (or something) - but should be able to provide an adequate level of production if called upon (i.e. not Caleb Hanie). The third-string quarterback should be a developmental young player like the Bears have in Matt Blanchard; one that is developing and improving from year to year in hopes that he is able to eventually claim one of the top two spots on the depth chart. If the third stringer isn't a young developmental player, than it should probably be a veteran that has enough experience to help out the first and second string quarterbacks and not be completely terrible when called upon. A perfect example would be how the Steelers managed their depth chart the past few years with Charlie Batch and Byron Leftwich.
After we look at each player, their expected role on the team, and my confidence level, hit up the poll and comments section to voice your opinion. We'll break down each positional group over the next few weeks to see what the fans think of Phil Emery's roster building, and you can state your case for having a high, low, or no confidence vote in each group.
Starting Quarterback: Jay Cutler (8th year in NFL, 5th with Chicago)
Job Responsibilities: Lead the team into the playoffs and prove he is the Chicago Bears starting quarterback for the next five years.
Job So Far: After four years in Chicago, the Bears still don't know if they have a franchise quarterback in Cutler. He's been brilliant at times, and frustratingly bad at times, in some degree because of a lack of talent at every other offensive position except for running back. Thing is, the Bears have never won less than seven games in a season with Cutler at the helm, so while we may quibble about his overall play, he's never been the captain on the Titanic.
Confidence Level: Low. Look, I think he can get the job done, and having Marc Trestman there, along with improved offensive skill players like Martellus Bennett and a (hopefully) improved offensive line, should make a world of difference for Cutler. But, he's been a top-20 quarterback over the past four years, and if he doesn't improve this year on his numbers, that makes him more of a short-term solution than a quarterback you want at the helm of your franchise for a decade. His completion percentage (ranked 17, 19, 23, 21 over the last four years) needs to improve at least a bit, because he's already proved willing to throw it up deep to net some yards (ranked 20, 7, 14, 16 in yards-per-attempt). I have confidence in Jay, but not a ton right now.
Backup Quarterback: Josh McCown (3rd year with Bears)
Job Responsibilities: Provide adequate quarterback play in relief of the starting quarterback due to injury/ineffectiveness, in addition to off the field assistance with scouting, training, and not shoving J'Marcus Webb (sorry, couldn't resist).
Job So Far: McCown didn't throw a pass last year as he was relegated to third-string status with the acquisition of Jason Campbell, but McCown did have a 1-1 record as a starter during the great Chicago collapse of 2011 (not to be confused with the Chicago collapse of 2012). In his three appearances in 2011, McCown completed 63% of his passes and threw two touchdowns and four interceptions. McCown had other offers from teams this offseason, but chose to return to Chicago.
Confidence Level: High. I went back and forth about how I felt about McCown for awhile, but the truth is, as far as backup quarterbacks go in the NFL, the Bears could do much worse. Even supposed great signings like Campbell don't always pan out, and I think McCown is well-suited for Trestman's offense and is smart enough to be a capable backup.
Third-String Quarterback: Matt Blanchard (2nd year in NFL)
Job Responsibilities: Develop his skills under the tutelage of the other quarterbacks and coaches so that he may one day be ready to play in a regular season game and not completely embarrass himself. Or, you know. develop into at least a viable backup option. And also, apparently be forced to wear a helmet-cam.
So Far: Blanchard's preseason performance last year (9/16, 94 yards and an INT) earned him a spot on the Bears' practice squad, and the Bears so far have enough faith in him that they have only brought in one other quarterback to compete with him. That quarterback is undrafted rookie Jimmy Coy, a six-foot tall NAIA standout from Saint Xavier in Chicago.
Confidence Level: High. For a third-stringer, he's what you want. Good arm, good size, hopefully can develop. And Marc Trestman likes him. Seriously, his quote is "I like Matt." And some internet folk like him even more than that. If he makes the team, he's doing something right, and if not, maybe we'll see him back on the practice squad for another year.
Overall Quarterback Confidence Level: High.
I think McCown and Blanchard are well-suited for their positions on the depth chart, and while neither is going to be unseating Jay Cutler on a permanent basis barring injury, I have confidence in them doing their jobs adequately. While I have low confidence in Jay, its because of his track record so far, but I do believe that he can turn the corner with so many new personnel on offense and having an offensive-minded coaching staff that (hopefully) knows what the heck they're doing.