The first preseason game is just days away. The first depth chart has been released. LINK There are not only plenty of battles for starting positions, but there will be lots of heated competition to just make the final 53-man roster.
6 weeks ago, I made some predictions, took a lot of heat for some & got some great feedback on others. This weekend's game against San Diego would usually bore most NFL and Bears' fans. But to our enlightened readership, who know all the little details of the 80th guy on the roster, there is a lot to watch for during the game.
The first thing to look for is the battle at wide receiver. With Knox, Hester, & Aromoshodu locked-in as the top 3, the battle for the 4th, 5th, & probably 6th receiver spot is intense. Rashied Davis currently sits at 2nd on the depth chart behind Knox. The coaches know him and, for whatever reason, trust him. He's a special teams asset too. Sitting at 3rd on the depth chart are Juaquin Iglesias & Earl Bennett. Iglesias has gotten lots of praise from coaches lately. Bennett has not played due to first his knee injury and now a hamstring injury. There's been some heated discussion at WCG about Bennett knowing or not knowing the plays. But the bottom line is he's not on the field executing the plays. He's behind.
That does not mean he's about to get cut, there is a lot of preseason football to still be played (but Bennett will probably not play Saturday). However, Greg Matthews and Eric Peterman have been mentioned in articles & on Twitter as guys who have made lots of plays in training camp.
Who to watch during the game: Davis (#81), Iglesias (#17), Matthews (#16), & Peterman (#11)
Next thing to look out is the battle for the defensive line positions. From my June 30th article:
Note: The Bears have kept 9 defensive linemen the past 2 seasons. I suspect that's the number again this season. Because they love to rotate linemen so much, they need the bodies. Peppers, Anderson, Idonije, Harris, & Adams make 5 locks. Gilbert & Harrison makes 7. That leaves 2 spots for Melton, Wootton, Toeaina, & Saddler-McQueen to fight for. However, with Idonije's versatility and the potential for Gilbert to play inside & outside too, do the Bears just keep 8 to make room in other areas? This will be a spirited battle and one to watch for in the preseason games.
Saddler-McQeen is already gone. Mick Williams was brought in, but he succumbed to the heat during his 1st practice. There are still 5 locks listed above, and those 5 might not get a lot of PT on Saturday. Marcus Harrison is probably the 6th lock because he plays both DT spots; he should play a lot against SD. Saturday's focus should be on Melton (learning 3-tech spot, Marinelli complemented him), Toeaina (lots of great buzz on him this TC), Gilbert (not much has been said on him), and Wootton, who ran with the 1st team defense yesterday. Two of those 4 will make the team for sure (8 total DL), and probably a 3rd makes it to run the total # of D-linemen to 9.
Who to watch during the game: Harrison (#99), Toeaina (#75), Gilbert (#93), Melton (#69) & Wootton (#98)
Next up is the TE/H-Back/FB position. Greg Olsen is the #1 TE; Dez Clark is the #1 H-Back, but is still really a TE. Whatever. We're keeping four guys for sure. Olsen & Clark are locks. Kellen Davis has been a ghost up until yesterday's practice. Manumaleuna is always sitting out hurt. If this keeps up, will he end up on IR? Richard Angulo has ties to Martz & Tice. The fullbacks have been pretty quiet, so I wonder how much playing time they'll get. Unga is probably headed for a redshirt IR season with the bad hammy. Where will the TE line up? The 2nd TE? The FB?
Who to watch during the game: K. Davis (#87), Angulo (#89), Ta'ufo'ou (#45), & Eddie Williams (#43)
The next position I'll focus on is safety. The carousel at safety is operating at full speed. Is Chris Harris a free or strong safety, Danieal Manning too? Well, assuming everyone plays, Harris and Manning will probably start...for now, but not play much, as they have both missed TC time due to injury. Major Wright and perennial camp standout/gameday disappointment Craig Steltz are sure to make the roster and get some good PT Saturday. Others trying to make the team are Josh Bullocks, Al Afalava, and Quentin Scott. ONLY 1 of which will actually make the team.
Who to watch during the game: Wright (just to see if he is really getting it) (#27), Bullocks (#36), Afalava (#24), & Scott (#37)
The last position group I'll focus on is offensive line. This is difficult to evaluate in the preseason, but look for how well Garza and Louis do at LG & RG. How many false starts will Frank Omiyale have? The real battle is for the 8th & final spot on the line. The 7 locks in my opinion are Chris Williams, Roberto Garza, Olin Kreutz, Lance Louis, Frank Omiyale, Kevin Shaffer (swing tackle, solid vet), and Josh Beekman (backup G & C, solid vet). That leaves 1 spot for Johan Asiata (lots of hype from OTA's has fizzled), J'Marcus Webb (Tice keeps pointing him out), and James Marten.
Who to watch during the game: Asiata (#62), Webb (#73), & Marten (#72)
Other things to look for on Saturday:
- Roach (#53) vs. Pisa (#59)
- Tim Shaw (#58) on special teams because he's awesome at it.
- Backup CB's Tim Jennings (#26), Josh Moore (#31), and Woodny Turenne (#47)
- Nickel back battle: Corey Graham (#21) vs. D.J. Moore (#30) vs. Jennings (#26)
- Khalil Bell (#32) vs. "4th on the depth chart" Garrett Wolfe (#25)
- The Caleb Hanie (#12) Experience (he'll probably play 1/2 the 1st quarter, the 2nd & 3rd quarters; with Dan LeFevour (#15) playing in the 4th quarter)