Dec 22, 2013; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia Eagles running back Bryce Brown (34) runs with the ball past a diving Chicago Bears free safety Chris Conte (47) for a touchdown during the fourth quarter at Lincoln Financial Field. Philadelphia Eagles defeated the Chicago Bears 54-11. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Chicago Bears Position-By-Position Strength Meter


A common draft stratagem is to identify weak areas of a roster before deciding on a play.  So where do the Chicago Bears currently sit?  To answer that question we will use a simple chart listed below and take on the roster from top to bottom.

Status Levels:

Green = Strong

Yellow = Stable

Orange = Thin

Red = Weak

Quarterback

Jay Cutler

Jordan Palmer

Not everybody loves him but the Bears can at least say they have a capable starter in Jay Cutler who has the ability to win football games by himself.  The issue for the team is behind him.  Jordan Palmer is a career back but has little playing time against live defenses.  He’s 29 and mature, which is something but he certainly doesn’t inspire the same confidence as Josh McCown did.

Strength Meter:  Yellow

Running back

Matt Forte

Michael Ford

Tony Fiametta

Matt Forte carried the baton most of the season en route to his second Pro Bowl.  Tony Fiametta lent a helping had as a blocker and occasional receiver at fullback.  Michael Bush is gone, cut due to age and money concerns, leaving untried second-year reserve Michael Ford as the heir apparent to back up Forte who turns 28 in 2014.  Given the short shelf-life of this position and its importance to the Marc Trestman offense, that could change rather quickly.

Strength Meter:  Yellow

Wide Receiver

Brandon Marshall

Alshon Jeffery

Marquess Wilson

Domenik Hixon

Chris Williams

Most of this unit’s ability runs through the talents of Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery, both Pro Bowlers.  Indeed along with Forte they carried most of the offensive load, which isn’t a big surprise but the Chicago Bears might have something building behind them now.  A lot of excitement surrounds 2013 7th round pick Marquess Wilson, a 6’3″ athletic receiver who endured a rough draft process due to his quitting his team before the season ended, a big no-no in football circles.  The details are sketchy on what exactly happened, but all signs point to Wilson putting in the work to get better.  He began to show up late last season and with more time has the ability to join Marshall and Jeffery in the spotlight.  Then there is veteran Domenik Hixon, a free agent addition who is not only an able receiver but also a special teams veteran.  Throw in the speedy Chris Williams, who dominated the CFL as a return man and the receiving group is certainly the core of the Bears offense.

Strength Meter:  Green

Tight End

Martellus Bennett

Dante Rosario

*Fendi Onobun

He was an understated part of the offense last year but Martellus Bennett is not taken for granted by his teammates or the fans.  He’s in his prime and fully expected to continue contributing at a high level both as a receiver and blocker.  Behind him is Dante Rosario.  Not much a producer on the receiving end but he has his moments, is a willing blocker and makes his real money on special teams.  Then there is Fendi Onobun.  He was a preseason darling last year.  The coaches loved his potential.  A former basketball standout, he has the physical size, speed and athelticism to join the Jimmy Graham types of the world but concentration issues hampered him, forcing the Bears to put him on the practice squad.  Many are anxious to see if he’s improved under Trestman.  The risk is low, but the reward could be huge.

Strength Meter:  Yellow

Offensive Tackle

Jermon Bushrod

Jordan Mills

Not much changed for Jermon Bushrod last season.  He remained a solid, capable starter on the left side, adequately protecting his quarterback.  The real surprise of the year was Jordan Mills.  A rookie out of Louisiana Tech selected in the 5th round of the draft, he supplanted JaMarcus Webb at right tackle and ended up starting all 16 games of the regular season.  The Chicago Bears finished with the 4th-best offensive line in the league.  There are some depth issues to work out but having two proven starters is the big key.

Strength Meter:  Yellow

Offensive Guard

Kyle Long

Matt Slauson

James Brown

Offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer loves to build his offensive lines from the inside out, focusing the pass protection on the guards instead of the tackles.  That is why the Bears drafted Kyle Long in the first round of the draft.  He only responded by reaching the Pro Bowl.  Meanwhile, Matt Slauson ended up starting on the left side and continued to prove himself as one of the most underrated pass blockers in the league.  His season earned him a four-year contract worth $12.8 million, giving Jay Cutler a pair of high quality guards who will keep interior pressure out of his face.  James Brown is an able reserve who has starting experience and is young.  They may need to add another body but the core is in place.

Strength Meter:  Green

Center

Roberto Garza

Taylor Boggs

Fans are nervous about this position more than any other on the offensive side.  Roberto Garza had a solid year in 2013 but he’s 35-years old and can’t be expected to play at a high level much longer.  His backup is a journeyman in Taylor Boggs who had to overcome early injury problems in his career to fight for a spot on the roster.  The position is stable for the moment but is due for an infusion of youth.

Strength Meter:  Yellow

Defensive End

Jared Allen

Lamarr Houston

Willie Young

Israel Idonije

David Bass

Cornelius Washington

Phil Emery has done his work well at the end position.  It started when he signed former Raider Lamarr Houston to a five-year deal to replace Julius Peppers.  That move was followed subsequently by the additions of Willie Young and Israel Idonije, which brought a mix of young upside and veteran leadership.  However, the Bears GM saved his biggest move for last when he landed 31-year old All-Pro Jared Allen from the rival Minnesota Vikings.  These additions plus the presence of promising youngsters David Bass and Cornelius Washington offer talent and upside across the board from top to bottom.  If there is any position on that defense that is ready for 2014, it’s the ends.

Strength Meter:  Green

Defensive Tackle

Jeremiah Ratliff

Nate Collins

Stephen Paea

It’s never a good sign when a position group has questions of both depth and health.  Every defensive tackle for the Bears has issues.  Jeremiah Ratliff is 32-years old and coming off a groin injury that kept him out for over a year.  Nate Collins tore his ACL last season while Stephen Paea battled turf toe problems.  To top it off they are the only three currently on the roster.  The only saving grace is that all three have played well when healthy.  Truth be told though it’s almost certain the Bears are going to add to this position in the draft.

Strength Meter:  Orange

Linebacker

Lance Briggs

D.J. Williams

Jon Bostic

Shea McClellin

Khaseem Greene

Jordan Senn

Of all the position groups on the roster, none is more confusing for Chicago than the linebackers.  On the surface there is a nice mix of veteran leadership and youthful athleticism.  Lance Briggs remains a Pro Bowl presence while D.J. Williams returns to finish the solid job he started last year before tearing his pectoral.  Jon Bostic flashed as a rookie and may improve with a move to the outside while Shea McClellin hopes to find a new home there as well after a shift from defensive end.  Throw in promising 4th round pick Khaseem Greene and special teams ace Jordan Senn and the linebackers have skill but really no difference-makers.  At least not at present.

Strength Meter:  Yellow

Cornerback

Tim Jennings

Charles Tillman

Kelvin Hayden

Isaiah Frey

Sherrick McManis

A classic reverse iceberg situation.  On top the Bears have plenty of experience and stability with Charles Tillman and Tim Jennings returning, along with veteran Kelvin Hayden.  Unfortunately after that the depth becomes a real concern.  Isaiah Frey filled in admirably at slot corner last season but didn’t make many impact plays while Sherrick McManis was little more than a special teams stalwart.  Chicago really has no quality youngster in the mix who can start on the outside, which will become a big problem if not addressed.

Strength Meter:  Yellow

Safety

Chris Conte

Ryan Mundy

M.D. Jennings

Daniel McCray

Craig Steltz

Oh the buzzword of the 2014 NFL off-season for Chicago Bears fans.  They still have vivid memories of that horrifying sequence at the end of the regular season in which a blown coverage resulted in a last-second rally by the Green Bay Packers to steal the NFC North division title and a playoff birth at Soldier Field.  The guilty party on that play was Chris Conte who returns with very little job security.  His former running mate Major Wright is gone in free agency and not expected back.  In his place Emery has added three new faces to the mix in Ryan Mundy, M.D. Jennings and Daniel McCray.  Mundy is expected to compete for the strong safety starting job.  Jennings will push Conte but is more of a special teams boost, as is McCray.  Craig Steltz, a long-time veteran was also brought back.  Certainly the athleticism has improved at the position but there is still a lack of playmaking potential and more importantly leadership.  That has to change if there is any hope in avenging that Packers debacle.

Strength Meter:  Orange

Dick's Sporting Goods presents "Hell Week":

Tags: Brandon Marshall Charles Tillman Chicago Bears Chris Conte Jared Allen Jay Cutler Lance Briggs Matt Forte

  • John Vassar

    Erik, good overview. The only comment is the DT is more amber than orange. With Idonije and Houston being able to play inside, things are not so scary. I am sure Emery will take a DT in the draft but its not critical. On the CB’s I would say orange. All three starters are over 30 and Frey is the only backup with experience. This area has become more of an issue now with no additional free agency signings.

    • Erik Lambert

      Fair points John. Houston and Izzy are definitely emergency options at DT and corner has youth concerns for sure. The reason I left them yellow is because as long as they stay healthy it should be fine given the front the Bears have put together so far. However you are right, if injuries start to happen again then we have a problem.

  • 65yt

    Defense looked pretty red at the end of the season to me. But we will see in September.

    • Erik Lambert

      You are right, but remember injuries had a lot to do with that. We have to keep the perspective of health in mind. As of now depth is the primary concern at the orange positions.

  • Deanna777

    Safety should bright red.

    • Erik Lambert

      Sure, now that the Conte news has hit.