Aug 29, 2013; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Bears offensive guard Kyle Long (75) during the first half against the Cleveland Browns at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Rob Grabowski-USA TODAY Sports

Chicago Bears: Updated Starting Lineup Predictions

Changes have come for the Chicago Bears roster of late.  How does this affect the latest projections for their starting lineup?

Quarterback:  Jay Cutler

The Bears just forked over $126 million over seven years to keep Jay Cutler as their quarterback.  Besides that though he’s easily the most talented passer on the team.  Chicago has a winning record with him on the field.  He’s entering the second year in the same offense under Marc Trestman.  Things look all systems go.

Running back:  Matt Forte

He’s 28-years old and coming off his second Pro Bowl.  Matt Forte doesn’t show any signs of slowing down.  He remains one of the best dual-threat running backs in the NFL and is also one of the most durable.  Rookie Ka’Deem Carey will challenge for touches, but mostly as a way to keep Forte fresh.

Tight End:  Martellus Bennett

Proving his 2012 season in New York wasn’t a fluke was why Martellus Bennett signed with the Chicago Bears.  He wanted to show his time in Dallas wasn’t about his ability.  He entirely succeeded, becoming a sturdy, dependable option in the passing offense as well as a solid blocker.

Offensive Tackle:  Jermon Bushrod and Jordan Mills

At 30-years old and boasting a couple Pro Bowls to his credit, Jermon Bushrod remains the confident rock at left tackle for the Bears.  It was the rise of Jordan Mills as a rookie at right tackle that caught people by surprise.  He started all 16 games and didn’t look half bad.  Another off-season can only help him get better.

Offensive Guard:  Matt Slauson and Kyle Long

Shoulder surgery aside, the Chicago Bears brass expressed their deepest confidence in Matt Slauson when they handed him a long-term extension follow his solid 2013 campaign.  So the fact that Kyle Long outperformed him as a rookie and went to a Pro Bowl can only mean good things.

Center:  Roberto Garza

This is likely the only offensive line position that might be contested at the starter level.  Roberto Garza remains a sturdy, reliable option at age 35, not to mention a team captain.  However, the Bears brought in some competition when they signed former Saint Brian De La Puente, who is younger, has experience and is familiar with offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer.  Garza should secure his job, but beyond 2014 is another story.

Wide Receiver:  Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery and Marquess Wilson

As a wide receiving corps goes, it doesn’t get much better than what the Bears have going.  Brandon Marshall is one of the best in the business, and his understudy Alshon Jeffery outpaced him in yards last season on his way to the Pro Bowl.  Throw in the 6’3″ Marquess Wilson as a third option and Cutler has a Redwood forest to throw to.

Defensive End:  Jared Allen and Lamarr Houston

Finishing last in sacks almost guaranteed the Bears were going to overhaul their defensive line and that prediction came true.  It all centered around the defensive end spots where they added All-Pro veteran Jared Allen and the big and powerful Lamarr Houston.  Together they should form a nice blended tandem of pass rush and run stuffing.

Defensive Tackle:  Jeremiah Ratliff and Stephen Paea

More than the ends, it was the defensive tackles that took the beating in 2013.  Henry Melton and Nate Collins tore their ACLs.  Stephen Paea battled turf toe.  It was a huge reason why their run defense collapsed.  Now Paea is back healthy at nose tackle and four-time Pro Bowl veteran Jeremiah Ratliff is set to return full-time next to him.

Outside Linebacker:  Lance Briggs and Shea McClellin

Lance Briggs suffered his own injury problems last season but he remains the best linebacker the Chicago Bears have.  The bigger question is who will take over on the strong side.  Of the young guns vying for the spot, Shea McClellin has the best shot.  He has the size-speed combination.  Plus his pass rush ability will be welcomed as an extra attacker for defensive coordinator Mel Tucker.

Middle Linebacker:  Jon Bostic

This may become the biggest surprise of the off-season.  Most conservative estimates have veteran D.J. Williams reclaiming the starting job he lost last season after he tore his pectoral.  However, it will turn out to be second-year man Jon Bostic, whose speed and better feel for the new system who ends up taking the checkered flag in the middle.

Cornerback:  Charles Tillman and Tim Jennings

They may have taken a corner in the 1st round of the draft, but the Bears have no intentions of breaking up the tandem of Charles Tillman and Tim Jennings at cornerback.  Together they are among the best in the league at forcing turnovers.  As long as they’re healthy, they will stay on the field.

Safety:  Chris Conte and Ryan Mundy

The real hot mess to sort through for the Bears coaches is at safety.  Both starting jobs are up for grabs with two intriguing battles developing at them.  Former starter Chris Conte must hold off surging rookie Brock Vereen at free while longtime reserve Ryan Mundy tries to outpace aged former All-Pro Adrian Wilson.  Based on reasonable expectations, it’s hard to see Conte not getting another shot and Mundy simply has time and health on his side.

Dick's Sporting Goods presents "Hell Week":

Tags: Brandon Marshall Charles Tillman Chicago Bears Jared Allen Jay Cutler Jon Bostic Lance Briggs Shea McClellin

  • bearisity

    Great article. I hope the offence just unleashes on opponents Because they got some tough matches this year.

    • Erik Lambert

      You seem them as tough matches, I see them as great learning experiences. The tougher things are for the Bears early, the easier they’ll be come playoff time.

      • bearisity

        Ya but there are just some teams that always have the bears number. San fran is one. Saints are another in regular season. Patroits. However recently saints and bears are on par. I know the bears can beat the seahawks too. The bears have been embarassed multiple times by the patriots. Been waiting a long time for a victory over San Fran but not sure that is gonna happen.

        • Erik Lambert

          I wouldn’t say embarrassed by the Patriots save for that humiliation in 2010. San Francisco always pounds the Bears IN San Francisco while the Bears do the same to them in Chicago. One thing I will say is when the Bears actually do win there, they always go to the playoffs.

  • BearFan

    I don’t think Chris Conte will be ready for training camp much less Week 1 of the season. My guess is that Ryan Mundy will be the starting FS Week 1 and Adrian Wilson will be the starter at SS.

    I am sure Bears doctors checked out Wilson before signing him to a contract. He just has to get in game shape in 2 months. Even a 70% Adrian Wilson of what he was in 2011 is better than Craig Steltz or Danny McCray etc.

    We might also see Safety by committee this season. Wilson is great for run stopping but we might see him coming out on passing downs. Brock Vereen might be used on passing downs. He is good at coverage given his experience at CB. Same with Conte.

    • Erik Lambert

      Your theories are interesting but not necessarily practical. It’s much easier to swap defensive linemen and linebackers on run and pass downs than it is safeties.

      Conte might not start training camp but I believe he will make it back in time before the preseason. At that point he will need a couple of good showings or for Vereen to struggle to gain the job back, which I think he can do. Mundy is much better as a strong safety. He’s shown a better handle on playing in the box and tracking down runner than in coverage. Wilson has a shot but I don’t trust his body at this point.

  • Tom Ward

    I came up with the same starters except at S I had the rook over Conte, only because of not being sure if his injury will hold him back. I do agree that if he can get back in time his experience will get him the starting job back. Also I did have Wilson as the 3rd receiver but I put Fiammetta as the starting FB. I also have the rest of the team up to 49 players. I have 2 Te’s and 4 WR’s so at least 2 of those spots would go to those positions. Also I had them keeping 3 Qb’s with Jordan and Fales being the back ups, thinking they might not want to take a chance of loosing Fales if they tried to put him on the practice squad. Also to me they seem really high on Lynch, but to me for them to keep him he needs to really become good on SP teams for him to make the roster.

    • Erik Lambert

      I think they can risk Fales on the practice squad. Let’s not get overexcited. He is a 6th round pick after all. His prospects of starting anytime soon are remote. I believe Palmer and Clausen will be the backups with him on the practice squad for outstanding depth. Lynch may end up there too since I see Ford taking the 3rd RB slot. He needs time to adjust to the position and to special teams.

      • Tom Ward

        I had Ford as the third RB too.