With most of the starting lineup a foregone conclusion, what can fans expect among the many open reserve spots on the Chicago Bears roster.
Quarterback: Jordan Palmer and Jimmy Clausen
Marc Trestman likes veteran quarterbacks behind his starters. So by that logic it’s increasingly unlikely that rookie David Fales will find an active spot. He is an obvious practice squad option, which leaves the backup and third string slots to divvy up between Jordan Palmer and Jimmy Clausen. That should be decided in the preseason.
Running Back: Ka’Deem Carey and Michael Ford
Early hints out of practice hint that the Chicago Bears have something brewing with rookie running back Ka’Deem Carey, whom they got for what many believe was a steal in the 4th round of the draft. He is expected to backup Matt Forte. That leaves the third spot up for grabs between Michael Ford and Jordan Lynch. With Ford boasting more experience at the position and special teams value, expect him to win that spot.
Wide Receiver: Josh Morgan, Eric Weems and Chris Williams
The top three spots are set but there is lots to sort through on the wide receivers chart. For offensive depth the Bears would be smart to keep veteran Josh Morgan in case Marquess Wilson falters. Eric Weems has some value there too but he’s also a special teams ace. As for Chris Williams, he should win the return job over Armanti Edwards and Michael Spurlock.
Tight End: Matthew Mulligan and Dante Rosario
Outside of Martellus Bennett the tight end situation is rocky at best for the Chicago Bears. Dante Rosario adds special teams value so he should make it. Matthew Mulligan could be that primary blocker they’d like to have who can catch the occasional pass in the right situations.
Offensive Tackle: Eben Britton and Michael Ola
Eben Britton was an able reserve and extra blocker all last year and he should remain the primary swing tackle in 2014. Charles Leno Jr. has a good shot to get the other spot but more likely former CFL veteran Michael Ola, who played under Marc Trestman in Montreal, will emerge to take it.
Offensive Guard: Ryan Groy
James Brown was the primary backup guard last year but he didn’t see any action and never really made any impressions. The Bears figure to see him in serious competition this time as undrafted free agent Ryan Groy hopes to make the roster. Groy isn’t an elite talent, but he’s smart, tough and consistent which is what backups should be.
Center: Brian De La Puente
His primary spot on the roster will be center but the beauty of Brian De La Puente is he has the versatility to also play guard. That requires the Bears to keep one less player on the roster and open up a slot at another position. De La Puente may be the future at center, but in a pinch he can the team at multiple spots.
Defensive End: Willie Young, Austen Lane, and David Bass
Willie Young is definitely the primary third rusher behind Jared Allen and Lamarr Houston so the only questions left regard who will come in behind him. Cornelius Washington still hasn’t shown much and didn’t help his cause with a recent arrest. Trevor Scott is a veteran who had success early in his career but is pushing 30. Austen Lane meanwhile is young and familiar with defensive coordinator Mel Tucker, while second-year man David Bass flashed some potential last season.
Defensive Tackle: Nate Collins, Will Sutton, and Ego Ferguson
Nate Collins was having one of his best seasons as a pro in Chicago before tearing his ACL. The 26-year old is back on a one-year deal in hopes of proving he can return to that form again. Together with rookie 2nd and 3rd round picks Will Sutton and Ego Ferguson, the Bears seem to have quality depth at their interior line positions.
Outside Linebacker: Khaseem Greene and Christian Jones
The strong side linebacker spot is very much up for grabs but it’s clear either Jon Bostic or Shea McClellin will take it. That leaves Khaseem Greene as the only true backup who should be guaranteed a spot. Beyond him is a collection of interesting talents. Jordan Senn is a special team ace but the amazing athletic upside of Christian Jones should be the decisive factor that lands him the final slot.
Middle Linebacker: D.J. Williams
D.J. Williams hopes for one more chance to prove he can be a full-time starter in the NFL but he doesn’t have near the advantage he had on Jon Bostic from last year. Williams is into his 30s and an injury risk. He will likely either serve as a quality depth option in case Bostic flops or be released outright.
Cornerback: Kyle Fuller, Sherrick McManis, Isaiah Frey, and Demontre Hurst
Kyle Fuller is the third cornerback and is expected to see the field often with Charles Tillman and Tim Jennings. As for the other two to three open spots, it’s a craps shoot. Sherrick McManis is a quality special teams player and decent reserve. Isaiah Frey started every game at nickel back in 2013. The real surprise will be Demontre Hurst, who continues to make plays in practice and will stun veteran Kelvin Hayden for the last spot.
Safety: Brock Vereen, M.D. Jennings and Craig Steltz
Consider that he’s a legitimate threat to start at free safety, it’s safe to say Brock Vereen is surviving the cut in 2014. That leaves probably two slots left to fill. M.D. Jennings has starting experience but more importantly is an underrated special teams talent. Adrian Wilson has had great years in the past, but he’s old and coming off a serious injury. Danny McCray has special teams value. However, so does Craig Steltz and he has experience on defense. That is why he and Jennings should emerge from the wreckage of position battles.