There are a number of mysteries surrounding the Chicago Bears roster heading into 2014. What does each one mean to the fate of the franchise?
Chris Conte health
Brock Vereen is firmly in the driver seat regarding the free safety starting job as training camp approaches, but no word has changed from the Bears coaching staff who still believe veteran Chris Conte will get a chance to keep it. The one thing that remains a fog over the situation is Conte’s health. He has offer no timetable for his return from shoulder surgery, whether he will be back for camp or not until the preseason or later. Until a more definitive answer is gained, Conte is a gray area.
Shea McClellin at linebacker
If one takes a step back and looks at physical skill set, then the Chicago Bears were right to move Shea McClellin to linebacker given his size, speed and athleticism. The one problem is simple. He has never played linebacker at the pro level. Not since his days at Boise State did he man that position and even then it was different from what the Bears do. That inexperience is a big reason why several experts including team radio analyst Tom Thayer believes Jon Bostic has the edge in their battle for the strong side job.
Paul Pasqualoni as line coach
Hopes were high for the offensive line in 2013 because they inherited a great coach from New Orleans in Aaron Kromer, who is highly respected for his teaching of line play. Now the focus shifts to the defensive side where the spotlight is on veteran Paul Pasqualoni to put together a similar turnaround. The difference is the 64-year old isn’t coming from coaching defensive lines elsewhere in the NFL. In fact he hasn’t done that job since 2010 with the Dallas Cowboys, and that was only for one season. How he is able to coordinate the massive influx of young and veteran talent is crucial to the defenses’ success, but there is no definitive way to know if he’ll succeed.
Chris Williams as the return man
Chicago Bears fans have tried to avoid the subject since the off-season began, but the fact is the Devin Hester era is over. Suddenly for the first time since 2006 the return game is without stability. Hopes are high that recent addition Chris Williams can step right in to fill the void but his greatest success came in the CFL where he compiled over 1,300 return yards and six touchdowns in two seasons. Yet in three stops at Miami, Cleveland and New Orleans in the NFL he has yet to even see the field. Can he finally break through in Chicago and even if he does, what sort of impact will he have with a narrower field to work with?